Horology, part 1 - The History of Field Watches

Updated: Jan 3

It is fair to say that the field watch was responsible for the popularization of the wristwatch.

Before the military discovered and promoted the advantages of being able to tell the time under every thinkable condition, a gentleman would only wear the impractical pocket watch. The wristwatch already existed, but it was called a wristlet and it was mostly used by women.

It is believed that the German Imperial Naval used watches on the wrist since 1880, but it was during WWII that the field watch gained scale. Even though different models were produced during that period, they all shared a few characteristics: they had to be resistant, reliable, and easy to read. Stainless steel was generally used for the casing, while an adjustable and comfortable leather or canvas strap was standard.

An iconic example from that era is the American A-11. Here is one from Bulova:

Today field watches are associated with the great outdoors and are still recognized for their roughness and simplicity. A new classic is the Hamilton Khaki Field:

Whether you like them or not, it is worth learning more about the history of field watches, since they were crucial for the development of horology.