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What Specifically is a Military Specification (Mil-Spec) Watch?

Posted on May 14 2013

There was a time when the United States Army issued the same watch to each soldier.  These days are over.  All United States soldiers are not issued the same watch.  In fact, it may be surprising to learn that in most situations, members of the military in the US have the option to wear a wide variety of watches in the field and in tactical situations.  Usually this decisions is made individually by the Unit.  The one thing that all real military watches have in common, however is that they are all built to military specifications of various standards.  

There are many different types of watches that tout the banner of "military watches."  Most of these pieces are simply design-driven and created for the sole purpose of moving as many units as possible and keep up with a trend.  There are actually fashion designers now that are selling "military inspired" watches that are as useful in the field as the packaging that the watch came in.  With so many impostors how can you tell if you have a real mil-spec watch?

Generally, these information regarding military specification will be published very clearly on the case back of the watch.  Additionally, on the front of the watch there are some symbols to look for.  For excellent photographs of a variety of military watches spanning at least 50 years visit http://home.earthlink.net/~brendo81/46374.html which outlines many different military specifications.   It is important to note that various countries have different "military specifications" and therefore when buying a watch it is vital to double check what specifications are being used.

On most modern military specification watches you will see the designation: MIL-PRF-46374G. In order to publicize this designation, the watch is subjected to testing, usually at an outside lab.  Testing centers on reliability and durability on simulated conditions.  The guidelines for the testing are set out in the military specifications.  

Believe it or not, the military has various levels of military specification.  Generally, watches are characterized by type and class.  Type ranges from disposable Type I pieces to Type III that have a rotating bezel, extreme water resistance and are designed to last 5-10 years.  Classes of military watches range from Class I to Class IV based on the movement of the watch with Class one watches coming with pre-loaded battery-operated movements and Class IV containing automatic movements.  

Smith & Bradley has been hard at work on research and development of our military field watch that will comply to military specifications.  With a full tritium dial, Highest grade Swiss quartz movement, and ion coated stainless steel case, the military field watch will make a huge impact in the field.  Keep on the lookout for the watches on Facebook and on Kickstarter.  

 A Modern Mil-Spec Case back. 

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