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Irish Defence Forces Issued Watches

  • 19-09-2022 9:52am
    Registered Users Posts: 97 ✭✭

    Hi all,

    I was recently outbid on a CWC G10, which are simple ETA 955.114 based quartz watches issued by the MOD to its forces, possibly other NATO countries also but I have not researched that enough.

    This got me thinking, before the arrival of Casio G-Shocks, were the Irish defence forces issued with any watch types over the years. I couldn't find any connection with CWC and the IDF so perhaps there is another brand used?

    Any information would be much appreciated.

    Post edited by hoganj on


  • Registered Users Posts: 683 ✭✭✭dragratchet

    Hey (1st post on here) I was asking that exact question to a colleague today who is ex military. he isn't aware of any specifically issued watch and like you mentioned above said watches like G-shocks and in some cases garmins become the unoffical time-pieces.

  • Registered Users Posts: 97 ✭✭hoganj

    Hi thanks for looking into it. It would have been nice to know there were some issued. If I find anymore information I will post here.

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 59,947 Mod ✭✭✭✭Wibbs

    I looked into this many moons ago and could find no references at all to watches issued to the Irish military. When you look at issued military watches, they essentially started in WW1 among the combatants in that. What seems to have happened is officers were expected to supply their own, but it was found that in certain circumstances the ordinary soldiers needed them, though in limited numbers. Watches were an expensive item for most working class young men so few would have had one so they needed to be supplied for this new type of mechanised war that required accurate timekeeping.

    Then WW2 came along and ever more mobilisation. By this stage the wristwatch was king and many if not most young men would have one, though most were not suitable for harsh use, so again watches to a specific standard were issued across the ranks and types. In the US and British military they were issued kit and "free" though still owned by the government. However in the German military they were either signed in and out for each mission(navigation watches) or for the soldiers they received their issued watch but monies were taken from their pay packet over the course of months to cover the cost. When paid off they were then personal property.

    During the Cold War again there were issued watches. In most militaries they were generally only issued for specialised purposes like diving, navigation and pilot watches. The enlisted man not so much, though the US and to a lesser degree the UK continued to issue them to the ordinary soldier, like the CWC G10 you mentioned. Most men would have had their own watches by this stage and precise timing was more centralised. Then the G-Shocks and the like took over as unofficial kit, though G-Shocks were officially issued by some, the French Navy for example.

    These days there are few examples of currently issued watches(Marathon SARs and pilots watches in the US for example) and where they exist most military guys don't bother and use their own. Even during the Vietnam war US soldiers were issued watches or could request them, but a larger percentage just bought far better quality Seikos and Rolex at big discounts through the PX system. Though old timers like the 60's Heuer Bund are still in official use albeit in tiny numbers in the German military.

    What I did find interesting down the years is that out of all the photos of men in action during the 20th century, pics of men wearing personal "civillian" watches vastly outnumber pics of issued watches.

    Rejoice in the awareness of feeling stupid, for that’s how you end up learning new things. If you’re not aware you’re stupid, you probably are.

  • Registered Users Posts: 97 ✭✭hoganj

    @Wibbs Great reply, you certainly know your stuff on this. It makes sense that the big militaries issue watches. Also understandable that "civillian" watches are used more and more, I presume because their capabilities are also good. There's a great video somewhere on youtube of the antiques roadshow where a retired US soldier (Vietnam era I think) bought a rolex cosmograph/daytona through the military and was valued at a huge number.

    @dragratchet I'll take a look at @watchesofespionage, sounds interesting.

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  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 59,947 Mod ✭✭✭✭Wibbs

    Yeah a fair number of ex US service guys Rolex show up and an awful lot are in mint condition, barely used if at all. It seems a fair number bought them in PX's around the world at a discount and never or rarely wore them. Rolex were very clever with their marketing here. They were a brand of Britain and her empire as it was and were rarely seen beyond that especially in the huge market that was America(and the Americas in general). They tried to get into that market in the 50's with gifts to US presidents and the like, but it didn't really take. Offering them at discount to soldiers had a fair impact(Daytonas in particular were heavily discounted as they were very slow sellers. Mad how things change). Seiko did similar with the US military PX system and were very popular with the troops. That and Rolex's fantastic advertising campaign of the 1970's. They also sold them at discount directly to the UK military customised to their requirements, Omega did too.

    Rolex stand alone among the Swiss brands in that they supported Britain from the get go and when the outcome was anything but clear and they never supplied the German/Axis side in WW2. The rest were only too happy to take Pounds and Deutschmarks, so long as they kept up the payments.

    And bear in mind back then they weren't cheap watches, but unlike today they weren't luxury priced watches either. A Rolex diver in steel was the same price as similar watches from Omega, Longines, Zenith etc, half to two thirds of an average month's wages kinda pricing*. So when discounted further were very attractive to military procurement types.

    *To get a flavour of Ye Olden Days, Longines' pricing today is about the most equivalent for "good men's watches" from the mid tier Swiss brands back then.

    Rejoice in the awareness of feeling stupid, for that’s how you end up learning new things. If you’re not aware you’re stupid, you probably are.