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Discussion Starter #1
I'm always surprised whenever I hear of high-end swiss watch brands that have supplied entire armies at one point in time or another. I don't get why armies would spend such huge sums of money on high-end watches for soldiers.

Was this before these watches were expensive? Do they just hand out swiss watches in boot camp? Is it a special honor reserved for generals, admirals, other high ranking officers? :-s

So far I've heard of:
Panerai - supplied the Egyptian Navy
Breitling - the Iraqi Air Force
Tutima - German Air Force
Ebel - British Air Force
Omega - US Army and British Airforce

Feel free to add on, I know I'm missing tons
 

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"I don't get why armies would spend such huge sums of money on high-end watches for soldiers."

To keep accurate time?

Eterna - Israeli Defense Force
 

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Bulova, Elgin, Waltham and Hamilton made official watches for the US armed forces and the RAF during World War II.
I believe service watches were given out to officers, aviators, and those with technical responsibility like navigators and artillerymen.
 

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I was an officer, but the Swedish Army gave me nothing. Mean b-stards!
Omega - Swedish Army in the old days
Longines- Swedish Airforce, (I think)
 

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Discussion Starter #5
To keep accurate time?
But quartz is more accurate, more shock resistant and cheaper. Why would an army spend $5K per soldier just for a watch to wear on the battlefield where it will probably get destroyed?

I believe service watches were given out to officers, aviators, and those with technical responsibility like navigators and artillerymen.
Were they just cheaper back then, or were they some sort of special reward?
 

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But quartz is more accurate, more shock resistant and cheaper. Why would an army spend $5K per soldier just for a watch to wear on the battlefield where it will probably get destroyed?
Were they just cheaper back then, or were they some sort of special reward?
I guess they did not buy them one at a time, like we do!;-)
If you order, say, 5000 units, you pay a fraction of the normal price!
 

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But quartz is more accurate, more shock resistant and cheaper. Why would an army spend $5K per soldier just for a watch to wear on the battlefield where it will probably get destroyed?
This was before Quartz watches were cheaper than mechanical watches. Now days almost everyone owns a watch so the military doesn't have to provide them. Back then when divers needed a watch there wasn't a cheap quartz watch to get one had to get an Omega or Rolex.

Rolexes were a lot cheaper back then, even taking inflation into account. And if say the Royal Navy were to buy 5,000 Submariners then I would expect that they would get them even cheaper.

Chad
 
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Your question should better have been posted on our PilMil Forum, however:

Omega, Longines, Zenith, Titus, Helvetia: 1920-1930, German Army
Zenith, Breitling, Heuer (cal. 22): about 1930, German Air Force

Alpina, Berg, Zentra, Cortebert, Solvil: marked with "KM" (for "Kriegsmarine") on the dial.

Orfina, Sinn, Heuer: German Airforce (after 1945)

Stowa, Laco, Lange & Söhne, Wempe, IWC: B-Uhren WW II




Titus, Aipina, Mulco, Silvana, Minerva, Record, Arsa, Bueren, Zenith, Longines: Germany Army in WW II

Stowa, Vixa: French Army and Airforce (after 1945)

Ruhla: Dive watches for the NVA of the GDR

Longinges: Italian Army

 

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Were they just cheaper back then, or were they some sort of special reward?
I doubt that watch cost was an issue back when the government was building B17s and Sherman tanks. There was a war on. If you needed a watch to fly a plane you got one.
 

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Vostok- Russian Army
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I doubt that watch cost was an issue back when the government was building B17s and Sherman tanks. There was a war on. If you needed a watch to fly a plane you got one.
It still sounds like pork-barrel spending by the government to be buying luxury for the army during a world war. Is there something else I'm missing? :-s
 

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Maybe the "cashback" to the guy that ordered them?
Now, that is not a statement or accusation about corruption, but those things happen today, and I guess also happened "yesterday" !
Did Omega have a factory in the US during WW2? I mean, how could the watches made in Switzerland, be transported through enemy controlled territory, on its way to UK and the US?
 

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Did Omega have a factory in the US during WW2? I mean, how could the watches made in Switzerland, be transported through enemy controlled territory, on its way to UK and the US?
The Hague Convention permits neutral states to trade freely with the belligerents in time of war.

I'm sure the Germans and Italians wanted Swiss watches as well so they wouldn't shoot down Swiss planes.

Chad
 

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Back then the better the watch the better the timekeeping. If you were navigating a bomber, aiming a howitzer, or timing an infantry assault that was important. You couldn't go down to Wal-Mart and pick up a quartz watch to do the job.
So they issued decent watches where needed. The American watches were plenty good, but I wouldn't describe them as luxury.
Nobody was getting a Patek after all.
 

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Maybe the "cashback" to the guy that ordered them?
Now, that is not a statement or accusation about corruption, but those things happen today, and I guess also happened "yesterday" !
Did Omega have a factory in the US during WW2? I mean, how could the watches made in Switzerland, be transported through enemy controlled territory, on its way to UK and the US?
The Hague Convention permits neutral states to trade freely with the belligerents in time of war.

I'm sure the Germans and Italians wanted Swiss watches as well so they wouldn't shoot down Swiss planes.

Chad
Combatant states do not have to allow neutral states access to belligerent states.

The Swiss did not aircraft capable of flying non-stop from Switzerland to the UK, so the rout would have to have been through other neutral states, Switzerland to Vichy France, to Spain, there it could go to the UK, or the US.

After 1944, when Vichy France was occupied as well as the northern portion of France, getting anything out of Switzerland would have been very difficult.
 

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I saw a program a couple of years back in the UK. I was about the " unofficial" trading between UK (mainly) and Germany during WW2.
The Brits needed Optical parts for some cameras, binoculars and periscopes. The only quality supplier was German Zeiss. A company was established in Switzerland that faciliated the deals. The Germans needed something made in UK (forgot what) and the same "Swiss" company also dealt with that. So in fact trade existed between the two enemy states during the war.
Possibly timekeepers also did the same route?
 

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It still sounds like pork-barrel spending by the government to be buying luxury for the army during a world war. Is there something else I'm missing? :-s
It is a well-known fact that the allies nearly lost WWII because they bought mechanical watches instead of giving cheap quartz watches to their operators.

The only reason they didn't lose the war over that was that the Germans were even more profligate with their financial ressources, buying expensive B-Uhren to make sure that their planes would find the way back to their bases.

Really stupid considering that the Japanese were allied with the Germans at the time, and the Germans could easily have had access to cheap Japanese quartz technology.

:-d
 

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The American watch industry was still very much alive in World War II so Hamilton, Elgin and Waltham made watches for the Allies.
Bulova must have had a huge stockpile of movements to case in the USA, and Bulova made tons of standard replacement parts for the Army. My watchmaker friend still has plenty of war surplus Bulova wheels , springs, balance assemblies etc.
 
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