These three vintage military watches from different brands offer a raw glimpse into the story of post-WW2 watches issued to the British Royal Air Force (RAF). See that arrow on the dial there? Each of these watches has what’s called a Broad Arrow, which indicates that it was produced for Britain’s Ministry of Defense and issued to military personnel — and that it was originally considered British government property.
While the Broad Arrow was found on equipment of all kinds issued to various British military forces, a “6B” designation found engraved on the case back of these examples means that it was for RAF aircrew. Another detail common to these watches is the circled T just beneath the maker’s logo, indicating that tritium is used for the dial’s luminescence instead of radioactive radium.
IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre also produced the 6B, and the features of all such watches were dictated by very exact specifications. So it’s not surprising that the watches below are all 36mm wide, feature manually winding movements and look pretty similar — but they’re not quite the same watch. Another requirement was high accuracy, and this led to the development of some of the best, most robust movements ever.
Strong enthusiasm for vintage military watches has, unfortunately and ironically, meant that the bargain prices that once helped make them popular have led to them being harder to find today. See more about vintage military watches that are still quite affordable here. Below are three examples that make the cool history behind them feel more real.
Hamilton 6B Military
What We Like: The once-American brand had a prominent role in military watches of the past, and probably the most popular watch Hamilton produces today, the Khaki Field, is a direct reference to that history. That’s why it’s particularly cool to find an original watch that helped form what is the modern company’s personality and DNA, and one that helps paint a broader picture of Hamilton’s role as a maker of various kinds of watches for different militaries.
From the Seller: All-original Hamilton 6B has original dial with lovely pumpkin patina; excellent 36mm all-steel case; movement recently serviced.
Smiths 6B/9614045 RAF Pilots
What We Like: In the country’s long and proud horological history, Smiths is the company that made the final watch to actually be fully produced in England with the W10 for the army. Models like this one were made in the late 1960s and are fully British. You’ve got to love the “Made in England” right on the dial, and the movement inside features the same engraved wordage.
From the Seller: The dial is in lovely condition. The sword hands, seconds hand, and crown are all correct to the original specification of the watch.
Omega 6B “Fat Arrow 53”
What We Like: The 6B watches made by Omega are better known than the other watches featured here. In addition to the circled T on the dial, a thicker Broad Arrow design here also denotes that the watch was recalled by Omega to have the dial swapped for one using tritium. Collectors call these Omegas “Fat Arrow” watches. This Omega 6B dates to 1953 (as indicated on the case back), a bit earlier than those above, and features the Omega 283 movement.
From the Seller: Case is in very good condition. Luminous matte black dial is in great condition with even patination to the indices.