The Dirty Dozen. During the 40s, towards the tail-end of World War II, Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) made custom orders from 12 manufacturers in Switzerland for military spec watches to equip its soldiers.
The watches needed to have a black dial with Arabic numerals, to be waterproof and luminous, regulated to a chronometer level and composed of a rugged stainless steel case. Furthermore, they had to have fixed bars, have a broad arrow on the dial, signifying that it was property of the government and also on the caseback which included other government serial numbers. Nicknamed the ‘Dirty Dozen’ by collectors, they were officially set out by the MoD as W.W.Ws, standing for ‘Watch, Wristlet, Waterproof’. The result was a group of 12 watches, that embodied the very idea of ‘purpose-built’, and it doesn’t get any more utilitarian than this.
Amongst the brands that produced for the MoD was Cyma. With production estimated at around 20,000 pieces, it is one of the easiest to find. That being said, coming from someone who has dealt and collected WWWs for awhile now, the Cyma is easiest my favourite partly because of its large 38mm case (the largest out of the dozen). The main reason though is because you can get all kinds of Cyma WWW dials that have aged differently, making collecting these fun.
I’ve had at least 10 Cymas in the past and they have all been different. Ranging from full-on tropical brown to different toned subdials to perfectly black dials, you don’t get these variances in the other WWWs. Not to mention, because of how common they are, it is one of the most affordable vintage military watches out there. If I had to suggest a mil watch that provided serious value for money, it would have to be the Cyma WWW. What you get is an incredibly robust timepiece you can wear every day with the added fun of no one piece being the same.