Marathon General Purpose Mechanical LE Review

Share this story:
Advertisement

This little watch with military pedigree overcomes its small size and impresses with quality construction and wearability. When Marathon announced they were releasing a steel-cased remake of one of their military issued watches, I was excited to see what they had come up with.  When they said it would be a numbered limited edition, featuring new, old-stock Benrus-signed ETA 2801 manually-wound movements, I was even more excited. To finally see and wear the finished product is a treat, and one I’m happy to now share with our readers. Here’s the Marathon General Purpose Mechanical.

MARATHON_GENERAL_PURPOSE_STEEL_DIAL4

Introduction

As discussed in our article about the Marathon Navigator, Marathon has been making watches for the US and Canadian armed forces for a few decades.  One of those was the GG-W-113 pilot’s watch.  Produced in limited number in the mid-1980s, the Marathon GG-W-113 differs from other watches made under this specification by Hamilton and Benrus, the main difference being the large, curved case with integrated bezel and crown guards, large square lugs, and fixed strap bars.  Although Marathon has continued to make watches for military and government use, they have never made anything quite like the GG-W-113…until now.

MARATHON_PAIR
Left: New General Purpose Mechanical LE, Right: GG-W-113 – image credit Marathon Watch

Though not specifically designated as such, this watch is a reissue of that mid-’80s classic.  It keeps nearly all of the design features of the original, making it an interesting piece for collectors of military watches.

Marathon General Purpose Mechanical LE Review

MARATHON_GENERAL_PURPOSE_STEEL_FACE1Case: 316L Steel, screw-down case back
Movement: ETA 2801, manually-wound, 17 jewels, hacking
Dial: Black
Lume: Tritium gas tubes (dial and hands)
Crystal: Sapphire
Strap: Black nylon
Water Res.: 3ATM (~100 feet)
Dimensions: 36mm width
Thickness: 11mm
Lug Width: 16mm
Crown: Pressure fit
Warranty: 2 years
Price: $595

Case & Movement

With the watch in your hands, the first thing that stands out is the case.  That’s for a couple reasons: size and shape.  Let’s talk shape first.

MARATHON_GENERAL_PURPOSE_STEEL_CASE1

Unless you’re familiar with the original Marathon GG-W-113 or the G10 watches CWC and Precista made for the British military, you’ve probably never encountered a case quite like this one.  It’s a solid piece of brushed stainless steel with tall, curved, integrated bezel.  The entire face of the case slopes down away from the top evenly in all directions, making for beautiful curves all over the watch.  The lugs are thick and square, bluntly overhanging the strap on both sides. The case extends slightly further on the 3:00 o’clock side, giving the crown about half a millimeter of protection when it’s pushed in.  The circular brushed finish makes the stainless steel look great and cuts down on reflections from the large surface area of the case.  The case back includes military specification and manufacturer’s information including National Stock Number, military performance spec number, Nuclear Regulatory Commission ID number, and individual serial number.  This release is limited to 600 watches, each with its own individual number.

MARATHON_GENERAL_PURPOSE_STEEL_CASE3

I mentioned that size is the other thing you notice about the case, and that is certainly true.  Unfortunately, I think it’s also the feature most likely to turn buyers off of this watch.  The case measures 36mm wide, excluding the crown, and 11mm tall.  36mm, though perfectly average for a military field watch, will feel rather small to most people used to modern-sized watches.  More uncommon still is the strap size, only 16mm.  With most watches of this size featuring 18 or 20mm lug width, 16mm feels tiny (even on my relatively small wrists).  That said, after wearing the watch for about an hour, the oddness had worn off, and 16mm didn’t feel so small.

WW194003SS-BEN-Movement
image credit Marathon Watch

Inside the case, you’ll find a 17 jewel Benrus ETA 2801 movement, the same movement that powered the original Marathon GG-W-113.  The movement is a real workhorse from ETA, designed to be accurate to within 30 seconds a day (though often achieving much higher accuracy) and featuring a power reserve of at least 36 hours.  The movement is hand-wound and winds with a smooth action from the pressure-fit crown.  That crown and the relatively thin sapphire crystal only afford the watch 3 atmospheres (roughly 100 feet) water resistance, so it can handle a dunk in the sink or a heavy rain, but it’s not built for serious swimming or diving.

Dial & Hands

Looking at the dial, you immediately see the watch’s military origins.  The hour scale features the classic military double rows: large 1-12 and smaller 13-24.  Each hour marker 1-11 are illuminated by a green tritium tube, while the tube at 12:00 glows orange.  The hour and minute hands are similarly lumed with green tritium tubes, giving the whole watch an ample amount of glow power, even when not immediately charged by sunlight.  Just as on the original, the dial is signed “MARATHON U.S. GOVERNMENT” with 17 jewels indication, “H3,” and radiation symbols.  The latter two serve as a reminder that the tritium in the tubes is mildly radioactive (25 millicuries, according to the case back) and should be disposed of in a proper location.  The simple military design makes the dial easily readable and the tritium shines brightly enough to afford easy legibility in darkness.

MARATHON_GENERAL_PURPOSE_STEEL_DIAL6

Straps & Wearability

As discussed in the case section, the 16mm lug spacing on this watch is somewhat small compared to what most of us are used to wearing.  Still, you have some options.  The first and most obvious option is to just wear it on a 16mm strap and get used to the smaller size (as I said above, it only took me about an hour of wrist time).  Just like every other military or mil-inspired watch, this one looks great on a NATO strap, and there are dozens of examples available in 16mm webbing straps (those seen here are from NATO Strap Co.).

MARATHON_GENERAL_PURPOSE_STEEL_WRIST2

Your second option is to wear it on a BUND, or cuffed, strap.  These German military style straps feature an extra piece of leather (or whatever other material the strap is made from) that sits under the case and is held in place by the rest of the strap.  That additional material gives the watch and strap more bulk and a bit more presence on your wrist.  Your third option is to find (or make) a notched strap with 16mm ends between the lugs but wider body past the lugs.  Regardless of the choice, the watch wears well on the wrist, and is a comfortable, if small, wear.

Conclusion

The Marathon General Purpose limited edition field watch is an honest reissue of Marathon’s mid-’80s GG-W-113 pilot’s watch.  The Benrus signed ETA 2801 and brushed stainless steel case reflect the build quality of the watch.  Though somewhat small by modern watch standards, the watch wears comfortably and looks great on the wrist. They are available for sale directly from Marathon for $595 as well as from Page&Cooper, and would make a nice addition to a military-inspired watch collection.  And if you can find yourself a Marathon GG-W-113, you’d have yourself quite a pair!

MARATHON_GENERAL_PURPOSE_STEEL_DIAL5

by Brandon Cripps

Images from this post:
Brandon was raised in a military family, the son of an Army pilot and engineer. An early fascination with all things mechanical developed into a love of watches that remains today. Brandon holds a pair of degrees in experimental psychology and works as a human factors test engineer for Army aviation systems.
brandoncripps
  • jamesdarm

    Nice review, what’s the lug to lug measurement?

  • Good god this thing is awesome!

  • Great to see someone making a smaller watch. It’s a to the point design, very nice.

  • Min Lee

    really excellent. price is a little steep, especially considering I can add about $100 or so and pick up a GSAR, but still, I love that case design and it’s simplicity.
    I have a thing for mechanical manuals so I might have to bite the bullet and go for it.

  • Buff

    It’s nice enough… but 3 ATM water resistance? No thanks.

    • Blaise Wilson Brennan

      Seriously, this should be a bigger deal. I consider water resistance to be one of the most basic necessities in a modern watch of any style, let alone a field watch.

      I was actually about to pick up one of their less expensive plastic models as a beater to wear through field training last summer, but the water resistance was a deal breaker. Too bad – I really like the idea of an affordable beater with tritium.

    • Min Lee

      so much sorry about WR for a general purpose watch…

      read this post, might surprise you.

      http://forums.watchuseek.com/f74/can-i-dive-30m-wr-watch-empirical-experience-1847322.html

      I now own this watch. had it for about 6 months. was caught in a thunder storm the other day without an umbrella. completely soaked. surprisingly the watch didn’t explode on me.
      3atm is more then enough for everyday activity. don’t buy into misinformation and hype.

  • OhioHead

    I bought this when 1st announced via Wilson Watch, I wish it was slightly larger and the lugs are 18mm, I have worn the watch extensively while swimming w/ no issues, great watch and I would purchase again (buy my straps from J Crew).