Military Watch Styles Primer

Military watches have been the driving force behind many horological developments. Some historians attribute the idea for the wristwatch to Napoleon because of his irritation at having to constantly open his pocket watch, while others credit World War I for popularizing the wrist watch due to the need to coordinate movements in some battles by over a million troops by land, air, and sea. Today, there are many affordable options in different military watch styles.

What are the Different Types of Military Watch Styles?

There are three main styles of military watches: field, Flieger, and pilot watches. Originally I was going to write separate articles on all three watches, but there is a lot of overlap between the three categories.

Military Watch Styles: Flieger Watches

The Flieger style watch traces its origins to the B-Uhren military watches issued by the German Luftwaffe in World War II. The B-Uhren were used as navigation instruments to determine the precise positioning of an aircraft. Two dials were produced during the war: Type A (1939-1941) and Type B (1941-1945).

Type A

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Type A watches generally feature a big black dial, very large legible Arabic numeral hour markers, a triangle replacement at the 12 o’clock marker to help determine the upward orientation of the watch during night time flight, contrasting luminous hands and markers, and some even have a chronograph.

Type B

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Type B watches generally have the same features in addition to two sets of markers: the inner set of markers contains hour markers and the outer set contains minutes markers.

Military Watch Styles: Pilot Watches

Pilot watches are simply military watches that were used by pilots! A Flieger would be a pilot watch, but not all pilot watches are Fliegers. The non-Fliegers in this category are mostly inspired by watches used by Allied forces in World War II.

The famous American-made A11 has a lot of similar features to the Type A, but replaces the triangle with an actual Arabic numeral 12-hour marker.

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The British W.W.W. (Wrist. Watch. Waterproof.) features a sub-second dial.

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By the end of the war, the Germans had even had equipped their pilots with the first fly-back chronograph.

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Military Watch Styles: Field Watches

Like pilot watches, there is no set standard that determines what is and what isn’t a field watch. Modern field watches are inspired by rugged watches meant to hold up in the harsh, outdoor conditions of a tactical operation or adventurous expedition. Field watches have many of the same characteristics as pilot and Flieger watches, including high contrasting dial, luminescence, and Arabic numeral markers. Many field watches also have a secondary dial showing military time, while others have chronographs.

Military Watch Styles: Conclusion

The military watch is one of my favorite watch styles. My first watch was a military watch and I hope you want to add one to your collection as well. I encourage you to please check out my complete buying guide to the best affordable military watches under $100.

I would love to hear your feedback and thoughts on military watch styles. Please leave a comment below!


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