Of all the countries, the one with perhaps the most distinguished military issued timepieces would have to be Britain. At the height of Britain’s empire expansion and wars, some of the highest quality pieces were issued to the Army and the division that received the best of the best, was the Royal Air Force. It makes sense, after all, the wristwatch was a vital piece of equipment that was required not only for synchronisation but also for navigation. I have spoken to a few ex-RAF pilots who said that without their watch, they would’ve literally been lost in the sky.
Some of the most collectible RAF watches came from the 40’s-60’s including the famed Mk 11 watches produced by Jaeger-LeCoultre and IWC, the Omega CK2777-1 issued in 1953 known as the Thin/Fat Arrows and of course, the distinctive Lemania mono pusher chronographs issued in the 60’s. These were all incredibly complicated and high-quality pieces that had to follow strict military specifications and were powered by movements that kept incredible timing.
Interestingly, as the need for war died down and as military spending was reduced in the 70’s in Britain, the quality of watches produced consistently followed this as a consequence. This is where we see the introduction of the ‘Fab Four’ watches. In the early 70’s, the Ministry of Defence’s DEF-STAN (Defence Standardization) was altered in order to produce more commercially viable pieces for the military.
The result of this was the creation of watches over a decade by four brands – Hamilton, CWC, Newmark and Precista. Despite the change in specs, these watches followed the specifications of its predecessor, the Lemania Mono-pusher as it remained house in the 39mm asymmetric stainless-steel case and consisted of a black dial with luminous hands and markers. The change was that instead of one chronograph pusher, you now had two. As such, these watches were now powered by the workhorse cam lever Valjoux 7733.
The Hamilton is perhaps one of the most recognisable out of the four and a brand with the most heritage. They had a much longer stretch producing watches for the military and were known to be one of the best and most prolific producers.
You might be thinking why one might be interested in pieces that are not comparable to its predecessors. Sure, the Lemanias will always be more coveted and expensive, but the Fab Four remain highly undervalued and for a fraction of the price you get a historically important military issued chronograph. Despite the more workhorse movement used, the quality of these are just as robust and, on the wrist, feels very solid. Just remember, these were issued to Air Force pilots, so these are still insanely well-made.It is the perfect rugged daily watch.
(This description was taken from an article I wrote on www.bexsonn.com)