Hands-On with the Eterna Heritage Military 1939

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The connection between horology and the military is undeniable. Throughout history, different military branches around the globe have relied on watches to coordinate and synchronize critical missions. To that end, militaries approached noted manufacturers to supply them with standardized timepieces, which were then distributed to and worn by soldiers. Some of the most famous  examples are the Dirty Dozen, the Luftwaffe fliegers produced by the likes of IWC and Laco, and of course the Rolex Milsub worn by British divers.

One lesser known example is the “Majetek” pilot watch issued from the late ‘30s through the early ‘40s to Czech Air Force pilots. (“Majetek Vojenské Správy,” which was featured prominently on the case back, meant property of the military department).

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New and old; photo via Vintage Watch Bible.
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Both Eterna and Longines were commissioned to produced these watches, and both manufacturers turned in ever-so-slightly varied takes on the design, with the Longines  featuring the more ornate cathedral hands and a coin-edge bezel.

Eterna’s approach was a touch more simple. The watch was 38mm and featured an unadorned cushion case, a black dial, Arabic numerals, and straight sword hands. Inside the watch was Eterna’s manually-wound 852S calibre movement. As tends to be the case with most military watches, the beauty here is in the restraint of the design. It’s utilitarian and to the point.

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The gilted hands really pop.

A few years ago, Eterna released an homage to that historic watch under the Heritage Military 1939 collection. There were two models—a PVD-cased variant, and the one featured here, which is a more honest interpretation of the historical watch.

$2140

Hands-On with the Eterna Heritage Military 1939

Case
316L stainless steel; PVD
Movement
ETA 2824-2
Dial
Black
Lume
Super-LumiNova
Lens
Double domed Sapphire
Strap
Black leather (stainless steel); brown leather (PVD)
Water Resistance
50m
Dimensions
40mm x 50mm
Thickness
11.7mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
Push-pull
Warranty
Two years
Price
$2140

The reissue comes in at a reasonable 40mm (upsized by 2mm from the original), with a case thickness of about 11.7mm and a lug-to-lug height of 50mm. Some of the thickness comes from the dramatically domed sapphire crystal, which gives the case a beautiful profile. The lug-to-lug dimensions seem a tad disproportionate relative to the case width, but that stems from the cushion design which serves to emphasize the rather large bezel. On paper, it’s a bit strange. On the wrist, it works.

eterna-heritage-military-1939-4The dial is nearly identical to the historical model with a few caveats. Most notable is the somewhat awkwardly positioned date window, which sits right atop of the six. It’s not a cardinal sin, but it would have been better left off. To keep it from being too disruptive to the design, the date wheel matches the dial.

Otherwise, the dial very handsome, with a matte black base accented by a golden minutes track and gilted hands. Furthermore, the somewhat nuclear green tone of the lume, which is not something I am normally fond of, works well with the warm tones of the dial and hands.

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The matching date window atop the six.

The overall execution here is very high. The finishing of the case—a mix of polished and brushed surfaces—is expertly done, with clear demarcations between the different areas of finish. Additionally, the printing on the dial is sharp with evenly applied lume.

If I had to find major fault with the watch, it would have to be the crystal. Though the dome adds to the vintage charm of the piece, it’s a huge reflection magnet, which detracts somewhat from the beauty of the dial. Granted, it bothered me less the more I wore the watch, but it was definitely something I noticed. An acrylic would have worked better here, and it would have also arguably brought the price down–$2,140 for the stainless steel model featured here and $2,390 for the PVD.

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The Eterna Heritage Military 1939 wears well on a 6.75-inch wrist.

The reissue comes equipped with the ETA 2824 caliber movement. Given the movement and price, the package is certainly steep, though it is comparable to the Longines Heritage 1935 released in 2014 honoring the same historical timepiece and featuring largely the same price tag and specs. The execution here, however, is far more refined.

For those seeking a more value-driven option, there’s also the Precista PRS-9 Czech Air Force from Timefactors.

Images from this post:

Residing in North Idaho, James has been wearing a watch for over 35 years. With growth of the internet in the late 90s watches as an interest turned into an obsession. Since that time he has been a watch forum moderator, watch reviewer, contributor to Nerdist, and operates Watches in Movies in his spare time.

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  • Spaceguitar

    There is a little Panerai comparison to make here w.r.t. case styling, but I quite like this piece overall. A solid three hander that looks like it could dressed up and down to cover all sorts of bases. Dig.

  • David Tyne

    True about the date. Seems like most watch companies slap a date function on without any real thought as to whether or not it would be what the buyer is looking for. I am not a fan of date watches and I think Eterna (a very cool brand) messed up here by going with the pack.

  • Marty Leung

    Amazing piece. Severely under-rated. Ridiculous good value for the dosh.