Wristwatches have been synonymous with the military, since their introduction in the First World War (1914-18). The ‘Great War’ was the first time in British Army history that battles were conducted by generals in remote field headquarters where they could not see the front line. Army units deployed across the vast fields of battle had difficulty communicating with them, therefore, the execution of orders and coordination of manoeuvres and attacks by timing was vital. These watches became known simply as ‘Trench Watches’ and tended to be purchased by individuals rather than the Military per se.

Then the time came. The watch hands pointed to the second which had been given for the assault to begin, and instantly, to the tick, the guns lifted and made a curtain of fire round the Chateau of Hooge, beyond the Menin road, six hundred yards away. “Time!” The company officers blew their whistles, and there was a sudden clatter from trench-spades slung to rifle-barrels, and from men girdled with hand-grenades, as the advancing companies deployed and made their first rush forward.” Philip Gibbs, War Correspondent (Battle around Hooge, Flanders, Belgium, August 1915)

The War Department did issue a small number of wristwatches towards the end of the war in 1917, becoming a critical part of their kit, along with other essential items such as a revolver, compass etc. This continued into the the Second World War. The British Military selected twelve leading watchmakers, to supply the army with a new watch built to an exacting bespoke design. The specifications were precisely what you would expect of a military watch – waterproof, luminous, regulated to chronometer level and rugged. On top of that, the dial needed to be black with Arabic numerals to maximise legibility.

Precision Timing: Co-ordination Was Critical During WW2

The Ministry of Defence set the specification standards which were referred to as ‘W.W.W’ which stood for ‘Watches.Wristlet.Waterproof’. These W.W.W watches were produced by Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, JLC, Lemania, Longines, IWC, Omega, Record, Timor and Vertex.

This select group have became known as the ‘Dirty Dozen’

Dirty Dozen: The Full Set of British Military Watches (Courtesy of A Collected Man)

In 2017, Vertex, in partnership with MrWatchMaster, are seeking stories about the use of Vertex Watches during World War 2 from owners of the watches. Any story about the use of the watches in key battles or missions or other personal stories will be considered. Entries should be sent to info@vertex-watches.com, preferably as a PDF file. You can also enter via the Vertex Competition website page

Winners will be chosen by an independent adjudicator or panel of who will use their best efforts to check that entries are authentic representations of actual events.

The Vertex M100 celebrates 100 years since Vertex was founded by Claude Lyons in 1916. The new watch is brought to you by Don Cochrane, the Great Grandson of Claude Lyons – you can read an interview with Don on MrWatchMaster

As a child I was captivated by these watches. The way they were used to time truly decisive moments with the most profound implications fascinated me.” Don Cochrane, CEO, Vertex Watches

The prize for the best story will be The Vertex M100 Watch.

First Prize: The Vertex M100 Watch (Courtesy of Vertex Watches)

Full competition Terms and Conditions are available here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like

MrWatchMaster Meets…David Walter

We are delighted to continue our MrWatchMaster Meets…