A Knowledge Quickie with Massif

I found this article over at Massif and thought it’s well written and informative if you are into history and worth a share. So, get to know some facts about military field watches. Enjoy the read!

Military field watch aesthetics have inspired generations of horology buffs, and for good reason, in our humble opinion! However, where did the clean lines and no-nonsense functionality come from?

Early on, across the board on both sides, military and political leadership predicted a brief, heroic war dominated by Napoleonic cavalry charges. This failed to take into account a “small” detail: the invention of the machine gun. WWI quickly devolved from dynamic battles to static trench warfare. Conditions were universally awful, with soldiers living in a maze of trenches filled with ice-cold ankle-deep mud. (Did someone say “Trench-Foot?”)

In this harsh modern battlescape, timing was suddenly everything, and the seconds counted. If a commander ordered his unit over the top 20 or 30 seconds too early during an infantry assault, the outcome was often a swift demise, with enemy machine-gunners fixing and eliminating isolated units.

It was really the “creeping barrage” that proved the absolute necessity of a quickly accessible, faithful timepiece. This new tactic was designed to “walk” artillery rounds through no-man’s land, through enemy perimeter defenses, and ultimately deep into the opposing trench system. By precisely timing infantry advances in coordination with a creeping barrage, soldiers would theoretically avoid the deadly machine gun fire that otherwise cut units to pieces in no man’s land.

In the lead-up to WWII’s battle for air superiority, more timepiece innovation was ushered in, like the Weems Second-Setting watch for celestial navigation. In order to synch the watch with a signal emitted via radio that gave a pilot a precise time reference, Weems developed a movable bezel controlled via a secondary crown.

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