A Navy SEAL’s Unlikely Journey Into The Watch World

A Navy SEAL’s Unlikely Journey Into The Watch World

From The Mountains Of Afghanistan To Watches & Wonders In Geneva

I pulled out my map and grease pencil, and said, “Tell me where you are. We are coming.” Calmly, Kevin started giving his position, reaching the sixth number before another shot rang out. Silence. Another team member whispered, “Man down.” Kevin was shot, and the others were pinned down in the mountains. I didn’t know it at the time, but Kevin was probably already dead.

November 24th, 2012 was a cold night in the mountains of Zabul Province in Afghanistan. As a member of SEAL Team 4, I was on my third deployment. Our mission was to train Afghan commandos, utilizing the local forces to clear villages in the most dangerous areas. “Clear'' is an innocuous way of saying the Afghans were — under our supervision — tasked with kicking the bee's nest before killing as many enemy fighters as possible.  At times, it was boring. Other times, it was terrifying. But we loved it.

navy seal rob huberty afghanistan special ops rolex deepsea
The author with his teammates from SEAL Team 4 in Afghanistan. A Rolex Deepsea is seen on Rob’s wrist at center. (Photo Credit: Rob Huberty)

On this particular night, approximately 150 Afghan commandos and 12 SEALs flew towards a village that served as a staging area for repeated attacks on a small Army Special Forces base nearby. Through night vision, I watched the landscape fall away through the open ramp on the back of the Chinook, listening to the pilots’ radio traffic and checking my Rolex Deepsea.

We thought we had a clever plan. We were wrong.

navy seal so1 kevin ebbert medical care afghanistan watches of espionage g-shock
SO1 Kevin Ebbert providing medical care for villagers in Afghanistan. 

My friend and brother, Special Warfare Operator First Class (SO1) Kevin Ebbert, was assigned to a six-man sniper team charged with overwatch from the mountains above the village. To avoid discovery, Kevin’s team landed six hours before the assault element, reaching its final position just as day broke and the clearance operation began. As the Afghan commandos entered the village, shots unexpectedly rang out in the mountains near Kevin’s position. 

I could tell the gunshots were from a sniper rifle, which I assumed was Kevin’s. Seconds later, Kevin’s voice cut through the radio, “We are taking fire… We are taking effective fire.” The term “effective fire” means you need to take cover or get shot.

navy seal s01 kevin ebbert kia g-shock watches of espionage
Kevin Ebbert during training in New Mexico leading up to final deployment. (Photo Credit: Meranda Boo Keller)

I quickly assembled an element of four SEALs and ran at full speed toward the danger. I took control of all of the helicopters and airplanes on the radio, breathlessly telling the air support where I was going and asking them what they could see. The goat path we traversed was known for explosive traps and IEDs, but there was no time to go around. Seconds mattered. I was at peace with the possibility that I might die trying to reach my brothers in danger.

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The author carries Kevin Ebbert's patch every day along with his Rolex Deepsea. (Photo Credit: Rob Huberty) 

My training and experience as a point man, climber, JTAC, and sniper, as well as my fitness level and ability to handle stress, were challenged like never before. Unfortunately, my efforts weren’t enough. We lost Kevin that day.

We couldn’t risk a helicopter getting shot down, so we had to take turns carrying him down the mountain. I remember his smell. He joked that he had a musk and never wore deodorant. When we put him down, I remember his hand was cold. I noticed his wedding ring and G-shock. I wanted to take them off him and give them to his wife myself. That’s when I broke down into tears, overcome by the greatest physical and mental exhaustion I’ve ever experienced. 

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The author wearing his Rolex Deepsea in Afghanistan in 2012. (Photo Credit: Robert Huberty)

I kept my blood-covered clothes on long after everyone else had showered and decompressed. I looked down at the Rolex on my wrist, still smeared with Kevin’s blood. The horrific loss of my brother in arms and the watch I wore on that mission are etched in my heart forever. Kevin was on his last mission and had been accepted into medical school. He planned to continue to serve others outside of the military. He was the best of us. He was quiet, but when he spoke, everyone listened. I vowed to use my time on this Earth better, knowing my fallen brothers would never get the chance. 

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Kevin Ebbert’s G-Shock in his mother’s hands. (Photo Credit: Charlie Jordan)

Kevin also valued watches, having gifted his groomsmen pocket watches at his wedding. Like most Team Guys, however, he wore a G-Shock, preferring reliable workhorses over luxury items. Kevin’s mom, Charlie, still wears his G-Shock periodically. The inexpensive digital watch helps her feel closer to her fallen son. Watches are powerful.

Childhood Heroes, Rolex, SEALs, & A G-Shock

I grew up with the idea that rugged barrel-chested freedom fighters wore Rolex. Chuck Yeager wore a Rolex Pepsi GMT while he inspired the Apollo Astronauts. Paul Newman did as both a movie star and a real-life hero, as did Magnum PI, James Bond, astronauts, adventurers, spies, and frogmen both real and fictional. 

g-shock dw6600 navy seal issue rob huberty watches of espionage
The G-Shock DW6600 Rob earned after graduating from BUD/S class 259. (Photo Credit: Robert Huberty)

One of my proudest days at BUDS was when I went from a naked wrist to an issued G-Shock. In SEAL training, you aren’t allowed to wear a watch until you earn it. We weren’t allowed to wear our uniforms in town, but when I saw Team Guys in Coronado, their sleeve tattoos and G-Shocks were a dead giveaway. 

navy seal rob huberty omega seamaster chronograph bud/s sqt
The author’s Omega Seamaster Chronograph 2225.80 he received from his parents after graduating from SEAL Qualification Training (SQT). (Photo Credit: Robert Hubery & WatchBox Studios)

To celebrate my graduation from SEAL Qualification Training or SQT,  my parents gave me an OMEGA Seamaster Chronograph, my first “good watch.” With my first reenlistment bonus, I bought my first Rolex. I wore it in combat, in tragedy, and in triumph. I wore it for my wedding and the births of all four of my kids. After about twelve years of hard use, it finally stopped in dire need of a service. 

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Navy SEALs in Vietnam wearing a Rolex or Tudor Submariner.

During my time in the Teams, wearing a Rolex on deployment was abnormal, few deployed wore a “luxury” watch. I wore a Rolex because I thought it was badass and honored the legacy of the Teams. Rolex is inextricably linked to SEAL history, particularly of the Vietnam Era. In Vietnam, SEALs wore blue jeans and tiger stripes and carried stoner machine guns while using issued Tudor 7928s or Rolex Submariners to time their operations and combat dives. 

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W.O.E.'s Vietnam-Era US Navy Issued Tudor 7928 (Photo Credit: James Rupley)

Life & Watches After The Teams

Through the loss of friends who ran out of time, I have learned that seconds matter. The watches I wear serve as constant reminders to never take the time I have for granted. During my military career, many of my watches including the Rolex I was wearing when Kevin died are tied to moments of sorrow. 

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SO2 Adam Olin Smith was killed in a helicopter crash in 2010. 

When another friend and teammate of mine, SO2 Adam Olin Smith died in a helicopter crash during my second deployment in 2010, I retreated into myself, wasting time doom scrolling the Baselworld releases or The Rolex Forums, researching my first purchase. On August 6th, 2011, when Extortion 17 was shot down, my mentor, SOC John Faas, and 30 other Americans perished. John was another old-school G-Shock guy who preferred his simple digital watch over higher-speed options from Garmin. 

Navy seal john faas g-shock watches of espionage
Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) John Faas

When I found out about John’s death, I hit the bars and then went watch shopping, which I guess was some kind of watch enthusiast coping mechanism. I didn’t manage to purchase the “Hulk” Submariner I was drunkenly eyeing, but years later I purchased a green Submariner that is still tied to that moment in my mind. 

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The author’s Rolex Submariner, a watch linked to one of the worst days of his life. (Photo Credit: WatchBox Studios)

Evolution Of A SEAL Turned Collector

When I left the military, I continued my quest to use my time to serve others. Rather than chasing war, I vowed to make the world better and also grow my family. I went to Wharton Business School. I struggled. I landed a presumably excellent job at Amazon. I struggled. I felt like I lacked a meaningful purpose.

I eventually regrouped with other veterans and started ZeroEyes, an AI gun detection company whose goal is to reduce gun violence. We have developed technology that can detect a firearm in real-time before someone starts shooting. We have a team that verifies every alert and contacts local law enforcement to neutralize the threat. We provide valuable time to respond where every second matters. Working with this team with this purpose, I feel like I am using my time well again to help make our world safer.

Watches remain a powerful symbol of the value of time. My watch-collecting journey has evolved alongside the way I strive to fulfill my mission of serving the world. I started with tool watches. A warrior's watch is a Submariner, a Tudor, an Omega Seamster, a Seiko, or any field watch. It should be stainless steel, mechanical, divable, and easy to read.

Over time, I grew to love all watches, discovering a respect for other types I never would have considered. Today, I am a watch collector, a title I would have once considered embarrassing. Warriors should wear watches as tools, not collect them like stamps.

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The author with Charlotte and Andrew Morgan, Edouard Meylan, Tim and Kate Mancuso, Mathieu Haverlan, Simona, Rikki during Dubai Watch Week. (Photo Credit: Rob Huberty)

As I became a part of the community, I learned there were collectors and enthusiasts who shared my same level of passion (or insanity). Finding my tribe, I went further down the rabbit hole, attending Dubai Watch Week and Watches and Wonders earlier this year. Just as it was during my time in the SEAL Teams, watches can be more than the sum of their parts. Today, watches are a powerful connector of new friends and like-minded individuals.

I’ve also met watchmakers whose passion for their craft has inspired me. I started with mass-market brands like Swatch, Seiko, and Casio before moving to Tudor, Omega, and Rolex. I now pursue brands like Ulysse Nardin, Moser, and MB&F. I’ve had the distinct privilege of meeting with Max Büsser and visiting his “Madhouse” manufacture, befriending the Meylan brothers behind H. Moser & Cie, and spending time with Matthieu Haverlan of Ulysse Nardin. When it comes to Rolex, I’m still on the waiting list like everyone else. 

mb&f moser ulysse nardin high horology
A few of the author’s high horology pieces including an MB&F LM101, Ulysse Nardin Freak X Ops, & a H. Moser & Cie Streamliner Centre Seconds. (Photo Credit: Robert Huberty)

As I continue my journey into watches, I have met people who genuinely enrich my life. Watches serve as catalysts for connections and symbols of deep meaning, whether for remembering fallen teammates from the past or new friends from the present. More than simply telling the time, watches remind us to use what time we have left the best we can, time teammates like Kevin, Adam, and John never got.

Use your time well. Use your tools. Long Live the Brotherhood.

About The Author: Rob served as a U.S. Navy SEAL for nine years. During this time, he led both Navy SEALs and foreign forces during training and combat missions. Rob holds an MBA from The Wharton School and a BA in Political Science from the University of Arizona. Rob is currently COO of ZeroEyes, an artificial intelligence (AI) gun detection system for real-time weapon detection and alerts.

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Rob and his NSW brethren are why people sleep peacefully in their beds at night. We raise a glass to all of them.

Who doesn’t appreciate the idea of a Rolex diver worn in combat? Luxury sport watches worn in LE/Mil/NatSec field environments are the exception versus the rule in my experience, as digital and GPS watches generally dominate that “space.” Organizational watch culture is an interesting and wonderful thing.


I’ve had the distinct privilege of knowing Rob for the last 10 years. His stories are absolutely compelling – even more so when heard in person – and have had a profound influence on my career path and life choices. He is an exceptional human being who selflessly and continuously puts others before himself, and is a true example for all. Rob, thank you for showing me the utility a watch can bring to bear, and the memories it is capable of carrying throughout one’s journey. More importantly, thank you for the sacrifices you’ve made during your military service and your noble efforts with Zeroeyes to make the World a safer place. I am very lucky to call you my friend, and am glad the WOE community was able to learn about your story.


Rob thanks for sharing your story and the connections you have with them. Sometimes it’s the sentimentality of these objects that bring us closer to them. I am glad that I have been able to share in this strange watch collector journey with you and proud to call you a friend. I’m happy that you found purpose in ZeroEyes and for what it provides. I look forward to more great stories in our weird and fun hobby.


I can relate to what you have being through. Myself was stationed in Iraq and I have experienced things I wished I didn’t have to, but being in the military and being deployed that’s expected I guess. I questioned myself on various occasions whether I made the right decision on joining the army. Now I’m out I sometimes look back on all that I have being through as life experiences.

Oudlyn Coley

Rob’s commitment to living “All In All the Time” is not only a philosophy but also a testament to his resilience and dedication. By embracing this philosophy, he exemplifies the power of unwavering determination and the impact it can have on shaping one’s life and the lives of others. I can’t imagine the level of pain you must have endured.
Your willingness to share these experiences not only pays tribute to those who have left an indelible mark but also serves as a reminder of the enduring bonds formed through time spent with them and how you remember/cherish them. It takes a lot of courage and valour, and I tip my hat to you good sir. Through the act of storytelling, you are not only preserving the legacies of those who have impacted in your life but also inspires others to embrace their own narratives with courage and authenticity.

I read them with a heavy heart and I’m eagerly waiting for more to read in the future. Rob you are a great man and I’m fortunate to have met you and keep doing what you are doing within the Horological and Zeroeyes journey ahead! Cheers mate!
With loads of love and respect!

John Antony

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