Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Watch Men

[Pictured: American Field Watches circa World Wars I & II.]

Originating in the 1880's, the field watch gained steam as the prevalent time piece during the first World War due to soldier's demands for reliable and portable time devices.   These accurate, shock resistant watches, much like army fatigues, grew to represent American no frills, utilitarian design.  The technological advancements of WWII also extended to the watches.  With solid forged steel cases and thick, strong straps, the watches were more battle ready than ever.

The field watch saw a resurgence in the 1970's as the populatity of outdoors sports increased.  Suddenly there was once again a demand for a less expensive, rugged watch that, above all else, was readable and reliable.  By the 1980's the field watch was so popular that it had earned the reputation as the "blue-jeans" of timepieces.*

The field watch has recently been experiencing a similar resurgance to that of the 1970's/80's as it finds itself very much at the center of the menswear heritage/workwear movement.  Guys who would typically pass over such a watch in favor of something more intricate and expensive are drawn to the field watch's simple aesthetics and rich history.  Outdoors companies like L.L. Bean and Orvis are offering the same field watches they have for years, while brands like Timex (in a "collaboration" with J. Crew) are re-releasing models from their past. 

If you're in the market for a cool, new watch and don't want to spend north of a king's ransom look into a field watch.  I recommend going the vintage route by picking up one of the hundreds available on eBay.  You can find plenty of working watches (sans band if you like) at a bargain of the new asking price.  Thanks to a tip from Nick, I am currently trying to secure a vintage L.L. Bean field watch as we speak (you're crazy if you think I'm going to link it up here, though hopefully I can post on it when I win the auction).  If you're worried a vintage option is too much of a risk, try any one of the new varieties posted below. 

I'm really into black face (wow, this can definitely be taken out of context) watches in general, so that's what I would recommend as far as faces are concerned.  Otherwise, there's not much else going on outside of the band you choose.  The field watch is a complete "less is more" piece and that's the way a watch should be.  No matter if it's a field watch or a Cartier tank watch, the simpler the better.  On the matter of bands, most of these allow you to switch in and out the band of your choosing.  Grosgrain seems to be what's trending right now so either head down that route, or go in the opposite direction.  For someone looking to break new ground, try a simple cotton (waxed even) band or some type of nylon (braided possibly) to keep with the understated theme of the watch's face.  Or you could just say "screw it" and throw on a vintage leather band.  I can't imagine anything cooler right now than a "blacked-out" field watch.  Who watches the watch men? I do, that's who...

L.L. Bean Classic Field Watch...$89

Orvis Briar Haven Field Watch...$69

Timex Expedition Retro Metal Field Watch...$39.59

J. Crew x Timex Military Watch...$150.00

Hamilton Men's Khaki Field Watch...$116.99



*Field watch lead in pictures and history paraphrased and sourced from here.


  1. oooooh...in LOVE with the Hamilton watch!!! :/ would love it even better if it had a red wristband!

  2. Ms. Marj,

    How great are the red numbers? Def. my favorite out of the bunch.

  3. While these are pretty awesome, I have to say the old Timex Indiglow I got at Target for $30 and have made my own through a series of grosgrain bands from Leatherman has proven is another option to consider for those days not in the field.

  4. DAM - I was stuntin' real hard in my Indiglow back in the day. Some things just seem to stick with you...I'm sure it's straight hotness with grosgrain.

  5. Just picked up a vintage Unitas in the same vein. It's become my go to for sure with jeans or even dressed up and if I take care of it will probably go to my kid.

    I'm always checking overstock for those Hamiltons. Bummed I missed that one you posted. A keeper for sure

  6. Score - Yeah, that Hamilton is fresh. Changing bands is a great way to dress up/dress down a classic black face field watch. Those vintage Unitas joints are awesome. I bet it looks amazing.

  7. I like Seiko a lot, they have several military/field watch styles as well as a couple of cheap divers.

    Also definitely recommend Maratac Zulu or NATO straps on all of these watches. Bond style black with 2 grey stripes is nice. J.Press also has some awesome watch bands

  8. The Maratac stitched pvs bands are amazing...


  9. The WWI field watch is awesome, perhaps with the belts a little wider it may look even better. The other that I liked is the Hamilton Men's Khaki Field Watch.

  10. I admire those watches but I didn't know it: more recently, electronic quartz watches that are powered by arm movement have been developed and the weighted rotor turns a tiny electrical generator charging an accumulator, and those versions seems easy to understand a less they mechanisms. 23jj

  11. Orvis Briar Haven Field Watch is not expensive. and they are so fashion. but i prefer ny8181