Military Pocket Watches

Military Pocket Watches were certainly in demand by the Governments of the U.S. and the U.K around the turn of the 1940s. The British Government in particular placed large orders with numerous manufacturers but one in particular, Jaeger LeCoultre, picked up a small but significant order from the British, but others like Omega, Cyma, Damas, Doxa, Zenith and Hamilton also produced several thousands of pieces for each of the Armed Forces.

Jaeger Le Coultre

The Jaeger LeCoultre watches are of particular interest because the quality of the timepiece tends to be much higher than was produced as standard for military issue. These watches were destined for air crew as accuracy was paramount.

To ensure that bombs were dropped where they were supposed to! Another reason that these watches are of interest is that even though wrist watches were often worn by the great majority of air crew, navigators often preferred the size of military pocket watches so that; 1, they could actually see the time when travelling inside a shaking, dimly lit cabin of a bomber, and 2, the pocket watch could be conveniently placed on the map they were studying at the time.

Military pocket watch As a guide to the quality difference of the Jaeger military pocket watches against the "ordinary" pocket watch (and wrist watch for that matter), military records indicate that Jaeger were paid almost ten times that of the standard watch for these accurate timepieces. If you are a collector of these types of watches don't expect them to pop up too often; they are quite rare and as such command respectable prices.

Although the Jaeger military pocket watches were undoubtedly of chronometer status, they were never actually given the accolade of being certified as a "chronometer". The simple fact was that in wartime, time was of the essence and the time it took to officially test each and every watch just couldn't be warranted.

Another feature of the Jaeger is that almost all of their pocket watch cases were made of brass, as against nickel or alloys. This is another distinguishing feature of their watches that separates them from other military watch makers of the time. Jaeger simply refused to compromise quality when it came to their timepieces.

Military pocket watch

Military pocket watches were mainly produced to the same specifications, it was rare to get many manufacturers who wanted or needed to produce anything other than these basic design features:

  • Easy to read dial with Arabic fluorescent numerals and hands
  • Jeweled movement, 15 jewels or more
  • Capable of keeping good time (obviously open to interpretation)!

It is true to say that most military pocket watches you find, if they have not suffered too much and have been looked after, will indeed keep pretty good time, even after 70 years.

Many of the watches you find will have the initials "G.S.T.P" stamped somewhere on the movement. This stands for "General Services Trade Pattern", and is an indication that the watch was made specifically for use in one of the armed forces and also that it had been made to a specific standard.

Hamilton

It was Hamilton that was procured by the United States Army in 1917 when an accurate time keeper was needed for the war effort. Hamilton had previously made highly accurate railroad pocket watches and so was the logical choice when it came to watches made for military use. Hamilton continued to supply the U.S. Army throughout World War I and also supplied wrist and pocket watches through World War II.

After the war when these watches were no longer used for wartime activities they were often sought after by other trades, such as coal miners in the United Kingdom, for use down mines as they were tough and easy to read.

I have no doubt that hiding somewhere in some military establishment store room there is a forgotten stash of never-issued watches just waiting to be discovered!

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