What Is A Field Watch?
In short, a field watch is a minimalistic military watch, designed to display accurate time. Originally designed for soldiers and officers in the first world war, they are now favoured by collectors due to their simplicity and wearability, and are in fact one of the most iconic and popular watches on the market.
As field watches are meant to be worn for long periods of time, the materials used to make them are lightweight and comfortable. Their cases are generally made from stainless steel to ensure strength and durability, accompanied by a durable canvas, One-Piece or leather strap. Watch brands tend to stay away from using stainless steel bracelets with field watches, as they would add too much weight.
Typically the field watch has a high contrast face - a dark face with light hands. As the sole purpose of the field watch was to display accurate time to soldiers, they very rarely have extra complications that would not be necessary in wartime conditions.
The History of Field Watches
Originally named ‘trench watch’, field watches have an interesting history rooted in war time.
Field Watches in The First World War
As touched on above, field watches were first designed for soldiers in WWI. Interestingly, pocket watches were the most popular form of timepiece for men for years as wristwatches were seen as a delicate, feminine option.
However, during the war, men could not afford to lose time removing the watch from their pocket, reading the time and then replacing it. As a result, field watches became a practical alternative that allowed the soldiers to read the time within seconds.
Field watches became a necessary piece of military equipment and were used to increase the accuracy of WWI military tactics. They allowed officers to plan attacks down to the second to capture an enemy trench.
These field watches were built to be worn near water, and had large dark dials with bright white numbers with metal cages on top to prevent the glass from breaking.
Field Watches in The Second World War
During WWI, field watches were only worn by a select few, but their ease of use was noticed by the masses and became standard military issue during World War II. This exposed far more men to the field watch and was probably the first time that many of these men had worn a wristwatch.
Field Watches Today
To be honest, not a lot has changed in the modern field watch other than the additional luxury complications (moon phase and equation of time), as the watch has moved away from the military and more into an every-day watch.
As field watches are built to be suitable for wartime, they must be able to withstand a reasonable amount of dust and water. The seals and water resistance has continued to improve since the first versions of the field watch, so they have become more durable.
Field watches are arguably the most minimalistic watch style, making them the perfect choice if you’re looking for simplicity. To help you choose the perfect field watch for you, here are 3 of our top picks:
The Best Field Watches
This Heritage Automatic Watch features the traditional style with a modern twist that Bell & Ross are known for. Featuring a chunky rotating bezel, a transparent exhibition caseback and a black Leather strap with a Folding Steel Clasp, this is a solid timepiece you can depend on.
The Gardes-Côtes by Bell & Ross is a quality marine timepiece that is both highly dependable and a low-key, workmanlike form of stylish. It is equipped with two chronograph sub-dials powered by a precision automatic mechanism, and is decked out with a matt grey dial and supple two-piece rubber strap - perfect both for high-stress nautical activity and day-to-day casual usage - and everything in-between.
View our complete collection of Bell & Ross watches here.
The Elliot Brown Holton field watch is like no other. Not only is it capable of prolonged exposure to water and dust, it is durable and shock resistant with clear visibility in the day or night, and features a unidirectional ultra high grip timing bezel operable with a wet gloved hand. It also boasts easy strap changes and comfortable strapping options that don't break.
You can shop our wide range of Elliot Brown watches here.
Written by Kate, for Watch Obsession.