Military Watches of the World: Great Britain Part 3—Falklands War Era Through Today

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In the final entry of our British installment of Military Watches of the World, we are going to take a look at the wristwatches issued to HM’s forces from the post-Vietnam War era through today. For the rest of the British installment, make sure to read parts 1 and 2.


In 1980, the MoD decided to procure their next iteration of dive watches from Cabot Watch Company, and the resulting automatic dive watch, built to MOD standards, was issued to military divers. This watch featured a stainless steel case measuring 44 millimeters, a rotating bezel with hash marks at each minute, sword hands, a tritium dial, fixed strap bars, and an ETA 2783 movement.

These automatic divers were supplied to the MoD in 1980/1981, after which production switched over to quartz. There were several iterations of the quartz variant—some had black PVD cases, and some featured a day/date function, while others just the date or no date at all. Eventually, tritium was replaced by LumiNova, and the era of the “classic” military dive watch of the 1950s through the 1970s was gone.

Vintage CWC Royal Diver. Image courtesy of 60 Clicks.
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CWC also made two watches designated “general service,” the first of which is referred to as the W10. The W10 featured a 36-millimeter, one-piece, stainless steel case with a matte-black, tritium-lumed dial. The movement was an ETA 2750, a 17-jewel, manual caliber with hacking. These pieces date to the mid-1970s and were also produced by Hamilton to spec.

The second CWC “general service” watch was the G10, produced from 1980 through the late 1990s/early 2000s (CWC still makes a modern, non-issued version for the public). The G10 originally had a 36-millimeter, stainless steel case with a matte-black dial (featuring tritium paint) and a battery hatch for the quartz movement. This watch was made in abundance—about 20,000 were produced in 1991 alone during the first Gulf War.

CWC G10 quartz.

Modern CWC versions are made with LumiNova in place of tritium. It should be noted that Precista, a now-defunct brand once owned by British watch wholesaler Southerns, was also contracted to make the original G10 to the same specifications, and Pulsar also produced a LumiNova version in the early 2000s.

In the late 1980s/early 1990s, Precista was contracted to produce a dive watch with 300 meters of water-resistance. Additional specs included a stainless steel case, a matte-black dial with tritium paint, a bezel with hash marks for each minute, and 20-millimeter lugs. The watch had a quartz movement. These watches were never given a model name so they tend to be referenced by the brand name, issue year, or by the case back markings, which begin with “6645-99.”

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In 1984, the MoD switched over from the Valjoux 7733-powered chronographs it had been issuing to RAF pilots, to a new, quartz-powered model from Seiko—the 7A28-7120. These pieces featured a matte-black dial with promethium luminous paint (note the circled “P”). The case was matte, blasted steel and featured an integrated and unmarked bezel. Inside, you’ll find an incredibly robust quartz movement (the very first analog quartz movement, actually—see our past coverage here). Like so many other mil-spec watches, this one also featured fixed lug bars. The sub-registers included a 1/10th-second counter, a 30-minute recorder, and a running seconds. Case backs were marked with a broad arrow and relevant issue markings.

These pieces were produced until 1990, after which there was a lapse of three years until a second generation was issued in 1993. These 37.7-millimeter watches featured a plastic, non-jeweled 7T27 Seiko movement and only two pushers. The sub-registers included a 30-minute counter, a 24-hour clock, and running seconds. Both lumed (promethium) and non-lumed versions were produced, with the non-lumed watches being issued to nuclear submarine crews from 1993 to 2000.

2nd generation RAF Seiko. Image courtesy of watchesoff via Instagram.

A three-register Pulsar quartz chronograph, the YM92/X170, eventually replaced the Seiko, though as Pulsar was by this time a Seiko-owned brand much of the design language remained the same. These watches featured a familiar stainless steel case, a matte-black dial (this time with LumiNova), a date aperture, and the requisite issue numbers on the screw down case back. The watch featured a 1/10th second counter, a 60-minute recorder, and a running seconds sub-dial. Earlier generations of this piece didn’t feature crown guards, but more modern models did.

And now we have the one-million-dollar question: What is current British MoD issue for wristwatches?

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According to an official MoD reply to a query of this sort placed in 2012, the current watches being procured by HM’s government for issue are the Seiko PXD433 for general service, the Seiko PX8307X1 for aircrews (this spec number is somewhat problematic, and it’s likely that it’s the current Pulsar YM92/X170 mentioned above, which was re-ordered in 2014), and the Citizen BN0000-04H for divers. As of 2012, two of these watches had order numbers of less than 1,000 pieces each since being ordered around 2009/2010, which should say something about how much (or little) governments are currently spending on wristwatch procurement. Of course, these figures are now six years old, but if the trends of the last two decades are any sort of indication, it would be safe to surmise that the number of issued watches today are even less than what they were six years ago (though this is admittedly the author’s personal speculation).


Click here to read all installments of our ongoing series, Military Watches of the World.

Oren Hartov is a NYC-based musician and writer whose work has appeared in SHIFTed Magazine, Special Operations Report and K-9 Cop Magazine. He enjoys watches, history, archaeology, militaria, SCUBA, and just about anything that goes “BANG.”
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