Several watch models and inventions can be traced back to the military and its varied needs as time was (and still is) crucial to any operation. Military historians tell us that timing artillery strikes was the main thing, and ease of access was what moved the watch from the pocket to the wrist. Even before the days of wristwatches, we can still see legacy items, such as the trench wrist strap, that allowed pocket watches to be worn on the wrist in a relatively secure and convenient fashion. That World War I practice, preceded by British officers during the Boer War, was subsequently adopted among a wider public to the point where it became a norm. Historians generally agree that officers returning from the front had gotten used to the idea of wearing their timepieces on the wrist, and this put paid to the notion that wristwatches were only for aristocratic ladies.
Over the course of the last few issues, we have devoted many pages to the subject of how time found itself on our wrists, chiefly by examining the oft-ignored watch band - the very thing that makes the wristwatch what it is. While this story ran in WOW Thailand some issues ago, we held back until we could use it to cap off the discussion. As you read this story, various themes that have played out across 2020, and right into this issue, can be attributed to the military and its need for no-frills precision timekeeping.
The subject of lethal conflicts aside, we have the military to thank for pushing horological boundaries both in terms of precision (anti-magnetism), durability (resistance against the elements including water), legibility (luminous materials) and even practicality (the NATO strap being one of such military-inspired inventions, see our main story for more details). The list goes on and it all reflects chapters in history, and we might even add the whole business of longitude and the need for instruments of navigation. We do not “need” watches especially designed for the military in order to tell the time in the 21st century. Indeed, most of the adaptations used by Western militaries are accidents, typified by the example of the trench watch
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