US military-issued watches - like the sterile hacking DoD MIL-W-50717-spec Type 1 military homage automatic watch here, with strap compass – are known for their lack of fancy buttons or bezels.  Instead, these are nearly always very simple and reliable watches that do what they were designed to – tell time on the battlefield.

 

Type I and II military watches – more on these below – were produced for nearly a decade, from 1972 to 1980, with a little over 10,000 Type II produced, along with roughly 6,000 Type I’s.  There existed a very small number of “sterile” watches outside these numbers, with no military-stamped nomenclature on the caseback and only a single engraved serial number.

 

 

Naturally, some insist these sterile watches were issued to Navy SEAL teams and other Special Operations units in the US Army and CIA (in particular during the Viet Nam conflict), since the lack of military markings on the case meant that the watch (and thus its wearer) could not be identified as American – we don’t know what truth exists in this regard, but it does make for a great story.  With that in mind, we modeled the watch here after the sterile examples.

 

Since the watch was first worn, it has been an information tool, giving its wearer some piece of intelligence otherwise not known.  Perhaps nowhere is that truer or better realized than in the military watch.  Almost as long as watches have existed, governments and military's have been buying and issuing timepieces to be used in nearly every military scenario imaginable.  Strictly utilitarian, these watches have served as functional instruments, designed to give their wearers specific and accurate information in environments not often encountered by civilian watches.

 

The US Department of Defense (DoD) association with issuance of U.S. military watches begins with specification MIL-W-3818B, issued by DoD for a general-purpose watch for military personal, with the first contract awarded in February 1964.  The DoD contract called for a 17-jewel, hacking wristwatch with an extended service life; however, the 3818B wasn’t around long, eventually morphing into the MIL-W-50717 (of which the example here is modeled closely after).

 

To understand military-issued watches, you first need to understand a bit about government purchasing.  When the U.S. Government contracts for goods, it does not shop like the rest of us. Instead of surveying the market and choosing from what is available, it publishes detailed criteria for exactly what it needs, and private companies – in this instance, American watchmakers Benrus, Belforte, Westclox, Hamilton, Timex, and Stocker and Yale - submit proposals for how they will meet that need, and at what cost.  As a result, a number of different companies produced U.S. military issue watches under different contracts at different times.

 

Fast forward to the early 1970s when the US DoD drafted MIL-W-50717, a military specification that outlined all the design details they were looking for in a diving watch.  Benrus answered the DoD call for bid with its Type I and II watches.  Type I’s feature lumed markers at each hour: a triangle at 12; rectangles at 3, 6, and 9; and dots at the remaining hours.  Type IIs have a traditional 12/24 military dial, with small lumed triangles at each hour.

 

The MIL-W-57017 spec Type I and II watches had everything divers and other combat units needed and nothing they didn’t – thick steel cases measured in at 43 mm wide and 16mm tall, and a design that made the watches impervious to disruption from beatings military-issue watches regularly endure during operations.

 

This watch comes with a leather rally strap, nylon NATO strap, hard plastic travel case, and springbar tool.

DoD MIL-W-50717 Type 1 Military Automatic Watch

$649.99Price
  • DIAL: Unsigned sterile military dial with lumed hands; lume glows brightly.  Dial is standard field watch spec, uncluttered by brand name or other text.

     

    CASE: Stainless-steel case measures 43mm x 47.5mm, with sterile bead-blasted case back.  Case bezel rotates counter-clockwise with a click, and is coarsely notched making rotation easy for the wearer, even with gloves on.  Acrylic bezel insert has numeral marked hours 1 through 11, with minute dash markings from 1 to 20.

     

    CRYSTAL: Slightly domed sapphire crystal, no scratches.

     

    BAND: Unlike the original Type I, this watch here features removeable springbars, accommodating all straps.  It comes with a brown leather rally strap and a premium black nylon NATO strap. Both straps nicely compliment the military look of this watch.

     

    MOVEMENT: DG 2813 automatic movement; this movement hacks, as it should on a military watch.

     

    CROWN: Unsigned stainless-steel screw down crown.

     

    COMPASS: As a bonus - along with the military essence of this Type 1 - we've added a strap compass, providing a rather useful and neccessary tool for orienteering the journey.  Lightweight and compact, you might just forget its there - until you need it.