WW II U.S. Military Watches
Wrist watches were produced in large numbers during World War II for all the services. They had mechanical movements with a winding stem and typically had the hack feature, meaning that the watch can be stopped by pulling out the crown. Some watches, when stopped, jump the second hand to the 12 o'clock position. The hands can be set and the watch resumes keeping time when the crown is pushed down. In this way, the watch can be accurately synchronized with others, a military requirement. Both black and white dial models were made, typically with a dull stainless steel or parkerized case and olive drab or black cotton band.
A rectangular watch on the wrist of a soldier manning one of the 16-inch coastal defense artillery guns, Ft. Story, VA, March 1942. This watch is in the style of the "Cartier Tank Watch", named for jeweler Louis Cartier, and widely copied in the 1930s and 1940s.
Today in WW II: 4 Jul 1942 German bombers and submarines sink 24 ships of Convoy PQ 17 to the Soviet Union after the convoy spread out in the Arctic Ocean to evade the German battleship Tirpitz. More ↓
4 Jul 1942 US Eighth Air Force flies its first mission in Europe using six borrowed British planes; only three aircraft returned.
Visit the Olive-Drab.com World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.
Millitary Wristwatches During World War II
Official wristwatches were produced for the U.S. Army and other services during WW II. At that time, a watch was only considered necessary for ground and naval officers, aviators, and others with command or technical responsibilities. While official service watches were available, many enlisted men, and particularly officers, obtained their own stylish wristwatch or added a distinctive band to their military watch.
Army Air Force Type A-11 Wristwatch
The Type A-11 was produced in large numbers by Bulova, Elgin and Waltham for the Army Air Force and for the British RAF from 1941 to at least 1945. Typical case marking for an A-11:
A.F. U.S. Army
Spec. No. 94-27834-6
Serial No. A.F.-45-xxxxx
MFR's Part No. 10616
ORD NO W-33-038ac-6600
Part number above is for a Waltham watch -- Elgin would be part number 2114. The A-11 face and numerals are "military standard" in appearance with a black face, white markings, sweep second hand, and chrome plated case.
"ORD DEPT" Ordnance Watch Series
A common watch with Army personnel was the "ORD DEPT" ordnance watch series, produced by most of the watch manufacturers during the war. There was a system of part number prefixes such as OC, OD, OF that indicated the type of movement, as explained under Ordnance Department Markings at this link.
The photos to the left and right show the dial and case back of a Bulova watch of this type. The maker's name may or many not appear on the watch back. This Bulova does have the name as the last line, but an example of a Hamiliton ORD DEPT watch just has "H1" at the bottom.
Hamilton R88-W-800 Wristwatch
Far less common, was the Hamilton R88-W-800 watch, produced by Hamilton for the Navy with black face and for the Marine Corps with white face. Only about 15,000 were produced. Typical case markings for this watch:
MFR'S PART NO. 39103
HAMILTON WATCH CO.
U.S. Military Watch Bands
Watches were issued with a band, typically olive drab or black cotton. Watch bands were a separate item of issue for replacement. A typical one piece olive drab cotton band was "Strap, Wrist Watch" Stock No. F36-7198840, used to replace the band issued with the watch. You could buy a leather band in the PX if you didn't like the standard issue.
Recommended Books about Military Wrist Watches
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