In a previous article, I touched upon the history of the Dirty Dozen, probably the most famous collection of World War II-era watches. Except that they were delivered to the British forces after the end of the war. So it got me thinking: what did WWII soldiers actually wear on their wrists, both from the Allied and Axis forces? Well, quite a few as it turns out. And which one they wore depended on which branch of the army they were in and in what country. So in this article, we’ll take a look at four field watches worn by soldiers during World War II from four key players of this tragic conflict.
A subsequent article will look at World War II pilot’s watches.
The American A-11 Watch
Back when the United States was a big player in the world of horology, American soldiers who partook in WWII were equipped with what is known as the A-11 field watch. The U.S. military had set standards for a field watch which was produced by key American watch manufacturers in the likes of Elgin, Waltham, and Bulova. The A-11 measured between 30 and 32mm and came with a simple, legible dial composed of Alpha hands, full Arabic numerals, a railroad minute track, and 10-minute markers on the outside of the minute track. They were produced in huge quantities, so much so that nobody knows how many were made. Most came with black dials and a few rarer ones and white dials.
The British A.T.P. Field Watch
As mentioned in my article on the Dirty Dozens, the British Forces’s timepiece of choice was the A.T.P. watch, which stands for “Army Trader Pattern.” The A.T.P. was produced by several Swiss watch manufacturers including Buren, Cyma, Enicar, Grana, Lemania, and Timor. Many of these manufacturers also made the famed Dirty Dozens at the end of 1945. The A.T.P. came in cases of 29 to 33mm in diameter, with an ultra-legible dial showcasing full Arabic numerals, prominent lume plots on the railroad minute track, and many dial configurations using different types of handsets (Alpha, syringe, and baton) and some having a running seconds counter at the 6 and others not.
The German Dienstuhr Service Watch
While the American soldiers had the A-11 and the British soldiers the A.T.P., the German soldiers (read: infantry) were issued one of several watches also made to the specifications of the Wehrmacht (a term that describes the entire German army from 1933 to 1945.) One of the dozens of manufactures was Aeschbach and we can look at this model as being a blueprint for all German general services watches. They measured 33-35mm in diameter and came with black dials, Arabic numerals, and a central seconds hand at the 6 o’clock. I know, I just described the design of the Dirty Dozen and that’ because many WWII German watches were made in Switzerland too.
The Japanese Seikosha Field
The Japanese soldiers had their own field watch and Seiko was the main (and it seems the only one) watch manufacturer to have produced field watches for the Japanese forces. They looked very different from that of the American, British, and German forces. Housd in cases of 30mm in diameter, they came with white dials, large Arabic numerals and somewhat small leaf hands, with a seconds sub-register at the 6 o’clock. They had a small minute track on the outside of the dial and a star-shaped logo to indicate they were made for ground forces. One estimate mentioned that over one million of these watches were produced by Seiko during WWII.
As you have noticed, I didn’t mention the Dirty Dozens because I already wrote about them and because, technically, they never saw the battlefields of World War II. In this short article, we took a look at the four families of World War II field watches worn by the American, British, German and Japanese forces. It would be interesting to know what French, Italian, and Polish soldiers (for example) wore during WWII. I didn’t know—and was shocked to learn—that Swiss watch manufacturers basically made as many watches for the British and Allied forces as they did for the German army, using basically the same designs.
Please let me know in the comments below if you have more information about this type of watch.
Featured image: www.wornandwound.com