Behind the Build #008 – Field Watches
Field watches are among the most popular watches in the history of watchmaking. A field watch is generally simple to read, and can even be used as a one watch collection (as long as the owner isn't a pro diver).
As perhaps the first tool watch, field watches have undergone a long development process, and today, offer watch buyers incredible value for money. You can also create your own field watch that is a perfect fit for your taste.
Over the years, a number of iconic field watches have been introduced into the market. Let's take a deeper look into where field watches came from, and how you can make your own custom version of a field watch with namokiMODS.
What is a Field Watch?
Initially called ‘trench watches’ these revolutionary timepieces were designed for soldiers during World War One. A field watch is simply a timepiece intended for the military or broader “in the field” purposes.
Epitome of a tool watch. Source: Business Insider
As weird as it may sound, by the early 1900s wrist watches were intended for women. Gentlemen wore pocket watches adequate to the hard life of a man, and women wore feminine bejeweled watches on their wrists.
The field watch necessarily came to exist for two main reasons: by WW1 the incorporation of trench uniforms (instead of waistcoats) and more specifically the need to equip soldiers with better warfare gear for improved tactics (technology for precise time synchronization).
The Early Years
The very first were the German navy who had them manufactured especially to be in heavy contact with water. These primitive field watches were initially conceived by adapting pocket watches with soldered lugs and leather straps to be worn upon soldiers’ wrists.
While pocket watches were fancy, they were also a bother to use especially for war. Source: Wikipedia
Watchmaking eventually recognized the benefit of a wristwatch built to provide troops with improved tools for their tactics and began designing and manufacturing them from scratch.
Those original designs usually brought large black dials, white numbers and hands with a surface radium covering (poisonous!) for night lecture, a nickel or silver case, and an onion crown.
During the First World War, soldiers had to purchase their own trench watches personally since these were not provided by the military. This fact also collaborated in the proliferation of this type of field watches among the general public since these were widely available in shops around the world.
A watch to tell what time it is, plain and simple: the Bulova A-11. Source: Worn and Wound
By WWII, the US Army included field watches in their troops’ gear with the initial A-11 watch later replaced by the A-17 manufactured by contractors (like Bulova, Elgin or Waltham to name some). These two iconic designs are deemed the predecessors of the current field watch look & feel.
Made For Rough Times
Field watches needed to withstand extreme conditions: it must endure through dust, water and challenging temperature/weather, and other trying circumstances.
Field watches looked weird, but also kinda cool. Source: History.com
Also, in order to execute successful tactics, the accuracy was critical. Those movements had a range of 30 seconds (lost or gained) which were deemed very accurate in those days. These also had to be simple and lightweight to be manufactured en masse. Case makers initially used silver and nickel before switching to stainless steel.
NATO is durable and fashionable too! Source: Seiko Watches
Also, a leather or canvas strap (NATO) became a popular choice after proving its rugged durability. This strap was designed by the British Special Forces for durability in warfare, and was worn over the sleeves of the trench coat for faster accessibility.
Currently NATO straps are an industry standard. They can be bought in canvas or nylon material and in a variety of colors.
Fun Fact – if one of your spring bars fails – the NATO strap will prevent the watch from falling off your wrist!
5 Inspirations for a Field Watch Build:
One of the greatest things about creating your own field watch is the sheer number of models you can use for inspiration. Most major watchmakers have produced watches for the military – or a watch that borrows heavily from military watches.
Sinn 856 UTC
The Sinn 856 UTC timepiece is a highly respected pilot watch. It adds unique features that many other field watches don't have.
Sinn has always been known for its highly legible dials. Source: Reddit
The 856 differentiates itself by having a yellow-tipped hand marking an interior 24-hr dial instead of the typical long hand indicating UTC (or GMT) over the 12-hr dial.
In many ways the Sinn 856 UTC looks a lot like the aeronautical watches offered by Bell & Ross, and is simple to read under almost any conditions.
If you want to create your own version of this classic field watch, check out our Spork dial. We also offer classic pilot hands that are almost a perfect match to the original – or for something new, try our SXK Skeleton hands.
The Seiko SNK809 belongs to the Seiko 5 watches family and sticks out as one of the best values from Seiko. It is easy to see the classic style of this watch. It has simple lines and a 38mm case.
Hard to beat this Seiko when it comes to value proposition.
Source: Monochrome Watches
As far as the movement goes, it leaves a little to be desired. It features an in-house automatic movement, but the 7S26 won't hack or hand wind.
The Seiko SNK809 offered very generous watch features in relation to its price. This particular model is now discontinued but you can make your own out of a superior collection of parts.
We offer a range of cases you can build a field watch with – including our NMK912 Field Watch case with everything you need to make an amazing custom Field Watch from your own specs.
If you want a watch that is like the SNK809 – but adds a hacking and handwinding movement – pair the NMK912 case with a NH35 movement and our Khaki Field dial. If you want a field watch with a lighter color face, we have you covered there too.
Not only will your new Field Watch have a better movement – it will also sport a sapphire crystal!
It all started with the Rolex company becoming a sort of sponsor for the ground-breaking expedition to the world's highest peak: Mt Everest, in 1953.
Rolex engineers designed a model expressly for the expedition and the Swiss manufacturer registered the name ‘Explorer’ in Geneva earlier that year.
The current version of the Rolex Explorer, the 214270 Explorer, was released in 2016.
Rugged yet dressy, the Rolex Explorer. Source: Hodinkee
The current Rolex Explorer is more robust as well as larger, and also has the amazing 3-6-9 applied markers that so many people love.
You can customize just about any Seiko watch inspired by the Rolex Explorer with the parts we make at NamokiMods. We offer the dial in white, gray, or black – all with the distinctive 3-6-9 applied hour markers and a hand-polished glossy enamel finish.
The NamokiMods Explorer Dial is filled with C3 Super-LumiNova® Lume, the brightest of all lume colours. The C3 Super-LumiNova provides a green glow that typically lasts for 7 to 10 hours.
This dial is compatible with original Seiko LumiBrite hands or also with any of Namoki’s C3 watch handset options. In addition to a standard set of mercedes hands, we also offer a new skeleton mercedes handset option, so your new Explorer homage has an ultra modern look.
If you love the look of the classic Rolex Explorer – we can also help. We make an amazing vintage Explorer dial – and even offer vintage patina lumed mercedes hands to match!
This classy field watch was originally intended for ‘mountain men’ in Japan in the 1960s.
The Seiko Alpinist is an outdoor timepiece widely known for its robust features as well as its refined design. Featuring some form of a 6R series automatic movement, the current generation of Seiko Alpinists deliver a combination of a classy appearance and rugged resilience.
A watch you can wear anywhere. Source: Professional Watches
One of the best things about the Alpinist is that it could be the only watch a person needs. It isn't large, at less than 40mm, and with 200m of water resistance, it can go just about anywhere.
The dial and hands that are used on the modern Alpinist are also dressy. Many of the models sport gold hands and indices, which make the model a perfect fit for the office, or the side of a mountain.
If you want to create your own Alpinist homage – we have a few options for you.
We manufacture a classic Tudor style dial in enamel, with black, grey and blue versions on offer. You can choose whatever kind of hands to match the dial, which is very similar to the original Alpinist dial, which is now being reissued.
A set of lumed dauphine hands would continue with the Alpinist's heritage, or you could opt for any of our modern cathedral hands for a more modern Alpinist look.
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
The Hamilton Khaki Mechanical is an homage to the original military field watches born in WWI and massively adopted by WWII. This timepiece features a case, dial and hands that resembles a genuine vintage watch.
The Khaki Field Mechanical and its famous dial. Source: Two Broke Watch Snobs
The Hamilton Khaki Mechanical field watch triggers emotions like vintage objects do, yet it benefits from all the advances of modern watchmaking technology.
At NamokiMODS, we recently introduced a line of Khaki Field Dials in a range of colors.
This Khaki Field dial in Black, inspired by classic American Mil-Spec, is a modern twist on antique government-issued military watches from the 1960s.
It even features an antique lume with a creamy patina that fits Namoki’s Khaki Field hands perfectly. This dial is filled with C3 Super-LumiNova® Lume and pigments to produce a creamy, vintage lume colour that typically lasts 7 to 10 hours.
Of course, we also wanted to give our clients the right set of hands for our new Khaki Field Dials. If you want the perfect match for a Khaki Field Dial, we have polished steel Khaki Field hands with both white and vintage lume – as well as a black handset with vintage lume.
Our white Khaki Field Dial would look amazing in a matte black case, with highly visible black Khaki Field hands!
Namoki’s NMK912 Field Watch Bundle
If you like field watches – you will love our NMK912 Field Watch Case Bundle!
Not only is it a top-quality case, it also comes with most of the parts pre-installed for easier modding.
You can find out more about the NMK912 Field Watch Case Bundle by clicking here – but in short, the Namoki NMK912 Field Watch Case is a very versatile 38mm diameter case that is topped with an AR coated sapphire crystal.
We even made it compatible with our SKX013 20mm Oyster bracelet so that you can make it look like an Explorer or Alpinist.
If you are looking for something unique, the matte Olive-green limited edition (only 200 units) of this Namoki NMK912 Field Watch Case might be a perfect fit.
This case features a unique matte finish in a dark olive green and brown toned color, that will look different depending on the angle and lighting.
At NamokiMODS – we love watches. We want everyone to have the best Seiko mod parts so that doing Seiko mods is simple and fun. Not everyone is going to want to do a SKX007 mod, so we offer a range of Seiko mod parts – like our impressive line of SKX013 mod parts.
The Field Watch is a classic design, and we want everyone to be able to create a Field Watch that is a perfect fit for their tastes. With our parts – your Field Watch build will look amazing, and last a long time.
Quality matters, and while you may be able to find a cheaper skx007 bezel insert, skx007 sapphire crystal or skx007 mod parts in general – it will be hard to find a better value than the parts that we offer at Namoki MODS.
Cheap parts are cheap for a reason – and we want all our clients to buy quality parts that are built with the same passion they have for watch modding!