What Is a Mil-Spec Watch And How Can You Build One?
When it comes to tough and durable timepieces, few types of watches can compare to a mil-spec watch. These watches are designed and built to meet rigorous military specifications, ensuring that they can withstand extreme conditions and operate reliably in the harshest environments. Within the world of watch collecting, military watches stand out as a popular area of interest for enthusiasts and collectors alike.
Unlike most watches that are made for commercial consumption, military watches are designed with different goals in mind. Function takes precedence over form, and these watches must be able to survive in battle. Their minimalist design and rugged construction evoke a sense of toughness and reliability that appeals to collectors.
Source: Gear Patrol
Mil-spec timepieces were purpose-built for the wrists of those who regularly put their lives at risk in combat, and these watches have a special kind of beauty that is hard to describe. They are more than just tools; they are symbols of bravery and sacrifice, and their simple yet elegant design serves as a constant reminder of the incredible individuals who wore them.
If you're a watch enthusiast or simply curious about the art of watchmaking, building a mil-spec watch is a fascinating and rewarding challenge. In this blog post, we'll explore the history and design of mil-spec watches, and guide you through the tools and techniques needed to create your own durable timepiece. So, whether you're looking to add to your collection or want to try your hand at watchmaking, strap on your tool belt, grab your loupe, and let's dive into the world of mil-spec watches.
The Term “Mil-Spec” and its History
If you're interested in tough, reliable watches, you may have heard the terms "mil-spec" or "military grade." A mil-spec watch is a watch that was specifically designed and built for use by the military. In fact, members of the US military have a wide variety of watch options available to them in the field and in tactical situations, with decisions often made at the unit level.
Over time, mil-spec design principles found their way into watches for the civilian market. These watches are designed to withstand extreme temperatures, dirt, dust, moisture, and shocks, with three key criteria in mind: minimalism, luminosity, and readability.
When it comes to a mil-spec field watch, you won't find a lot of unnecessary features. The markings on the dial are kept to a bare minimum and may not include any branding. Some may have a secondary 24-hour scale, but typically won't have a UTC hand. All markings on a mil-spec watch are luminous to ensure readability in any lighting conditions, and are designed for "at a glance" reading to allow the wearer to quickly read the time.
The matte finishing on the case of a mil-spec watch is not just for looks. It reduces reflected light, making the watch less likely to give away a soldier's position, which could be deadly. Additionally, the matte finish makes the watch case more resistant to the elements, ensuring it can withstand the rigors of military use.
Overall, mil-spec watches are a fascinating and unique area of watch collecting. Their rugged design and emphasis on functionality make them both practical and stylish, and building your own mil-spec watch is a challenging and rewarding endeavor. In the following sections, we'll explore the history and design of mil-spec watches, as well as the tools and techniques needed to build your own.
Popular Mil-Spec Watches
Hamilton Khaki Field
Source: The Slender Wrist
Developed based on the field watches Hamilton supplied to the US military in the 1960s, the Khaki Field Mechanical follows a timeless design, and at an affordable price.
With a 38mm steel case, the modern watch becomes the ideal size for both men and women. Not only that, but the 9.75mm thick case also makes it very easy to wear.
The dial is a no-frills design that’s time-tested, it’s so simple and easy to read at a glance. The 12-hour numerals are printed in white with a smaller 24-hour track inside them.
Also, you can see a simple minute track with lumed triangles at each hour. The case has a simple bead-blasted finish to create a matte surface that eliminates reflections.
Also, the timepiece comes with an excellent quality NATO strap, with a supple, tightly woven nylon, and a branded steel buckle.
The Rolex Military Submariner, or MilSub, was UK Ministry of Defense (MOD) standard-issue equipment, and today it is one of the rarest collector’s watches ever.
The radium dials with luminescent markers were re-lumed by MOD watchmakers. Tritium was used for the re-lume, signified by a circled “T” above the depth rating.
There are three different MilSubs, including the 5513, the 5517, and a double-stamped 5513/5517.
All of them left the factory with MOD specs, including fixed strap bars, the tritium “T” on the dial, sword hands, and a 60-minute bezel, with a hash mark at every minute mark, versus the first 15 minutes on a normal submariner.
How To Build a Mil-Spec Style Watch?
First of all you will need the right watch parts for your build. The main thing to remember is that with a mil-spec watch, function is king so you’d want to focus on a minimalist build while thinking of emphasizing legibility on the watch.
For a base, the most popular choice would be our NMK912 bundle which already includes the case, crystal, crown and caseback. It also features an integrated chapter ring for another one less thing to worry about. With this bundle, all you really have to decide on is which movement, dial and hands you’d want to put on it and you’re pretty much set!
And if you’re wondering what goes for a good mil-spec dial, studies suggest that a black dial with white markers is the most legible configuration. Just pair this with a set of polished luminous hands (preferably a thick one so there’s more lume) and you have yourself a mil-spec watch!
Here at namokiMODS, we offer a lot of high-quality field cases, dials, and sets of hands in different colors that can help you to make a perfect mil-spec mod.
Otherwise, there is also our Khaki field watchmaking kit available for new builders who want to create a mil-spec watch the easy way.
Build Your Own Mil-Spec
In conclusion, mil-spec watches are a unique area of watch collecting, designed to withstand the extreme conditions of military use. Their minimalist design, luminosity, and readability make them practical and stylish timepieces. While military personnel have access to a wide variety of watches, mil-spec design principles have also found their way into civilian watches.
Building your own mil-spec watch can be a challenging and rewarding endeavor, and with the right guidance and attention to detail, it's possible to create a functional and beautiful watch that can withstand the toughest conditions.
Make namokiMODS your first choice for field and pilot watch mod parts – and build with the best!