The Dirty Dozen Military Wristwatches From World War II

Douglas Pilarski

These Watches Were Engraved With WWW On The Caseback

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Military Issue Watches Circa 1942Photo via Pinterest

Watch. Wrist. Waterproof.

Thousands of watch collectors around the world immerse themselves in the continuous pursuit of unique timepieces. Whether it is luxury, period, mechanical, exotic, or skeleton, collectors continue to add to their collections.

Konrad Knirim’s book “British Military Timepieces” details the British MOD specifications for theses watches issued to soldiers during the second world war. The British Military prioritized conserving precious resources during wartime. There was a need for British officers to keep time in the field. The British Ministry of Defense commissioned 12 Swiss watchmakers to make a watch on spec to equip their officers in the field of battle.

According to British Ministry of Defense (MOD) specifications, the watch itself was to have a chronometer grade movement, be waterproof, and be housed in a chrome or stainless steel case. The cases were to be 35 to 38 millimeters, not including the crown. Every watch had to have a black dial with luminous markers. The face would feature simple dial layouts, including a minute hand.

Knirim explains that the back of the watch was engraved W.W.W. meaning wrist, watch, waterproof. A military serial number was present. A Broad Arrow marked the piece as HM Government Property. The Broad Arrow marking has been used for more than 400 years.

Each watch has a tremendous historical value. Each differs slightly from maker to maker. It is a matter of personal preference when a collector says this one looks best. Each of the twelve has its fans. It should come as no surprise that collectors proudly display their WWW watches.

The entire set of twelve in one case is rare. Less than twenty complete sets of twelve exist today. For British Collectors, a box of twelve is a holy grail.

Watch collectors have varying tastes. While some chase the spectacular, others seek pieces from history to build their collections. This set of twelve British watches, known today as the Dirty Dozen, is a treasure.

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Douglas Pilarski is an award-winning writer & journalist based on the west coast. He writes about luxury goods, exotic cars, horology, tech, food, lifestyle, and workplace issues!

Beaverton, OR
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