Wristwatches for Action
The Action Wristwatch FAQ: This FAQ advises those who seek a wrist-watch in order to aid them in reaching an objective in the field, be it on expeditions or on missions.
The wrist-watches in question will be selected according to how well as a tool they meet specific criteria and how much aid they render the wearer in reaching those objectives set within this mission.
|Stainless Steel Case||3/3|
|Soft iron liner||1/3|
|Strap bars not pins||3/3|
|Movable - unidirectional||3/3|
|12 & 24 hour markings||2/3|
|Date (on rotating dial)||3/3|
|Day (on rotating dial)||3/3|
|24 hour subsidiary dial 24:00||3/3|
|Hacking Seconds Hand||2/3|
+ STAINLESS STEEL: I sturdy watch case is vital to a tool watch and is one of the easiest attributes to give to it. Nearly any alloy of stainless steel will be adequate. Other non-ferric materials are also suitable, such as titanium, the nickel-chromium alloys, phosphor-bronze.
+ WATERPROOF: The watch should be waterproof to a depth suitable for SCUBA diving. You will certainly take a dip in water while on missions and you may well have to escape through deeper water using breathing apparatus. In engineering terms, it is trivial to make a watch case waterproof to a high pressure. There is no reason why the watch case should not be waterproof.
+ CROWN GUARD: A crown guard is vital to protecting the crown. If it does not have a crown guard, loose threads on other people's clothing or lanyards can catch between the winding crown and the watch case, tearing the winding crown from its moorings. Secondly, you do not want anything on your kit which could snag on on a parachute riser.
+ OFF-SET CROWN: If you push your hand back up against your wrist you will see that it contacts the crown of the watch, which could be painful or damaging. The crown should be offset to either side of the three o'clock position, like the Seiko 7S26, 7S36, or mounted 'left hand', on the other side of the watch, like the Sinn EZM1.
+ MOISTURE DETECTOR: In some rare instances, watch cases are fitted with a small vial of desiccant which changes color in the event of it absorbing moisture from within the watch case. Watch cases should be free of moisture in any event but the moisture may indicate the ingress of water into the case pending failure of one of the seals.
+ NITROGEN FILLING: Filling the watch case with dry nitrogen gas at the factory is superior to filling it with air. The tires of racing automobiles are filled with nitrogen because it is more stable than air, which is a mixture of gases and contains water vapor. The pressurized nitrogen filling also prevents the owner of the watch from gratuitously opening the watch case to peek at the mechanism. Opening the watch case allows the influx of dust and skin flakes and should be avoided except in the event of the watch requiring repair.
+ SOFT IRON LINER: The watch should have soft iron liner to the interior of the case, to help protect the watch movement from magnetic flux.
The last paragraph is the most pertinent:
"Some initial thoughts on EMP protection from the US military packaging division."
"A continuously sealed metal barrier has proven to be very effective in preventing EM/HPM energy from reaching susceptible electronic or explosive components. Exterior packaging fabricated from plastic, wood or other fibre materials provides almost no protection form EM/HPM threats. The metal enclosure can be very thin provided there are no openings (tears, pin holes, doors, incomplete seams) that would allow microwaves to enter. Sealed barrier bags that incorporate a thin layer of aluminium foil and are primarily used to provide water vapour proof protection to an item, can add a great deal of resistance to EM/HPM penetration.
A number of cylindrical and rectangular steel containers have been developed by the Packaging Division for a wide range of munitions, weapon systems and associated components. The cylindrical containers are end opening and the rectangular containers are top opening. All the containers have synthetic rubber gaskets that allow them to maintain a +3 psi environmental seal to the outside environment. The containers are constructed using seam welding to provide for continuous metal contact on all surfaces of the body assembly. The cover openings have been held to a minimum and the sealing gaskets positioned in a manner to allow overlapping metal parts to add additional protection to these areas. Microwaves are very adept at bouncing around and working their way into even the smallest opening. Tests of the cylindrical and rectangular steel containers used by this organization have demonstrated a high level of protection in preventing EM/HPM energy from entering the container.
The key is to use a metal enclosure and eliminate or minimize any openings. Where openings are needed they should be surrounded to the greatest extent possible by continuous metal and in the case of a gasket, metal sheathing or mesh can be placed around the elastometer material or conductive metal moulded into the gasket. The closer the surrounding container comes to a continuous metal skin the more protection that will be provided.
High quality gaskets, utilizing either a mesh or embedded conductive metal design, are very expensive. They add a magnitude of cost to a normal gasket and can easily double the price of a container similar to the ones mentioned above."
+ BARS NOT PINS: Most importantly, the watch case should have fixed bars fitted to replace the removable pins. In ordinary watches, the horns of the case have two small holes drilled into them to accept the watch pin onto which the strap is affixed. These spring pins are very thin and easily broken. If your watch strap is in two halves, then it would only take one pin to break to allow the watch to fall to the ground. This can cause loss of the watch in situations involving either rapid action, darkness, or when you are mountaineering, where the watch drops back down whatever you have just climbed up.
An ideal watch case would have neither pins nor even bars. The case would be solid where the horns are situated, and a slot milled through the solid protrusions of the watch case using a EDM milling machine to enable the watch strap to be threaded through the slots. This would be stronger than either the very weak spring pins or the bars.
+ BEZEL: The watch bezel should be moveable and uni-directional. This allows the watch to be used for measuring elapsed time in minutes. The bezel itself should be dished in order that the surface is untouched should the bezel be dragged across a surface. The point of contact should be the stainless steel outer edge of the bezel. This will preserve any markings on the bezel.
+ FACE: The numerals and hands of the watch should be constructed from small vials of radioactive tritium which will illuminate them during complete darkness. Tritium, being radioactive, gives out a constant intensity of light. Most watches have illumination only with photoluminescent paint, which absorbs daylight and then emits it during darkness in steadily decreasing intensity. This would be worthless in periods of complete darkness such as the Arctic winter, or in snowholes. Tritium paint is also available but the tritium vials are superior in function.
+ FACE: The face of the watch should be marked with 12 hour numerals and 24 hour numerals.
+ The watch movement should have a second hand, so that the wearer may observe that the watch is functioning.
+ The watch must have a readout for both day and date. Disorientation in time happens very easily when changing timezones, being deprived of daylight, or just very busy directing operations. It is vital that both the date and the day are included. Most watches have only a date readout and very few have both day and date. At the very least this facilities correct entries into the diary or logbook. It may be more important when meeting pre-arranged evacuation or rescue in remote regions.
+ The movement must have a subsidiary dial (a small inner dial) which shows the time in 24hour. This is because when deprived of daylight, such as in the Arctic winter, in a snowhole while a storm is blowing over or in a submarine, it is not possible to tell whether it is 03:00HRS of 15:00HRS. This may mean accidentally appearing in daylight, or being unable to tell when a rescue is arriving. The dial should be a rotating disk marked with 24hour numerals. A rotating hand has the disadvantage that it could be misread during confusion because the brain is so used to reading 12hour hands. This cannot happen with a rotating disk marked with numerals. The read-out can be a rotating disk similar to date read-out, or a drum type odometer read-out, like on altimeters. Ideally, there could be a second disc circumferential to the first disc which read minutes, so that the entire time could be read in 24-hour format from the numerals on the discs. This would be fool-proof.
- A classic 12-hour readout has the advantage that the brain reads it as if each position of the pair of hands is a hieroglyph, a rune. The hieroglyph which is much larger than a wrist-watch which had a digital readout because it fills the entire face of the wrist-watch. This speed of reading and legibility is not to be forsaken.
Soviet troops were issued with watches equipped with 24hour dials and movements. Using a watch with a 24 hour dial when you have used a 12 hour dial for years will lead to confusion and in situations involving rapid action, hypoxia and fatigue will lead to the wrong time being read. This could end in disaster. The Soviet Army could do this because watch ownership in the Soviet Union was very low, despite the Soviet Army looting every watch it could find on its way to Berlin. But for the confusion brought on by the prevalence of 12 hour dials, the 24 hour dial would be an ideal solution. Any readout involving hands on a dial will be prone to confusion in times of stress and thus the 24 hour readout cannot be on the outer edge of the dial or involve a full size indicator hand. It must be on a subsidiary dial and on a rotating disc marked with numerals. A disc marked with numerals cannot be misunderstood, the observer's cognition must recognize the numeral to take away the time.
The second advantage of a disc marked with numerals is that the brain, when hypoxic or merely very fatigued, can have trouble distinguishing left from right and "nine o'clock" can be mis read as "three o'clock" on a watch with hands. This is not possible on on a rotating disc with numerals.
This 24 hour indicator is not to be confused with a dual time indicator, where a watch may have another hour hand fitted, which may be set to another time zone, which is usually GMT. In the watch mechanism I describe above, the 24-hour indicator would be fixed to the mechanism and would display 24-hour time in the same zone as the normal 12-hour indicators on the watch.
+Ideally a mechanical watch movement should be insulated from shocks. There are various arrangements for doing this. Perhaps the best was fitted to wartime British Paratroop watches, where the movement was held away from the case by two springs.
+ Hacking seconds hand: A hacking seconds hand stops when you pull out the winding crown. This allows you to stop the seconds hand at the top of the hour and wait for the time signal. Watch movements without this feature are more difficult to set accurately. You have to spin the crown back and forth to make the seconds hand run in reverse then let it go just at the right moment.
+ One of the functions of the watch face and hands is that they must not look like any other instrument, such as skydiving altimeter which the adventurer will be using during adventure. It must to be able to be mistaken for another device because (1) When the adventurer has only seconds or less to process events and information then something which creates a few seconds of confusion will be enough to get him killed (2) When thoroughly trained, the sudden appearance of a visual trigger for an emergency procedure which automatically creates an emergency response but is not in fact that real-life visual trigger creates confusion and stress Furthermore it blunts the edge of the trained response, which must now determine whether the actual stimulus is the real stimulus or a drill.
This does not mean that the watch face cannot look like an aircraft instrument dial. On the contrary. Aircraft instrument dials all look similar to each other but not the same. Aircraft instrument dials are configured for readability and unambiguity, which is our objective. An example of the wrong way to configure a watch face is the Bell & Ross wristwatch which has its dial configured exactly the same way as an aircraft altimeter, except where the inches of mercury readout is normally placed, the date readout is placed. This is exactly the wrong thing to do.
- Remember that dial which is legible in poor visibility or during rapid action would have similar features and attributes to a skydiving altimeter. Mis-reading a skydiving altimeter will get you killed immediately. This means that the size of the dial and the wrist-watch will be larger than would 'feel' comfortable in a cocktail bar. However, during life-threatening danger it will feel just the right size.
|Mechanical Automatic||Never stops||Mechanical movements not as accurate as quartz - Accuracy limited to around 4 seconds per day, but usually around ten seconds per day.|
|Quartz Rotor Power||Accuracy|
|Quartz Solar Power||Accuracy||Potentially, problems in Arctic winter|
|Quartz Battery Power||Accuracy||Stops when battery stops|
|Quartz Rotor+Solar||Accuracy||No power if watch not moving.|
There two main types of watch movement: (a) The older mechanical movement ('clockwork') driven by a spring and (b) the quartz oscillator watch movement which keeps time via applying an electrical charge to a crystal of quartz, which vibrates at a fixed frequency.
Mechanical movements, relying on the oscillation of a weighted wheel, are not as accurate as quartz movements. Good mechanical movements vary in consistency from around two seconds per day to fifteen seconds per day. Good quartz watch movements vary perhaps only hundredths of a second per day. Perhaps less.
The disadvantage of a quartz watch movement is that it requires a battery to power it. Batteries have a fixed life after which they expire. This means that a quartz watch can stop, right in the middle of an important event. Mechanical watches are driven by a spring. The spring is wound by a weighted rotor inside the watch which spins around when your hand is in movement. These 'automatic' mechanical movements, as they are called, never need winding. The watch will continue to work until a mechanical fault stops the watch, which could be twenty years or more in some cases.
Some quartz watches are driven by solar power, which means that they do not need a replacement battery. This would eliminate the disadvantage of a battery in a quartz watch, but might be a disadvantage during Arctic/Antarctic service, depending on how much light the solar panel received from indoor lighting.
Some quartz watches are driven by a small generator which generates electricity from a weighted rotor, which shifts around with the movement of your wrist. This would also eliminate the disadvantage of a battery in a quartz watch.
The ideal quartz movement would contain battery, solar panel and rotor generator. This would enable it to draw from at least one source, regardless of the conditions of the mission.
On an actual mission, you would wear two watches in any event, to avoid the prospect of a single watch been put out of action by damage. This means that one watch could have a quartz movement, and the other a mechanical movement. Since resetting a watch means that it will no longer be set to the time signal which you set if from before you left for the mission, you can set the quartz watch, which keeps time best, to GMT. This may remain on GMT and you will always know the exact time to the second, if necessary. Your mechanical watch can be reset to local time and its second hand set from the quartz watch.
BATTERIES: During wartime, central control of the economy may mean that watch batteries are in short supply. An automatic mechanical watch movement should run for the length of the war. However, some watch batteries will last for seven years.
ACCURACY: After a period of time, a watch will require resetting via the time signal. If you do not have the ability to pick up a time signal then you will not be able to reset the watch. This would be a long mission when you would be away from a time signal but could become a consideration in certain circumstances.
|Hunter case (optional)|
|Black - non reflective|
|Mechanical - Power Reserve indicator|
|Mechanical - Can be hand wound|
+ Hunter: A 'Hunter' case is a watch case with a metal lid over the watch crystal. This prevents the watch crystal being smashed should you take a heavy fall. They were common on pocket watches but are rarely seen on wrist-watches. They have the advantage that they conceal the face of the watch and prevent sunlight reflecting off the crystal, which might open you to enemy observation. Further, they conceal the light emitted by the tritium, which would give away your position during darkness.
+ Non-Reflective case: The watch case should be a matt black in color to prevent reflection. This can be achieved by any means including paint, but is best achieved by one of the vapor deposition processes such as PVD or CVD, which coat the case in a thin layer of hard minerals. DLC, or the black industrial diamond coating would also be suitable on stainless steel. On ferric steel it does not proof against rust, believe or not, otherwise it would be the ultimate pistol finish. Even better than a matt black surface finish is a black crackle Zimmermit finish, examples of which can be found on wartime Zippo lighters produced for the US Army.
+ Crystal: Domed or flat ? A flat crystal can act as a mirror, and be used as a signaling mirror to effect rescue. A domed crystal prevents reflection from sunlight which would give away your position to the enemy.
Useful but optional features on a mechanical watch movement are:
+ Power reserve indicator. This is a small dial which indicates how much pressure the mainspring has wound upon it.
+ Hand wind: An automatic movement which can be hand wound is useful in case the watch is not being worn for a few days, or the wearer is stuck in a snowhole waiting for a storm to blow over. Automatic watch movements can be wound by spinning the watch in your hand or just flipping your wrist for a minute or so, so lack of a hand-wind feature is not serious.
Second Time Zone readout
Time Zone Rapid Change
Alarm - silent rotor
+ Moonphase and Sunrise/Sunset
Some movements have complications which allow them to have subsidiary dials which indicate the phase of the moon and the time of sunrise and sunset. This is useful information to have on missions and expeditions.
+ Extra Time Zone Dial
That watch has a 24hour dial indicator, but another dial which can be set to another time zone can be useful in situations where you have to telephone HQ which is in another time zone. I cannot stress too much that having a second watch set to GMT is the best way of avoiding confusion when fatigue, hypoxia, stress and incoming enemy fire are reducing your mind's ability to process and correlate information. When action and fatigue occupy nearly all of the mind, only the basic training, that which is in muscle-memory remains functional: The pistolero giving a reflexive pat of the pistol in the holster, and the check of the safety with the thumb; the pilot listening to his aircraft through the stick, his other hand on the throttle.
+ Time Zone Rapid Change
Some movements have a push-button which changes the secondary dial which reads out an extra time zone , enabling rapid setting of local time. This is useful if you are making onwards flights in succession. Some also have a location readout to match the time zone "London - Paris - New York".
Any item of equipment which can suddenly emit a loud noise, whether it is set correctly or not, can get you killed during military operations or when hunting dangerous game. An alarm which does this would be a great danger. Any device such as a watch, clock, or mobile telephone should be left in camp. An alarm on a military watch would require an internal rotor which vibrated on your wrist in order to wake you. It would have to be driven by a separate spring system to avoid drain on the mainspring. The rotor would have to be dense and made of either lead, tungsten or depleted uranium. The alternative is a spring driven spigot which projects from the reverse of the watch at the time of the alarm. The larger and more violent the spigot, the better.
It is rare that a chronograph is useful. One function is for determining the range of incoming artillery fire by timing the interval between the muzzle flash and the arrival of the shell. Together with the azimuth, taken from the flash, this would tell you where the artillery piece or recoilless rifle was situated, if it was concealed. You do not need a chronograph to do this, just a watch with a seconds hand. The chronograph makes your job easier. Some missions involve setting timers on explosives, or waiting for a specific length of time after a cue. In this instances, a chronograph would ease your task. Timing torpedo runs was done with a stopwatch, for instance.
+ Count-Down Chronograph
- A chronograph which can be set to a specific time and when started, counts down to zero. This would be useful when a specific window of time contains an opportunity or when the timer has been set on explosives.
- Altimeters are very useful in the mountains for contour navigation. Most watches equipped with altimeters are the digital watches like Casio and Suunto. Prior to digital watches most mountaineers used the mechanical altimeters made by Swiss company Thommen. They were large size like a pocket watch and carried around the neck or in a pocket. For rock climbing, the wristwatch is not worn because it will be destroyed when the hand or wrist grasps the rock or inside cracks. For mountaineering, anything around your neck which is loose, hard and sharp will be driven into your face or body once you start to slide or fall. Best to stow the altimeter somewhere where it will not be driven against your body in case of impact.
- Certainly I would include an altimeter on the specification of any action wristwatch. Thommen make a wrist-watch which has an on-board altimeter.
+ Depth Gauge
A small number of SCUBA diving watches have been fitted with depth gauges. This is not complicated to achieve but it is advantageous. The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms X Fathoms is fitted with a depth-gauge.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms X Fathoms, shown in shipping case
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms X Fathoms, displayed in shipping case
MITTELEUROPA ACTION WRIST-WATCH SPECIFICATION - BASIC
Case: Stainless-steel or equivalent.
MITTELEUROPA ACTION WRIST-WATCH SPECIFICATION - EXTENDED
|Rolex - Solid Gold case 'Blood Chit'|
|Breitling Emergency transmitter|
+ Aviators in Burma during the Second World War were issued with valuables and a note in several local languages which told the reader that they would be rewarded for the return of the aviator. Possessing a valuable watch serves a similar purpose. The CIA pilots, known as »Ravens« who ran clandestine operations in Laos during the Vietnam War all wore a gold Rolex for this reason
There are several brands which have world recognition and one of those brands is Rolex. A gold Rolex is as good as or better than hard currency or even gold itself in many parts of the world. The gold Rolex would serve as a 'Blood Chit' to enable you to buy your way out of a tight situation.
Much of the gold in a gold Rolex is in the bracelet. The bracelet on the Rolex is like any watch bracelet: Constructed of fragile pins and attatched to the watch case by very weak pins which attatch most watch straps and bracelets. If I were designing a gold bracelet for this purpose, it would be constructed with thick stainless steel pins. A bracelet cannot thread through the fixed bars or a military watch, so it must also be fixed by thick stainless steel pins.
The pins must not be threaded because this poses the danger of the threads becoming unscrewed. The pins must either be:
(1) Riveted permanently in place by having their heads peened over
(2) Threaded with aircraft type nuts which have an asymmetric hole behind the thread of the nut which destroys the the thread on the bolt as the nut is tightened down the thread of the bolt. In aircraft this is used on bolts which have a fixed fatigue life and therefore cannot be reused.
(3) In the event of no other method being available, use one of the strongest grades of Loctite assembly adhesives which are designed for the assembly of threads which are never required to be unscrewed.
(4) Safety wire applied to the end of the bolt, as per aircraft spec.
(5) Various other lock-nut arrangements common on the aircraft industry but are best suited to much larger fasteners
A superior design would be one which used a webbing watch strap, over which or even within which a gold bracelet was placed. The webbing strap would be the structural component, with the bracelet a secondary element, also load-bearing, but not under strain. Like other survival items such as knives, the watch should not be thought of as merely a watch, but as an opportunity to design and fit survival items within it.
A friend of mine who was a commercial diver was being lowered over the side of a platform in a cage along with another commercial diver. He wore a gold Rolex Sea Dweller. As they shifted equipment around within the cage, the bracelet of the Sea Dweller caught on a protrusion, the strap pins broke and the watch bounced out and dropped onto rocks at the foot of the platform legs. There was just time to look over the side of the cage to see the Rolex bounce onto the rock boss at the foot of the steel platform leg before the next wave washed it down over the precipice. Tell me again how useful watch strap pins are ...
When packing an aircraft with survival equipment, one of the rules is that 'you will only have what you have on you'. That means that you can only bank on kit which is attached to your person. Crash-landing my spread kit far-and-wide or destroy it.
Credit Suisse gold ingot card
Watch manufacturers Breitling manufacture a quartz watch known by the name 'Emergency'. It contains a battery powered transmitter and an extendable aerial. When the aerial cap is unscrewed and extended, the transmitter transmits automatically on one of the international satellite emergency frequencies.
The benefit of a transmitter watch over a transmitter beacon is that the watch is always on your wrist. Your transmitter beacon is in your rucksack, or better, your survival vest. As an anti-kidnap device, the Breitling Emergency gives you the possibility of alerting rescue during the first minutes and hours of your kidnap. The more accomplished kidnap gangs are smart enough to remove from you your mobile telephone, the position of which can be traced. As soon as possible after they have kidnapped you it is likely they will relieve you of all your possessions and replace your clothes, to prevent the possibility of you having rescue equipment or signaling equipment about your person. Kidnapping is the investment banking industry of the Third World. Kidnappers, or better still pirates, have the ability to make it big on one or two large deals. As an industry, it has nearly no footprint in the western consciousness, despite enjoying greater prominence in the press during the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. For example: In Kabul in 2006, the Taliban become irritated with the local freelance kidnap gangs continually fighting each other or cutting into Taliban kidnap operations. They instituted a regional division of spheres of interest in the Kabul metro area to prevent clashes. The rip-tides of Middle Eastern politics has enabled development of a secondary market in kidnappees, where the victim can be re-sold in the secondary market to the highest-bidding terrorist organization. Daniel Pearl in Pakistan was the victim of just such a type of kidnapping and was resold to Al Quada's Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
A better device than a transmitter watch would be a transmitter belt, since the transmitter may be concealed in the buckle. Furthermore, wrist-watches tend to be looted very quickly once you have been kidnapped. Ideally, the transmitter in the belt would be concealed at the rear of the belt over your spine, so as to be reachable when your hands and handcuffed behind your back. A belt buckle can be locked in such a way that it cannot be easily removed. This means that in the minutes following your kidnap, while your captors are driving wildly around the city, fearing that they are being followed, they will not be able to rip your belt off until they get you to their destination and out of the vehicle. The same, to an extent, goes for boots, in that they are much more difficult for them to remove in a wildly swaying vehicle. The disadvantage of transmitters installed in boots or the heel of a boot is that it is more difficult for you to reach without being noticed, or if your hands are already tied behind you back.
The fact that kidnap gangs tend to loot the possession of the kidnapee, especially his wrist-watch could be used against them, in that the emergency transmitter could be rigged to begin transmitting when the strap is undone and the wrist-watch removed from the wearer. It might be possible to rig two methods of removing the wrist-watch, the normal method triggering the transmitter, but the hidden method, not.
The 121Mhz frequency is falling into disuse because it has been replaced by other frequencies used by personal locator beacons ("PLB")
2014: Brietling have introduced the Emergency - II which now includes not only the 121.5MHz band but the 406MHz band, used by personal locator beacons (PLB) , which greatly increases the effectiveness of the wristwatch.
Breitling Emergency II frequency chart
A variant of the Personal Locator Beacon Kidnap Belt is the SS belt-buckle gun of which prototypes were found after the war. A derringer size pistol barrel and trigger were mounted within an enlarged belt-buckle, the cover of which when removed allowed the barrels to spring forward. No two designs seem to be the same and I have never seen any two a-like. They varied in caliber from .22 to .32. The design seems to have been subject to patent prior to the war which would discount the theory that these were post-war fakes. There was an extensive treatment of these weapons in a 1976 issue of Guns & Ammo, including many photographs.
- When all else fails, and it looks like your captors are going to submit you to something unspeakable, like serving you red wine with fish, or make you drink instant coffee, then there is only one option left:
WWII -issue cyanide container
Handcuff keys as cufflinks, for the Gentleman Adventurer. There are also such a thing as plastic handcuff keys, which are easily concealable.
From Russia with Love (1963): Red Grant is equipped with a watch which features a garrote .
- Two problems exist with the design of the wrist-watch garrotte
-- (1) Unless the wrist-watch has fixed bars or better, the pins on the strap will break.
-- (2) Unless the end of the garrotte has a finger ring or better, you will cut off your own fingers as soon as you apply force.
- If you need a garrotte during the ordinary course of your business, then carry a purpose-built garrotte. If you need to conceal a garrotte for covert operations like Red Grant does then a wrist-watch design may be of benefit. Red Grant's wrist-watch garrotte is a movie prop which eases the design difficulties. A reel of wire within a wrist-watch case would be crowded but a design which featured a reel of wire concealed within the wrist-watch strap would work. Furthermore, a finger-ring or better could be concealed within the design.
Most watches as purchased come issued with a strap in two pieces which attaches to either side of the watch via two small spring pins which are very weak. Should one of these spring pins break then the circle is broken and the watch will fall from your wrist. To an extent, the risk of losing the watch this way can be reduced be wearing a NATO band watch strap, which is a short length of nylon webbing. The band is threaded through the pins so that should one pin break, the watch will still be attached by the other pin. In a watch with fixed bars instead of pins, even this risk is eliminated. Perhaps the most frequent hazard to watch strap pins is when one is trying to put on a heavy rucksack. The rucksack is already over one shoulder but the other strap is only as far as the wrist on the second arm. The wearer then pushes hard with the second arm and the watch strap catches on the rucksack strap. I have destroyed two watches this way. Both would have survived if they had had fixed bars.
More sophisticated bands, with rings on them, are available and manufactured by Airborne or Zulu.
Avoid watch bands manufactured from anything else, or watch bracelets. Neither are strong enough.
- James Bond's 'General Service Corps' watch strap
NATO watch straps
The Leatherman Tread wrist-tool. A superb piece of innovation that could form the interior of a wrist-watch strap.
In the following table, red=absent.
|Stainless Steel Case||Varies||Varies|
|Offset Crown||Offset Crown||Offset Crown|
|Soft iron liner|
|Bars not pins|
|Tritium illumination||tritium vials||tritium vials||tritium vials||tritium vials||
|tritium vials||tritium vials||tritium vials||tritium vials||tritium vials||paint|
|12 & 24 hour markings||12+24||12+24||12+24||12+24||12+24||12+24||12+24||12+24||12+24||12+24||12+24|
|Hacking Seconds Hand||6R15|
|24 hour subsidiary dial 24:00|
|COST||Approx in USD||200 - 300||<200||2700||475||3500||200-300||585||700||600|
Of the above short-list, only the Marathon CSAR, the Seiko 7S36/7S26 and the CWC SBS watch have day and date indicators, the rest date indicator only. On expeditions, the day indicator is vital, which means that only these three watches would be short-listed for one of the watches you will be wearing.
If you can eliminate the requirement for day-date, and date alone will suffice, this broadens the choice to the full shortlist.
Note that only the military watch maker, CWC, issues their watched with fixed bars for the strap as standard.
In short: The best watch for action is the Marathon CSAR. You can wear the CSAR on your left wrist to read local time. On your right wrist you can carry a quartz watch set to GMT. The choice is slightly broader in this category. The quartz watch should score as highly as possible in order to maintain as much operational readiness as you can in the event of damaging one watch.
- MARATHON NAVIGATOR
- MARATHON CSAR
Swiss Made, U.S. Military Issued, NSN 6645-01-544-0408
ETA Valjoux 7750 Mechanical, Diameter: 46.6mm, Weight 5.2oz / 159.6grams Automatic Winding 28,800 Balance Wheel Oscillations Per Hour 25 Jewels Incabloc Shock Protection Of Balance -Wheel Glucydur Balance Wheel Nivarox No.1 Hairspring
42 Hr Minimum Reserve Power (When Fully Wound) Chronograph Read-Out (Countdown) 60 Seconds, 30 Minutes, 12 Hours On Sub-Registers Stainless Steel 316l Case Screw-In Pushers Screw-In Crown Uni-Directional Turning Bezel, Scratch Resistant Sapphire 3mm Thick Crystal
Tritium Gas Tubes Are Fitted To Hour And Minute Hands And To Each Hour Index. Superluminova C3 Luminous Triangle On Turning Bezel Superluminova C3 Luminous Dots On Minute And Hour Sub-Dials, And On The Tip Of The Center-Second Hand Waterproof To A Depth Of 300m/1000feet. Diameter Of 46.6mm, 17mm High, 22mm Lug Width.
- MARATHON GSAR
Movement: ETA 2824-A2 Signed Marathon
Dial: measures 27.7mm and utilizes self-luminous tritium vial technology (26 millicuries)
Crystal: sapphire - 2.8mm thick x 30.50mm diameter
Case: is cut from 316L stainless steel
Case diameter is approximately 46.0mm
Bezel diameter is 41.10mm, milled engraved and filled
Case Height is 13.85mm
20 mm lugs with drilled holes
Crown: 6.5mm dia x 5.50mm long, deep knurled
Weight of head 93.1 grams
- MARATHON SAR
Case: 316L stainless steel 41mm diameter 48mm case length. Lugs 20mm. Dial 27.7mm. Illumination using 'Maraglo' which is a version of Luminova.
2.8mm thick sapphire crystal
Movement is an ETA-2824, 25 jeweled, automatic movement with a rotor signed ‘MARATHON WATCH CO.’ The ETA-2824 is hacking, features a quick-set date, and runs at 28,800 bph.
- MARATHON TSAR
Quartz movement by ISA model 1198 with accuracy of 10 seconds per month. Date only. Lugs 20mm. Dial 27.7mm with tritium vial illuminatoin. Crystal is sapphire and 2.8mm thick and 30.50mm in diameter.
Case is 316l stainless steel. Case diameter 46mm, bezel diameter 41mm, height 14mm.
- SEIKO 7S26, 7S36
NOTE: The Seiko movements 7S26, its replacement, 7S36 and its upcoming replacement the 6R15.
This model of Seiko come in a variety of case types with a variety of faces and bezels. Choose a color combination appropriate for your purpose.
- TRASER & LUMINOX
Traser/Luminox are manufactured by Swiss company Mondaine
- STOCKER AND YALE ("SANDY")
- SINN EZM1
- BREITLING EMERGENCY
In this photograph you are looking at the head of the antenna. Unscrewing this antennal and pulling it will start transmission.
The same person has fitted a wrist compass to the strap of the Emergency. The wrist compass is very useful for a quick check of which way you are meant to be going and saves you retrieving the main compass. Not my wrist, not my wristwatch.
1965: Astronaut Scott Carpenter displays a Rolex SEA-LAB Submariner with a compass added to the watchstrap. ©
The following example of the use of the second hand (or chronograph function) of a wrist-watch is taken from the action during Mad Mike Hoare's attempted coup in the Seychelles in November 1981. The mercenaries have arrived in the Seychelles but due to an incident at the airport, the fighting has started before they can take over the key points in their plan. Furthermore, the leaders of the regime in the Seychelles who had been deposed by the Communist takeover and who had sponsored the coup had failed to turn up. To add the unexpected to the unexpected, an unscheduled Air India Boeing 707 lands at the airport right in the middle of the firefight between the two sides. In a bizarre twist of the tale, Mike Hoare has to telephone the rebels and ask them to stop shelling the airport because they will incinerate the passengers of the Boeing 707.
The Seychelles Affaire by Mike Hoare published by Bantam 1986 ISBN 0 552 12890 2
»The shelling began again, more accurately. The gunner must have had an observation post close by as the range improved steadily. The target was unmistakably the Boeing airliner. De Wet, the soldier doctor who was holding the sector at the end of the runway, reported by radio that the boat was approaching his position. I assumed this must be the Topaz. I knew it had a heavy gun in its armament; perhaps that was responsible for the shelling. But De Wet had taken a bearing on the flash of the gun and timed the flight of the shell. Good man, that De Wet, and a fine soldier, a worthy descendant of the illustrious Boer general of the same name so greatly admired in England, in keeping with that chivalrous tradition of the English which honours their bravest enemies. This new information would put the gun in the hills in the vicinity of the President's house at Sans Souci, about five miles away. If so, the gun must be a 75mm recoilless rifle. It would certainly have the range. And the distinctive noise of the projectile confirmed it. It set me thinking. If it was a 75, who could be firing it ? The Seychellois were not trained to it, I was sure. Was it perhaps our old friend Bill Noddyn. Not a nice thought, that, but we would find out one day; these things cannot be kept secret indefinitely in the mercenary world. Meanwhile I sincerely hoped not, if only for his sake.«
To add the bizarre to the bizarre, Hoare and his troops eventually make their escape on the Boeing 707 after refueling it. Adventures: They do not make them like that any more. Mad Mike Hoare is still alive and has penned another volume of his memoirs, this time containing some of the missing pieces from his previous memoirs. This volume will only be published after his death.
An example from John Le Carré's first spy novel, The Spy who came in from the Cold. The protagonist is escaping from East Berlin to West Berlin with the aid of collaborators within the East German security service. They are approaching the Wall in the small hours of the night:
From The Spy who came in from the Cold by John Le Carré, page 180:
"We understand," said Leamas. "How long have we got?"
"If you drive at thirty kilometers we shall be there in about nine minutes. The searchlight will be on the wall at five past one exactly. They can give you ninety seconds. Not more."
"What happens after ninety seconds?" Leamas asked. "They can only give you ninety seconds," the man repeated; "otherwise it is too dangerous. Only one detachment has been briefed. They think you are being infiltrated into West Berlin. They've been told not to make it too easy. Ninety seconds are enough."
"I bloody well hope so," said Leamas drily. "What time do you make it?"
"I checked my watch with the sergeant in charge of the detachment," the man replied. A light went on and off briefly in the back of the car. "It is twelve forty-eight. We must leave at five to one. Seven minutes to wait."
You have a ninety second window to get over the wall and across the death strip to West Berlin. That ninety second window occurs at 01:05HRS by the watch on the wrist of the sergeant in charge of the detachment guarding that section of the wall. You are escaping across East Germany with the help of people you are not sure you can trust. It's dark and you have a woman with you.
Should you be wearing
a) Your favorite jewelry watch, which makes you the center of attention at any cocktail bar
b) The Mitteleuropa Action Watch, the specification of which is laid out above.
If it dark. You need the tritium illumination to read the watch. However, guards on both sides will be looking for you, or you may have to escape suddenly from a trap. You need a hunter watch case to conceal the tritium illumination.
Whether you read your quartz watch on the right wrist or your mechanical watch on the left wrist, the minute hand will be accurately set. The quartz watch the more so. The minute hand will tell you when it is 01:05HRS even if your quartz watch is set to GMT and the hour hand on your mechanical watch is, for some reason, set to a time zone different from the one you find yourself in. This is more likely than you think because in the Soviet Union, cities with airports ran on Moscow time, regardless of their global time zone.
If you do not have a chronograph function on the watch, you can remember that ninety seconds is a minute plus thirty seconds. The ninety seconds begins at 00. That should be easy to remember. A chronograph might be easier to use once you are trying to get across the wall, but not essential. The problem is that if you suddenly find yourself in action, whatever else you were holding in your short term memory will dissappear immediatly. A chronograph function would eliminate that possibility.
Arnold Schwarzenegger wears a Soviet Navy heavy gear dive watch. You need enormous wrists to wear this watch because it is designed to be worn on the outside of a heavy gear dive suit. It is a similar size to the B-Uhr or the Panerai Egyptian Navy , both of which were designed to be worn over the suiting.
Zlatousk Soviet Navy dive watch, Belomorkanal papirossi cigarettes, Soviet Army compass, 7.62x54Rmm cartridge, Soviet cigarette papers.
Soviet Navy dive watch CH 191. A good example of a solid watch case should be constructed.
The canteen crown consists of a substantial cap which screws onto a gasket, sealing the winding crown from contact with water.
The Zlatousk CH191 was made for the VMF (Vojenno Morskoj Flot) the combat divers of the Soviet Navy. 56mm in diameter, 26mm in thickness and weighing 250g. 15 jewel movement 30 hours power duration. The drift of the mechanism can be up to sixty seconds per day.
In design, it is impossible to make a rotating shaft seal against a pressurised liquid. Ships' propeller shafts always leak into the bilge and the ship will sink if not pumped out. You can attempt to seal a rotating shaft at its bearings by adding a bank of gaskets and clamping them. The tighter you clamp them, the better the seal. The tighter you clamp them, the less the shaft is able to turn. A winding crown on a watch is similar in its design problems to a ship's propeller.
Soviet Navy dive watch CH 191 in comparison with a Marathon Navigator
The machining in marks on the case of this Zlatousk watch are visible plainly.
The watch case was produced from circular bar stock, of a diameter larger than the distance over the horns of the watch, which is around 80mm. The rod was then fed into a lathe and one side of the watch would be turned, probably the front of the watch case because this is the most complex. The blank would then be cut from the rod and on a second lathe, the hockey-pick size blank would have the reverse of the watch case turned. The profile would be he profile of the case which you see, and the profile of the horns which is facing the camera. You can see the deep marks made by the cutting tool of the lathe as it turned down the edge of the watch case and then began to cut the profile of the horns. The tool would then cut up the back face of the horn (visible to camera) and over their top edge. The result would be a hockey puck sized blank which would have the reverse of the watch case visible within it, and then a deep circular groove to the depth at which the case horns start (facing camera) and then a circular ridge which would be the profile of the outer portion of the watch horns. The blank would then be presented to a milling machine, which would remove the outer portions of the blank leaving only the horns.
Militäruhren - Die Uhren de deutschen Streitkräfte 1870 bis 1990 by Konrad Knirim published by Verlag Peter Pomp, ISBN 3-89355-180-8 , c1998 - http://www.knirim.de/
Few individuals can have dominated a subject in the same way that Konrad Knirim dominates the subject of military timepieces He has not just dwarfed his rivals: He has none.
Herein are the pages from Konrad's book on the Officine Panerai watches used by Otto Skorzeny's Kampfschwimmer. Konrad, as is usual with his thorough research, knows one of the German Kampfschwimmer and thus all his information has been confirmed by eye-witness.
Officine Panerai 6152 'Marine Militaire'
Photographs Copyright: All photographs copyright the respective photographers. Some are copyright Verlag Meyer. Free of copyright for personal use.
+ SEE ALSO
- Watches for Sport
- Le Mans (1971) and Heuer Race Timing.
- James Bond's Rolex Submariner
+ EXTERNAL LINKS
- For those who must have better accuracy than quartz timing http://www.leapsecond.com/
- Jakes World Blogspot history of Panerai
- Online shop for military watches and similar articles
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