The W.O.E. Tudor PVD Pelagos FXD

The W.O.E. Tudor PVD Pelagos FXD

Customizing my dream watch, the W.O.E. PVD Pelagos FXD When Tudor released the Black Pelagos FXD last year, I instantly knew I wanted one to...

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Customizing my dream watch, the W.O.E. PVD Pelagos FXD When Tudor released the Black Pelagos FXD last year, I instantly knew I wanted one to land in my collection.  Watches of Espionage is vehemently brand agnostic, but we have a special respect for Tudor, given the brand's seven-plus decade relationship with our community.  The FXD platform is the latest manifestation of this particular relationship. It’s the only modern “luxury” watch that was developed for not one, but two, modern SpecOps units. And I don’t mean a special edition made for a specific unit–the entire design, and every design decision, of the FXD stems from a particular use case in the SpecOps world.  That said, I already had the blue French “Commando Hubert” version. Was it prudent to want the same watch, just in black?   Of course. This whole passion is irrational anyway.  But if I was going to go for this watch, I wanted to do something different with it.  Over the past six months, I worked with several craftsmen to customize the FXD to make it mine, a poor man's “pièce unique”. The first thing we did was PVD’d the titanium fixed spring bar case resulting in a striking black-on-black look. This of course involves taking the whole case apart and PVDing each element, including the bezel. The PVD also has a mostly matte finish, so it matches the ceramic bezel insert well. Even though this was going to be mine, I wanted to maintain a standard that could have come from the factory. And since the caseback is sterile from the factory, we topped it off by engraving a W.O.E. insignia. Every watch has meaning, and this one commemorates the establishment of W.O.E. as a community, an accomplishment I never set out to achieve. The last step was designing a new handmade strap with our friends at Zulu Alpha, the W.O.E.-ZA 4.0 (available HERE).  That’s an overview of the watch; now I’ll get into the thought process behind each detail and my philosophy behind modifying this particular piece.  The W.O.E. FXD The W.O.E. FXD (if I can be vain enough to call it that) is a homage, a term that may conjure images of Seikos modified to look like Rolex – something that I am personally not a fan of.  But it’s an homage in the true sense of the word, specifically to the SpecOps who modified their Tudor MilSubs for operational use. One popular narrative is that the Orfina Porsche Design Chronograph I was the first PVD watch. However, SpecOps personnel modified their Swiss tool watches long before that.  Most notably, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Shayetet 13 (S-13) frogmen darkened their issued Tudor Submariner 7928 in the late 1960s, crudely painting them black to prevent glare and reflection of the steel cases.  For Special Operations personnel, and particularly those in a maritime environment, the glint of a watch during an operation could have lethal consequences.  The watches were tools, and they were modified to carry out their job effectively.  While it’s nearly impossible to trace the lineage of PVD watches for every brand, military applications likely had a direct impact on this development of all PVD watches. In fact, Rolex's only known “black” dive watch was a one-off blacked out version of the MilSub Ref. 5513 for the South African Special Forces.  While Rolex didn’t roll out PVD in a commercial capacity, its sister brand, Tudor, would go on to produce PVD watches in later years, whether directly influenced by the S-13 and other military units we can only speculate.  But heritage matters; it informs every decision a brand makes. PVD: StealthMaxx DLC Finish Recalling that our friend Cole Pennington PVD’d an Arabic Seiko for a Hodinkee Magazine article, I contacted Jack at International Watch Works, a family-owned business.  When asked about the feasibility of PVD’ing the titanium case, he said it was not a problem; he had in fact just completed PVD’ing a blue Marine Nationale FXD (which turned out to be for Tom Place, a stuntman searching for his long-lost Rolex at the bottom of a lake).  The process was relatively simple.  Jack disassembled the watch and coated every bit of titanium, leaving the dial assembly and ceramic bezel insert to the side.  “PVD” is an abbreviation for Physical Vapor Deposition. It’s a process, not necessarily a coating. A solid material is selected, in this case diamond like carbon (DLC), to coat a base metal or substrate surface. That material is vaporized and deposited on the base or substrate material, bonding molecularly with the base material. The PVD/DLC coating is so fine that the serial numbers and factory engravings on the caseback are still visible even after the coating. It’s only microns thick; it’s not thick enough to obscure the characteristics of the case. Having worn the watch daily and with a lot of time in the pool and ocean, I have noticed no wear or abrasion on the coating, although I wouldn’t necessarily view scars as a bad thing.  During our conversation, Jack informed me that he has PVD’d watches for SpecOps personnel for years, which comes as no surprise given his location in North Carolina. Engraving: Always Read the Caseback The W.O.E. insignia signifies a very deep meaning for many in our community, with influence from the spearhead worn by our predecessors in the WWII-era Office of Strategic Services (OSS) as well as modern day intel and SpecOps units.  Today, this insignia has become an important part of my life. It’s a source of pride that I don’t share with many.  The caseback engraving is covered by the strap and that’s just how I like it. It's not for you, it’s for me.  The deep diamond tip engraving through the PVD into the titanium creates a more substantial profile and a stark contrast to the black case. It’s bold. Looking at it, it’s easy to see how much meaning comes with it.  W.O.E. - Zulu Alpha 4.0 Strap As a “fixed” springbar case, the Pelagos FXD is often called a “strap monster”-- a term so overused it’s become meaningless. Yes, any 22mm strap will work on the watch, but it’s really about finding the right strap. With a customization like this, I wanted to ensure the strap was the perfect match–subtle enough not to overshadow the watch. So I reached out to our friends at UK-based and veteran owned Zulu Alpha Straps to create a unique design that honored our ethos as a community and tapped into the traditions of those who came before us.  The result is an understated olive allied green strap with a discreet W.O.E. spearhead-only insignia applied between the strap keepers, which is covered up when worn. Again, it’s not about showing the insignia. Like the caseback, it’s obscured when the watch is worn.  The development of this strap coincided with Zulu Alpha’s latest iteration of the “OTAN” strap and significant performance enhancements.  To promote longevity, the strap has a narrower tang, round holes, and a slightly shorter length at 30 cm.  The “patch” was adhered directly to the strap with a new technology developed by ZA, resulting in a OEM feel.  While we never planned to commercialize this version, we knew we would receive many requests, so this is dubbed, the W.O.E.-ZA 4.0. Photo Credit: Rob / @rw_m100 Dial Modification I have considered customizing the dial with a red W.O.E. at 6 o’clock.  That said, this would require a complete dial refinish.  While the watch is striking to those who know the FXD, when worn it's a more subtle customization as there are no visible insignias.  Discretion is a prized attribute in our field, if you know, you know is the way. Controversy of Watch Customization Customizing watches is a major point of contention in the collecting community, with many “purists” believing the watches should remain as they were originally designed.  Turning this upside-down, London-based George Bamford originally made a name for himself in the 2000s for customizing Rolex watches into unconventional designs, much to the chagrin of the Swiss luxury brands.   Bamford Watch modification (A Blog to Watch) However, times have changed, and Bamford has since been embraced by many watch houses and even has joint customizations programs with major brands including Zenith and Tag Heuer.  Further, “mod culture” as it’s known appears to have trickled into mainstream design and while the suits in Geneva would never admit it, the new Day-Date “emoji dial” is certainly reminiscent of a customized dial treatment than a traditional Rolex design.   Will we see a PVD FXD released from Tudor? Tudor’s playbook is simple.  It designs a watch, releases it to the masses and then iterates on that design with size, material, and color schemes.  This process has led some detractors to criticize the brand (Do we really need another Black Bay?)--but in the end, it works.  While selfishly I hope this remains one of the few “PVD FXDs,” it would be an easy win for Tudor to produce this design for the masses and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a version become available to the public in the coming years. A Few Thoughts To the uninitiated, this article may seem like a waste of time.  So, what, you painted your watch black?  Maybe. But it’s never just a watch.  When I look at this watch, I think of the people that made both it and W.O.E. a reality, and of all the times it’s been on my wrist.  No matter where this platform goes, it will always hold a special place because it is uniquely mine. There Are No Rules We are of the strong belief that there are no rules when it comes to timepieces.  If you want to polish your Rolex every few years to keep it looking shiny, do it.  If your dream is to modify your Patek to look like a Seiko, have fun.  If you want to put aftermarket diamonds on your AP to celebrate making it out of the trap, congratulations.   Don’t let conventional wisdom and outside pressure dictate how you enjoy this passion. Life’s too short to live in a box dictated by the watch industry suits or hype collectors pushing an agenda.  Have fun, use your tools, and don't take things too seriously.  -- If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our free weekly newsletter for further updates HERE.  Sincere appreciation to my dear friend and master of his craft James Rupley for capturing these pictures of the W.O.E. FXD and really bringing it to life for the community. Read Next: James Bond Should Wear a Rolex

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A Mystery Death in Oslo, an Intelligence Op Gone Wrong?

A Mystery Death in Oslo, an Intelligence Op Gone Wrong?

An unidentified woman was found dead in a luxury Oslo hotel.  Was “Jennifer Fairgate” an assassin, spy or a troubled woman looking to disappear? Her...

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An unidentified woman was found dead in a luxury Oslo hotel.  Was “Jennifer Fairgate” an assassin, spy or a troubled woman looking to disappear? Her timepiece is a clue to solving a complex puzzle that reads like a Hollywood thriller. 3 June 1995, Oslo Plaza Hotel, Room 2805 The woman’s body was sprawled out on the bed, a pistol lay awkwardly in her right hand with her thumb still on the trigger– a single entry wound to her forehead. An apparent suicide; but investigators quickly noticed several anomalies: the woman had no identification and the room was absent of any clues to her true identity.  In fact, she had gone to great lengths to conceal her identity, first by checking into the room in alias and paying cash, and further, she removed the labels from the limited clothing in the room and even the serial numbers on the Browning 9 mm pistol that was found with her.  There was no way of telling who she was or what she was doing, except for one obscure clue. The only item that was not modified to remove identifiers was her watch, a Citizen Aqualand worn on her left wrist. VG/Police Evidence Photo By any definition, the Aqualand is a robust tool watch and specifically a dive watch with strong military provenance with versions issued to many units including the British Special Boat Service (SBS) and Danish Frogman Corps. The clunky Aqualand was not the expected watch of a young fashionable Belgian woman; it was seemingly out of place.  Oslo Mystery Nearly three decades later, the death of “Jennifer Fairgate” is still a mystery.  Some theories about her death are certainly influenced by Hollywood's portrayal of the intelligence world–many speculate that she may have been an “operative” or “assassin.”   At W.O.E., we offer a fact-based assessment of her tradecraft (and watch) in an effort to better understand the reality of these so-called “operative” theories.  The more we explore this incident, the more we’re left with questions rather than answers. However one thing is for sure–her Citizen is a piece of the puzzle that could offer clues to her identity and trade.  Artistic rendering of “Jennifer Fairgate” (Harald Nygård) 29 May 1995, Oslo, Norway The woman checked into an upscale hotel three days prior without a credit card, using the throwaway alias “Jennifer Fergate.”  Conflicting reports indicate she may have been with a man, “Lois Fairgate'', who was later added to the room registration.  ‘Jennifer’ provided a nonexistent address in Belgium on the registration card, and she wrote down a date of birth that indicated she was 21 years old, though forensic pathologists would determine she was approximately 30 years old.  As detailed in a Netflix series Unsolved Mysteries, she spent the next few days outside the room with a Do Not Disturb sign on the door.   On June 3rd, a number of days after she had checked in, hotel staff knocked on room 2805 in an attempt to collect payment from Fairgate. While a member of the hotel staff was at the door, a gunshot was heard inside. The employee left the room unsupervised for 15 minutes as he retrieved the head of security.  When they returned, the room was locked from the inside.  When they entered the room they reportedly smelled gunpowder, presumably from the recent shot fired in a confined space, and saw the dead body lying on the bed, shoes still on. VG/Police Evidence Photo While Occam's razor would lead to the conclusion that this was a distraught woman set on committing suicide and disappearing forever, many have speculated that she was in fact an “intelligence operative,” maybe even an “assassin” disposed of after a failed assignment.  In the documentary, former Norwegian Intelligence Service officer Ola Kaldager assessed ‘Jennifer’ was an intelligence officer and her death was meant to look like a suicide, even though she was, according to Kaldager, executed.  Intelligence Officer Tradecraft? From a tradecraft perspective, Fairgate’s profile is potentially consistent with that of an intelligence officer.  The use of hotels for operational purposes is as old as espionage itself and is still a common practice today (though much more difficult with the rise of Ubiquitous Technical Surveillance).  Based on logs from the keycard reader, she was absent from the room for extended periods of time, at one point for approximately 20 hours, which could indicate operational activity.  While at CIA, I often leveraged similar tradecraft to what was used by ‘Jennifer’ when it came to hotel meetings and operational travel.  The use of “throwaway aliases” is common, and Russian “illegals” even go as far as to assume the identity of a deceased child, the name and date of birth collected by Directorate S assets from graveyard or church registries. Another element that points to “Jennifer” having utilized tradecraft has to do with her clothing. A search of the room revealed few personal items, except for several changes of clothes for her upper body including sweaters and trenchcoats, which could be used for profile changes while operational.  While removing tags from clothes is not necessarily common, intel collectors are trained to remove all pocket litter or anything identifiable when in alias. Assassination? There was a 15-minute gap between the sound of the gunshot and the arrival of hotel security.  The room was locked from the inside, something that in theory could have been done by a professional during a hasty escape. Investigators have pointed out the awkward grip of the pistol and the fact that there was no blood splatter on “Jennifer’s” hand as possible indications that there was another shooter.  There was a second bullet hole through a pillow and into the mattress, which in theory could have been a test shot from Jennifer or a warning shot to scare the hotel attendant at the door.  Of note, many intelligence services have carried out targeted killings (assassinations) with the goal of making it look like a suicide, most notably the Russian KGB/FSB and Israeli Mossad, two services with a history of operational activity in Norway. The Watch The Citizen Aqualand is a purpose-built and robust tool watch, designed specifically for subaquatic duty, complete with a depth gauge and a no-decompression limit (NDL) chart on the strap. When it comes to tool watches, this is about as tool-like as it gets.  Various references of the Aqualand have been issued to and worn by Special Operations maritime units throughout Europe, including the Italian Navy, UK Special Operations, and notably, the Danish Frogman Corps (Frømandskorpset). That the watch is issued to the Danish Frogmen Corps is noteworthy, as it neighbors Norway, where the “Jennifer” was found.  Tony, a British SBS operator, 25 November 2001, Qala-i Jangi, Afghanistan wearing a Citizen Aqualand Dive Pro Master, which was issued to SBS “Z-Squadron" which specialized in underwater attack and insertion using Swimmer Delivery Vehicles (SDV) While correlation doesn't equal causation, the Citizen Aqualand is not a watch one wears by accident and wearing it starkly contrasts the semi-fashionable outfits found with the woman.  In the intelligence business, a robust watch is a must and the dual analog/digital features would be an effective tool of espionage.  In the 1990s, the Aqualand was popular amongst divers.  It is entirely possible the woman behind Jennifer Fairgate was a diving enthusiast who lived by or traveled frequently to the coast.  As Jason Heaton, diving enthusiast and friend of W.O.E., would later say, “the Aqualand became, in effect, the last dive watch built for, and bought by, real divers who needed a tool for timing dives.” No-deco limits printed on the strap (Jason Heaton) It’s an analytical leap to conclude that because the watch has strong ties to the military and is an issued watch, that “Jennifer” was an intelligence officer.  But what can the watch tell us? To know, we have to look beyond simply the make and model of the watch. Tracing the Watch According to an investigative report by newspaper VG, the Citizen Aqualand reference CQ-1021-50 was manufactured three years prior in January 1992 with the serial number C022-088093 Y, 2010779, GN-4-S. This was confirmed by Citizen at in Japan. The watch contained three Swiss-made Renata 370-type batteries made in December 1994.  The batteries were crudely engraved “W395,” which investigators believed means they were installed March 1995 and “W'' may indicate the initials of the watchmaker.   Some online outlets have suggested the watch was purchased in Germany, but there is no substantial proof of this claim.  The watch was reportedly later sold at a police auction.  Of note, Watchmakers often record their work on the inside caseback of a watch with a light engraving, or in this case, on the battery itself with a hand-engraved note. It lets other watchmakers know in the future what’s been done and when.  Wilderness of Mirrors The intelligence world is often referred to as the “wilderness of mirrors,” a  space where the truth is complicated and nothing is as it seems.  We spoke with John Sipher, who ran the CIA’s Russia operations, for his assessment in the incident.  Sipher, who also served in Nordic countries during the 90s, explained that Norway and Scandinavian countries have long been of interest to Russia due to the proximity and strategic issues including the Baltic Sea, oil, and as an opening to Western Europe.  In fact, as recently as October 2022, Norway’s domestic security agency arrested Mikhail Mikushin, a suspected Russian GRU (military intelligence) “illegal” posing as a Brazilian academic, José Assis Giammaria. Anna Chapman, A Russian “Illegal” arrested in the US as part of the Illegals Program, a Ulysse Nardin on her wrist.   Given the information available, Sipher said that it is possible Fairgate was a Russian intelligence officer or asset, but that it’s just as likely she was involved in organized crime, and that the two were not always mutually exclusive during that period.  Russian Organized Crime Sipher explained that in the 1990s many former KGB officers had gone on to work for organized crime after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  KGB “formers'' were some of the few Russians that knew how to use international banks and could effectively carry out tasks in Europe. In fact, in the post-Cold War years there was “much more overlap of Russian organized crime and intelligence and the two were often synonymous.”  Sipher pointed us to a quote by former Director of CIA James Woolsey from 1993-1995: “If you should strike up a conversation with an articulate English-speaking Russian… wearing a $3,000 suit and a pair of Gucci loafers, and he tells you that he is an executive of a Russian trading company…then there are four possibilities. He may be what he says he is. He may be a Russian intelligence officer working under commercial cover. He may be part of a Russian organized crime group. But the really interesting possibility is that he may be all three and none of those three institutions have any problem with the arrangement.” While she may fit the profile of a Russian intelligence officer, asset or “illegal,” there is a lack of indicators connecting Fairgate directly to Russia.   East German Intelligence Former East German Intelligence “Stasi” compound in Berlin. Sipher further explained a similar phenomenon with former East German intelligence officers leveraging their skills for employment after the unification of Germany and disbandment of the East German Stasi (Ministry for State Security).  Stasi officers had close contact with Soviet officials, were renowned for their sharpness and capabilities, and were often recruited by Russian services to carry out operations in Europe.  German nationals could easily move around Europe without raising suspicions. Stasi ID card used by then-KGB officer Vladimir Putin from 1985-1990 in Dresden, East Germany.  The card was found in a Stasi archive. While this is informed speculation, it’s possible that Fairgate was a former East German intelligence officer working on behalf of Russian intelligence or a criminal organization.  There are several indications that Fairgate had ties to East Germany including her accent when checking in and forensic analysis of her DNA.  Some of her clothes, including potentially her watch, originated in Germany. This links back to the theory that the watch was serviced in Germany. Mossad, Israel and The Oslo Accords The Oslo Plaza Hotel was also reportedly one of the locations of secret negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian authorities for the Oslo II Accord, signed a few months after Fairgate’s death.  While evidence is only circumstantial, it is possible that there is some nexus to this event and that Fairgate was an Israeli operative or the target of a Mossad assassination.  Mossad has a long history of both deep cover operations and targeted killings.  In January 2010, a team of Mossad operatives (many under European alias) assassinated Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in his hotel room in Dubai using an injection to make it appear to be of natural causes.  They locked the room from the inside and the body was not discovered until the following day. Israeli operative (tennis players) track Mahmoud al-Mabhouh to his hotel room. In fact, Mossad has carried out at least one botched assassination in Norway: in 1973, when a hit team mistook a Moroccan waiter for that of Black September member Hassan Salameh, they shot him 13 times with a 22-caliber pistol, in what became known in intelligence circles as the “Lillehammer Affair.”  While there is nothing directly connecting Fairgate to Israel, Mossad is widely known to use dual-citizens for covert and clandestine operations.   It is important to note, while Israel has issued several dive watches to elite units, we are not aware of any direct tie between the Citizen Aqualand and Israeli Defense Forces or Mossad. Black September member Hassan Salameh, target of Israeli assassination program after Munich attack. Conclusion While we cannot say definitively, there are several anomalies with this case that suggest the woman known as “Jennifer Fairgate” may have been involved in intelligence activity. That said, it’s also entirely possible that she was involved in some other illicit activity or potentially worked as an escort.  Espionage is often referred to as the “world's second oldest profession” and at times has a similar profile to the first. The reality of the intelligence world is more mundane than portrayed in Hollywood.  That said, assassinations, deep cover, and high-stakes movie-like operations certainly do happen.  In intelligence collection, the mosaic of puzzle pieces are rarely all collected and for now the picture of this event is opaque. We’re only seeing part of the story, and perhaps it’s not even the ending.      This could have been a covert operation carried out by the Russians, Israelis or a host of other services, but it is just as likely it was the case of a desperate woman, looking to leave this world behind without a trace.  If that is the case, she certainly achieved her goal. The watch is still an outstanding clue and may be the only lead to her identity.  Somewhere there is a watch maker who installed the battery in that watch, which may provide additional information on her origin. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE.   *For more information on this incident, check out the Netflix series Unsolved Mysteries and the comprehensive investigative report by VG, “Mystery at the Oslo Plaza”  -- This Dispatch has been reviewed by the CIA’s Prepublication Classification Review Board to prevent the disclosure of classified information. READ NEXT: Special Boat Service OMEGA Seamaster

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Sangin Instruments - The Marine Owned “Raider Rolex”

Sangin Instruments - The Marine Owned “Raider Rolex”

Sangin Instruments - The Marine Owned “Raider Rolex” I first heard of Sangin Instruments during TDY travel to a WarZone while at CIA.  At the...

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Sangin Instruments - The Marine Owned “Raider Rolex” I first heard of Sangin Instruments during TDY travel to a WarZone while at CIA.  At the time I was responsible for a counterterrorism Covert Action program in the Middle East and I was traveling to visit the program on a flight with other CIA officers.  (REDACTED PARAGRAPH) The atmosphere on the plane was a Star Wars bar vibe, with bearded paramilitary officers, support personnel and analysts, all dressed in civilian clothing that varied from business casual to a college campus look and of course the obligatory new camping gear from REI.  Like most things at CIA, rules were relaxed and the plane filled with professionals who didn’t need to be told which rules actually mattered. During a refuel stop in a European country, I struck up a conversation with the individual sitting next to me who I assessed (correctly) was a GRS (Global Response Staff) contractor reading a book on the Rhodesian Bush War. The conversation moved from evolution counterterrorism tactics, the ongoing conflict in our destination country and finally watches. The operator asked about the Rolex Submariner on my wrist, and was quick to interject that he used to wear his Sub during deployments but lost it in a recent divorce, so now wears a Sangin watch. He then launched into a passionate pitch for the company and an overview of what the Sangin brand represents. Sangin in the wild during Orion space capsule recovery (Sangin community photo) At the time, my interest in watches was surface level. But during that trip and following deployments I began to notice Sangin Instruments on the wrists of SpecOps personnel, CIA paramilitary officers, and other case officers.  In the business we call this a pattern. Like many watch companies, Sangin was a subculture in itself. Very much a “if you know, you know” type thing. I wanted to learn more about the watch that seemed to keep appearing on the wrist of professionals in this world. So I reached out to one of the two founders, Jacob Servantes to learn about how the company came to be.   (Sangin community photo) Sangin Instruments  Watches are a medium for stories, but for Jacob Servantes, Marine Raider and founder of Sangin Instruments, they provided even more.  “You come out of the military depressed as hell. At the professional level we were at, a lot of what you do becomes who you are. And when you leave, the machine just keeps going . . . so Sangin gave me a lot of purpose out of the military.” Servantes enlisted in 2008 as the economy was crumbling, hoping to earn some money for college on the other side of his service. The goal was to follow his father’s footsteps and become a Reconnaissance Marine.  At the time, he wasn't aware that a restructuring in 2006 would mean that elements of the Marine Corps would participate in SOCOM, resulting in MARSOC. He ended up squarely in the special operations community.  A rare photo of Jacob on deployment in Afghanistan. It was during selection that he walked away with his first lesson that he would incorporate into Sangin Instruments–become the new standard.  Become the New Standard Not much was publicly known about the Raider selection process, and that’s by design. But Servantes recounted the biggest takeaway was that the standard to be selected by the instructors only moved in one direction: it became harder and harder. When Marines rose to the standard, and exceeded it, their standard became the new standard. “We used to joke that the mattress fairy would take people away at night, because every night you would see fewer and fewer people,” Servantes recalled. In his class, a group of 120 hopeful Marines were deposited in an undisclosed location somewhere in North Carolina. 25 people were selected after a grueling three weeks and countless miles of rucking/team events. Each class sets the standard for the next class, meaning that the standard is constantly being raised. It always gets harder, and that idea is something Servantes has incorporated into the way Sangin Instruments does things, “selection is continuous.” (Sangin community photo) Sangin, Afghanistan The name of Servantes’ company comes from Sangin, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, an area along the Helmand River Valley where the Commando team he worked on spent much of their deployment. Sangin is a place that many who served during the GWOT will be familiar with, and it was known as “the most dangerous place in the world for multiple years running–the hospital on base was the busiest hospital, anywhere, at the time.” Servantes says. That’s part of why he chose the name Sangin Instruments. “Sangin is a horrible place in the world–many guys attribute awful memories to Sangin, but they’ll carry this name with them and hopefully have a positive memory about breaking down barriers, and their own sacrifices and achievements.”  (Photo Credit: James Rupley) Building a watch company is not for the fainthearted and bringing the brand to life was an achievement in itself. It almost didn’t happen. But the can-do attitude prevailed. He got back from a deployment and told his wife that he’d put in his time with special operations. During his time in the Middle East and the Philippines, he wore a M-1 Breitling Chrono Avenger (sketchy) and several Digital Tool Watches. While deployed, he'd been thinking about watch designs based on the work he was doing. He tested the market among his friends and colleagues in the military and conceptualized a watch that would be affordable and capable. A watch that would stand up to the type of work they were doing while also speaking to the community.  Watches Built For Warriors Servantes’ wife, Paris, bought the idea. This was 2017. After some help from his mentor, Bill Yao of popular watch microbrand MK II, they had a prototype. And following the evaluation of the prototype, Sangin launched a successful pre-sale that would help fund the initial batch of 250 watches called the Kinetic 1. The only problem was that Paypal held the funding without explanation and would not release it to obtain the watches. Paris reached into her savings and a small inheritance; Servantes had his bonus from his last Afghanistan deployment. Between them, they scraped together the cash and bet big on Sangin Instruments working out. They were in a squeeze, but Servantes had a steadfast partner in his wife, who learned how to do Quality Control on all the watches and packaged them up and answered customer emails while he was in business school. W.O.E.’s personal Sangin Overlord Believing in Sangin Instruments paid off, but it was never the plan–the primary objective was to take care of the community and make a product to be proud of. The first round of watches was delivered and the phones haven’t stopped ringing since.  “Part of the culture of watches in general is wanting to have a part of something you’ve done. So when these guys leave the military, they can take a piece of that experience with them,” Servantes says of his watches.  (Sangin community photo) Sangin Today  Today, Sangin boasts an impressive line of watches, from the entry level quartz Overlord to the premium newly released Hydra, Sangin’s interpretation of a mid-century compressor-style diver's watch. The community remains an important part of Sangin’s identity with customers demonstrating a near religious fervor as they wait for the next release. Sangin also offers several watches that must be earned.  The “Para” Overlord is only available to members of the airborne community and would-be customers must submit a certification verification.  The green bezel Atlas and Neptune are available only to those who have completed a SOF selection course, red for first responders and blue for law enforcement personnel.  They are tools for professionals. Jacob was mum on the ongoing special projects “unit watches” but a custom Professional made for the CIA Directors Protective Staff (DPS) was recently for sale on Ebay (but quickly disappeared without explanation).  Suffice to say, we are aware of several special projects for units in the IC and SpecOps community but cannot go into details at this time. Ebay listing of Sangin Professional for the CIA’s Directors Protective Staff. (Ebay)  Sangin Instruments - “With You” As Sangin grows, Servantes makes sure that giving back and taking care of the community he comes from is part of it. Servantes has developed watches that specifically speak to a community of men and women who serve. As he grew the business, an unlikely presence in the watch world supercharged the number of people interested in Sangin. “Rolex helped us out with their price point and availability. You have a lot of Green Berets who finally could afford a Rolex but just couldn't get them. And here we were offering something specifically for them,” he says.  Informally, many refer to Sangin watches as the “Raider Rolex.” Now Servantes will run into guys who tell him that they have a few deployments on their watch, and the memories of service are imbued into the timepiece. That’s exactly what makes Servantes and Paris continue to push Sangin forward. A part of the Sangin Instruments mission that Servantes doesn’t publicly put forward is his support of important nonprofits contributing to those in the veteran community, including HunterSeven Foundation, Special Operations Care Fund (SOC-F) and Vigilant Torch. One of the altruistic motivations of the W.O.E. platform is preserving watch culture in the NatSec community. No one has done more to further this end than the team at Sangin Instruments. Many of us came up in the GWOT days where digital watches were the norm. Sangin offers a great way for professionals to get into watches in an unpretentious manner. -- If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE.  This Dispatch has been reviewed by the CIA’s Prepublication Classification Review Board to prevent the disclosure of classified information. READ NEXT: Demystifying a North Korean State-Sponsored Luxury Wristwatch Awarded to High-Ranking Officials

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Top Dispatch Articles of 2023 - Watches of Espionage

Top Dispatch Articles of 2023 - Watches of Espionage

Top Dispatch Articles of 2023 - Watches of Espionage  As 2023 comes to a close, we take a look at the top Dispatch articles from...

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Top Dispatch Articles of 2023 - Watches of Espionage  As 2023 comes to a close, we take a look at the top Dispatch articles from the year.  Thank you for all of your support, we look forward to a great year in 2024. -W.O.E. 10. Hollywood Watches of Espionage Mercenaries, Arms Dealers, CIA Contractors, and Navy SEALs – a timepiece can complement a fictional character. Watches play a significant role in film. An accurate depiction of a character often includes a watch they might actually wear, and this is especially true in the military, intelligence and espionage genre. When this happens, it lends a sense of credibility to the work.  This is likely a mixture of art imitating life and vice versa.  Believe it or not, we know plenty of real “spies” and “operators” whose watch choices were influenced by movies.  The Bond Omega and Bond Rolex are obvious ones. But other watches are also featured on the silver screen, and we’ll explore them here. Continue Reading 9. Trading a Rolex to Get out of a Sticky Situation - Myth or Reality? The "Escape and Evasion" Rolex The final requirement to be certified as a CIA Case Officer (C/O) is to pass the certification course at a classified government training center commonly referred to as “the Farm.”  Students learn the tradecraft to clandestinely recruit and handle assets.  The entire learning process is a surreal experience, and the atmosphere at “the Farm” is somewhere between a college campus with a constant stream of students riding by on cruiser bikes (IYKYK), a covert paramilitary base with state-of-the-art tactical facilities, and Hogwarts, a place where you learn the dark arts they don’t teach in regular school. Continue Reading 8. Bond: A Case for Omega Here, we will first share the full story of Omega’s origins with James Bond, followed by a detailed analysis of the history of product placement in Bond, and the critical role it plays in keeping the franchise alive. While this piece does not serve as a direct response to the first Dispatch, it aims to present a more thorough history of Bond, offer a better understanding of why adjustments have been made, and propose a case for why we can celebrate Omega’s inclusion in 007’s history Continue Reading 7. Remembering the Legacy of Billy Waugh Through His Watches Former CIA Paramilitary Officer Billy Waugh passed away at the age of 93 exactly one week ago; but we don’t mourn his death–instead we celebrate his incredible life of service in the best way we know how–through his timepieces. William “Billy” Waugh is the Forest Gump of CIA and Special Forces with a larger than life personality and an uncanny knack for adventure. At the conclusion of WWII he attempted to enlist in the United States Marine Corps at age 15. His age got in the way, but three years later, in ‘48, he successfully enlisted in the United States Army, launching a career that would become nothing short of legendary in the Special Operations community. Continue Reading 6. Advice for Buying a Watch The Watches of Espionage community can be broken down into two segments: professional watch nerds tired of the traditional watch media; and complete newbies, those initially attracted by Military and Intelligence content but with little interest in watches.  Over time, the latter group usually develops an interest in watches and regularly asks where to begin.   This Dispatch is for you, newbies.  It’s a cheat sheet for breaking into the world of watches. Our goal is simple: to cultivate and preserve watch culture in the NatSec community.  We have no commercial relationships with any of the brands mentioned, and we’re brand-agnostic. Continue Reading 5. The History Of Casio G-Shocks And The US Military The History Of G-Shocks And The US Military - Benjamin Lowry Forty years have passed since the introduction of the Casio G-Shock in 1983. And while the basic formula behind the world’s most durable watch has remained largely unchanged since the legendary DW-5000C first hit store shelves, the world of warfare and the United States Military in particular have made significant strides in both equipment and tactical doctrine. Conflicts in Panama, the Persian Gulf, and Bosnia/Herzegovina were waged in a bygone analog era, influenced by lessons learned in the Vietnam War. But the terrorist attacks of September 11th changed all of that, embroiling the United States in a new type of war based on counter-insurgency in the digitally-augmented age. Continue Reading 4. CIA Officers and Apple Watches Counterintelligence Risks of Smart Watches “Apple watches are for nerds.”   Though we don’t actually think this, it’s easy to understand how one could come to that conclusion. The Apple Watch of today could be seen as the “calculator watch” of the ‘90s–in other words, a product with a nerdy association. One thing we can say is that smart watches are NOT/NOT for intelligence officers.  Smart watches, like the Apple Watch, offer significant lifestyle benefits: fitness tracking, optimizing communication, and sleep monitoring.  However, for CIA Human Intelligence (HUMINT) collectors who rely on anonymity to securely conduct clandestine operations, the networked device is a counterintelligence (CI) vulnerability and potential opportunity for exploitation. For every benefit the Apple Watch provides, it also comes with a threat. Continue Reading 3. CIA Case Officer’s Everyday Carry - EDC A Real “Spy’s” Every Day Carry (EDC)  We get a lot of questions about “everyday carry,” commonly known as “EDC.” So in light of these requests, we want to provide some insight into our typical EDC and what I carried as a CIA Case Officer (C/O) in Africa and the Middle East. Continue Reading 2. Tudors of Espionage (T.O.E.s) The Shield Protects the Crown:  W.O.E. is a watch snob–or at least I was. For years, I looked down on Tudor as an inferior tool watch existing in the shadow of its big brother Rolex. I never understood why someone with a Rolex would purchase a Tudor.  After all, Tudor is a poor man's Rolex, or so I thought. Most haters are motivated by insecurity, but my views were simply shaped by ignorance. I didn’t know much about Tudor and was unaware of Tudor’s long standing relationship with the Intelligence and Special Operations communities, a personally relevant intersection. Continue Reading 1. Casio F-91W, the Preferred Watch of Terrorists The Terrorist Timepiece - Casio F-91W The Casio F-91W’s reputation looms large in both horology and national security circles, and for good reason. The simple, cheap and effective plastic watch is likely one of the most ubiquitous timepieces on the planet, with an estimated three million produced each year since sometime in the early 1990s. However, the watch that is coveted by hipsters and former presidents alike has a more sinister utility: it has been used to deadly effect as a timer for explosive charges and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and worn regularly by members of al-Qaeda, ISIS and other transnational militant groups. Continue Reading

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Advice for Buying a Watch

Advice for Buying a Watch

The Watches of Espionage community can be broken down into two segments: professional watch nerds tired of the traditional watch media; and complete newbies, those...

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The Watches of Espionage community can be broken down into two segments: professional watch nerds tired of the traditional watch media; and complete newbies, those initially attracted by Military and Intelligence content but with little interest in watches.  Over time, the latter group usually develops an interest in watches and regularly asks where to begin.   This Dispatch is for you, newbies.  It’s a cheat sheet for breaking into the world of watches. Our goal is simple: to cultivate and preserve watch culture in the NatSec community.  We have no commercial relationships with any of the brands mentioned, and we’re brand-agnostic. (James Rupley) Step 1: Do your research:  There are more resources than ever on watches, and if you are reading this then you’ve already demonstrated that you’re far enough down the rabbit hole and you want to know more.  We at W.O.E. do not do traditional watch reviews- but other platforms do and do it well.  Hodinkee, Bark and Jack, Teddy Baldassarre, Fratello, aBlogtoWatch, etc.  There are plenty of great outlets with different perspectives putting out content on Youtube, online editorial platforms, and podcasts. But it’s important to exercise caution when it comes to any enthusiast media, as much of the content on these sites are paid advertisements and/or heavily influenced by the watch brands.  Read our Covert Influence In Watch Media piece so that you approach it with a skeptical eye. Step 2:  Talk with people. The simple lost art of conversation.  Ask your friends, coworkers and family members about their watches.  See a guy with an interesting watch on at a bar, coffee shop, or even at the urinal? Ask him what he is wearing.  Why did he buy that specific watch?  What does he like and dislike about it?  Ask to try it on. Most people into watches want nothing more than to talk about them. Major cities likely have watch meetups. RedBar Group is the largest and most well-known of these group meet ups.  I have never been to a watch meet up but know a lot of people enjoy this community and it is a great way to get your hands on lots of watches in the wild. Step 3:  Visit an AD.  An “Authorized Dealer” is a store that sells watches from major brands, and they have an official relationship with said brands.  We recommend visiting a dealer with a larger selection of brands so that you can physically try on different watches to see what works for you.  Tourneau, Watches of Switzerland, and Bucherer are some of the largest ones, but chances are even your local mall has a store that sells watches. Sales associates can be notoriously pretentious and they’re not always “watch guys” but there is something to be learned from everyone.  At a minimum they should have the training to explain the range on the market. Step 4:  Buy your first watch.  After spending a few weeks/months on steps 1-3, you should have a general idea of what interests you.  It’s time to buy your first watch. Regardless of one's socioeconomic status and access to disposable income, we recommend starting with a watch under-$1,000, and even under $500 is better.  Just because you can afford a Rolex doesn't mean you should start there.  Check out our previous Dispatch on “Best watches under $1,000” for some thoughts from a broad range of practitioners with experience. (James Rupley) Step 5:  Pause - wear your watch, repeat steps 1-3.  It’s tempting to immediately focus on the next watch, always wanting more.  But wear your watch, find out what you like/dislike about it. Sometimes you learn things about your taste only after wearing a watch for a while. Think about how it feels on your wrist, how it works with your lifestyle, etc. Most importantly, however, is to make sure that the watch works as an extension of your own life philosophy. Maybe the values of the brand don’t line up with your own–or maybe they do. This is the time to learn. (James Rupley) Step 6: Accessorize.  A strap is a great way to change up the feel of your watch.  We have a host of straps in the W.O.E. shop, but don’t let us limit your options.   In the strap game, you generally get what you pay for. Like most things in life.  Stay away from Amazon and pay a few extra dollars for something of quality.  Most of the major watch content outlets also sell straps and are a good one-stop-shop.  Buying a strap from a smaller business is a great way to show your support and rep that brand/community.  Here are some of the different straps you should consider: 2 Piece Leather: These should be handmade in the USA or Europe, nothing mass produced. There are some great craftsmen out there making one off and small batch straps like our Jedburgh and Leather and Canvas DNC Strap.  A good leather strap can work on mostly any watch. Affordable Nylon:  You can buy these anywhere and should be somewhere in the $20-40 price range.  Our Five Eye is on the higher end of this but in return you get quality. The better ones are well-made but cheap enough that you can use and abuse them and throw them out like a pair of good socks.  A simple nylon strap is a great way to support a group/person that you’re interested in. (James Rupley) High-End Fabric Strap:  In my opinion, Zulu Alpha is the best quality fabric strap on the market. The Quantum Watch Strap from TAD has great hardware and Tudor has some great fabric straps (see Hodinkee video). None of these are cheap but you get what you pay for. Single piece leather is tricky, most are thick and I do not like to use bent spring bars on my watches. These do fit some of my pieces with a wider gap between the spring bar and I wear them. I am a big fan of both Soturi and Zanes. Rubber: I have owned a few from Everest and overall have been happy with them. There are plenty of options on the market here and quality generally coincides with price. Elastic MN Straps: I have a MN strap from NDC straps which I like and have heard great things about Erika’s Originals.  A great way to change up your watch. A new strap can completely change the feel of your watch.  Most watches are 20 mm or 22 mm so if you buy a handful of straps you can rotate them between your watches. (Photo Credit: @navs.watch) General Advice & Tips: As you look to expand your collection, here are some general tips that we use as a north star.  Remember, none of these are hard and fast rules: Buy what makes you happy; no one else cares what you are wearing and 99.9% of people will not notice the watch you have on your wrist. (This one is cliché but it’s entirely true.) Buy the watch you can afford. You won't be happy if you spend more than you can afford.  “Buyer’s remorse” is real and can undermine the sense of satisfaction from wearing the watch.  DO NOT FINANCE YOUR WATCH. Don't buy for investment. Your watch may appreciate in value, but buy with the expectation you will wear it until you die (and a loved one will wear it after you die). Values are generally trending downward in the watch world anyway. That’s not what they’re made for, and treating a watch like a financial instrument takes away something from the passion. When in doubt, stick with a known brand: Seiko, Sinn, Rolex, Breitling, Omega, Tudor, JLC, IWC, Bremont, Patek, etc.  There are some great micro brands out there (like Tornek-Rayville, Sangin Instruments, Elliot Brown etc), but also a lot with smoke and mirrors, especially in the “tactical” space. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Any worthwhile watch company wasn’t either.  When you do decide to go into the micro-brand space, do your homework. Buy the seller and build a relationship with that person. If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.  A lot of people have had great experiences with Ebay and other online forums, but there is something about building a relationship with the actual person selling the watch that makes it special. Plus, it’s very easy to get burned on Ebay. It’s less easy to get burned by someone you know and trust. Take your time. Do your research. Even if you have the money to buy the watch you want right away, spend time learning about the different variations and history of the reference or brand. This will likely change your outlook and make you appreciate the watch you end up with even more. (James Rupley) As a closing remark, don't feel like you need a "luxury watch," a ~$500 watch can be just as meaningful as a $5,000 watch. Remember, those Speedmasters that went to the moon and the 1675 GMT-Master examples that our pilot heroes wore were all value buys back in the day. They weren’t luxury products in that period.  As we have said many times, the man makes the watch, not the other way around. Vintage Watches: Lastly, if you are just starting out, we recommend staying away from vintage watches.  While there are some great deals out there and it is a lot of fun, it is not for the uninitiated.  There are plenty of fakes at every level and it is easy to get ripped off if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.  Additionally, old watches come with old problems, this can be exciting once you have a handful of watches in your collection, but sending your sole watch off for service for 3 months doesn’t make for a good time.    If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE.   Read Next: Blackwater Breitling - The Story

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The W.O.E. Tudor PVD Pelagos FXD

The W.O.E. Tudor PVD Pelagos FXD

Customizing my dream watch, the W.O.E. PVD Pelagos FXD When Tudor released the Black Pelagos FXD last year, I instantly knew I wanted one to...

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Customizing my dream watch, the W.O.E. PVD Pelagos FXD When Tudor released the Black Pelagos FXD last year, I instantly knew I wanted one to land in my collection.  Watches of Espionage is vehemently brand agnostic, but we have a special respect for Tudor, given the brand's seven-plus decade relationship with our community.  The FXD platform is the latest manifestation of this particular relationship. It’s the only modern “luxury” watch that was developed for not one, but two, modern SpecOps units. And I don’t mean a special edition made for a specific unit–the entire design, and every design decision, of the FXD stems from a particular use case in the SpecOps world.  That said, I already had the blue French “Commando Hubert” version. Was it prudent to want the same watch, just in black?   Of course. This whole passion is irrational anyway.  But if I was going to go for this watch, I wanted to do something different with it.  Over the past six months, I worked with several craftsmen to customize the FXD to make it mine, a poor man's “pièce unique”. The first thing we did was PVD’d the titanium fixed spring bar case resulting in a striking black-on-black look. This of course involves taking the whole case apart and PVDing each element, including the bezel. The PVD also has a mostly matte finish, so it matches the ceramic bezel insert well. Even though this was going to be mine, I wanted to maintain a standard that could have come from the factory. And since the caseback is sterile from the factory, we topped it off by engraving a W.O.E. insignia. Every watch has meaning, and this one commemorates the establishment of W.O.E. as a community, an accomplishment I never set out to achieve. The last step was designing a new handmade strap with our friends at Zulu Alpha, the W.O.E.-ZA 4.0 (available HERE).  That’s an overview of the watch; now I’ll get into the thought process behind each detail and my philosophy behind modifying this particular piece.  The W.O.E. FXD The W.O.E. FXD (if I can be vain enough to call it that) is a homage, a term that may conjure images of Seikos modified to look like Rolex – something that I am personally not a fan of.  But it’s an homage in the true sense of the word, specifically to the SpecOps who modified their Tudor MilSubs for operational use. One popular narrative is that the Orfina Porsche Design Chronograph I was the first PVD watch. However, SpecOps personnel modified their Swiss tool watches long before that.  Most notably, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Shayetet 13 (S-13) frogmen darkened their issued Tudor Submariner 7928 in the late 1960s, crudely painting them black to prevent glare and reflection of the steel cases.  For Special Operations personnel, and particularly those in a maritime environment, the glint of a watch during an operation could have lethal consequences.  The watches were tools, and they were modified to carry out their job effectively.  While it’s nearly impossible to trace the lineage of PVD watches for every brand, military applications likely had a direct impact on this development of all PVD watches. In fact, Rolex's only known “black” dive watch was a one-off blacked out version of the MilSub Ref. 5513 for the South African Special Forces.  While Rolex didn’t roll out PVD in a commercial capacity, its sister brand, Tudor, would go on to produce PVD watches in later years, whether directly influenced by the S-13 and other military units we can only speculate.  But heritage matters; it informs every decision a brand makes. PVD: StealthMaxx DLC Finish Recalling that our friend Cole Pennington PVD’d an Arabic Seiko for a Hodinkee Magazine article, I contacted Jack at International Watch Works, a family-owned business.  When asked about the feasibility of PVD’ing the titanium case, he said it was not a problem; he had in fact just completed PVD’ing a blue Marine Nationale FXD (which turned out to be for Tom Place, a stuntman searching for his long-lost Rolex at the bottom of a lake).  The process was relatively simple.  Jack disassembled the watch and coated every bit of titanium, leaving the dial assembly and ceramic bezel insert to the side.  “PVD” is an abbreviation for Physical Vapor Deposition. It’s a process, not necessarily a coating. A solid material is selected, in this case diamond like carbon (DLC), to coat a base metal or substrate surface. That material is vaporized and deposited on the base or substrate material, bonding molecularly with the base material. The PVD/DLC coating is so fine that the serial numbers and factory engravings on the caseback are still visible even after the coating. It’s only microns thick; it’s not thick enough to obscure the characteristics of the case. Having worn the watch daily and with a lot of time in the pool and ocean, I have noticed no wear or abrasion on the coating, although I wouldn’t necessarily view scars as a bad thing.  During our conversation, Jack informed me that he has PVD’d watches for SpecOps personnel for years, which comes as no surprise given his location in North Carolina. Engraving: Always Read the Caseback The W.O.E. insignia signifies a very deep meaning for many in our community, with influence from the spearhead worn by our predecessors in the WWII-era Office of Strategic Services (OSS) as well as modern day intel and SpecOps units.  Today, this insignia has become an important part of my life. It’s a source of pride that I don’t share with many.  The caseback engraving is covered by the strap and that’s just how I like it. It's not for you, it’s for me.  The deep diamond tip engraving through the PVD into the titanium creates a more substantial profile and a stark contrast to the black case. It’s bold. Looking at it, it’s easy to see how much meaning comes with it.  W.O.E. - Zulu Alpha 4.0 Strap As a “fixed” springbar case, the Pelagos FXD is often called a “strap monster”-- a term so overused it’s become meaningless. Yes, any 22mm strap will work on the watch, but it’s really about finding the right strap. With a customization like this, I wanted to ensure the strap was the perfect match–subtle enough not to overshadow the watch. So I reached out to our friends at UK-based and veteran owned Zulu Alpha Straps to create a unique design that honored our ethos as a community and tapped into the traditions of those who came before us.  The result is an understated olive allied green strap with a discreet W.O.E. spearhead-only insignia applied between the strap keepers, which is covered up when worn. Again, it’s not about showing the insignia. Like the caseback, it’s obscured when the watch is worn.  The development of this strap coincided with Zulu Alpha’s latest iteration of the “OTAN” strap and significant performance enhancements.  To promote longevity, the strap has a narrower tang, round holes, and a slightly shorter length at 30 cm.  The “patch” was adhered directly to the strap with a new technology developed by ZA, resulting in a OEM feel.  While we never planned to commercialize this version, we knew we would receive many requests, so this is dubbed, the W.O.E.-ZA 4.0. Photo Credit: Rob / @rw_m100 Dial Modification I have considered customizing the dial with a red W.O.E. at 6 o’clock.  That said, this would require a complete dial refinish.  While the watch is striking to those who know the FXD, when worn it's a more subtle customization as there are no visible insignias.  Discretion is a prized attribute in our field, if you know, you know is the way. Controversy of Watch Customization Customizing watches is a major point of contention in the collecting community, with many “purists” believing the watches should remain as they were originally designed.  Turning this upside-down, London-based George Bamford originally made a name for himself in the 2000s for customizing Rolex watches into unconventional designs, much to the chagrin of the Swiss luxury brands.   Bamford Watch modification (A Blog to Watch) However, times have changed, and Bamford has since been embraced by many watch houses and even has joint customizations programs with major brands including Zenith and Tag Heuer.  Further, “mod culture” as it’s known appears to have trickled into mainstream design and while the suits in Geneva would never admit it, the new Day-Date “emoji dial” is certainly reminiscent of a customized dial treatment than a traditional Rolex design.   Will we see a PVD FXD released from Tudor? Tudor’s playbook is simple.  It designs a watch, releases it to the masses and then iterates on that design with size, material, and color schemes.  This process has led some detractors to criticize the brand (Do we really need another Black Bay?)--but in the end, it works.  While selfishly I hope this remains one of the few “PVD FXDs,” it would be an easy win for Tudor to produce this design for the masses and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a version become available to the public in the coming years. A Few Thoughts To the uninitiated, this article may seem like a waste of time.  So, what, you painted your watch black?  Maybe. But it’s never just a watch.  When I look at this watch, I think of the people that made both it and W.O.E. a reality, and of all the times it’s been on my wrist.  No matter where this platform goes, it will always hold a special place because it is uniquely mine. There Are No Rules We are of the strong belief that there are no rules when it comes to timepieces.  If you want to polish your Rolex every few years to keep it looking shiny, do it.  If your dream is to modify your Patek to look like a Seiko, have fun.  If you want to put aftermarket diamonds on your AP to celebrate making it out of the trap, congratulations.   Don’t let conventional wisdom and outside pressure dictate how you enjoy this passion. Life’s too short to live in a box dictated by the watch industry suits or hype collectors pushing an agenda.  Have fun, use your tools, and don't take things too seriously.  -- If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our free weekly newsletter for further updates HERE.  Sincere appreciation to my dear friend and master of his craft James Rupley for capturing these pictures of the W.O.E. FXD and really bringing it to life for the community. Read Next: James Bond Should Wear a Rolex

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A Mystery Death in Oslo, an Intelligence Op Gone Wrong?

A Mystery Death in Oslo, an Intelligence Op Gone Wrong?

An unidentified woman was found dead in a luxury Oslo hotel.  Was “Jennifer Fairgate” an assassin, spy or a troubled woman looking to disappear? Her...

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An unidentified woman was found dead in a luxury Oslo hotel.  Was “Jennifer Fairgate” an assassin, spy or a troubled woman looking to disappear? Her timepiece is a clue to solving a complex puzzle that reads like a Hollywood thriller. 3 June 1995, Oslo Plaza Hotel, Room 2805 The woman’s body was sprawled out on the bed, a pistol lay awkwardly in her right hand with her thumb still on the trigger– a single entry wound to her forehead. An apparent suicide; but investigators quickly noticed several anomalies: the woman had no identification and the room was absent of any clues to her true identity.  In fact, she had gone to great lengths to conceal her identity, first by checking into the room in alias and paying cash, and further, she removed the labels from the limited clothing in the room and even the serial numbers on the Browning 9 mm pistol that was found with her.  There was no way of telling who she was or what she was doing, except for one obscure clue. The only item that was not modified to remove identifiers was her watch, a Citizen Aqualand worn on her left wrist. VG/Police Evidence Photo By any definition, the Aqualand is a robust tool watch and specifically a dive watch with strong military provenance with versions issued to many units including the British Special Boat Service (SBS) and Danish Frogman Corps. The clunky Aqualand was not the expected watch of a young fashionable Belgian woman; it was seemingly out of place.  Oslo Mystery Nearly three decades later, the death of “Jennifer Fairgate” is still a mystery.  Some theories about her death are certainly influenced by Hollywood's portrayal of the intelligence world–many speculate that she may have been an “operative” or “assassin.”   At W.O.E., we offer a fact-based assessment of her tradecraft (and watch) in an effort to better understand the reality of these so-called “operative” theories.  The more we explore this incident, the more we’re left with questions rather than answers. However one thing is for sure–her Citizen is a piece of the puzzle that could offer clues to her identity and trade.  Artistic rendering of “Jennifer Fairgate” (Harald Nygård) 29 May 1995, Oslo, Norway The woman checked into an upscale hotel three days prior without a credit card, using the throwaway alias “Jennifer Fergate.”  Conflicting reports indicate she may have been with a man, “Lois Fairgate'', who was later added to the room registration.  ‘Jennifer’ provided a nonexistent address in Belgium on the registration card, and she wrote down a date of birth that indicated she was 21 years old, though forensic pathologists would determine she was approximately 30 years old.  As detailed in a Netflix series Unsolved Mysteries, she spent the next few days outside the room with a Do Not Disturb sign on the door.   On June 3rd, a number of days after she had checked in, hotel staff knocked on room 2805 in an attempt to collect payment from Fairgate. While a member of the hotel staff was at the door, a gunshot was heard inside. The employee left the room unsupervised for 15 minutes as he retrieved the head of security.  When they returned, the room was locked from the inside.  When they entered the room they reportedly smelled gunpowder, presumably from the recent shot fired in a confined space, and saw the dead body lying on the bed, shoes still on. VG/Police Evidence Photo While Occam's razor would lead to the conclusion that this was a distraught woman set on committing suicide and disappearing forever, many have speculated that she was in fact an “intelligence operative,” maybe even an “assassin” disposed of after a failed assignment.  In the documentary, former Norwegian Intelligence Service officer Ola Kaldager assessed ‘Jennifer’ was an intelligence officer and her death was meant to look like a suicide, even though she was, according to Kaldager, executed.  Intelligence Officer Tradecraft? From a tradecraft perspective, Fairgate’s profile is potentially consistent with that of an intelligence officer.  The use of hotels for operational purposes is as old as espionage itself and is still a common practice today (though much more difficult with the rise of Ubiquitous Technical Surveillance).  Based on logs from the keycard reader, she was absent from the room for extended periods of time, at one point for approximately 20 hours, which could indicate operational activity.  While at CIA, I often leveraged similar tradecraft to what was used by ‘Jennifer’ when it came to hotel meetings and operational travel.  The use of “throwaway aliases” is common, and Russian “illegals” even go as far as to assume the identity of a deceased child, the name and date of birth collected by Directorate S assets from graveyard or church registries. Another element that points to “Jennifer” having utilized tradecraft has to do with her clothing. A search of the room revealed few personal items, except for several changes of clothes for her upper body including sweaters and trenchcoats, which could be used for profile changes while operational.  While removing tags from clothes is not necessarily common, intel collectors are trained to remove all pocket litter or anything identifiable when in alias. Assassination? There was a 15-minute gap between the sound of the gunshot and the arrival of hotel security.  The room was locked from the inside, something that in theory could have been done by a professional during a hasty escape. Investigators have pointed out the awkward grip of the pistol and the fact that there was no blood splatter on “Jennifer’s” hand as possible indications that there was another shooter.  There was a second bullet hole through a pillow and into the mattress, which in theory could have been a test shot from Jennifer or a warning shot to scare the hotel attendant at the door.  Of note, many intelligence services have carried out targeted killings (assassinations) with the goal of making it look like a suicide, most notably the Russian KGB/FSB and Israeli Mossad, two services with a history of operational activity in Norway. The Watch The Citizen Aqualand is a purpose-built and robust tool watch, designed specifically for subaquatic duty, complete with a depth gauge and a no-decompression limit (NDL) chart on the strap. When it comes to tool watches, this is about as tool-like as it gets.  Various references of the Aqualand have been issued to and worn by Special Operations maritime units throughout Europe, including the Italian Navy, UK Special Operations, and notably, the Danish Frogman Corps (Frømandskorpset). That the watch is issued to the Danish Frogmen Corps is noteworthy, as it neighbors Norway, where the “Jennifer” was found.  Tony, a British SBS operator, 25 November 2001, Qala-i Jangi, Afghanistan wearing a Citizen Aqualand Dive Pro Master, which was issued to SBS “Z-Squadron" which specialized in underwater attack and insertion using Swimmer Delivery Vehicles (SDV) While correlation doesn't equal causation, the Citizen Aqualand is not a watch one wears by accident and wearing it starkly contrasts the semi-fashionable outfits found with the woman.  In the intelligence business, a robust watch is a must and the dual analog/digital features would be an effective tool of espionage.  In the 1990s, the Aqualand was popular amongst divers.  It is entirely possible the woman behind Jennifer Fairgate was a diving enthusiast who lived by or traveled frequently to the coast.  As Jason Heaton, diving enthusiast and friend of W.O.E., would later say, “the Aqualand became, in effect, the last dive watch built for, and bought by, real divers who needed a tool for timing dives.” No-deco limits printed on the strap (Jason Heaton) It’s an analytical leap to conclude that because the watch has strong ties to the military and is an issued watch, that “Jennifer” was an intelligence officer.  But what can the watch tell us? To know, we have to look beyond simply the make and model of the watch. Tracing the Watch According to an investigative report by newspaper VG, the Citizen Aqualand reference CQ-1021-50 was manufactured three years prior in January 1992 with the serial number C022-088093 Y, 2010779, GN-4-S. This was confirmed by Citizen at in Japan. The watch contained three Swiss-made Renata 370-type batteries made in December 1994.  The batteries were crudely engraved “W395,” which investigators believed means they were installed March 1995 and “W'' may indicate the initials of the watchmaker.   Some online outlets have suggested the watch was purchased in Germany, but there is no substantial proof of this claim.  The watch was reportedly later sold at a police auction.  Of note, Watchmakers often record their work on the inside caseback of a watch with a light engraving, or in this case, on the battery itself with a hand-engraved note. It lets other watchmakers know in the future what’s been done and when.  Wilderness of Mirrors The intelligence world is often referred to as the “wilderness of mirrors,” a  space where the truth is complicated and nothing is as it seems.  We spoke with John Sipher, who ran the CIA’s Russia operations, for his assessment in the incident.  Sipher, who also served in Nordic countries during the 90s, explained that Norway and Scandinavian countries have long been of interest to Russia due to the proximity and strategic issues including the Baltic Sea, oil, and as an opening to Western Europe.  In fact, as recently as October 2022, Norway’s domestic security agency arrested Mikhail Mikushin, a suspected Russian GRU (military intelligence) “illegal” posing as a Brazilian academic, José Assis Giammaria. Anna Chapman, A Russian “Illegal” arrested in the US as part of the Illegals Program, a Ulysse Nardin on her wrist.   Given the information available, Sipher said that it is possible Fairgate was a Russian intelligence officer or asset, but that it’s just as likely she was involved in organized crime, and that the two were not always mutually exclusive during that period.  Russian Organized Crime Sipher explained that in the 1990s many former KGB officers had gone on to work for organized crime after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  KGB “formers'' were some of the few Russians that knew how to use international banks and could effectively carry out tasks in Europe. In fact, in the post-Cold War years there was “much more overlap of Russian organized crime and intelligence and the two were often synonymous.”  Sipher pointed us to a quote by former Director of CIA James Woolsey from 1993-1995: “If you should strike up a conversation with an articulate English-speaking Russian… wearing a $3,000 suit and a pair of Gucci loafers, and he tells you that he is an executive of a Russian trading company…then there are four possibilities. He may be what he says he is. He may be a Russian intelligence officer working under commercial cover. He may be part of a Russian organized crime group. But the really interesting possibility is that he may be all three and none of those three institutions have any problem with the arrangement.” While she may fit the profile of a Russian intelligence officer, asset or “illegal,” there is a lack of indicators connecting Fairgate directly to Russia.   East German Intelligence Former East German Intelligence “Stasi” compound in Berlin. Sipher further explained a similar phenomenon with former East German intelligence officers leveraging their skills for employment after the unification of Germany and disbandment of the East German Stasi (Ministry for State Security).  Stasi officers had close contact with Soviet officials, were renowned for their sharpness and capabilities, and were often recruited by Russian services to carry out operations in Europe.  German nationals could easily move around Europe without raising suspicions. Stasi ID card used by then-KGB officer Vladimir Putin from 1985-1990 in Dresden, East Germany.  The card was found in a Stasi archive. While this is informed speculation, it’s possible that Fairgate was a former East German intelligence officer working on behalf of Russian intelligence or a criminal organization.  There are several indications that Fairgate had ties to East Germany including her accent when checking in and forensic analysis of her DNA.  Some of her clothes, including potentially her watch, originated in Germany. This links back to the theory that the watch was serviced in Germany. Mossad, Israel and The Oslo Accords The Oslo Plaza Hotel was also reportedly one of the locations of secret negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian authorities for the Oslo II Accord, signed a few months after Fairgate’s death.  While evidence is only circumstantial, it is possible that there is some nexus to this event and that Fairgate was an Israeli operative or the target of a Mossad assassination.  Mossad has a long history of both deep cover operations and targeted killings.  In January 2010, a team of Mossad operatives (many under European alias) assassinated Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in his hotel room in Dubai using an injection to make it appear to be of natural causes.  They locked the room from the inside and the body was not discovered until the following day. Israeli operative (tennis players) track Mahmoud al-Mabhouh to his hotel room. In fact, Mossad has carried out at least one botched assassination in Norway: in 1973, when a hit team mistook a Moroccan waiter for that of Black September member Hassan Salameh, they shot him 13 times with a 22-caliber pistol, in what became known in intelligence circles as the “Lillehammer Affair.”  While there is nothing directly connecting Fairgate to Israel, Mossad is widely known to use dual-citizens for covert and clandestine operations.   It is important to note, while Israel has issued several dive watches to elite units, we are not aware of any direct tie between the Citizen Aqualand and Israeli Defense Forces or Mossad. Black September member Hassan Salameh, target of Israeli assassination program after Munich attack. Conclusion While we cannot say definitively, there are several anomalies with this case that suggest the woman known as “Jennifer Fairgate” may have been involved in intelligence activity. That said, it’s also entirely possible that she was involved in some other illicit activity or potentially worked as an escort.  Espionage is often referred to as the “world's second oldest profession” and at times has a similar profile to the first. The reality of the intelligence world is more mundane than portrayed in Hollywood.  That said, assassinations, deep cover, and high-stakes movie-like operations certainly do happen.  In intelligence collection, the mosaic of puzzle pieces are rarely all collected and for now the picture of this event is opaque. We’re only seeing part of the story, and perhaps it’s not even the ending.      This could have been a covert operation carried out by the Russians, Israelis or a host of other services, but it is just as likely it was the case of a desperate woman, looking to leave this world behind without a trace.  If that is the case, she certainly achieved her goal. The watch is still an outstanding clue and may be the only lead to her identity.  Somewhere there is a watch maker who installed the battery in that watch, which may provide additional information on her origin. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE.   *For more information on this incident, check out the Netflix series Unsolved Mysteries and the comprehensive investigative report by VG, “Mystery at the Oslo Plaza”  -- This Dispatch has been reviewed by the CIA’s Prepublication Classification Review Board to prevent the disclosure of classified information. READ NEXT: Special Boat Service OMEGA Seamaster

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Sangin Instruments - The Marine Owned “Raider Rolex”

Sangin Instruments - The Marine Owned “Raider Rolex”

Sangin Instruments - The Marine Owned “Raider Rolex” I first heard of Sangin Instruments during TDY travel to a WarZone while at CIA.  At the...

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Sangin Instruments - The Marine Owned “Raider Rolex” I first heard of Sangin Instruments during TDY travel to a WarZone while at CIA.  At the time I was responsible for a counterterrorism Covert Action program in the Middle East and I was traveling to visit the program on a flight with other CIA officers.  (REDACTED PARAGRAPH) The atmosphere on the plane was a Star Wars bar vibe, with bearded paramilitary officers, support personnel and analysts, all dressed in civilian clothing that varied from business casual to a college campus look and of course the obligatory new camping gear from REI.  Like most things at CIA, rules were relaxed and the plane filled with professionals who didn’t need to be told which rules actually mattered. During a refuel stop in a European country, I struck up a conversation with the individual sitting next to me who I assessed (correctly) was a GRS (Global Response Staff) contractor reading a book on the Rhodesian Bush War. The conversation moved from evolution counterterrorism tactics, the ongoing conflict in our destination country and finally watches. The operator asked about the Rolex Submariner on my wrist, and was quick to interject that he used to wear his Sub during deployments but lost it in a recent divorce, so now wears a Sangin watch. He then launched into a passionate pitch for the company and an overview of what the Sangin brand represents. Sangin in the wild during Orion space capsule recovery (Sangin community photo) At the time, my interest in watches was surface level. But during that trip and following deployments I began to notice Sangin Instruments on the wrists of SpecOps personnel, CIA paramilitary officers, and other case officers.  In the business we call this a pattern. Like many watch companies, Sangin was a subculture in itself. Very much a “if you know, you know” type thing. I wanted to learn more about the watch that seemed to keep appearing on the wrist of professionals in this world. So I reached out to one of the two founders, Jacob Servantes to learn about how the company came to be.   (Sangin community photo) Sangin Instruments  Watches are a medium for stories, but for Jacob Servantes, Marine Raider and founder of Sangin Instruments, they provided even more.  “You come out of the military depressed as hell. At the professional level we were at, a lot of what you do becomes who you are. And when you leave, the machine just keeps going . . . so Sangin gave me a lot of purpose out of the military.” Servantes enlisted in 2008 as the economy was crumbling, hoping to earn some money for college on the other side of his service. The goal was to follow his father’s footsteps and become a Reconnaissance Marine.  At the time, he wasn't aware that a restructuring in 2006 would mean that elements of the Marine Corps would participate in SOCOM, resulting in MARSOC. He ended up squarely in the special operations community.  A rare photo of Jacob on deployment in Afghanistan. It was during selection that he walked away with his first lesson that he would incorporate into Sangin Instruments–become the new standard.  Become the New Standard Not much was publicly known about the Raider selection process, and that’s by design. But Servantes recounted the biggest takeaway was that the standard to be selected by the instructors only moved in one direction: it became harder and harder. When Marines rose to the standard, and exceeded it, their standard became the new standard. “We used to joke that the mattress fairy would take people away at night, because every night you would see fewer and fewer people,” Servantes recalled. In his class, a group of 120 hopeful Marines were deposited in an undisclosed location somewhere in North Carolina. 25 people were selected after a grueling three weeks and countless miles of rucking/team events. Each class sets the standard for the next class, meaning that the standard is constantly being raised. It always gets harder, and that idea is something Servantes has incorporated into the way Sangin Instruments does things, “selection is continuous.” (Sangin community photo) Sangin, Afghanistan The name of Servantes’ company comes from Sangin, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, an area along the Helmand River Valley where the Commando team he worked on spent much of their deployment. Sangin is a place that many who served during the GWOT will be familiar with, and it was known as “the most dangerous place in the world for multiple years running–the hospital on base was the busiest hospital, anywhere, at the time.” Servantes says. That’s part of why he chose the name Sangin Instruments. “Sangin is a horrible place in the world–many guys attribute awful memories to Sangin, but they’ll carry this name with them and hopefully have a positive memory about breaking down barriers, and their own sacrifices and achievements.”  (Photo Credit: James Rupley) Building a watch company is not for the fainthearted and bringing the brand to life was an achievement in itself. It almost didn’t happen. But the can-do attitude prevailed. He got back from a deployment and told his wife that he’d put in his time with special operations. During his time in the Middle East and the Philippines, he wore a M-1 Breitling Chrono Avenger (sketchy) and several Digital Tool Watches. While deployed, he'd been thinking about watch designs based on the work he was doing. He tested the market among his friends and colleagues in the military and conceptualized a watch that would be affordable and capable. A watch that would stand up to the type of work they were doing while also speaking to the community.  Watches Built For Warriors Servantes’ wife, Paris, bought the idea. This was 2017. After some help from his mentor, Bill Yao of popular watch microbrand MK II, they had a prototype. And following the evaluation of the prototype, Sangin launched a successful pre-sale that would help fund the initial batch of 250 watches called the Kinetic 1. The only problem was that Paypal held the funding without explanation and would not release it to obtain the watches. Paris reached into her savings and a small inheritance; Servantes had his bonus from his last Afghanistan deployment. Between them, they scraped together the cash and bet big on Sangin Instruments working out. They were in a squeeze, but Servantes had a steadfast partner in his wife, who learned how to do Quality Control on all the watches and packaged them up and answered customer emails while he was in business school. W.O.E.’s personal Sangin Overlord Believing in Sangin Instruments paid off, but it was never the plan–the primary objective was to take care of the community and make a product to be proud of. The first round of watches was delivered and the phones haven’t stopped ringing since.  “Part of the culture of watches in general is wanting to have a part of something you’ve done. So when these guys leave the military, they can take a piece of that experience with them,” Servantes says of his watches.  (Sangin community photo) Sangin Today  Today, Sangin boasts an impressive line of watches, from the entry level quartz Overlord to the premium newly released Hydra, Sangin’s interpretation of a mid-century compressor-style diver's watch. The community remains an important part of Sangin’s identity with customers demonstrating a near religious fervor as they wait for the next release. Sangin also offers several watches that must be earned.  The “Para” Overlord is only available to members of the airborne community and would-be customers must submit a certification verification.  The green bezel Atlas and Neptune are available only to those who have completed a SOF selection course, red for first responders and blue for law enforcement personnel.  They are tools for professionals. Jacob was mum on the ongoing special projects “unit watches” but a custom Professional made for the CIA Directors Protective Staff (DPS) was recently for sale on Ebay (but quickly disappeared without explanation).  Suffice to say, we are aware of several special projects for units in the IC and SpecOps community but cannot go into details at this time. Ebay listing of Sangin Professional for the CIA’s Directors Protective Staff. (Ebay)  Sangin Instruments - “With You” As Sangin grows, Servantes makes sure that giving back and taking care of the community he comes from is part of it. Servantes has developed watches that specifically speak to a community of men and women who serve. As he grew the business, an unlikely presence in the watch world supercharged the number of people interested in Sangin. “Rolex helped us out with their price point and availability. You have a lot of Green Berets who finally could afford a Rolex but just couldn't get them. And here we were offering something specifically for them,” he says.  Informally, many refer to Sangin watches as the “Raider Rolex.” Now Servantes will run into guys who tell him that they have a few deployments on their watch, and the memories of service are imbued into the timepiece. That’s exactly what makes Servantes and Paris continue to push Sangin forward. A part of the Sangin Instruments mission that Servantes doesn’t publicly put forward is his support of important nonprofits contributing to those in the veteran community, including HunterSeven Foundation, Special Operations Care Fund (SOC-F) and Vigilant Torch. One of the altruistic motivations of the W.O.E. platform is preserving watch culture in the NatSec community. No one has done more to further this end than the team at Sangin Instruments. Many of us came up in the GWOT days where digital watches were the norm. Sangin offers a great way for professionals to get into watches in an unpretentious manner. -- If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE.  This Dispatch has been reviewed by the CIA’s Prepublication Classification Review Board to prevent the disclosure of classified information. READ NEXT: Demystifying a North Korean State-Sponsored Luxury Wristwatch Awarded to High-Ranking Officials

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Top Dispatch Articles of 2023 - Watches of Espionage

Top Dispatch Articles of 2023 - Watches of Espionage

Top Dispatch Articles of 2023 - Watches of Espionage  As 2023 comes to a close, we take a look at the top Dispatch articles from...

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Top Dispatch Articles of 2023 - Watches of Espionage  As 2023 comes to a close, we take a look at the top Dispatch articles from the year.  Thank you for all of your support, we look forward to a great year in 2024. -W.O.E. 10. Hollywood Watches of Espionage Mercenaries, Arms Dealers, CIA Contractors, and Navy SEALs – a timepiece can complement a fictional character. Watches play a significant role in film. An accurate depiction of a character often includes a watch they might actually wear, and this is especially true in the military, intelligence and espionage genre. When this happens, it lends a sense of credibility to the work.  This is likely a mixture of art imitating life and vice versa.  Believe it or not, we know plenty of real “spies” and “operators” whose watch choices were influenced by movies.  The Bond Omega and Bond Rolex are obvious ones. But other watches are also featured on the silver screen, and we’ll explore them here. Continue Reading 9. Trading a Rolex to Get out of a Sticky Situation - Myth or Reality? The "Escape and Evasion" Rolex The final requirement to be certified as a CIA Case Officer (C/O) is to pass the certification course at a classified government training center commonly referred to as “the Farm.”  Students learn the tradecraft to clandestinely recruit and handle assets.  The entire learning process is a surreal experience, and the atmosphere at “the Farm” is somewhere between a college campus with a constant stream of students riding by on cruiser bikes (IYKYK), a covert paramilitary base with state-of-the-art tactical facilities, and Hogwarts, a place where you learn the dark arts they don’t teach in regular school. Continue Reading 8. Bond: A Case for Omega Here, we will first share the full story of Omega’s origins with James Bond, followed by a detailed analysis of the history of product placement in Bond, and the critical role it plays in keeping the franchise alive. While this piece does not serve as a direct response to the first Dispatch, it aims to present a more thorough history of Bond, offer a better understanding of why adjustments have been made, and propose a case for why we can celebrate Omega’s inclusion in 007’s history Continue Reading 7. Remembering the Legacy of Billy Waugh Through His Watches Former CIA Paramilitary Officer Billy Waugh passed away at the age of 93 exactly one week ago; but we don’t mourn his death–instead we celebrate his incredible life of service in the best way we know how–through his timepieces. William “Billy” Waugh is the Forest Gump of CIA and Special Forces with a larger than life personality and an uncanny knack for adventure. At the conclusion of WWII he attempted to enlist in the United States Marine Corps at age 15. His age got in the way, but three years later, in ‘48, he successfully enlisted in the United States Army, launching a career that would become nothing short of legendary in the Special Operations community. Continue Reading 6. Advice for Buying a Watch The Watches of Espionage community can be broken down into two segments: professional watch nerds tired of the traditional watch media; and complete newbies, those initially attracted by Military and Intelligence content but with little interest in watches.  Over time, the latter group usually develops an interest in watches and regularly asks where to begin.   This Dispatch is for you, newbies.  It’s a cheat sheet for breaking into the world of watches. Our goal is simple: to cultivate and preserve watch culture in the NatSec community.  We have no commercial relationships with any of the brands mentioned, and we’re brand-agnostic. Continue Reading 5. The History Of Casio G-Shocks And The US Military The History Of G-Shocks And The US Military - Benjamin Lowry Forty years have passed since the introduction of the Casio G-Shock in 1983. And while the basic formula behind the world’s most durable watch has remained largely unchanged since the legendary DW-5000C first hit store shelves, the world of warfare and the United States Military in particular have made significant strides in both equipment and tactical doctrine. Conflicts in Panama, the Persian Gulf, and Bosnia/Herzegovina were waged in a bygone analog era, influenced by lessons learned in the Vietnam War. But the terrorist attacks of September 11th changed all of that, embroiling the United States in a new type of war based on counter-insurgency in the digitally-augmented age. Continue Reading 4. CIA Officers and Apple Watches Counterintelligence Risks of Smart Watches “Apple watches are for nerds.”   Though we don’t actually think this, it’s easy to understand how one could come to that conclusion. The Apple Watch of today could be seen as the “calculator watch” of the ‘90s–in other words, a product with a nerdy association. One thing we can say is that smart watches are NOT/NOT for intelligence officers.  Smart watches, like the Apple Watch, offer significant lifestyle benefits: fitness tracking, optimizing communication, and sleep monitoring.  However, for CIA Human Intelligence (HUMINT) collectors who rely on anonymity to securely conduct clandestine operations, the networked device is a counterintelligence (CI) vulnerability and potential opportunity for exploitation. For every benefit the Apple Watch provides, it also comes with a threat. Continue Reading 3. CIA Case Officer’s Everyday Carry - EDC A Real “Spy’s” Every Day Carry (EDC)  We get a lot of questions about “everyday carry,” commonly known as “EDC.” So in light of these requests, we want to provide some insight into our typical EDC and what I carried as a CIA Case Officer (C/O) in Africa and the Middle East. Continue Reading 2. Tudors of Espionage (T.O.E.s) The Shield Protects the Crown:  W.O.E. is a watch snob–or at least I was. For years, I looked down on Tudor as an inferior tool watch existing in the shadow of its big brother Rolex. I never understood why someone with a Rolex would purchase a Tudor.  After all, Tudor is a poor man's Rolex, or so I thought. Most haters are motivated by insecurity, but my views were simply shaped by ignorance. I didn’t know much about Tudor and was unaware of Tudor’s long standing relationship with the Intelligence and Special Operations communities, a personally relevant intersection. Continue Reading 1. Casio F-91W, the Preferred Watch of Terrorists The Terrorist Timepiece - Casio F-91W The Casio F-91W’s reputation looms large in both horology and national security circles, and for good reason. The simple, cheap and effective plastic watch is likely one of the most ubiquitous timepieces on the planet, with an estimated three million produced each year since sometime in the early 1990s. However, the watch that is coveted by hipsters and former presidents alike has a more sinister utility: it has been used to deadly effect as a timer for explosive charges and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and worn regularly by members of al-Qaeda, ISIS and other transnational militant groups. Continue Reading

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Advice for Buying a Watch

Advice for Buying a Watch

The Watches of Espionage community can be broken down into two segments: professional watch nerds tired of the traditional watch media; and complete newbies, those...

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The Watches of Espionage community can be broken down into two segments: professional watch nerds tired of the traditional watch media; and complete newbies, those initially attracted by Military and Intelligence content but with little interest in watches.  Over time, the latter group usually develops an interest in watches and regularly asks where to begin.   This Dispatch is for you, newbies.  It’s a cheat sheet for breaking into the world of watches. Our goal is simple: to cultivate and preserve watch culture in the NatSec community.  We have no commercial relationships with any of the brands mentioned, and we’re brand-agnostic. (James Rupley) Step 1: Do your research:  There are more resources than ever on watches, and if you are reading this then you’ve already demonstrated that you’re far enough down the rabbit hole and you want to know more.  We at W.O.E. do not do traditional watch reviews- but other platforms do and do it well.  Hodinkee, Bark and Jack, Teddy Baldassarre, Fratello, aBlogtoWatch, etc.  There are plenty of great outlets with different perspectives putting out content on Youtube, online editorial platforms, and podcasts. But it’s important to exercise caution when it comes to any enthusiast media, as much of the content on these sites are paid advertisements and/or heavily influenced by the watch brands.  Read our Covert Influence In Watch Media piece so that you approach it with a skeptical eye. Step 2:  Talk with people. The simple lost art of conversation.  Ask your friends, coworkers and family members about their watches.  See a guy with an interesting watch on at a bar, coffee shop, or even at the urinal? Ask him what he is wearing.  Why did he buy that specific watch?  What does he like and dislike about it?  Ask to try it on. Most people into watches want nothing more than to talk about them. Major cities likely have watch meetups. RedBar Group is the largest and most well-known of these group meet ups.  I have never been to a watch meet up but know a lot of people enjoy this community and it is a great way to get your hands on lots of watches in the wild. Step 3:  Visit an AD.  An “Authorized Dealer” is a store that sells watches from major brands, and they have an official relationship with said brands.  We recommend visiting a dealer with a larger selection of brands so that you can physically try on different watches to see what works for you.  Tourneau, Watches of Switzerland, and Bucherer are some of the largest ones, but chances are even your local mall has a store that sells watches. Sales associates can be notoriously pretentious and they’re not always “watch guys” but there is something to be learned from everyone.  At a minimum they should have the training to explain the range on the market. Step 4:  Buy your first watch.  After spending a few weeks/months on steps 1-3, you should have a general idea of what interests you.  It’s time to buy your first watch. Regardless of one's socioeconomic status and access to disposable income, we recommend starting with a watch under-$1,000, and even under $500 is better.  Just because you can afford a Rolex doesn't mean you should start there.  Check out our previous Dispatch on “Best watches under $1,000” for some thoughts from a broad range of practitioners with experience. (James Rupley) Step 5:  Pause - wear your watch, repeat steps 1-3.  It’s tempting to immediately focus on the next watch, always wanting more.  But wear your watch, find out what you like/dislike about it. Sometimes you learn things about your taste only after wearing a watch for a while. Think about how it feels on your wrist, how it works with your lifestyle, etc. Most importantly, however, is to make sure that the watch works as an extension of your own life philosophy. Maybe the values of the brand don’t line up with your own–or maybe they do. This is the time to learn. (James Rupley) Step 6: Accessorize.  A strap is a great way to change up the feel of your watch.  We have a host of straps in the W.O.E. shop, but don’t let us limit your options.   In the strap game, you generally get what you pay for. Like most things in life.  Stay away from Amazon and pay a few extra dollars for something of quality.  Most of the major watch content outlets also sell straps and are a good one-stop-shop.  Buying a strap from a smaller business is a great way to show your support and rep that brand/community.  Here are some of the different straps you should consider: 2 Piece Leather: These should be handmade in the USA or Europe, nothing mass produced. There are some great craftsmen out there making one off and small batch straps like our Jedburgh and Leather and Canvas DNC Strap.  A good leather strap can work on mostly any watch. Affordable Nylon:  You can buy these anywhere and should be somewhere in the $20-40 price range.  Our Five Eye is on the higher end of this but in return you get quality. The better ones are well-made but cheap enough that you can use and abuse them and throw them out like a pair of good socks.  A simple nylon strap is a great way to support a group/person that you’re interested in. (James Rupley) High-End Fabric Strap:  In my opinion, Zulu Alpha is the best quality fabric strap on the market. The Quantum Watch Strap from TAD has great hardware and Tudor has some great fabric straps (see Hodinkee video). None of these are cheap but you get what you pay for. Single piece leather is tricky, most are thick and I do not like to use bent spring bars on my watches. These do fit some of my pieces with a wider gap between the spring bar and I wear them. I am a big fan of both Soturi and Zanes. Rubber: I have owned a few from Everest and overall have been happy with them. There are plenty of options on the market here and quality generally coincides with price. Elastic MN Straps: I have a MN strap from NDC straps which I like and have heard great things about Erika’s Originals.  A great way to change up your watch. A new strap can completely change the feel of your watch.  Most watches are 20 mm or 22 mm so if you buy a handful of straps you can rotate them between your watches. (Photo Credit: @navs.watch) General Advice & Tips: As you look to expand your collection, here are some general tips that we use as a north star.  Remember, none of these are hard and fast rules: Buy what makes you happy; no one else cares what you are wearing and 99.9% of people will not notice the watch you have on your wrist. (This one is cliché but it’s entirely true.) Buy the watch you can afford. You won't be happy if you spend more than you can afford.  “Buyer’s remorse” is real and can undermine the sense of satisfaction from wearing the watch.  DO NOT FINANCE YOUR WATCH. Don't buy for investment. Your watch may appreciate in value, but buy with the expectation you will wear it until you die (and a loved one will wear it after you die). Values are generally trending downward in the watch world anyway. That’s not what they’re made for, and treating a watch like a financial instrument takes away something from the passion. When in doubt, stick with a known brand: Seiko, Sinn, Rolex, Breitling, Omega, Tudor, JLC, IWC, Bremont, Patek, etc.  There are some great micro brands out there (like Tornek-Rayville, Sangin Instruments, Elliot Brown etc), but also a lot with smoke and mirrors, especially in the “tactical” space. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Any worthwhile watch company wasn’t either.  When you do decide to go into the micro-brand space, do your homework. Buy the seller and build a relationship with that person. If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.  A lot of people have had great experiences with Ebay and other online forums, but there is something about building a relationship with the actual person selling the watch that makes it special. Plus, it’s very easy to get burned on Ebay. It’s less easy to get burned by someone you know and trust. Take your time. Do your research. Even if you have the money to buy the watch you want right away, spend time learning about the different variations and history of the reference or brand. This will likely change your outlook and make you appreciate the watch you end up with even more. (James Rupley) As a closing remark, don't feel like you need a "luxury watch," a ~$500 watch can be just as meaningful as a $5,000 watch. Remember, those Speedmasters that went to the moon and the 1675 GMT-Master examples that our pilot heroes wore were all value buys back in the day. They weren’t luxury products in that period.  As we have said many times, the man makes the watch, not the other way around. Vintage Watches: Lastly, if you are just starting out, we recommend staying away from vintage watches.  While there are some great deals out there and it is a lot of fun, it is not for the uninitiated.  There are plenty of fakes at every level and it is easy to get ripped off if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.  Additionally, old watches come with old problems, this can be exciting once you have a handful of watches in your collection, but sending your sole watch off for service for 3 months doesn’t make for a good time.    If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE.   Read Next: Blackwater Breitling - The Story

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Elliot Brown & The Special Boat Service

Elliot Brown & The Special Boat Service

How A British Independent Watch Brand Created The Latest SBS Issue Watch The list of modern military-issued analog watches is short. The fact is, most...

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How A British Independent Watch Brand Created The Latest SBS Issue Watch The list of modern military-issued analog watches is short. The fact is, most forces have understandably transitioned to digital tool watches, arguably a more effective tool for modern warfare. That said, they do exist and one of the most interesting and least understood is the Elliot Brown Holton Professional. The Holton was designed from the ground up in partnership with and is currently issued to the British Special Boat Service (SBS), the United Kingdom’s “tier one” maritime special operations force unit, a loose equivalent to SEAL Team Six. Many of the stories we tell revolve around “unit watches” or private purchases used during an individual operator's career. This is the story of a purpose-built tool watch designed to satisfy a specific operational requirement. But it is also the story of the SBS’s culture and the role watches play. When newly badged operators arrive at Poole, the headquarters of the British Special Boat Service, they receive a green beret with the SBS insignia, a belt, a hardcover book on the history of their unit, and the standard-issue Elliot Brown Holton Professional. These are just things but are also intended to represent the accomplishment of each individual operator and honor the legacy of those who came before. The watch is a tool and the latest timepiece issued to the storied unit. Elliot Brown & The Holton Professional In the coastal city of Poole, England, we find Elliot Brown, a nascent brand producing a range of mostly tool watches including the Holton Professional. Despite the potentially massive marketing upside in celebrating the relationship between the Holton and the SBS, Elliot Brown doesn’t mention “The Service” by name, instead adopting the quiet professional approach of the operators who wear the Holton in performing their duties. In this Dispatch, we’ll shine a light on Elliot Brown and tell the story behind the development of the Holton Professional. RM Poole, the home base for the SBS, is conveniently located near the boatyard Elliot Brown calls home. Far from its current military associations, Elliot Brown was founded in 2013 as the brainchild of Ian Elliot and Alex Brown. At its outset, the brand’s goal was to produce durable, relatively inexpensive watches designed around the founders’ collective experience in outdoor sports, watch enthusiasm, and engineering. Location was important as well. Headquartered in a working boat yard near Poole Harbour on England’s south coast, Elliot Brown neighbors RM Poole, the home of the Special Boat Service. Among the world’s most elite maritime SpecOps units, the SBS also has an impressive history when it comes to horology. A Brief History Of The Special Boat Service & Watches Sergeant Paul “Scruff” McGough of the British SBS wearing an issued Cabot Watch Company (CWC) SBS during the battle for Qala-I Jangi Prison on 27 November 2001. (Photo Credit: First Casualty, Toby Harnden) With roots dating back to the Second World War including no shortage of heroic assaults on Axis shipping by way of specialized folding canoes called “folbots”, today’s SBS is a modern maritime assault force specializing in counterterrorism. Trained in diving, small boats, reconnaissance, parachuting, small unit tactics, explosives, and sabotage, the SBS serves as the Ministry of Defense’s equivalent to SEAL Team Six. For the watch enthusiast, the SBS is also closely linked to some of history’s most legendary dive watches including the Rolex Military Submariner or MilSub which was issued to British forces including the SBS starting in 1971. In 1980, CWC took over, first with an automatic and then quartz versions of its Royal Navy Diver, a far less expensive option compared to the Rolex Submariners that had a nasty habit of going “missing”. The Special Boat Service has impressive horological associations, having used the Rolex MilSub in the 1970s and CWC models including the SBS in the decades to follow. Photo Credit: Bonhams (Rolex) and James Rupley (CWC) In 1987, supposedly stemming from a special request from the Special Boat Service, CWC introduced its SBS, a blacked-out version of the RN Diver to reduce reflections for nighttime and maritime operations. CWC’s SBS is still issued to certain specialist diving units within the Ministry of Defense and worn by members of the Special Boat Service, however many have now transitioned to the standard issue Elliot Brown. A New British Watch Brand & One Of The World’s Premier Special Forces Units Former SBS operator and celebrated mountaineer Nims Purja MBE wearing a digital tool watch during training operations. (Photo Credit: Nirmal Purja MBE) When Elliot Brown launched in 2013 at the London Watch Show, the brand’s earliest models were capable but provided more of a civilian aesthetic. At the time, Special Boat Service operators wore a variety of digital and analog watches including CWC, early Suunto GPS watches, and the ubiquitous Casio G-Shock. Despite the utility offered by Digital Tool Watches (D.T.W.), SBS regulations specifically state an analog dive watch must be worn for all diving operations, with a diving supervisor individually checking each operator’s watch before they can enter the water. Of note, the analog watches are worn in combination with a dive computer. The SBSA Canford inspired the development of the Holton Professional. (Photo Credit: Elliot Brown) After creating a special version of its Canford model to raise funds for the Special Boat Service Association (SBSA), several active members of the unit began using the commemorative watch on actual operations. Wondering what might be possible with a watch designed from the ground up for the operators, a development process officially began for the watch that would become the Holton Professional in 2015. Specifically, the unit requested a watch that was indestructible and visible at night and in low light conditions underwater, with a rotating bezel that could easily be operated with all manner of gloved hands. Founders Alex and Ian worked closely with the unit, producing multiple rounds of prototypes that were each individually tested by various SBS squadrons. Specifically, the brand engineered a recessed four-o’clock crown with three seals, single-sided screw lug bars for ease of use and durability, and a novel bezel edge with an almost hobnail-like texture that was intended to be rotated with the palm of a gloved hand. The bezel insert was filled with luminescent material and made from hardened steel as opposed to aluminum on the CWC SBS, with Super-LumiNova also being utilized across the dial and hands. Tritium tubes were also considered but ultimately ruled out because they light up under night vision whereas printed luminescent material does not. Delivered to the unit on a fitted rubber strap, the watches also included a traditional nylon “Zulu” strap intended to work with the thick drysuits utilized by the divers in cooler waters. The dial design was straightforward and incorporated “sword” hands, a familiar trait from other British military dive watches. At 6 o’clock on the dial is a “broad arrow,” denoting it as official property of the MOD as a military-issued watch. Civilian versions, which are almost identical to issued examples, also have the broad arrow insignia. An Elliot Brown Holton Professional alongside a Rolex Submariner. (Photo Credit: James Rupley) Once the operators were happy with the design, the challenge of guiding the new watches through official channels into the hands of the operators began in earnest. First came the NSN or Nato Stock Number, issued to items in compliance with specific regulations for particular pieces of equipment including dive watches. Obtaining an NSN can be daunting, but the presence of an NSN doesn’t necessarily mean an item is officially issued but rather simply that it could be issued. For the Ministry of Defense, an item must be obtained by a unit through an approved intermediary supplier rather than the brand, just as CWC is supplied to the MoD through a supplier called Silvermans. With multiple layers of bureaucracy managed, the initial batch of the Holton Professional was delivered to the SBS in late 2017, first to Sabre Squadrons tasked with counterterrorism and then to other units in turn. While they are otherwise identical to civilian versions of the Holton, issued examples have a unique crown. Elliot Brown’s “Unit Watch” Program An Elliot Brown “unit watch” produced for a particular Special Air Service (SAS) squadron. (Photo Credit: Former SAS Melvyn Downes) In addition to the Holton Professional’s official connection to the SBS, Elliot Brown has also become a supplier of commemorative “unit watches” for various other military and civilian organizations including the SAS (pictured above), UK Counter Terrorism Police, the Royal Navy Submarine Service, and others. Rather than being issued and paid for with government funds, these watches are modified versions of existing designs within the brand’s catalog that are available for private purchase for vetted members of the organization. We have covered other brands known for producing “unit watches” including Tudor, OMEGA, Breitling, Bremont, and Christopher Ward, but it’s always nice to see a smaller brand getting into the space, especially with a price point that presents a less daunting boundary compared to traditional luxury brands. The Military-Issue Analog Dive Watch - Last Of A Dying Breed As we’ve established in many instances on the Dispatch, there is an established community within Intelligence, NatSec, and SpecOps with a passion for horology. That said, instances where government organizations deem it appropriate to spend taxpayer dollars on analog watches are becoming fewer and farther between, increasingly usurped by cheaper, more feature-rich digital options. Still, holdouts including Elliot Brown’s active issue to the Special Boat Service and Marathon’s use by various US SpecOps units prove the analog dive watch remains relevant today. The story of the Holton, a Tier One unit approaching a smaller watch brand with a list of requests that ends up becoming an issued watch, is rare, but the utility behind wearing watches for their intended purpose sentiment isn’t. The “Use Your Tools” ethos is alive and well. Typically, in an article like this one, we’d share “action shots” of members of the unit in question wearing the watches in question. However, in stark contrast to many US SpecOps units, the SBS remains incredibly secretive, meaning such photographs are essentially nonexistent. With that in mind, with operational security in mind, we’ve used either photos released by former members of the unit who are now in the public eye or photographs taken with unit members and approved for wider distribution. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. Read Next: The Dive Watch - How The Military Helped To Shape History’s Greatest Tool Watch

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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...

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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. 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. 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. 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. 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.  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.  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.  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.  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.  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.  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.  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.  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.  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. 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.  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. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. READ NEXT: Aviation “Unit Watches”: Bremont Military and Special Projects Division

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Diving With The Marathon Search and Rescue

Diving With The Marathon Search and Rescue

Putting One Of The Last Real Military Dive Watches To The Test In the watch world, clout is king. For brands without centuries of history...

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Putting One Of The Last Real Military Dive Watches To The Test In the watch world, clout is king. For brands without centuries of history to lean on, sales and marketing professionals are left in a mad scramble for authenticity and heritage, searching for a story that makes their watches more than the sum of their parts. These efforts become particularly transparent when those outside our community attempt to influence those within, claiming their mechanical luxury watches are the preferred option for divers, SpecOps, or intelligence professionals. The Marathon SAR was unveiled in 2001. (Photo Credit: Worn and Wound) In reality, Digital Tool Watches (D.T.W.) are most often the instrument of choice, but there is at least one analog tool watch still issued to the US Military in 2024: Marathon Watch. This isn’t the first time we’ve covered Marathon, a supplier to the US and Canadian governments since the Second World War. However, in this Dispatch, we’ll concentrate on the Search and Rescue (SAR) collection in particular, sharing its bizarre history and modern military associations before testing the watches on a dive on the California coast. It’s also a family of watches with which I have a significant history, having used both the quartz and automatic variants while serving the US Coast Guard and as a commercial diver. Beyond the utility, the Marathon SAR also has one of the more unusual origin stories in modern watchmaking. Watch Nerds Designing A Military Tool Watch For Operators RCAF SAR Techs made the initial request that led to the Marathon SAR Collection. (Photo Credit: Canadian Armed Forces) In 2000, Marathon Watch was approached by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) with a request for a purpose-built dive watch capable of handling the wide range of environments encountered by Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Search and Rescue Technicians or SAR Techs. Trained in “...Arctic rescue, parachuting, diving, mountain climbing, and helicopter rescue”, the elite community of around 150 SAR Techs had a few specific requests including luminescent indices for legibility in all conditions, an automatic caliber, ample water resistance, and a bezel that could be easily operated with all manner of gloves. In designing the watch, Marathon did something all but unheard of, looking to members of the watch enthusiast community for guidance. Marathon first tapped one of its military suppliers who then got in touch with the founder of the Military Watch Resource (MWR), a niche online forum dedicated to military horology. With the help of a talented machinist, the first SAR watches came together, with input being gathered at each stage of the design process from members of the MWR forum who also coined the SAR name. The original Marathon SAR of 2001 utilized printed luminescent indices while being inspired by several great historical dive watches. (Photo Credit: Worn & Wound) With a 39mm case silhouette generally inspired by the Rolex Submariner, a dial format resembling the Benrus Type I, a distinctive knurled crown, and an overhanging 41mm bezel reminiscent of a rare East German military diver’s watch from a brand called Ruhla, Marathon delivered the first orders of its new SAR watch in late 2001. Initially, the Marathon SAR was only available through official supply channels and in limited numbers, with a few select enthusiasts getting their hands on rare contract overrun pieces. Issued not only to SAR Techs but also Clearance Divers and other amphibious members of the Canadian Forces since 2001, an important design change to a tritium gas tube illuminated dial around 2005 answered a specific request from the US Military. While they are not widely issued, the GSAR or Government Search and Rescue as it is now known, and its quartz equivalent the TSAR or Tritium Search and Rescue, can both be ordered by military procurement specialists in the United States through the GSA catalog — a sort of military and government Amazon — using unit-allocated funds. USAF Pararescuemen wearing the Marathon GSAR while conducting dive training in 2019. (Photo Credit: DVIDS)  Issued Marathon watches are not ubiquitous by any means, but it does happen. According to Marathon’s Government Contracting Officer, US Navy EOD, US Air Force Pararescue, and US Army Special Forces have all recently placed orders for watches from the SAR family. Our previous look at Marathon detailed several additional issued examples of the GSAR and TSAR. I distinctly remember seeing issued Marathon watches on the wrists of USCG Divers and select Aviators in my Coast Guard days. Over the years, Marathon has adjusted its approach to include a broader offering of watches intended for the civilian market while still doing the vast majority of its business for government contracts. Diving With The Modern Marathon SAR Collection (Photo Credit: Worn & Wound) The SAR collection has grown by leaps and bounds since its humble beginnings in the early 2000s. There are three case sizes (36mm, 41mm, and 46mm), quartz and automatic options, an automatic chronograph, and several dial colors and configurations. Marathon has leaned into the rise of watch enthusiasm but without losing the core direction. To obtain feedback from end-users and get closer to the enthusiast community, Marathon invited a few interesting individuals from the military and diving communities for a dive preceding Windup San Francisco, an enthusiast-oriented event. In 55-degree water, you wear as much rubber as you can. (Photo Credit: Worn & Wound) Preparing for a shore dive in water around 55°F/13°C, most of us donned thick 7mm wetsuits with a few ziploc bag enthusiasts opting for drysuits. Once suited up, we had our pick from a slew of Marathon SAR watches including the white Arctic dial GSAR, a JDD or Jumbo Day/Date, and an Anthracite GSAR. I used an original SAR from the printed MaraGlo dial days. Discontinued in 2006, the OG Marathon SAR is, according to a source within the company, poised for a triumphant return later this year bolstered by some subtle updates. A few of us needed to swap over to nylon straps to get our watches over our variety of thick exposure suits, but we were soon ready to go. Petty Officer Second Class (ND2) Brock Stevens with a Marathon Arctic GSAR. (Photo Credit: Worn & Wound) My buddy for the dive was Navy Diver Second Class (ND2) Brock Stevens, a veteran of over four years of ships husbandry on carriers and nuclear submarines in Norfolk, Virginia. Typically diving with a Kirby Morgan helmet as opposed to open circuit scuba, Brock is a guy with well over a thousand dives and is at home in the water. After the walk from the parking lot to the beach with all of our gear, we put on our fins and waded into deeper water. California diving can be hit-and-miss. In Monterey, being cold is all but assured, but the visibility varies wildly from as much as fifty feet or more on the best days to the three to five feet we had for our dive. That said, as you’d expect, everyone’s Marathon watch worked as intended, each of us timing the dive with our rotating bezels which remained legible even in murkier conditions. I had a diving computer on my other wrist, but given our max depth of around 40 feet, we would run out of gas long before any decompression-related concerns, and I could have easily left it on the beach. The visibility left something to be desired. (Photo Credit: Brock Stevens) After descending, we finned along a submerged outfall pipe covered in growth with the odd clump of kelp running lazily from the sea bed to the surface. Given the visibility, I kept Brock just within the limits of my range of vision. Reaching the end of the pipe, we set out for a field of metridiums, an out-of-this-world underwater forest of what looked like giant cauliflower stalks, then returned to the pipe for a leisurely swim back toward the shore. A dive like this goes nowhere near the limits of these watches, which are designed for and capable of much harder use. Brock has been using his Marathon while working on submarines, and it seems to be holding up. Still, it’s nice to see a brand invite a bunch of actual divers to experience their tools in their element. Given the SAR collections’s history, we know Marathon is no stranger to taking feedback from the enthusiast community, with a slew of recent releases to support the trend. When we met with the brand after the dive, they seemed genuinely interested in our feedback, which is seldom the case with watch brands.  Brock Stevens wearing his Marathon GSAR while working as a US Navy Diver. (Photo Credit: Brock Stevens) My positive experiences with the watches aside, I would argue the modern GSAR isn’t for everyone. It’s not refined or elegant, it's a tool. Given the tall bezel, it fits poorly under shirt cuffs. But the GSAR isn’t about that. It’s a watch that was designed as a tool. While it’s true most people don’t use dive watches as the tools they once were, some still do. The entire concept of being “mil-spec” or military issue adds credibility to any piece of equipment and in the arena of dive watches in particular, Marathon’s legitimacy as a diving tool is well deserved.  If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. About The Author: Benjamin Lowry is a US Coast Guard veteran and commercial diver turned watch writer. Now a full-time member of the W.O.E. Team, Ben splits his time between writing and product development at W.O.E. and managing Submersible Wrist, a watch spotting account dedicated to military and commercial divers as well as the life aquatic. Thanks again to Brock Stevens for providing several of the images in this Dispatch. To learn more about Brock, check out @deepsea.edc on Instagram. READ NEXT: Watches and Commercial Espionage: Waltham Watch Company

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US Army PSYOP: Christopher Ward “Unit Watch” in Recruiting Video

US Army PSYOP: Christopher Ward “Unit Watch” in Recruiting Video

Last week, the US Army’s 4th Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Group released Ghosts In The Machine 2, the second installment in a series of highly stylized...

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Last week, the US Army’s 4th Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Group released Ghosts In The Machine 2, the second installment in a series of highly stylized recruiting videos supporting one of the Army’s more unusual units.

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From NASA To SpaceX - The Watches Of SpecOps Astronaut Recovery Teams

From NASA To SpaceX - The Watches Of SpecOps Astronaut Recovery Teams

The Historic Link Between The US Space Program, Special Operations Forces, & Timepieces In 2020, some 45 years had passed since a crewed US spacecraft...

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The Historic Link Between The US Space Program, Special Operations Forces, & Timepieces In 2020, some 45 years had passed since a crewed US spacecraft splashed down at sea. On 2 August, NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken experienced no less than four g’s as they hurtled toward the Earth in Elon Musk’s SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour. The mission, Crew Demo-2, marked historic firsts including the first crewed commercial space flight as well as the first two-person orbital space flight launched from the United States since STS-4 in 1982. Slowed by four massive parachutes, Demo-2’s Endeavour capsule splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico, just off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, at 2:48 pm. But what then? SpaceX’s Crew Demo-2, the first crewed private space flight, is towed to a support vessel after recovery at sea in 2020. (Photo Credit: NASA) The model of launch, flight, reentry, splashdown in the ocean, and recovery, was established during the earliest days of manned space flight. Considerably safer than returning to earth on land, NASA has traditionally favored a waterborne splashdown for its manned space flights, including the storied Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions as well as more recent efforts including Artemis. However, things can and have gone wrong. Assuming the capsule meets the sea as intended, it can still sink or capsize, presenting a perilous situation for any astronauts inside.  One area of space travel that goes mostly unexplored by enthusiast media is the long-standing relationship between select SpecOps units and the Space Program. Starting with US Navy Underwater Demolition Teams and Air Force Pararescue Teams in the 1960s and carrying on through modern SpaceX, Boeing, and Artemis missions, the challenging tasks of astronaut recovery and/or rescue continue to be quietly carried out with the help of specialized units from the US Department of Defense. Given the timing, early astronaut recovery teams wore some of history’s most iconic tool watches with names like the Submariner and Sea Wolf on the dial. Today, a select few still choose to wear mechanical watches for the challenging task of plucking spacemen from the ocean. Former US Air Force Pararescuemen (PJ) RJ Casey trains with NASA astronaut Doug Hurley, USMC, and the SpaceX Astronaut Rescue and Recovery Team. (Photo Credit: NASA Astronaut Anil Menon) To understand how SOF supports astronaut recovery today, we spoke with RJ Casey, who contracts as an astronaut rescue and recovery team leader at SpaceX. RJ’s history, which is deserving of a separate Dispatch, starts in Special Forces (SF) where he served as an SF Medical Sergeant and Detachment Officer (18D and 18A, respectively) assigned to 2/19th SFG in the West Virginia Army National Guard. A qualified Combat Diver, RJ picked up a Rolex Submariner in the early 2000s that he still wears today. A legendary watch in special operations, the Submariner serves as a nod to Special Forces units of the past, other more shadowy government agencies, and especially their maritime communities. RJ later joined the US Air Force’s Pararescue community where he currently serves as a reserve Combat Rescue Officer when he isn’t training and recovering astronauts at his civilian job. Today, RJ primarily wears his Bremont S502 Jet, a watch from the brand’s Military and Special Projects Division that he has used for all of his astronaut operations and training evolutions to date. RJ Casey assists NASA Astronaut Nicole Mann, USMC, and Crew-5 Commander, out of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, pictured with his Bremont S502 Jet military project watch. (Photo Credit: NASA) While space flight has come a long way, having elite rescue specialists like RJ nearby is still a requirement for manned space missions today. SpaceX and NASA’s modern capsule recovery efforts have gone largely without incident, but the involvement of units from the US Navy and Air Force as an additional layer of contingency for these missions is, like so many other lessons in space exploration, the result of a near miss that almost cost the United States the life of an astronaut. How A Near Miss Galvanized A Historic Relationship In 1961, Mercury-Redstone 4 was NASA’s second manned space flight, lasting only fifteen minutes and thirty-seven seconds. Astronaut Gus Grissom, a legendary member of the original Mercury Seven, would have been forgiven for thinking the hard work was behind him. After a successful trip into sub-orbit, the second American in space descended towards the Earth. Liberty Bell 7’s parachutes deployed as intended, and the capsule splashed down approximately 300 miles from its launch location in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Job done. Or so it seemed. Astronaut Gus Grissom, the second American in space. (Photo Credit: National Air And Space Museum) As Marine helicopters from the awaiting USS Randolph approached, Liberty Bell 7’s explosive hatch blew off of the capsule, almost immediately filling the spacecraft with water. A veteran of 100 combat missions in Korea, Grissom acted quickly, leaping from the open hatch to escape the sinking capsule but forgetting to close a valve on his space suit. Mistakenly thinking the astronaut was relatively safe, the crew of the primary recovery helicopter turned its attention to the rapidly sinking spacecraft. Grissom, whose suit was quickly flooded, waved and shouted as he struggled to keep his head above water. At the time, NASA procedures did not call for someone in a boat or in the water to assist with the astronaut’s egress from the capsule. Unfortunate for NASA, but lucky for Grissom, Liberty Bell 7 could not be saved. As the primary recovery helicopter battled with the weight of the sunken capsule, ultimately electing to cut it loose to the depths, the secondary helicopter swooped in to recover one very tired astronaut. One mechanical misstep and NASA very nearly lost its second man in space. After his harrowing ordeal, Grissom is lifted to safety by a Marine helicopter. (Photo Credit: National Air And Space Museum) NASA & The Frogmen Of The Underwater Demolition Teams While NASA already had ties to DOD for assistance in astronaut recovery or rescue, Grissom’s near miss illustrated the necessity of having trained personnel in the water at the splashdown location in the event of a similar mishap. Lacking such personnel, NASA looked to the US Navy’s Underwater Demolition Teams, composed of “frogmen” with extensive experience in challenging open ocean conditions. Tracing their origins to nascent maritime special operations units established during World War II, the UDTs received specialized training in diving, ordnance disposal, beach clearance, and hydrographic reconnaissance, serving as the predecessor to the SEAL Teams which were established in 1962. A Navy frogman leaps from a recovery helicopter into the water to assist in the Gemini-12 recovery operations in 1966. (Photo Credit: NASA) From Mercury 6 onwards, recovery teams composed of specially selected members of various UDTs around the country were required on location to assist with astronaut and capsule recovery operations from the water. Along with a wide variety of specialized equipment more directly related to the mission, the frogmen used the iconic tool dive watches of the day including the Rolex and Tudor Submariner, Zodiac Sea Wolf, and others. Rather than timing dives, the operators utilized these now legendary watches to remain synchronized with the broader multi-agency recovery operation. Members of UDT 13 served as the recovery team for Apollo 12. The Tudor Submariner and Zodiac Sea Wolf can be seen on some of the frogmen. (Photo Credit: Navy Helicopter Association Historical Society) In the majority of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo flights, the mission of the UDT recovery teams was relatively straightforward and carefully outlined in this incredible NASA training film from the Mercury Program. After jumping into the sea from a recovery helicopter, the UDT men were tasked with making contact with the capsule before unfolding and deploying an inflatable auxiliary flotation collar intended to keep the capsule upright and high enough in the water. If the astronaut or astronauts inside elected to leave the capsule before being lifted and transferred to an awaiting support ship, typically an aircraft carrier, the UDT swimmers assisted with the exit and transfer into the helicopter’s personnel recovery sling or basket. Once the inhabitants were safe, the frogmen were then charged with assisting the helicopter in lifting the capsule and any other equipment onto the deck of the nearby carrier. Frogmen stand on the auxiliary flotation collar during recovery operations for Apollo 15 (Photo Credit: NASA) For the UDT men of the era, working with NASA to recover astronauts was, besides being extremely cool, relatively light work compared to their regular and often deadly deployments to the Vietnam War. A rarity for those within the world of SpecOps, many of the exploits of the UDT recovery teams were also broadcast live on radio and television, meaning hundreds of millions of people witnessed the typically unseen UDT’s hard work assisting in astronaut recovery, bolstering the legend that has, for better or worse, made today’s SEALs a pop culture phenomenon. Alan Buehler, a member of UDT 11, assisted with the recovery of Apollo 15 & 17. On his wrist, an OMEGA Geneve Chronostop. (Photo Credit: Alan Buehler) Getting back to watches, there are documented exceptions including the aforementioned Sea Wolf from Zodiac and the intriguing use of an OMEGA Geneve Chronostop, but in the majority of archival films and photography from these missions, UDT men are seen wearing Tudor Submariners (Reference 7928) the issue watch for Navy divers and SpecOps at the time.  WOE’s personal Tudor Submariner 7928, one of history’s most legendary military dive watches. (Photo Credit: James Rupley) Eventually earning its own NSN or NATO Stock Number in 1978 (6645-01-068-1088), the Tudor Submariner saw extensive and well-documented service in Vietnam, during astronaut recovery and rescue operations, and even with other specialized units outside of the US Navy. It appears the phenomenon of Tudors of Espionage (T.O.E.) is nothing new. Bob Coggin of UDT 12 leans against the Apollo 8 Capsule with a Tudor Submariner Ref. 7928 on the wrist. (Photo Credit: NASA) US Air Force PJs & Astronaut Recovery NASA augmented its UDT recovery force with US Air Force Pararescuemen or PJs, combat search and rescue specialists who became legendary for their efforts in saving downed pilots in Vietnam. In addition to emergency medicine, technical rescue, parachuting, mountaineering, small unit tactics, and more, PJs were also trained in diving and ocean swimming, making them another excellent option for spacecraft recovery. In essence, the UDT was the recovery team in the event everything went as planned where the PJs served as the global rescue element in case of an emergency that caused a space flight to land somewhere other than on the X. US Air Force Pararescuemen before and after recovering Gemini VIII. In both images, the PJ on the right is wearing a USAF-issued Tudor Submariner 7928. (Photo Credit: NASA) And that is exactly what happened in 1966 when Gemini VIII entered a potentially deadly spiral in Earth’s orbit. Astronauts David Scott and some guy named Neil Armstrong managed to correct the spin, but the unplanned fuel expenditure meant the mission had to be scrapped. Given the spontaneous nature of the recovery and unplanned splashdown location, the job went to three on-duty US Air Force Pararescuemen out of Okinawa: Larry Huyett, Eldridge Neal, and Glenn Moore. In photos taken both before and after the operation, one of the PJs is seen wearing yet another Tudor Submariner Ref. 7928, a watch that was also commonly issued to PJs during the era. LTJG David R. Kohler of the Apollo-Soyuz Recovery Team with a Tudor Submariner on the wrist. (Photo Credit: Navy SEAL Museum) Jumping ahead, UDT Frogmen were in the water for the recovery of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Flight in 1975, the first manned space flight carried out jointly between the United States and the Soviet Union. Soon after, the United States shifted its focus to the Space Shuttle Program. For the first time, a spacecraft could re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, fly to its destination, and land like a traditional aircraft, obviating the need for water landings and recovery teams from the SpecOps community, at least for the next few decades. Commercial Space Travel Pararescuemen assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron conduct water jumps in support of astronaut rescue operations for SpaceX in 2021. (Photo Credit: US Air Force) The rise of privatized commercial space travel has changed the picture for DOD’s involvement in astronaut recovery and rescue operations. For private space flights, the companies themselves are responsible for their recovery operations. For anything NASA-related and/or taxpayer-funded including the upcoming Artemis missions, the US Navy again serves as the primary recovery force, typically utilizing a blend of Navy Divers, SAR medics, and EOD Technicians. For anything requiring rescue, again more so in the event of an emergency, US Air Force Pararescue Teams also receive specialized training for capsule operations and are strategically located around the globe. Members of the 308th Rescue Squadron (RQS) “Guardian Angels” train with the Department of Defense's Human Space Flight Support Office, the only full-time organization that coordinates and trains personnel to support human spaceflight contingencies. (Photo Credit: US Air Force) Just as space flight has advanced technologically in leaps and bounds, watches have also progressed, much to the chagrin of die-hard mechanical timekeeping enthusiasts. Feature-rich digital watches from brands like G-Shock and Garmin now account for the majority of wrists in these specialized military communities. That said, there are plenty of watch enthusiasts in the military, the intelligence community, among astronauts, and even within the Pararescue community associated with SpaceX as we saw with RJ Casey. RJ Casey, pictured with his Rolex Submariner, and Louie Haus diving with the 308 RQS. (Photo Credit: PJ Ricky Dunn) While it’s difficult to compare the Space Program of the 1960s to today, the importance of safeguarding those who have recently returned to Earth remains all but unchanged. Highly skilled amphibious operators still stand at the ready to jump into the sea to assist astronauts in peril. Despite being overshadowed by sexier aspects of space travel that tend to garner the limelight, these complex, multifaceted recovery operations are a key component of what has made and continues to make space exploration possible. When men or women go into the sea to recover astronauts, whether it’s a Tudor Submariner or Zodiac Sea Wolf of old or a modern G-Shock, Garmin, or Bremont, the importance of a precision watch remains a critical instrument for human space flight rescue and recovery teams. -- If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. Read Next: An Exploration of “Unit Watches” from the Special Operations Community: Tudor To learn more about RJ Casey, check out his Instagram. About The Author: Benjamin Lowry is a US Coast Guard veteran and commercial diver turned watch writer. Now a full-time member of the W.O.E. Team, Ben splits his time between writing and product development at W.O.E. and managing @SubmersibleWrist, a watch spotting account dedicated to military and commercial divers as well as the life aquatic.

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Dear Panerai, Stop Putting the Navy SEAL Trident On Watches

Dear Panerai, Stop Putting the Navy SEAL Trident On Watches

An Open Letter to Panerai, From Watches of Espionage In 2022, Panerai released the limited-edition “Navy SEALs collection” available intended for purchase by the public,...

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An Open Letter to Panerai, From Watches of Espionage In 2022, Panerai released the limited-edition “Navy SEALs collection” available intended for purchase by the public, and not exclusively Navy SEALs.  The watches are operator-chic , complete with a Navy SEAL Trident on the dial or caseback and a “Time to Target countdown” feature. The prices range from $10,000 - $60,000, the high-end models including an invitation to a multi-day Special Operations experience (Xperience) which, according to one journalist, means the “buyer of the watch joins retired Navy SEALs on an immersive adventure that will include a rigorous training and rescue mission.” (Photo Credit: Panerai) The releases continued through 2023 and into 2024, with the latest Xperience occurring last week in Florida.  As an influential voice in the NatSec watch community, we feel compelled to comment on the matter.  To be clear, our intentions are pure. We’re apolitical and see watches as a vessel to look at the larger world of NatSec, Military, and Intelligence. We want Panerai and all watch brands to succeed and provide a service to our community and the broader public.  But we think Panerai needs a course correction when it pertains to this watch and this “Xperience.”  -- Dear Panerai, I first learned of Officine Panerai in the 2010s, sitting in a third world capital having drinks with a SEAL colleague.  My friend explained that Panerai had a strong following in Naval Special Warfare (NSW) due to the brand's lineage that can be traced to the Italian Frogmen of WWII.  Like many others, he bought his first Panerai to commemorate a deployment and the Luminor Marina was a nod to those who came before him.  In our community, history is everything. Tradition matters.  I was immediately intrigued.  The signature case shape appealed to my alpha-driven tastes and the history of the brand appealed to me.  Over the next year, I visited boutiques in London, Istanbul, and Johannesburg to try on some Panerais before ultimately making a purchase: a tobacco dial titanium Luminor Marina 8 Days PAM 00564.  I wore it throughout the next overseas tour as a CIA case officer, including during the chaotic events of a coup d'etat. While my taste in watches has shifted over time, I will never sell that watch and it’s not an understatement to say your brand has had a strong influence on my passion for timepieces. U.S. Navy SEAL on training exercise (U.S. Army  by Staff Sgt. Jacob Dunlap) Heritage Matters Several watch blogs have called into question Panerai’s claimed lineage and marketing narrative and even resorted to personal attacks on your leadership, but this discourse does not specifically interest us.  The fact is, Panerai of today does have a strong customer base in Naval Special Warfare (NSW) regardless of exactly how it was formed.  I have personally seen your timepieces on the wrists of operators overseas, at Chick’s Oyster Bar in Virginia Beach, and in SCIFs in Northern Virginia.  No matter exactly how it happened, the connection between Panerai and the SpecOps community is real.  That said, we think that your latest iteration of the “Navy SEAL” watches, and specifically the use of the SEAL Trident - an eagle clutching a U.S. Navy anchor, trident, and flintlock-style pistol - for the commercial market is a little too much- likely a well-intentioned marketing scheme gone awry. (Photo Credit: Jake Witkin, aBlogtoWatch) To be clear, I do not speak for the NSW community.  I haven’t earned the Trident myself, which is why I would never wear it on a watch or t-shirt.  I have spoken with over a dozen active and former “Team Guys” and opinions vary from disgust to admiration- the majority rolling their eyes, having bigger things to worry about.  We can assume that you have support from some in the NSW leadership and have gone through the legal requirements to license the Trident.  Further, we understand that a (unspecified) portion of the proceeds benefit the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum, which is fantastic.  But just because you can put the Trident on a commercially available watch, doesn’t mean you should. A Panerai purchased by SEAL Team 3 member and sold on the secondary market. (Photo Credit: Lunaroyster) The Best Things (Watches) are Earned Not Bought: The Navy SEAL Trident is earned by those who qualify for the Navy Special Warfare Operator (SO) rating after completing the arduous selection process: the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) and SEAL Qualification Training (SQT).  The “Budweiser” is a strong source of pride and reminder of service, sacrifice, and far too many lost brothers.  Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) (Official Navy/DOD Photo)   We understand that a limited number of the watches are reserved for active and retired Navy SEALS at a steeply discounted price (~60% off retail) and an (unspecified) portion of the proceeds are donated to the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum and at least one watch was auctioned for charity.  Well done.  BUD/S Phase 2 training (Official Navy/DOD Photo) Discretion is the Way There is nothing wrong with SEALs wearing a Trident on their watch and we are aware of several unit-specific watches (by Tudor and others) that incorporate the Trident into the design.  I know several SEALs purchased your Panerai and treasure the watch.  It’s the civilian versions that give me pause.  A simple solution is to reserve the Trident-laden watches for the SEALs and sell a separate “military-inspired” version without the Trident or “Navy SEALs'' on the dial.  Special Operations Experience (Xperience) (Photo Credit: Panerai Central) It’s tempting to criticize the “Navy SEAL Xperience” that comes with the $60,000+ PAM01402, and yes, it's borderline corny.  That said, anything that pushes people to better understand the commitment and sacrifice our SEALs make on our behalf is a good thing.  We understand you employ former SEALs to guide participants through this crucible and we are confident that they provide an experience that exceeds expectations.   (Photo Credit: Jake Witkin, aBlogtoWatch) Assume Noble Intent - never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by naivety. To be clear, I actually don’t think this is a cash grab and I believe the “SEAL Watch” concept is likely a well-intended but naively-crafted strategy.  When it comes to the military and the broader NatSec community, watch brands are naive. They simply do not know the complexities of the community.   SpecOps personnel generally don’t seek out jobs in the marketing departments of luxury watch companies.  That said, many other watch brands get it right and there is a template for success.  Look at the special projects programs of Tudor, Omega, Bremont and your sister company IWC (also owned by Richemont) and you will find successful strategies that respectfully honor our community.   HAWKEYE Tudor Pelagos “Unit Watch” - available only to member of the Secret Service Counter Assault Team  Solution  You don’t highlight a problem without presenting a solution. The key to any successful marketing initiative is authenticity.  -Focus on Unit Watches - A unit watch is a timepiece that is customized by the manufacturer for members of a specific unit or organization and can only be purchased by current or former members.  Most brands offer these at a discount.  While initially secret, inevitably pictures leak out, which is fantastic publicity that drives sales and promotes brand loyalty on the civilian side, while still remaining exclusive to the military side.  As a recent example, Omega quietly released a special Seamaster Diver 300M (with the Trident discreetly engraved on the caseback) that is available to current and former Team Guys.  There was no press release; however, they ultimately found their way onto social media, creating a positive return for marketing for the brand.  It’s a sound business decision and a win-win for everyone. Most importantly, it’s authentic. -Be transparent about donations:  Last year our small company, Watches of Espionage, donated $24,800 to Third Option Foundation.  How much did Panerai donate to NSW museums and charities as a result of sales? According to bar napkin math, if Panerai sold all of the watches in 2023, you would have generated over $30 million in revenue. How much was given to the museum or NSF?  -Be transparent about US Navy lineage:  According to a September 2022 Forbes article, “Panerai’s historic team verified the legitimacy of an order and approval dating back to 1953 for Panerai watches and diving instruments for the US Navy.”  This is a fascinating development that seems to be glossed over.  What are the details of this order and for “watches and instruments”?  Is there official documentation available? Many from the watch and NatSec community would find this fascinating. (Photo Credit: Navy SEAL Museum) -Listen to the SEALs:  Again, you have a real customer base in the NSW community.  Reach out to them, ask for their input and feedback and incorporate this into the design.  Anecdotally, I know several SEALs expressed concern about the Trident on the dial and the overall design of the watch.  Listening to the intended end user is crucial for product development. -Lastly, keep the Trident and “Navy SEALs” off commercially available watches.  It’s really that simple. (Photo Credit: Jake Witkin, aBlogtoWatch) Again, this is not meant to be a rabble rousing post–it’s quite the contrary; we want to see Panerai flourish and sell watches to the Intelligence and SpecOps community for generations to come.  With a slight azimuth adjustment we think you can get back on course.  If someone from the NSW community would like to respond to this we would be more than happy to run that article.   We all know SEALs love to write. Sincerely, -W.O.E. -- If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our free weekly newsletter for further updates HERE. Read Next: Forget Bond, A Real CIA Spy Seiko Watch

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The Great Escape: Rolex & WWII POWs

The Great Escape: Rolex & WWII POWs

Allied Prisoners of War and Rolex Watch Co., a story of hope in the midst of a grim world conflict. As the war between Axis...

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Allied Prisoners of War and Rolex Watch Co., a story of hope in the midst of a grim world conflict. As the war between Axis and Allied forces raged on, Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of the watch company named Montres Rolex SA, had a brilliant notion: Why not let these prisoners ‘purchase’ a new timepiece on the proviso

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Watches & Wheels: Pairing Military Vehicles with Timepieces

Watches & Wheels: Pairing Military Vehicles with Timepieces

Round Two of honoring the age-old tradition of matching watches up with heavy-hitting machinery. We’ve done it once before–paired watches with military aircraft–and now we’re...

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Round Two of honoring the age-old tradition of matching watches up with heavy-hitting machinery. We’ve done it once before–paired watches with military aircraft–and now we’re doing it again. Except this time, we’re trading wings and rotors for wheels and tracks. These watch pairings explore the world of military vehicles.  There’s no hard and fast rule that we use to come up with the pairings–the goal is to explore the world of watches–and military vehicles–in a way that’s engaging and offers some insight into both worlds. Part of this exercise is to isolate characteristics of a watch or vehicle that make it unique. It forces us to look at a watch and contextualize it using its physical character and attributes, and beyond that, the reputation of the watch that the community has created for it, or sometimes the brand themselves. Many of you will have experience with some of these vehicles–and watches– and you might even have a specific pairing you’ve found works. We’d love to hear about them.  To preempt any comments, yes, the Casio G-Shock could be paired with any and all of these vehicles, but that would be a pretty boring article. Let’s shift into low gear and roll right into it.  The Vehicle: The 464 G-Class Utility Truck Credit: Mercedes-Benz  The G-Wagon from Mercedes-Benz has been hijacked by the likes of the Kardashians and finance bros, but the roots of the truck couldn’t be further away from that specific culture. Contrary to the current reputation of the truck, it started off as an idea put forth by the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi for the Iranian military. The brief was to create a reliable and capable 4WD platform that could stand up to the austere terrain the Iranian forces operated in. The Shah was an important stakeholder of Mercedes at the time, so the brief was realized in the form of the 1979 debut of the “Geländewagen,” or “G-wagon”.  Of course the modern civilian version is far from its roots, but for decades, forces around the world have used the G-Wagon to get it done. Mercedes still produces a special variant of the G-Wagon for defense and security forces. It’s called the 464 G-Class Utility Truck, and unlike the civilian version that needs 93 Octane, this version can run on poor quality diesel anywhere in the world, and sports a ladder frame, three locking differentials, and rigid axles up front and in the rear. And of course, a desert khaki paint scheme with black plastic instead of chrome.  The Watch:  IWC Big Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar TOP GUN Edition "Mojave Desert" Photo Credit: IWC This desert khaki ceramic perpetual calendar will set you back a cool 40 large. It’s the kind of watch with a case as big as its price tag at 46.5mm. But the aesthetic of the watch is its strength. It looks cool, even if you’re paying dearly for that look. IWC is based in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, in the German-speaking region near the German border. Underneath it all, there’s an in-house caliber that’s well engineered.  The Link: Expensive but capable is the theme here, and both of these things have a degree of unnecessary tacticool flashiness that’s earned them a legion of loyal followers, even if they’re designed with stealthiness in mind.  The Vehicle: Toyota Hi-Lux This is regarded as the most indestructible truck on the planet by most automotive enthusiasts. For better or worse, bad actors agree. That’s why you’ll often see a squad of masked goons perched in the bed alongside a shoddily mounted SALW set up ripping through the desert. We don’t get the Hi-Lux in the US, instead we get the Tacoma, which is a great truck in its own right–but not quite as tough as the Hi-Lux. It comes in a range of diesel and petrol options, 4x4 drivetrains, and the most basic features possible. Trucks modified as an “improvised fighting vehicle” are referred to as technicals. While yes, terrorists are known to employ technicals, our own Special Operations Forces have used them as well. The Toyota Hi-Lux is an absolute legend.  The Watch: Casio F-91W Speaking of legendary, Kikuo Ibe’s G-Shock is unequivocally the watch of choice for terrorists. It’s no secret that Usama bin Laden wore the F-91W. This isn’t to be taken as a knock against the watch, however. Terrorists deserve absolutely zero praise, a lot of us have dedicated our careers to mitigating their efforts.  But the truth is, the equipment that terrorists typically use has to be cheap and reliable. That’s exactly what the F-91W is.  (Read More: Casio F-91W, the Preferred Watch of Terrorists) The Link: I’ve met a few terrorists in my life, and they come in all shapes and sizes.  The one thing they all have in common, whether in Colombia, Somalia or Afghanistan, is a love for Hi-Lux and Casio.  Indestructible, simple, easy to use, and both favorites of bad actors around the globe–and good ones, too.  The Vehicle:  Land Rover Wolf You probably know the Land Rover Defender–the boxy, no-frills 4x4 that’s earned a massive fan base around the globe for its collection of 90-degree angles, not to mention its reputation as the physical incarnation of the English can-do attitude. It’s long out of production now, but the Wolf is the Defender, mostly in OD Green, with a roll bar and soft top, and a number of fortifications that made it fit for military duty. It also used the 300Tdi engine instead of the Td5 as it was considered easier to work on in the field because of its analog properties. It was widely used by UK forces during GWOT. There were nearly 100 versions of the Wolf performing specific roles like serving as an ambulance or modified for winter-specific operations.  The Watch: Bremont Broadsword Bremont Broadsword (Photo Credit Bremont) The Broadsword is Bremont’s interpretation of a Dirty Dozen watch, and it’s settled into the line-up as a GADA model that’s closely associated with Bremont’s military program. It’s simple, it’s tough, and has a touch of elegance. Just like its country of origin. It’s got small seconds at 6 just like the original Dirty Dozen watches, but now it’s joined by a date window. The font is modern, and it’s been endorsed by the MoD. That means Bremont has the rights to revive the Broad Arrow markings and put it on this very model. (See our profile: Aviation “Unit Watches”: Bremont Military and Special Projects Division) The Link: Strong ties to heritage and made in England with English pride is the theme here.  The Vehicle: MRZR 4x4 You’ve either driven a Polaris RZR or know someone who has one. They’re everywhere outside major cities in the US. The MRZR isn’t all that different, but it runs on diesel and includes strategic protection for use in conflict zones. The strength of the vehicle remains the same between the civilian and military variant: being able to rip through rough terrain quickly and reliably. The MRZR is designed to be transported in the V-22, H-53, and H-47.  The Watch: Pelagos 39 Photo Credit: James Rupley Rendered in titanium with the same legible dial layout as the apex predator dive watch, the Tudor Pelagos, the Pelagos 39 is slightly downsized for a perfect fit. Some folks don’t like the brushing on the dial or bezel, but it’s hard to deny how well this watch wears and how legible it is. (Read More: Tudors of Espionage (T.O.E.s) The Link: Light and nimble. Pared down. Easy to use. Their perfect size is their strength.  The Vehicle: High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV; Humvee) SOCOM Modified HUMVEE as a part of the Ground Mobility Vehicle (GMV) program. (Photo Credit: DOD) The High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, otherwise known as the Humvee, entered service in the late ‘80s, just as tensions were heating up around the globe. Developed for large scale Cold War-level conflicts, it quickly became a central figure in TV reportage of the Persian Gulf War. Meanwhile it served in Just Cause, Somalia, and the conflicts of the time in Bosnia and Kosovo. Its early success cemented its reputation as reliable and effective, and it went on to become known as the most successful light military truck in modern history. Where the Willys Jeep is a symbol of American mid-century might, the Humvee stands in for the military role the US has played in modern times. In fact, the vehicle was so beloved by the Americans that AM General produced a civilian version of it, the Hummer.  The Watch: Panerai Submersible PAM02973 (Photo Credit: Panerai) Panerai (in some fashion) was one of the original suppliers to Italian Frogmen. The brand’s signature svelte Italian curvy case and sandwich dial might have been relegated to the more style-oriented subset of watches today, but there’s certainly bonafide military history in Panerai’s past. The watches are chunky and oversized. The Submersible adds the functionality of a rotating bezel and is engineered for diving. What many people forget is just how desirable Panerais were in the ‘90s and early 2000s. There were waiting lists and you had to “be someone” to get an allocation long before the modern hype watch phenomena. While many watch blogs continue to debate (hate on) Panerai’s marketing, the fact is it does have a strong following in the NatSec space, particularly with the Naval Special Warfare community.  The Link: Both the Humvee and the Submersible are built like tanks and were true kings of the ‘90s and 2000s. Back then, many people were probably into both. The brawny draw of both captured the same sort of enthusiast, though it may not remain so today.  The Vehicle: Soviet/Russian MAZ-7917 With a 14x12 drivetrain and the ability to obliterate nations with ICBM launching capabilities, the MAZ-7917 is a force to be reckoned with. If you see MAZ-7917 movements on intelligence reports it gets attention. It transports, erects, and launches the Topol-M missile. The 54th Guards Order of Kutuzov Rocket Division is reported to oversee the Topol-M program. MAZ (Minsk Automobile Plant) manufactures the MAZ-7917 in Belarus, and is state-run. In addition to military vehicles, they produce vehicles like city buses for Eastern European nations.  The Watch: Seiko Astron The 1969 Quartz Astron 50th Anniversary Limited Edition (Photo Credit: Seiko) In 1969, Seiko unveiled the first quartz watch, and set off what would come to be dubbed the “quartz crisis” by the watch industry. The Astron relied on electronics to tell the time rather than traditional watchmaking know-how that Switzerland specialized in. Quartz watches were cheaper and more accurate, and Japan’s trio of Citizen, Seiko, and Casio owned the market. The Astron was the watch that started this trend. We all know how the story went–Quartz had a moment but certainly did not completely stamp out the Swiss mechanical watch industry. But it was the Astron that sounded the alarms.  The Link: Both the MAZ-7917 and the Seiko Astron have the potential to set off catastrophic chain reactions. And one–the Astron–did in 1969.  The Vehicle: Bradley Fighting Vehicle The Bradley Fighting Vehicle is named for General Omar Bradley, made by British BAE Systems, and operated by Croatia, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and of course, the US. It’s one of the most widely used tracked armored vehicles by the US and has been in service since 1981. As a tank, it’s a popular fixture in Hollywood military movies, and that’s for good reason: there are around 4,500 being actively used by the US military, and roughly 2,000 in storage. There are two versions, the M2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle and the M3 Cavalry Fighting Vehicle. It’s still being delivered to this day, at roughly 160 units per year.  The Watch: Omega PloProf Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M (Photo Credit: Omega) This is the ultimate dive watch from Omega. It’s waterproof to a staggering 1200 meters and originally used a monobloc case design which means the movement is loaded through the front and then a crystal is pressed into the case. In short, again, it’s built like a tank. There isn't an obvious curve on the case, either. The crown guard and bezel lock mechanism are actually part of the case, lending to a very functional design.   The Link: Both of these things are built in the same way–like tanks. One is actually a tank (well, a tracked armored fighting vehicle), and the other is as close as a watch can get to a tank.  The Vehicle: Type-10 Snow Vehicle Photo Credit: Military Today This vehicle is relatively obscure for a reason. Japan has a self-defense force (as opposed to an expeditionary force) and only recently has it moved towards exporting any sort of defense machinery. This means that most Japanese-developed military vehicles have stayed inside Japan, like the Type-10. It’s made by the company Ohara, which specializes in supporting civilian operations with vehicles in snowy environments, like Antarctica, where Japan maintains Syowa Research Station. The Type 10 is designed to carry 8 soldiers with gear and runs with a crew of 2.  The Watch: Seiko SPB297 Photo Credit: Seiko In 1965, Seiko came out with the 62MAS, their very first dive watch. It was well-received for the time, and Seiko took testing and quality control very seriously. The watch was issued to the 8th Antarctic Research Expedition team that stayed on the ice from 66-69. This visual language and case shape laid the foundation for plenty of Seiko’s dive watches since, and in the last five years Seiko has released a bevy of watches directly paying homage to this model. The SPB297 is one of them, and it features an icy dial to establish the link.  Showa Station, home of Seiko 62MAS testing. Credit: Antarctic Journal of the United States, 1967-68 The Link: We’ve said before that Seiko is the Toyota of Watches, but in this case it is the Ohara of watches.  Seiko might still issue watches to Japanese Antarctic teams (it’s known that Seiko made watches for JARE47 and JARE49), and if they do, it should be the SPB297. And you might find a Type-10 at Japan’s Antarctic station Showa as well.  The Vehicle:  BTR-80 - Soviet Union The Soviet-Afghan War is often overlooked, but some of the equipment that took part in the conflict certainly isn’t. The BTR-80 is one of the most striking symbols of the Soviet Union’s military might. It’s often depicted rolling through the Red Square with its crew popping out the hatches in the front of the vehicle during military parades. Most recently, the BTR-80 played an important role in the War in Ukraine. Both sides operate the BTR-80, and both sides have lost a number of them in the conflict. They’re still being produced to this day. The Watch: Vostok Amphibia Steve Zissou wore this watch in the movie The Life Aquatic, but that’s not why we think it’s interesting. The Amphibia is probably the most recognized example of a “Russian” watch. Although it should really be known as a Soviet watch, since it’s been around since ‘67 and Vostok as a company has been around since ‘42. Some collectors have a fascination with Russian/Soviet watches because of their prevalence in the current conflict in Ukraine. The Link: Both are instantly recognizable Soviet designs.  The Vehicle:  Jeep Willys MB Part of Roosevelt’s plan to emerge victorious during WWII included “out-producing the enemy” and this meant that the military industrial complex was spun up to full force. It resulted in an economic miracle, and one singular byproduct of that is the Willys Jeep. Roughly 600,000 of these light and capable 4x4 vehicles were produced, and they were shipped to every theater that the US was operating in. The vehicle went on to play a role in just about every conflict immediately following for a few decades; it was prominently featured in the show M*A*S*H, a comedic illustration of life soldiers’ lives during the Korean War. Of course, the platform evolved into an automotive smash hit in the civilian world with the Jeep Wrangler, but it started off as a humble git ‘er done piece of machinery serving on the battlefield.  The Watch: Hamilton Khaki Field Photo Credit: Hamilton We’re talking about an entire family of watches here, but if we want to get down to a specific reference, it would be the GG-W-113.  This watch was produced by many manufacturers, including Hamilton, to a US Gov spec (and that spec is GG-W-113, hence the name of the watches it spawned). That spec came out in 1967, and has since been replaced. But the modern, non-gov spec Hamilton Khaki field is the spiritual reincarnation of those Vietnam-era watches. The Link: Hamilton is now owned by the Swatch group, but it was once a truly American company that gave the US a lot of pride. The Jeep is another American icon. Both the Khaki Field and the Jeep spin off very successful civilian products that have become icons in their own right from a military specification.  -- If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE.     Read Next: SEAL Team Six and a U.S. Navy-Issued Seiko Turtle

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Sangin Instruments - The Marine Owned “Raider Rolex”

Sangin Instruments - The Marine Owned “Raider Rolex”

Sangin Instruments - The Marine Owned “Raider Rolex” I first heard of Sangin Instruments during TDY travel to a WarZone while at CIA.  At the...

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Sangin Instruments - The Marine Owned “Raider Rolex” I first heard of Sangin Instruments during TDY travel to a WarZone while at CIA.  At the time I was responsible for a counterterrorism Covert Action program in the Middle East and I was traveling to visit the program on a flight with other CIA officers.  (REDACTED PARAGRAPH) The atmosphere on the plane was a Star Wars bar vibe, with bearded paramilitary officers, support personnel and analysts, all dressed in civilian clothing that varied from business casual to a college campus look and of course the obligatory new camping gear from REI.  Like most things at CIA, rules were relaxed and the plane filled with professionals who didn’t need to be told which rules actually mattered. During a refuel stop in a European country, I struck up a conversation with the individual sitting next to me who I assessed (correctly) was a GRS (Global Response Staff) contractor reading a book on the Rhodesian Bush War. The conversation moved from evolution counterterrorism tactics, the ongoing conflict in our destination country and finally watches. The operator asked about the Rolex Submariner on my wrist, and was quick to interject that he used to wear his Sub during deployments but lost it in a recent divorce, so now wears a Sangin watch. He then launched into a passionate pitch for the company and an overview of what the Sangin brand represents. Sangin in the wild during Orion space capsule recovery (Sangin community photo) At the time, my interest in watches was surface level. But during that trip and following deployments I began to notice Sangin Instruments on the wrists of SpecOps personnel, CIA paramilitary officers, and other case officers.  In the business we call this a pattern. Like many watch companies, Sangin was a subculture in itself. Very much a “if you know, you know” type thing. I wanted to learn more about the watch that seemed to keep appearing on the wrist of professionals in this world. So I reached out to one of the two founders, Jacob Servantes to learn about how the company came to be.   (Sangin community photo) Sangin Instruments  Watches are a medium for stories, but for Jacob Servantes, Marine Raider and founder of Sangin Instruments, they provided even more.  “You come out of the military depressed as hell. At the professional level we were at, a lot of what you do becomes who you are. And when you leave, the machine just keeps going . . . so Sangin gave me a lot of purpose out of the military.” Servantes enlisted in 2008 as the economy was crumbling, hoping to earn some money for college on the other side of his service. The goal was to follow his father’s footsteps and become a Reconnaissance Marine.  At the time, he wasn't aware that a restructuring in 2006 would mean that elements of the Marine Corps would participate in SOCOM, resulting in MARSOC. He ended up squarely in the special operations community.  A rare photo of Jacob on deployment in Afghanistan. It was during selection that he walked away with his first lesson that he would incorporate into Sangin Instruments–become the new standard.  Become the New Standard Not much was publicly known about the Raider selection process, and that’s by design. But Servantes recounted the biggest takeaway was that the standard to be selected by the instructors only moved in one direction: it became harder and harder. When Marines rose to the standard, and exceeded it, their standard became the new standard. “We used to joke that the mattress fairy would take people away at night, because every night you would see fewer and fewer people,” Servantes recalled. In his class, a group of 120 hopeful Marines were deposited in an undisclosed location somewhere in North Carolina. 25 people were selected after a grueling three weeks and countless miles of rucking/team events. Each class sets the standard for the next class, meaning that the standard is constantly being raised. It always gets harder, and that idea is something Servantes has incorporated into the way Sangin Instruments does things, “selection is continuous.” (Sangin community photo) Sangin, Afghanistan The name of Servantes’ company comes from Sangin, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, an area along the Helmand River Valley where the Commando team he worked on spent much of their deployment. Sangin is a place that many who served during the GWOT will be familiar with, and it was known as “the most dangerous place in the world for multiple years running–the hospital on base was the busiest hospital, anywhere, at the time.” Servantes says. That’s part of why he chose the name Sangin Instruments. “Sangin is a horrible place in the world–many guys attribute awful memories to Sangin, but they’ll carry this name with them and hopefully have a positive memory about breaking down barriers, and their own sacrifices and achievements.”  (Photo Credit: James Rupley) Building a watch company is not for the fainthearted and bringing the brand to life was an achievement in itself. It almost didn’t happen. But the can-do attitude prevailed. He got back from a deployment and told his wife that he’d put in his time with special operations. During his time in the Middle East and the Philippines, he wore a M-1 Breitling Chrono Avenger (sketchy) and several Digital Tool Watches. While deployed, he'd been thinking about watch designs based on the work he was doing. He tested the market among his friends and colleagues in the military and conceptualized a watch that would be affordable and capable. A watch that would stand up to the type of work they were doing while also speaking to the community.  Watches Built For Warriors Servantes’ wife, Paris, bought the idea. This was 2017. After some help from his mentor, Bill Yao of popular watch microbrand MK II, they had a prototype. And following the evaluation of the prototype, Sangin launched a successful pre-sale that would help fund the initial batch of 250 watches called the Kinetic 1. The only problem was that Paypal held the funding without explanation and would not release it to obtain the watches. Paris reached into her savings and a small inheritance; Servantes had his bonus from his last Afghanistan deployment. Between them, they scraped together the cash and bet big on Sangin Instruments working out. They were in a squeeze, but Servantes had a steadfast partner in his wife, who learned how to do Quality Control on all the watches and packaged them up and answered customer emails while he was in business school. W.O.E.’s personal Sangin Overlord Believing in Sangin Instruments paid off, but it was never the plan–the primary objective was to take care of the community and make a product to be proud of. The first round of watches was delivered and the phones haven’t stopped ringing since.  “Part of the culture of watches in general is wanting to have a part of something you’ve done. So when these guys leave the military, they can take a piece of that experience with them,” Servantes says of his watches.  (Sangin community photo) Sangin Today  Today, Sangin boasts an impressive line of watches, from the entry level quartz Overlord to the premium newly released Hydra, Sangin’s interpretation of a mid-century compressor-style diver's watch. The community remains an important part of Sangin’s identity with customers demonstrating a near religious fervor as they wait for the next release. Sangin also offers several watches that must be earned.  The “Para” Overlord is only available to members of the airborne community and would-be customers must submit a certification verification.  The green bezel Atlas and Neptune are available only to those who have completed a SOF selection course, red for first responders and blue for law enforcement personnel.  They are tools for professionals. Jacob was mum on the ongoing special projects “unit watches” but a custom Professional made for the CIA Directors Protective Staff (DPS) was recently for sale on Ebay (but quickly disappeared without explanation).  Suffice to say, we are aware of several special projects for units in the IC and SpecOps community but cannot go into details at this time. Ebay listing of Sangin Professional for the CIA’s Directors Protective Staff. (Ebay)  Sangin Instruments - “With You” As Sangin grows, Servantes makes sure that giving back and taking care of the community he comes from is part of it. Servantes has developed watches that specifically speak to a community of men and women who serve. As he grew the business, an unlikely presence in the watch world supercharged the number of people interested in Sangin. “Rolex helped us out with their price point and availability. You have a lot of Green Berets who finally could afford a Rolex but just couldn't get them. And here we were offering something specifically for them,” he says.  Informally, many refer to Sangin watches as the “Raider Rolex.” Now Servantes will run into guys who tell him that they have a few deployments on their watch, and the memories of service are imbued into the timepiece. That’s exactly what makes Servantes and Paris continue to push Sangin forward. A part of the Sangin Instruments mission that Servantes doesn’t publicly put forward is his support of important nonprofits contributing to those in the veteran community, including HunterSeven Foundation, Special Operations Care Fund (SOC-F) and Vigilant Torch. One of the altruistic motivations of the W.O.E. platform is preserving watch culture in the NatSec community. No one has done more to further this end than the team at Sangin Instruments. Many of us came up in the GWOT days where digital watches were the norm. Sangin offers a great way for professionals to get into watches in an unpretentious manner. -- If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE.  This Dispatch has been reviewed by the CIA’s Prepublication Classification Review Board to prevent the disclosure of classified information. READ NEXT: Demystifying a North Korean State-Sponsored Luxury Wristwatch Awarded to High-Ranking Officials

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Omega's Modern Unit Watch Program - Frogmen, SEALs and the Secret Service

Omega's Modern Unit Watch Program - Frogmen, SEALs and the Secret Service

Omega has a long history of producing watches for the military, most notably the classic Seamaster 300 made for the British Royal Navy.  Today the...

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Omega has a long history of producing watches for the military, most notably the classic Seamaster 300 made for the British Royal Navy.  Today the company is continuing that history with special production “unit watches,” and appears to have standardized its program, offering a unique Seamaster Diver 300M solely to military and law enforcement units.  The options for customization include the unit insignia on the caseback as well as a name/call sign or other identifier associated with the individual. Submission from the W.O.E. community. Omega & The Military: While Omega watches are no longer issued to UK military units, we see them regularly on the wrist of operators as private purchases. The connections between Omega and the military, in particular maritime SOF units, are undeniable.  We previously profiled the watch of the British Special Boat Service (SBS), a 2007 commission of the Omega Seamaster GMT 300 Co-Axial with a blue dial. It appears that Omega has revived this practice of creating a unit-specific Seamaster. Unit Watches: Unit Watches are at the core of modern day watch culture in the military, intelligence, and law enforcement community. We've seen a significant uptick in unit-specific customization programs by major brands in recent years.  In contrast to other special projects programs, which provide significant customizations to their range of watches for military units, Omega appears more restricted in their offerings, potentially to streamline the process.  (Omega marketing document) To review, a unit watch is a timepiece that is customized by the manufacturer for members of a specific unit or organization.  Customizations can include the unit’s insignia on the dial and/or an engraving on the caseback.  Unit watches are generally private purchases, paid for by the individual operator.  We have profiled several unit watch programs, including Bremont and Tudor. Omega Unit Watches: We are aware of at least four confirmed recent configurations of this Seamaster made for units: the Danish Frogman Corps (Frømandskorpset), the US Secret Service, the US Navy SEALS, and a US Special Operations unit (name withheld).  All watches appear to have the same dial and bezel, a matte version not available on the public market and the watches are customized with the organization's insignia engraved on the caseback. (Omega marketing document) Watch Specifications: The watch is a no date Seamaster Diver 300M with blackened skeleton hands, beige indices with blue lume on the hour & second hands and green lume on the minute hand.  The movement is the Omega Calibre 8806, Co-Axial Master Chronometer.  The preferred pricing is $5,100 (before taxes), discounted from the MSRP of $5,900 for a standard Seamaster at any AD.  The Seamaster has a steel bracelet and an extra rubber strap.  The watch comes in a waxed canvas travel pouch from British Millerain (sounds fancy!), and the unit's insignia is embossed on the pouch. (Omega marketing document) Danish Frogman Corps (Frømandskorpset): The Danish Frogman Corps is the premier maritime special operations force of the Danish Armed Forces and is a rough equivalent to the Navy SEALs/SBS and appears to be the first unit to receive this custom version of the Seamaster. (Photo: @fkp_froemandskorpset) Pictured is a Danish Frogman wearing the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M “unit watch” during a training exercise.  It was reportedly available for private purchase by current and former members of Frømandskorpset. After completing their service, the Frogmen can join “Conventus Ranae” (“a gathering of frogs”), which is the Frogmen’s association aimed at strengthening the bond between active and retired Frogmen. The Omega was available to anyone in that association. Submission from the W.O.E. community. This week, then-Danish Crown Prince Frederik X was proclaimed King of Denmark after his mother Queen Margrethe II abdicated the throne.  King Frederik X served in the Frogmen Corps and when he took the throne, he wore his “unit watch” Omega Seamaster Diver 300M . . . on a tan Omega fabric strap.  We always choose our most meaningful watches for big events and to the King, this appears to be his.  Any watch brand would be thrilled to give him any allocation he wants–but instead he chose to wear the watch he served in. It doesn’t get any better.  Navy SEALs: We have extensively profiled Tudor’s long time association with the SEAL Teams but watch culture in Naval Special Warfare extends to other brands, including Omega.  The Omega Seamaster (and other references) has long been a favorite of the SEALs, due to its history as a dive tool watch, and of course, Bond, James Bond.  While these were never issued to Naval Special Warfare units, they can be seen on the wrists of Team guys deployed and while at home. (See our previous profile of former Navy SEAL Dave Hall). Omega Seamaster Chronograph on the wrist of former Navy SEAL Rob Huberty during BUD/S graduation of class 259 (Photo Credit: Huberty)  The SEAL version is the same as the Danish Frogman one, except the caseback displays the Navy SEAL Trident, an eagle clutching a U.S. Navy anchor, trident, and flintlock-style pistol, also known as the “Budweiser” given the similarity to the (former) American beer company. Submission from a W.O.E. community member. We are told that the SEAL version of the Omega Seamaster is currently in production and has not been delivered.  Current and former members of a Navy SEAL team can submit orders and expected orders are somewhere between 150 and 200 units.  In contrast to Panerai’s commercialization of the “SEAL Trident,” this watch is (reportedly) only available to SEALS . . . the way it should be. (Omega marketing document) United States Secret Service: The Secret Service is the US federal law enforcement agency responsible for conducting criminal investigations surrounding financial systems and protecting U.S. political leaders, most notably the President and Vice President.  We have previously profiled the US Secret Service Counter Assault Team (C.A.T. aka Hawkeye) commissioned Tudor Pelagos LHD and it appears others wanted in on the action.  (Read More: US Secret Service Omega Seamaster During Trump's Assassination Attempt) In December 2023 USSS Special Agents began taking delivery of the custom Omega Seamaster.  Each watch is similar to the SEAL/Danish versions and the caseback contains the Secret Service star and “Worthy of Trust and Confidence.”  At the bottom of the dial is the Special Agent’s commission book number or something else unique to them.  Approximately 182 were produced, the second batch set to deliver at the end of January 2024. W.O.E. community Submission. A Few Thoughts: We applaud Omega and The Swatch Group for offering this resource to men and women who answered the call to serve around the globe.  These watches will no doubt remain a talisman of their service to their nation and heirlooms for generations to come.  We expect several other units to adopt the Omega Seamaster as a unit watch over the coming months.   While other brands appear to offer more customization options, the simple design and limited options for customization (insignia on the caseback) likely make this a more streamlined process which can result in more watches.   Our hope is that this specific design is not released to the broader public as many have called for.  The best things in life are earned, not bought. *This post is NOT sponsored by Omega, Swatch Group or anyone else.  All views and opinions are solely our own. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE.  -- READ NEXT: Remembering the Legacy of CIA Paramilitary Officer Billy Waugh Through His Watches  

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A Brief History Of The Dive Watch - How The Military Helped To Shape History’s Greatest Tool Watch (Part Two)

A Brief History Of The Dive Watch - How The Military Helped To Shape History’s Greatest Tool Watch (Part Two)

Benjamin Lowry -  If you’re new here, you’ll want to go back and read part one (HERE) of this two-part series where we detail the...

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Benjamin Lowry -  If you’re new here, you’ll want to go back and read part one (HERE) of this two-part series where we detail the history of the earliest diving-specific watches and their crucial links to military organizations including Italy’s Decima Flottiglia MAS, the US Navy’s Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT

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Double Wristing Stormin' Norman

Double Wristing Stormin' Norman

No, General Schwarzkopf did not double wrist a Rolex and Seiko Despite What You’ve Read. Pictured is General H. Norman Schwarzkopf wearing two watches. Read...

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No, General Schwarzkopf did not double wrist a Rolex and Seiko Despite What You’ve Read. Pictured is General H. Norman Schwarzkopf wearing two watches. Read any story on Schwarzkopf and watches and you’ll learn that it’s a Rolex Day-Date and a Seiko diver. There’s just one problem–he didn’t wear a Rolex. The truth is just as interesting, however. Both watches are Seikos, aka the Toyota of Watches. Thanks to research by our friend @niccoloy, we’d like to set the record straight, and while we’re at it, we’ll dig into the idea of “double wristing”, or simply put–wearing two watches at once. “Double Wristing” -Bravado vs practical utility: Double wristing can be understood today as somewhat of a “flex”, done by celebrities, athletes and rappers as an ostentatious display of wealth, an indication one has “f*ck you money.”  But wearing two watches before the era of smartphones meant something different. Keep in mind, watches were largely used for their intended purpose - to tell time. Wearing two watches meant that you probably had a reason to.  While the GMT complication has allowed a single watch to track two time zones at once, several historical figures have worn multiple watches. Most notable among them is Four Star General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, aka Stormin’ Norman, who wore a watch on each wrist during the First Gulf War. There’s undeniably an element of projecting a certain image, but here’s the reason in his own words: "I always wore two watches during the war. The one on my left arm was set on Saudi Arabian time and the Seiko on my right arm was set on Eastern Standard Time. That way I could quickly glance at my watches and instantly know the time in both Saudi Arabia and Washington, D.C.”  Then commander of United States Central Command (CENTCOM) and head of coalition forces against Saddam Hussein, Schwarzkopf was pictured regularly wearing the two timepieces, a supposed two tone "Rolex" and a Seiko diver on a rubber strap.   Photo Credit: Yousuf Karsh The dressier watch is regularly reported in watch media as a two tone Rolex Day-Date, which is incorrect.  According to expert historical watch spotter @niccoloy, both watches are actually Seikos.  Niccoloy looked through scores of pictures to find this relatively obscure photo of General Schwarzkopf on a helicopter, the signature Seiko clasp clearly visible on the inside of the wrist. Practicality vs Imagery, Bravado, Perceptions: Did the General really need two watches to track the time in DC and Saudi Arabia?  Probably not, a simple GMT function would have sufficed. Or a quick calculation.  While we will not outright question Schwarzkopf’s claimed utility of the two timepieces, we can also assume that the watches also served as a tool in the information war. In Diplomacy, Military, and Intelligence, imagery and perception matters.  Modern day Generals are just as much politicians and diplomats as they are warfighters.  Schwarzkopf was the face of the Gulf conflict to the American people, allies, and Iraqis. He likely spent considerable time thinking about how he was perceived by each constituent.  While it seems comical now, thirty-plus years ago, the “double wristing” arguably supported his persona as someone in charge, someone who valued time and someone intensely focused on accomplishing his mission.  The contrast of the two watches, one a riff on the watch par excellence, and the other a known tool watch, mirrored his position as warrior-diplomat. An effective General can get his hands dirty during the day and stroll right into a state dinner at night looking the part.  Our assessment is that these two accessories were intended as a physical display of this dichotomy.  The watches were tools–each one for a different job. Interestingly, General Schwarzkopf appears to periodically switch wrists throughout the conflict, the reasoning behind this is purely speculation.  While the two tone dress Seiko is unidentified, the blue and red “Pepsi” bezel Seiko on a rubber strap was auctioned in the 1990s at Antiquorum for $11,000.  The Seiko diver is often listed as a Seiko SKX009, but according to the 1999 auction description, it was quartz so it is likely something a Seiko reference 7548. Havana - Moscow - Washington D.C. The General is by no means the first notable historical figure to wear two watches at once. Fidel Castro routinely wore multiple watches, sometimes on the same wrist, including during a 1963 meeting with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in the Kremlin.  There are some indications he set the watches to Havana, Moscow, and Washington DC (The third utilizing the GMT function).   Similar to Schwarzkopf, we can assume this was just as much a strategic decision as it was practical. We can only speculate what a socialist and Marxist-Leninist leader was trying to accomplish with this display, but we can assume it was no accident.  (Today Washington D.C. and Havana are in the same time zone -UTC -5-, but between the years 1960 and 1964 Havana used the time zone UTC -4.)   Modern Day Double Wristing - Is it acceptable? In general, we do not judge people for how or why they wear their watches.  Anything that lets one enjoy their timepieces is a good thing.  It appears that double wristing is having a renaissance with the advent of the smart watch.  This may seem overboard, but the use case of wearing a high tech Apple Watch and a traditional timepiece seems to make complete sense.  Recently, former Delta Officer and JSOC Commander, Four Star Gen. Scott Miller was seen double wristing an Omega Seamaster 300M and smart watch while meeting with some former Afghan partners in Texas.  It's hard to judge a man like Scotty Miller. READ NEXT: The History Of Casio G-Shocks And The US Military

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Every Watch In Jack Carr’s Red Sky Mourning

Every Watch In Jack Carr’s Red Sky Mourning

Sketchy Breitlings, A Vietnam-Era Rolex, & More Making fun of Navy SEALs writing books is a joke that will never get old.  That said, there...

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Sketchy Breitlings, A Vietnam-Era Rolex, & More Making fun of Navy SEALs writing books is a joke that will never get old.  That said, there have been some great authors to come out of the Teams and Jack Carr is at the top of the list. Carr’s series of novels detailing the adventures of James Reece has become a massive hit, transcending the boundaries of our community to find broader mainstream success including a 2022 television adaptation starring Chris Pratt, The Terminal List. We have discussed watch culture in the SEAL Teams at length and Carr is also a watch enthusiast, with an extensive collection that includes a Rolex Sea-Dweller he wore while serving in the Teams as well as a Tudor Pelagos FXD Black, several Vietnam-era Seikos, an Ares, and more (Photo Credit: W.O.E./James Rupley) One of the key aspects that makes Carr’s writing compelling is the author’s incredible attention to detail, always doing additional research to describe firearms, gear, and watches in depth. Throughout the series, James Reece, Carr’s protagonist, wears a vintage Rolex Submariner gifted to him by his father, a Vietnam-era SEAL turned CIA Case Officer. In the television adaptation, Reece—portrayed by Chris Pratt—wears several watches including an Oris Aquis Pro Date Calibre 400, Resco Instruments BlackFrog Gen2 Black PVD (an insider told us he wanted to wear a military watch in specific scenes), a G-Shock GA-100-1A1, and a period correct 5.11 Military Tactical Field Ops Watch. Chris Pratt wearing a Resco Instruments BlackFrog Gen2 Black PVD in the television adaptation of The Terminal List. (Photo Credit: Justin Lubin) Carr’s seventh book in the James Reece series, Red Sky Mourning, was released last month. When I read it, I was truly surprised by the number of specific watches mentioned in the text, with one even playing a pivotal role in the plot. I knew Carr was a watch enthusiast, but this new novel shows how far down the rabbit hole the SEAL-turned-author has fallen. If you haven’t checked out the book, be advised: This text contains some spoilers. Elba Industries Breitling Emergency In Red Sky Mourning, at least one watch with a special complication plays an integral role in the plot. Andrew Hart, the dastardly fictional head of the fictional Elba Industries, wears a sketchy Breitling Emergency complete with a co-signed dial featuring Elba’s logo, a golden bee, an homage to co-signed “unit watches” from Breitling including the Blackwater Breitling we have discussed in great detail. Given Carr’s history in the SEAL Teams and working with CIA, it would be reasonable to assume the author has seen a few of these watches in his day. Former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince wearing a Blackwater-signed Breitling Emergency. An analog digital timepiece from Breitling’s golden era producing “watches for professionals”, the Emergency contains an antenna that broadcasts a signal on the 121.5 MHz aircraft emergency frequency when activated. Commercial and military aircraft monitored the frequency and were able to alert search and rescue teams of an individual's location, anywhere in the world. At Red Sky Mourning’s climax, the signal from Hart’s Emergency is used to locate the ne'er-do-well and James Reece, an old-school Rolex guy through and through. Vintage Rolex Submariner A Rolex Submariner reference 5513 from the same era as the Sub worn by James Reece throughout the books. (Photo Credit: Wind Vintage) In the Terminal List series, James Reece is a former US Navy SEAL who has also worked extensively with the Agency. Reece’s father, Tom, was also a SEAL turned CIA Case Officer, having served in the Teams in Vietnam where he purchased the Submariner that also features prominently throughout the series on his son’s wrist. In Red Sky Mourning, James Reece’s Rolex is taken from him by the Chinese intelligence officer Ba Jin who also asks what year the Sub is from. Reece says, “It’s a ’68. You guys had just kicked off your Cultural Revolution a couple of years earlier. How many people did Mao kill in his efforts to purify the Party?” As you’d expect, Reece ends up getting the watch back in a way that does not work out well for Ba Jin. US Navy SEALs in Vietnam wearing Rolex or Tudor Submariners. Given the 1968 timeframe, the Submariner in question is most likely either a non-date chronometer certified 5512 or potentially the non-COSC 5513, both models that are closely associated with Vietnam-era SEALs. It’s also conceivable the watch is a date model 1680 that also offered the red Submariner text at the time that is so coveted by collectors today. While arguably this should have been an issued Tudor Submariner, a classic Rolex Submariner is the perfect choice for a legacy SEAL like Reece that also once again demonstrates the author’s attention to detail and love for horology. Rhodesian Army Roamer Anfibio W.O.E.’s personal Rhodesian Roamer (Photo Credit: James Rupley) In Red Sky Mourning, as he often does, Reece visits the Hastings family, home of his best friend Raife Hastings, a South African-born former SEAL teammate, and his father, Jonathan, who served with the Special Air Service (SAS) and later the famed Rhodesian Selous Scouts. Reaching extremely deep into the annals of military watch history, Carr equips Jonathan with a Roamer Anfibio, a seldom-discussed Swiss watch whose claim to fame is having been issued to the Rhodesian military back in the 1970s. Rhodesian issued Roamer on a leather military "Bund" strap worn by Colonel David “King” Parker, Commanding Officer of the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI). Col. Parker is wearing the Roamer, which was common according to pictures from the Bush War. Jonathan Hasting’s history with the Selous Scouts, a special forces component of the Rhodesian Army, makes this watch an excellent and historically accurate choice for Hastings who serves as something of an additional father figure to Reece. What led Roamer, a Swiss brand founded in 1888, to supply the Rhodesian military is one of watch history’s mysteries, but you can’t fault the quality of Carr’s homework. If you have been following this page, you know I've spent a lot of my life living, working, and traveling in Africa, a country with a large number of unique and lesser-known military watches. Interestingly, Hasting’s trajectory closely follows that of a real individual, someone who is not widely known outside of the Intelligence Community. Tianjin Seagull 1963 Chang Zheng is a Chinese Jin-Class Type 094 Submarine featuring  prominently in a cat-and-mouse game with the USS Reagan in the early pages of Red Sky Mourning. In describing her captain, Commander Zhen, Carr says mentions the, “…Tianjin Seagull 1963 watch on his wrist.”, a reference that serves as perhaps the second deepest watch cut in the book after the aforementioned Roamer Anfibio. Known to enthusiasts as simply the “Seagull 1963”, the Chinese-made manual-winding chronograph serves as perhaps the least expensive mechanical chronograph available today, with an ST19 caliber produced in China at Tianjin’s factory with tooling purchased from Switzerland back in the 1950s. A Chinese Jin-Class Type 094 Submarine like the Chang Zheng mentioned in Red Sky Mourning. Initially produced for Chinese Air Force pilots, the Seagull 1963 is an enthusiast-favorite watch because of its attainable price point—typically less than $500—in relation to its complication coupled with a surprisingly well-decorated movement. For a Chinese submarine commander, it also makes a lot of sense given the watch’s military history. Captaining a Chinese submarine likely involves direct inclusion in the communist party. For Commander Zhen to demonstrate his pride in the party by wearing a mechanical watch produced in his country feels dead-on accurate. Rolex Yacht-Master A second watch from the Crown mentioned in the text is the Rolex Yacht-Master, worn by Dr. Lawrence Miles, an avid sailor, former CIA contractor, and the billionaire founder of the Delphi Corporation. Reece goes to Miles’ home in Marin, California to learn more about the motivations behind the nefarious Andrew Hart. During their conversation, Miles describes a meeting he had with Hart and two other sketchy individuals, saying, “I remember they all wore the same watch—Breitling Emergencies. As a sailor you notice things like that,” he said, tapping the white gold Rolex Yacht-Master on his wrist and pointing to the stainless Submariner worn by his guest.” While white gold and platinum are the materials that come to mind first for the Yacht-Master, the new titanium version would also be an interesting pick for Miles’ character. (Photo Credit: Hodinkee) Also describing his sailing history, the Yacht-Master is the perfect choice for the billionaire and passionate sailor who spends his days overlooking San Francisco Bay. Unlike many Rolex sport models, there is no full-steel Yacht-Master in the modern catalog, meaning you’re looking at either full-gold, some combination of steel and platinum or steel and gold, or the new titanium variant released earlier this year. Given Miles’ financial situation, we like to think we went full billionaire bling. (Photo Credit: W.O.E./James Rupley) Digital Tool Watches (D.T.W.) & Smartwatches In addition to the above-listed mechanical analog watches, Carr also mentions a Timex Ironman in the text, placing the legendary attainable digital watch on the wrist of retired US Army General and current CIA Director Marcus Howe. In the text, Carr writes, “Howe looked down at the Timex Ironman watch that had graced his wrist for most of his time in uniform…” With a thirty-year background in US Army Special Forces, the humble Ironman is an appropriate and pragmatic option for the Agency director. Adding another layer, the Timex Ironman was commonly issued to CIA Paramilitary Officers as well as partner forces including Afghan units. While less key to the plot, smartwatches are also mentioned several times in the text, usually in discussions regarding their vulnerability. We’ve detailed the role and counterintelligence vulnerabilities of the smartwatch in modern espionage, and we appreciate Carr for bringing this element of modern watch culture into the book. Read more about “CIA Officers and Apple Watches” HERE. More than many thriller writers from outside the community, Carr manages to capture both the essential essence and concrete details of life within intelligence and special operations. Viewed from any number of angles and by various enthusiast communities for knives, firearms, tactical equipment, and watches, Carr packs the James Reece sagas with layer upon layer of references and Easter eggs that some will grasp and some won’t, but that’s the fun of it. We often make fun of SEALs, most of whom are authors, and will continue to do so. But Jack Carr has done it the right way, avoiding repetitively rehashing his own GWOT adventures in favor of the larger-than-life story of James Reece that is bolstered by Carr’s personal experience in the field of special operations and espionage. For watch enthusiasts, this level of attention to detail and historical accuracy is the good stuff and only adds another level of intrigue to Carr’s work. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE.  Read Next: SOG Seikos - Vietnam MACV-SOG Watches, Part II     Featured Image Credits: Breitling Emergency (Photo Credit: Lunar Oyster), Rolex Submariner 5513 (Photo Credit: Wind Vintage), Roamer Anfibio (Photo Credit: James Rupley)

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US Secret Service Omega Seamaster During Trump's Assassination Attempt

US Secret Service Omega Seamaster During Trump's Assassination Attempt

A Special Unit-Specific Version Of An Iconic Watch Designed For The US Secret Service This past Saturday, a series of gunshots was heard around the...

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A Special Unit-Specific Version Of An Iconic Watch Designed For The US Secret Service This past Saturday, a series of gunshots was heard around the world. Former US President Donald Trump was speaking at a rally in Pennsylvania in support of his upcoming presidential bid when suddenly, he flinched and reached for his right ear as shots rang out. In seconds, the former president’s US Secret Service protective detail took him to the ground, shielding Trump with their bodies as a USSS Counter Sniper Team engaged and killed Thomas Matthew Crooks. As Secret Service agents rushed Trump offstage, a member of his detail was photographed wearing a special unit-specific version of the Omega Seamaster, another example of a member of our community wearing a serious watch in the line of fire. The USSS Omega Seamaster Diver 300 “Unit Watch” on the wrist of an agent on Trump’s protective detail. (Photo Credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) As a disclaimer, our interest in the watch in no way diminishes the severity of the incident, the injured, or the tragic loss of firefighter Corey Comperatore. The Omega is relatively insignificant here, but timepieces are our prism to view history and current events. By any measurement, this assassination attempt was a security failure and will be investigated. Much of what transpired remains unclear and disinformation and misinformation are rampant. We will not opine on what we think happened and will wait for the details to come to light.  Regardless of the failures this past weekend, the Secret Service is an honorable profession with ranks filled with true professionals. Secret Service Agents are in harm’s way on a daily basis, regularly putting their lives on the line to protect the office of the President and those running for it. It is a zero-fail mission. The good guys have to get it right every single day, the bad guys only have to get it right once.   This article will likely be interpreted by some as political, but to be clear, it is not. On Saturday, July 13th, a timepiece—a special version of the Omega Seamaster Diver 300 designed for the US Secret Service—found itself at the center of a history-making event. We are here to talk about that watch. Omega Seamaster Diver 300 US Secret Service Unit Watch A community submission showing a USSS Omega Seamaster “Unit Watch”. In late 2023, US Secret Service Agents representing multiple field offices and units began taking delivery of a customized version of the Omega Seamaster Diver 300, a model family more closely associated with James Bond. Serving as the primary unit watch within Omega’s catalog, the Secret Service Seamaster differs from the standard version with a no-date format, beige luminescent material, and matte finishing throughout the case and bracelet. On the case back, the Secret Service star is engraved along with “Worthy of Trust and Confidence.” On the bottom of the case, agents can have their commission book number or something else unique to them printed in subtle text. While watches like this are sometimes purchased from a commemorative point of view, many are used as tools, with the pictured Special Agent in Trump’s protective detail providing further evidence. Importantly, this reference is available only to military and law enforcement units, including the US Navy SEALs, Danish Frogman Corps (Frømandskorpset), and other American and European units. Other individuals within the Secret Service including the Counter Assault Team (CAT aka HAWKEYE), which was also present during the assassination attempt, have also purchased the Omega. Of note, other USSS units have special versions of the Tudor LHD Pelagos and certain Breitling references. As is often the case in our community, the US Secret Service has a thriving watch culture. Again, the watch in question does not represent the most important aspect of the events that transpired over the weekend, instead serving as yet another example of how watches are utilized as tools in the daily lives of professionals in the military, intelligence, NatSec, and federal service communities. Thoughts and prayers for all involved in the events over the weekend. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. Read Next: U.S. Presidents and Timepieces, The Last 40 Years

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The Murky World Of Counterfeit Rolex

The Murky World Of Counterfeit Rolex

Fake Watch Shopping In Istanbul -  A Case Study As a CIA Case Officer operating overseas, you are exposed to the dark side of humanity....

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Fake Watch Shopping In Istanbul -  A Case Study As a CIA Case Officer operating overseas, you are exposed to the dark side of humanity. It is not a career for the faint-hearted and you learn some things they don’t teach in school. He who fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you. – Friedrich Nietzsche While the quote is dramatic, there is some merit to it. I didn’t fully realize how abnormal life at CIA was until I separated from the Agency. A byproduct of a career at CIA is a fascination with illicit activity; arms dealers, wildlife trafficking, organized crime, and, now that I am an aspiring watch nerd, counterfeit watches. Fake Watches - A Real-World Case Study Most articles on fake, or “replica” watches cover topics like “How to spot fake Rolex?”, “How much does a fake Rolex cost?”, or “Where to buy a fake Rolex?” These are all interesting topics, but we wanted to go deeper into the counterfeit luxury watch industry.  To do this, I went counterfeit watch shopping in Istanbul, Turkey. There’s nothing like first-hand experience. Counterfeit timepieces are a multi-billion-dollar industry, with shaky estimates indicating between 30 and 50 million fake watches entering the market each year. Contrast that figure with Rolex’s estimated annual production of approximately 1 million pieces per annum; It is reasonable to conclude that there are probably more fake Rolex watches on wrists than there are genuine examples throughout the world. This means that when you see someone wearing a Rolex, statistically speaking, it’s probably fake – a crazy thought. Istanbul - A Counterfeit Watch Mecca During a recent trip to Istanbul, I had a mission: to acquire a “super clone,” or ”superfake” a watch that is nearly indistinguishable from a real thing. Not only are cosmetic traits like the miniature laser-etched Rolex crown on the crystal present but if you take the watch apart, the movement itself is branded Rolex. Even for experienced watchmakers, some of these “super clones” are, all the way down to the movement components, virtually indistinguishable from genuine Rolex. There are differences, of course, but these “super clones” are astonishingly close to the genuine product to the untrained eye. I wanted to see for myself. Rolex crown laser-etched into the crystal, introduced in 2001 to deter counterfeiters. (Photo Credit: Bob’s Watches) Istanbul, Turkey Istanbul's Grand Bazaar is a covered market with over 4,000 shops selling everything from Turkish sweets to clothes and yes, of course, a large selection of counterfeit goods. Entering through the Nuruosmaniye Mosque gate, visitors are overwhelmed with a plethora of shops specifically targeting tourists. The presence of fake watches is immediately apparent and, in contrast to many markets around the world, completely in the open. The watch shopping experience varies depending on the shop but on the higher end is almost like a boutique experience, the only difference being the watches are fake and you can actually buy a “Rolex” rather than be put on a waiting list. They offer tea and coffee, a chair for your bored spouse to sit in, and customer service that exceeds the boutique experience presented by many luxury watchmakers. Interestingly, pictures are generally not discouraged and the sellers are relatively open about the sale of fakes. It isn’t just Rolex, either. Panerai, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and even counterfeit sketchy Breitlings are readily available, with starting (negotiable) prices of around $450. Most of the watches utilize Miyota movements and are, as you might expect, made in China. Pretty much any reference you can imagine is available including the Le Mans Daytona and Titanium Yachtmaster. 2024 Watches and Wonders releases? No worries, they should be available soon. What Is A “Fake” Rolex?  It is important to understand what a fake Rolex is. We have identified three categories of counterfeit Rolex watches to be aware of. Cheap Or Tourist Fakes: These cost somewhere between $50 and $300 and are generally picked up from street vendors in major tourist cities in Europe, South America, the Middle East, and even New York. You used to be able to spot them by their quartz movements which caused the second hand to “tick” instead of sweep, but now they tend to have automatic movements, more accurate details, and better finishing. But, in general, they are still sloppy fakes and you are not fooling anyone who owns a Rolex with this piece unless you are in a dark room. Super Clone or One For One: So-called replica watches, nearly identical to the genuine thing. They can cost over a thousand dollars and rumor has it that even when taken apart, it can be difficult to tell if the watch is genuine or a reproduction. In theory, one could wear a super clone to the local RedBar watch nerd meetup and fool everyone in the room. It’s been rumored that these have even been unknowingly sold by legitimate dealers as well, proving that the only way to know something is real is to buy it from the boutique. Frankenwatches:  A catch-all term used to describe watches that may be made up of parts that have been switched out and/or a real watch with fake parts (replaced bezel, dial, hands, etc…). Some are honest efforts to restore a watch, but more sinister versions are meant to fool prospective buyers. A recent notable example was the “Tropical” Omega Speedmaster Ref. 2915-1 ‘Broad Arrow’ auctioned by Phillips for over $3.4 million. As documented by popular watch blogger Perezcope, the watch itself was a frankenwatch, allegedly cobbled together by insiders with access to the Omega archives.   Tropical” Omega Speedmaster Ref. 2915-1 ‘Broad Arrow’ frankenwatch, sold Phillips for over $3.4 million (Photo Credit: Phillips) Why Are Fake Watches A Problem? At a minimum, fake watches are textbook examples of intellectual property (IP) theft, using the designs and logos that Swiss brands spent millions of dollars developing over decades. Some go as far as to link the sale of counterfeit watches to child labor, sweatshops, and even terrorism, human trafficking, and organized crime. While direct evidence of this is scarce, it is reasonable to assume that a link exists to some extent. That said, the vast majority of the counterfeit industry originates in China and it appears as though the Chinese government at least tacitly supports it and probably has some oversight and regulation. Are Fakes Substitutes For The Real Thing? According to Business Insider, 23.3 million counterfeit watches are circling the US, more than Rolex has sold worldwide in the past 15 years. The logical conclusion is that this hurts Rolex’s bottom line. But are fakes reasonable substitutes? Is Rolex losing potential customers to fake watches? Probably not. The fact is, the type of person that will buy and wear a fake, likely can’t afford the real thing. In other cases, some may buy a fake now and then the real thing as their financial circumstances change. UFC fighter Conor McGregor recently revealed during a GQ Sports interview that he used to wear fake watches to press conferences before he could afford a genuine Rolex. He is now a legitimate customer, owning millions of dollars in Rolex, AP, and Patek. One could argue that in McGregor’s case, the fake Rolex watches served as the “top of the funnel” for Swiss brands. Conor McGregor Wearing a (real?) Rolex Daytona “Eye of the Tiger” Should I Buy A Fake Rolex? We can think of very few legitimate reasons to purchase a fake Rolex, and yes, doing so does ultimately fuel the already insatiable market for these timepieces and potentially provide funding for organized crime syndicates. Further, in some places, it’s illegal to buy and transport fake watches. Our advice is simple, buy the (real) and best watch you can afford. There are plenty of great and legitimate watches on the market that cost less than your iPhone. Real Rolex Sub (Photo Credit: James Rupley) In response to “Trading A Rolex To Get Out Of A Sticky Situation - Myth Or Reality?”, many commenters suggested traveling with a fake Rolex for bartering. The logic may be sound, but if you are really at the point where you have decided to part with a watch worth thousands of dollars, your life is likely on the line and the cost is trivial. Further, whoever you are giving the watch to is presumably in a position of power and likely someone you do not want to piss off should they determine the watch is fake. The potential for this plan to backfire is simply too high. Le Mans Daytona and “Titanium” Yachtmaster - all fakes I have heard of some people with expensive watch collections that have “dummy” displays in their house, the idea being that if someone breaks in to steal their collection, they would take the fake watches without realizing the real collection is hidden in a safe. This is something that could potentially make sense but is not a practice I would advise. If someone goes the distance to specifically target you for your watch collection, they are likely going to be pissed to find out they stole fake watches and may come back for retribution. No watch is worth your life. All that said, I do have a fake Rolex Submariner that I received as a gag gift from a wealthy friend in Dubai. I have never worn it or even taken out the links to make it fit. Who knows, maybe it will come in handy one day. A real Rolex Daytona (Photo Credit: James Rupley) Should I Be Worried About Fake Watches? By some estimates 20-50% of art in museums is fake and even the largest auction houses with significant resources have been duped with fake watches. While the risk of unwittingly buying a modern watch that is fake is real, this is particularly real in the vintage market, where replacement parts and refinishing jobs can result in a “real” watch becoming a frankenwatch. As an individual buyer, you should not be responsible for identifying a fake.  The safest thing to do is to either buy new watches or build a relationship with a seller you not only trust but trust their expertise. The latter is difficult as it can be incredibly difficult to determine which parts are genuine and which are replacements.   Back In Istanbul Despite my best efforts, I was not able to track down a “super clone” in the Grand Bazaar. Many of the vendors claimed to have better quality watches and vigorously sent Whatsapp messages to their colleagues to bring one by, but they never appeared. The fakes in the souk were mediocre at best with loose bezels and crude finishing and claimed Miyota movements. Fun party gags? Maybe, but I didn’t buy one. W.O.E.’s personal fake watch, acquired in Dubai. I did pick up a set of (fake) boxes, papers, and a blank Rolex warranty card to match my gifted counterfeit Rolex. Similar to the watches themselves, the box was crudely crafted and isn't fooling anyone. While I do not advocate for anyone to purchase anything illicit, I did it in the name of science. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. Read Next: The W.O.E. Tudor PVD Pelagos FXD

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Custom G-Shock, Omega, & Tudor - Watches Fit To Guard A King

Custom G-Shock, Omega, & Tudor - Watches Fit To Guard A King

Unit Watches Of The UK’s Royalty and Specialist Protection Despite the rise of inexpensive Digital Tool Watches and feature-rich connected smartwatches, there is an ever-growing...

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Unit Watches Of The UK’s Royalty and Specialist Protection Despite the rise of inexpensive Digital Tool Watches and feature-rich connected smartwatches, there is an ever-growing subset of the military, intelligence, and law enforcement communities with a passion for mechanical or otherwise more interesting timepieces. We’ve discussed so-called “unit watches” in detail many times. However, in this Dispatch, we’ll take a closer look at unit watches from the world of law enforcement, specifically the UK’s Royalty and Specialist Protection (RaSP), an intriguing unit from within the Metropolitan Police’s Specialist Operations directorate. To date, there are three known unit watches from RaSP, a Casio G-Shock from the attainable tier as well as a Tudor and Omega from the world of Swiss luxury, all of which see active service as tools in the performance of the unit’s unique role. Protecting Royals, Politicians, & A Castle Or Two Officers stand guard outside Windsor Castle. (Photo Credit: Maureen McLean) Similar to the role played by the US Secret Service, who are also no strangers to unit watches, RaSP provides close protection services to the UK royal family including the king, the prime minister, various other politicians, ambassadors, and visiting heads of state. In addition, the unit also serves as specially trained armed security for royal residences including palaces in London, Windsor Castle, and other sites in Scotland. Unlike the United States, which has not been ruled by anyone wearing a crown since a kerfuffle ending in 1783, the average police officer in Great Britain doesn’t carry a firearm, making the armed and highly trained RaSP a higher level of protection and response in the event of terrorist attacks or assassination attempts on the Royal Family. Hired from the ranks of experienced frontline police officers as opposed to “off the street”, RaSP officers have been called into action on several prominent occasions. Royal Protection Officers tackle an attacker after an assassination attempt on then-Prince Charles (standing far right) in Sydney in 1994. (Photo Credit: Express UK) Far from idle threats, Royalty Protection Officers engaged in a dramatic shootout during an attempted kidnapping of Princess Anne in 1974 as well as when then-Prince Charles was attacked during a speech in 1994. In recent years, the Duke of Sussex (Netflix calls him Prince Harry) made headlines when he fought to continue his RaSP protection detail even after leaving his royal role and moving to California in 2020. In close protection scenarios, RaSP officers typically wear a suit with a concealed firearm, radio, and less-than-lethal weapons in certain instances. In contrast, officers don a more traditional uniform when providing overt armed protective security at royal residences. This operational duality is reflected in the unit’s choices for customized timepieces. A Custom Full-Metal G-Shock For Royalty Protection Officers The RaSP’s customized GM-B2100BD-1A. (Photo Credit: G-Central) The impetus for this article stems from G-Central, a leader in G-Shock news and information. A few weeks back, we noticed a post covering a unit-specific version of the GM-B2100BD-1A, a full-metal variant of the so-called “CasiOak” that debuted back in 2019. With an analog-digital display and an IP-coated black stainless steel case and bracelet, the RaSP unit variant was spotted on uniformed officers outside Windsor Castle and included a custom United Kingdom flag integrating a Thin Blue Line motif on the clasp as well as a special XIV engraving on the bracelet. The XIV references the SO14, the former name of the Royalty Protection Department that merged with SO1 or Specialist Protection to become the modern RaSP in 2015. On the case back, the watch offered an engraved image of Windsor Castle. Judging by the wear across the case and bracelet on the watches spotted by G-Central, the Royalty Protection Officers use these tools in performing their duties, with the G-Shock serving as an excellent pairing with the more utilitarian uniform worn by the unit in this instance. While we always hear about G-Shock in military and law enforcement scenarios, customized unit versions are rare and in this case, pretty cool. A custom caseback and clasp engraving for the RaSP G-Shock. (Photo Credit: G-Central) Rather than an officially sanctioned unit watch, these G-Shock models appear to have been a smaller unofficial unit purchase only for members of Windsor Castle’s protective detail. With that in mind, the G-Shocks do not expressly display “RaSP”, instead using XIV as a reference to the unit’s history. For more refined scenarios including providing close protection for royals during public events, RaSP also has a couple of interesting official watches from more luxurious brands in its stable. Omega Planet Ocean For Royalty Protection Officers Known for recently providing customized versions of the Seamaster Diver 300 to US Navy SEALs, Danish Frogmen, and the US Secret Service, Omega also produced a very rare unit version of its Seamaster Planet Ocean for RaSP, designing the piece with input from the unit in 2018 with delivery of approximately 60 units taking place in 2020. From the front, the watch looks identical to civilian market versions. On the case sides, the watches are engraved with the officer’s initials, warrant number, and watch issue number, marking the only time we’ve seen engravings on the case side of a unit-customized Omega. In addition, the sapphire exhibition case back is emblazoned with a two-part emblem consisting of a crown representing the royalty side of the branch as well as a portcullis signifying the specialist side tasked with protecting government ministers and other dignitaries. In addition, the caseback's outer perimeter references the previous unit designations used by those departments that merged to eventually become RaSP. SO14 and SO1 we've already touched on, which were in existence until 2015, however SO12(A) was an earlier forerunner on the ministerial side. The Shield Protects The Crown (Photo Credit: Bob’s Watches) The phenomenon of Tudors of Espionage (T.O.E.) is nothing new, with the shield having provided special unit versions of many of its core models to various military and governmental organizations. Around 2017 or 2018, the unit commissioned 75 Tudor Black Bay Blue for current and former members of the unit through Watches of Switzerland. A Tudor rose with a crown on top is on the dial, representing an intriguing mashup between Tudor the watch brand’s rose logo—seen on the crown on this reference—and the traditional heraldic rose that often serves as an emblem of England. The case back is engraved with “ROYALTY & SPECIALIST PROTECTION”, an individual's identification number, and serialized one through 75. Photo Credit: Bob’s Watches (Left) & Ross Povey (Right) Like other special watches commissioned for military or government units, several of these RaSP Tudor Black Bay have made their way into private civilian hands by way of prominent auction houses and aftermarket resellers asking for prices as high as $30,000. One special example produced for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022 hammered for a staggering CHF 81,900, about $91k in today’s US dollars. These very public sales—one of which occurred around the time of The Queen's funeral—resulted in a change of policy from the department's senior leadership sometime in 2023, and there have been no newly developed official RaSP unit watches since. That’s why the above-mentioned G-Shock was produced on a smaller team-specific scale without RaSP markings. While we are not here to condemn unit members looking to turn a profit on personalized watches they likely never imagined would attain such value, we prefer to see these in the hands of the operators themselves, carrying forward the Use Your Tools ethos. Dual Purpose Tools While we typically concentrate on unit watches related to the military and intelligence community, there is clearly a significant community of watch enthusiasts in law enforcement and first responders. Unit watches like those produced for the UK’s Royalty Protection Officers serve a dual purpose role, acting as tools in the performance of their daily missions while also serving as keepsakes honoring their service both during and after the fact. Seeing such a wide swath of watchmaking within the Royalty Protection community, from a $500 G-Shock to luxury models from Omega and Tudor, further solidifies that our community is oriented around the capabilities and intrigue of the tool rather than flex culture. If you have other interesting unit watches to share, you know where to find us. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. READ NEXT: U.S. Presidents and Timepieces, The Last 40 Years

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Which Watch Would James Bond Really Wear?

Which Watch Would James Bond Really Wear?

Picking More Reasonable Timepieces For History's Most Famous Secret Agent When it comes to Watches of Espionage, James Bond is the elephant in the room....

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Picking More Reasonable Timepieces For History's Most Famous Secret Agent When it comes to Watches of Espionage, James Bond is the elephant in the room. While there is a significant gap between real-world intelligence operations and Hollywood's depiction, Ian Fleming’s character has had an indelible impact on our community’s watch culture. We know several real “spies” who purchased an Omega or Rolex because of the Bond connection. Even before the legendary films, 007 was already closely linked to the world of horology. Fleming, the legendary author behind Bond, even went so far as to name names, calling out a “Rolex Oyster Perpetual” in his 1954 novel, Live and Let Die while unfortunately failing to identify a specific model. Likely inspired by Fleming’s reference 1016 Explorer, many regard the James Bond of the literary world as an Explorer man as well. However, 1962’s Dr. No, the secret agent’s first foray into film, would forever alter Bond’s history with Rolex, with Sean Connery serving up a full-screen wrist shot of a Submariner reference 6538. Beyond a few abbreviated sojourns into other brands including Breitling, Seiko, and Hamilton, the Bond of film was primarily a Rolex guy until 1995’s GoldenEye where Irish actor Pierce Brosnan famously wore an Omega Seamaster Professional, a seismic shift for watch enthusiasts. In the Dispatch, we’ve argued for tradition in favor of The Crown in the past with an excellent counter-argument coming from Caleb Daniels in favor of Omega, which remains Bond’s chosen brand. It’s a fun debate, but what watch would a former British SpecOps turned “Secret Agent” really wear? Bond’s Rolex Submariner 6538 in Dr. No and the OMEGA Seamaster Professional in GoldenEye are both icons, but what if they’re not the right picks?  Taking a step back, there’s a good chance a real “secret agent" using their license to kill on MI6’s behalf wouldn’t wear a luxury watch at all. With the most up-to-date Rolex Submariner Date reference 126610 coming in at $10,250 (assuming you can get one) and Omega’s 007 Edition No Time To Die Seamaster priced right at ten grand US, the biggest issue here is probably cost taking into account Bond’s role as a civil servant. Add to that the ostentatious nature of these heavily-branded luxury watches for a guy who would probably prefer a low profile, and some other timepieces just might be better suited to Bond’s profession. In addition, we'd argue our Bond would also favor British watchmaking brands, with more great options than ever before coming from the UK. In this Dispatch, we’ll share our picks for which watch we think our more reasonable 007 would wear. CWC SBS Diver Issue Price: $750  Given Bond’s insurmountable Britishness, we would argue it makes sense to look at brands with strong ties to the Empire as well as the Ministry of Defense (MOD). The obvious choice is a brand with a strong following in the W.O.E. community, CWC or Cabot Watch Company, which was founded in 1972 for no reason other than supplying the MOD. For maritime specialist units including the Royal Marines and Special Boat Service, CWC has long supplied the SBS Diver Issue, a PVD-coated descendant of the original Royal Navy Diver’s watch that succeeded the Rolex Military Submariner in 1980. We know several former British SBS members who still have, and wear, their issued SBS, making this a logical watch for Bond. Robert 'Bob' Hawkins (1961-2023) was a legend in the Mine Warfare Clearance Diving community. Like Bond, Hawkins was a Commander in the Royal Navy and is seen here wearing the CWC SBS Diver Issue. With 300 meters of water resistance, the utility offered by day and date functions, and excellent legibility, the SBS Diver Issue is an excellent option for the modern British secret agent whether he’s doing some Thunderball-style diving combat or simply keeping a lower profile. Fixed lug bars mean Bond is stuck with pull-through straps, but for a secret agent who inspired a namesake nylon strap color scheme, it shouldn’t be a problem.  Vertex M100A Price: $2,625  For a more old-school look that also leans into the literary Bond who many argue wore a Rolex Explorer, we have the Vertex M100A. Dating back to 1912, Vertex is another brand closely associated with the Ministry of Defense, having produced watches for the British military as early as the First World War. Of the twelve manufacturers of the legendary “Dirty Dozen” watches produced for the Allied war effort in World War II, Vertex was the only British option, with the modern M100A calling back to that history with its core design while making room for more modern watchmaking standards and specifications. But what does James Bond have to do with a WWII field watch, you may ask? (Photo Credit: WatchGecko) Thunderball aside, the vast majority of Bond’s adventures both tactical and otherwise have taken place in the dry, and we might argue some of the key elements of a perfect Bond watch would be—even more than water resistance—legibility, durability, and the timeless style so often associated with Bond’s on-screen portrayals. Compared to something like the aforementioned blacked-out CWC, the Vertex would also be a lot easier to wear with a tux.  Elliot Brown Holton Professional Price: $541 Where the CWC SBS celebrates its history of issue to the Special Boat Service in both name and marketing, the Holton Professional from Elliot Brown takes a more subtle approach to its special operations associations. Founded in 2013, the founding principle of Elliot Brown’s collection is durability, with many of the watches finding favor within the British Military. Based in Poole, the elite Special Boat Service approached Elliot Brown in 2015 to help design a watch for the unit to issue. The result was the Holton Professional, a watch that has earned an NSN or Nato Stock Number making it available for official issue to military forces. Coming from another British brand, and with a quartz movement, hardened stainless steel bezel, and C3 Super-LumiNova, the Holton also presents a solid option for someone like Bond who is likely to be harder on his watches than most. For deep nerds, Bond has an entirely imagined special operations background, meaning Commander Bond may have either been issued the Holton Professional or purchased a special version as part of a smaller unit-specific order. Bremont S302 Price $4,200  Currently the subject of some well-deserved controversy regarding a recent rebranding effort, Bremont is still among our top picks for James Bond. Despite its foundations in aviation, Bremont also boasts an impressive array of diving-oriented watches under the Supermarine name. For a more luxurious option compared to some of the other watches we’ve highlighted, we select the S302 for Bond, a watch that combines 300 meters of water resistance with the useful addition of a GMT function. Where some of our choices thus far are more utilitarian and even tactical, Bremont manages to straddle the line, feeling just almost as at home with a suit from Savile Row as it does with a wetsuit, no mean feat. The S302’s GMT is particularly appropriate as well. As we discussed in our Dispatch unpacking Zulu Time, having a second timezone at a glance provides tremendous upside for an asset coordinating with a broader multi-agency effort. Besides, Bremont is one of the few companies that has actually made a unit watch for the British Secret Intelligence Service.  Christopher Ward C60 Trident Pro 300 Price: $1,095 Long scolded as a microbrand rehashing established designs, Christopher Ward has stepped up massively in recent years and is another brand with a strong following in the W.O.E. community, at an affordable price point. For a government employee like James Bond, the price of the C60 Trident Pro, one of Christopher Ward’s marquee dive watches, is fair. Add to that the watch’s solid water resistance and legible dial format and we have another under-the-radar pick for Bond. Adding an element of legitimacy, Christopher Ward has been quietly collaborating with numerous military units in recent years. Despite solid finishing for the price range, the Trident isn’t ostentatious and doesn’t advertise to prying eyes or invite further scrutiny. Bamford London GMT Price: $1,500  Better known for Bamford Watch Department’s watch customizations and collaborations with established watchmakers from the luxury tier, George Bamford also produces a more attainable line of wholly designed watches under the Bamford London moniker. Assuming our modern Bond was a man of more avant-garde styling who rubbed shoulders with Eton graduates, something like the Bamford London GMT could make a lot of sense.  Available in a wide array of dial colors, Bamford’s GMT is housed within a reasonable 40mm case complete with an internal rotating GMT bezel that obviates the risk of accidentally changing the secondary timezone on display. For the $1,500 asking price, Bond also gets an excellent bracelet, 100 meters of water resistance, as well as a sub-12mm case height that should work as well with a tuxedo as it would with a woolen commando sweater.  Arken Alterum Price: $750  A true microbrand at this stage, Arken presents a wild card choice for Bond. Housed within a scratch-resistant titanium case, the Alterum, the second watch from the brand, fuses GMT functionality with 200 meters of water resistance and a design format that is a lot further afield than many of our previous choices. Admittedly, the Alterum dial serves up a lot of information including the second time zone, managed by a GMT hand, as well as a date sub-register and an intriguing day/night indicator executed with a pair of apertures on the dial’s lower half. Despite the additional complexity, the overall effect is clean, subtle, and the kind of thing Bond could easily wear in virtually any environment without anyone asking too many questions.  Final Thoughts For the diehard Rolex and Omega James Bond fanboys, the picks in this Dispatch may be blasphemous. We invite you to submit your counterarguments in the comments. In any counterpoints, it's important to remember that for intelligence professionals like Bond, watches are, first and foremost, a tool. While there is a significant watch luxury watch culture in espionage, it’s not so hard to imagine a real-life James Bond might benefit from a watch that won’t get him mugged by some scooter-riding London street toughs. As for Bond's strap of choice, we'd argue 007 would do his best work with a Five Eye (FVEY). -- If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. Read Next: Does Rolex Make Mistakes? The Motley 8 - Error Batman Bezel

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Watches Worn By Pilots Of The D-Day Squadron

Watches Worn By Pilots Of The D-Day Squadron

Crossing The Atlantic In A DC-3 To Commemorate The 80th Anniversary Of Operation Overlord  Watches intended for pilots represent one of the most compelling categories...

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Crossing The Atlantic In A DC-3 To Commemorate The 80th Anniversary Of Operation Overlord  Watches intended for pilots represent one of the most compelling categories in the arena of tool watches, only matched in enthusiast appeal by watches designed for diving. Pilots are, for lack of a better term, cool. And in the realm of flying, it’s difficult to imagine a cooler undertaking than piloting 1940s aircraft over the Atlantic to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day. This is the mission of the D-Day Squadron, an intrepid group of enthusiasts, crew, and commercial and general aviation pilots tasked with flying vintage Douglas C-47s and DC-3s back to Normandy where they changed the course of history eight decades ago. As we have often described, pilots have a close relationship with timepieces, and in this Dispatch we’ll take a closer look at the watches these pilots wore while hand-wheeling 80-year-old aircraft across the Atlantic, battling arctic cold with no autopilot and only marginal heating systems. Despite the desperate need for sponsorship dollars to keep these vintage aircraft in operational condition, no watch brand jumped at the opportunity in this case, meaning the watches were a direct result of the preferences, personal choices, and stories of the pilots. As a professional photographer and amateur watch enthusiast, I was honored by the opportunity to ride along and document the journey, the watches, and more importantly, the stories behind them.  To the readers of W.O.E., it may not come as a surprise that the most common brand on the wrists of these pilots was Breitling. No matter how you slice it, flying 80-plus-year-old radial-engined airplanes across the Atlantic is sketchy—the good kind of sketchy. That said, smartwatches were also a common sight, and many pilots had opted not to wear a watch at all, but we’re not here to talk about them.  Breitling Emergency One of the pilots on C-47 Placid Lassie wore an orange-dialed Breitling Emergency with the brand’s Co-Pilot module, essentially a miniature digital watch integrated into the bracelet and capable of tracking UTC and flight time while also providing another chronograph. Pilots love redundancies. Frequently flying older aircraft, the pilot appreciated the utility of the Emergency, knowing that, as long as he could activate the watch’s signal in the event of a crash, his body would be found and returned to his family. His Emergency was one of the first sold in the US, something the pilot was proud of, representing his 20-year connection to Breitling that all started with a B1.  Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer The youngest pilot on the crossing was flying with his father, the D-Day Squadron chief pilot. The son wore a newly acquired watch, a Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer he picked up because he was tired of changing the batteries on his former quartz Timex. After initially deciding against what was for him an expensive mechanical watch, the young pilot ultimately decided to pull the trigger to commemorate a series of events: getting his type rating as a C-47 co-pilot, his first solo flight in a Twin Beach, and of course, the transatlantic crossing side-by-side with his father for D-Day 80. Omega Speedmaster Another pilot onboard D-Day veteran Placid Lassie was wearing an Omega Speedmaster he plans to give to his son one day. After losing a watch in the gym, he spent an entire year deciding which watch to get as a replacement. When his son was born, he decided it was time for something significant: “I like to buy one nice thing and keep that.” Influenced by the Speedy’s history in rally racing, the watch’s celebrated role in the Apollo missions, and its broader significance in aviation, he selected the Omega Speedmaster, purchasing a brand new example with the goal of adding his own patina over the years before gifting the watch to his son. The veteran pilot said he wears the watch for literally everything he does, including all of his travels, flying airplanes old and new (Douglas C-47s, Boeing 737s, and the North American T-6, a WWII Trainer), swimming in the ocean, sailing, and more. With only one service to date, he said the watch gets excellent marks for reliability. Before parting, he mentioned, “I’d love to have a Rolex, but I don’t know if it is for me.” Timex Expedition Chronograph  The loadmaster for C-47 Placid Lassie wore a simple Timex Chronograph. He admitted to not knowing too much about watches but picked this one because of its military look and the way the olive-drab color scheme matched the aircraft he helps care for.  Breitling Aviator 8 Curtiss Warhawk P-40 & Other Assorted Breitling Models  Purchased only three weeks before the crossing, the Douglas A-26 Invader Million Airess was late to the party, bringing with it the highest concentration of interesting watches I experienced during the trip. An owner of many luxury watches, he chose his most meaningful for the flight, a serial number 3 Breitling Aviator 8 Curtiss Warhawk P-40 that was also the first example sold in the United States. The watch commemorated a friend, the late Ollie Crawford who flew Curtiss P-40s during the war. A longtime friend of the brand, Crawford, who passed in 2019, was prominently featured in Breitling marketing over the years.  The pilot and owner described himself as a bit of a Breitling fan, even going as far as securing watches for the entire crew to wear for the historic flight including a modern Avenger, a Colt Skyracer, and two iterations of the Emergency. As previously mentioned, the Emergency models take on an even more significant role on a transatlantic flight done the old-school way.  Vaer C5 Tactical Field Solar  When asked about his all-black field watch, a Spirit of Douglas co-pilot said he simply wanted a dependable watch requiring no maintenance, eventually selecting an inexpensive solar-charging Vaer C5 for the crossing. After some prying, he also shared the story of his most meaningful watch, a 1975 Omega Speedmaster gifted to him by his grandfather after completing flight training. Remaining the source of great meaning many years later, the old Speedy served as a sign of approval after his grandfather initially criticized his decision to become a pilot. For fear of damaging such a significant family heirloom, he elected not to bring the Speedmaster along for the transatlantic journey.  Breitling Navitimer  One of the watches most concretely linked to aviation, it was no surprise to see a Breitling Navitimer on the wrist of one of the pilots of the UK-based C-47 Drag-em-oot. Also the owner of one of the Navitimers that went around the world onboard a DC-3 for a publicity stunt some years back, this is one he typically wears, making it the watch on his wrist for this historic event.  Praesidus C-47 D-Day  Another watch story from the trip that is worth telling but unrelated to the aircraft crossing is that of the Praesidus C-47 D-Day, a field watch with a dial made from the doors of a vintage C-47 present on D-Day. The watches were gifted to D-Day veterans present for the 80th-anniversary ceremony. The veterans seemed to appreciate them. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. READ NEXT: Covert Influence in Watch Media About the Author: René is an aviation photographer and writer from Germany focusing on vintage aircraft and warbirds. He has followed the W.O.E. blog from the very beginning with a keen interest in tool watches. All photos are credited to @romeolimaphoto. 

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An Overview Of The Watches Of Espionage Strap Collection

An Overview Of The Watches Of Espionage Strap Collection

Materials, History, Fit, & Which Strap Is Right For You One of the most common ways for members of our community to customize their watches...

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Materials, History, Fit, & Which Strap Is Right For You One of the most common ways for members of our community to customize their watches is with a new strap that is, in either material or design, more appropriate for austere conditions. Over the past couple of years, we have grown our strap collection to include more refined options made from domestically sourced leather and more attainable choices designed to excel in the most extreme scenarios. We are often asked what is the best strap for a given use case, and in this Dispatch, we’ll provide an overview of our strap collection including some pros and cons, historical and design background, and recommendations based on some of the questions we are most commonly asked. As always, everything we make is developed for the quiet professional, someone who appreciates the history of Intelligence and Special Operations and honors those who came before us. W.O.E. Fabric Straps Closely associated with military watches, pull-through fabric watch straps trace their origins to the mid-century when they were utilized by American and British armed forces, with the most popular format tracing dating back to 1973 and a British Military design known as the G10. Commonly issued to the British Ministry of Defense, the G10 also cemented the formula for the majority of nylon watch straps to follow. In starting our collection of fabric watch straps, we partnered with veteran-owned and UK-based Zulu Alpha Straps to create the most premium fabric straps possible which are also manufactured in Great Britain. Then, to provide a more attainable alternative that also conforms to the obsessive quality standards of our community, we designed the Five Eye nylon strap that we believe is the best on the market for the price. Five Eye Nylon Watch Strap - $35-38 Named after the intelligence-sharing alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the Five Eye (FVEY) Nylon Watch Strap is our modern take on the iconic British Military G10 design from 1973. This collection is more attainable compared to our Zulu Alpha collaborations while still providing a premium wearing experience and unrivaled durability for a watch of this style. The Five Eye is built from a custom matte woven material with a reinforced stitched tip and is complete with our custom stainless steel hardware. We didn’t reinvent the wheel but did take the original design to the next level with modern materials, manufacturing standards, and colors tailored to the unique needs of our community. To suit a wider variety of watches, we offer solid colors, striped variants, and Five Eye straps with black-coated PVD hardware, all in 20 and 22-mm sizes that will fit wrists from 6.25 to 9 IN (15.9 to 22.9 CM). Of note, like all “affordable” nylon straps, these are produced in Asia. Cons: With almost four hundred five-star reviews, the Five Eye doesn’t have a lot of cons, but like any nylon strap, the look isn’t elegant or refined and wouldn’t be a great pairing for dressier watches. ORDER HERE Glomar Explorer - Hook And Loop Watch Strap - $45  Modeled off traditional hook-and-loop dive watch straps, the Glomar Explorer is a premium single-pass adjustable adventure strap for those who use their watches as tools. We set out to create a premium “hook and loop” watch strap, something that many consider an oxymoron. After many iterations over a six-month period and extensive testing, we finally came up with the design of the Glomar Explorer. We developed an ultra-thin custom matte weave nylon construction, a custom 316L stainless steel engraved buckle, and a strap keeper to ensure the watch remains secure on your wrist. The Glomar Explorer is available in two lengths, Short (for wrists between 5.5 to 6.5 IN/14 to 16.5 CM) and Standard (for wrists between 6.5 to 8.5 IN/16.5 to 21.5 CM), and in two colors: black and admiralty grey with olive green coming soon. The strap name is derived from USNS Hughes Glomar Explorer, a deep-sea drillship platform that was used by the CIA to recover a Soviet submarine K-129 in the Pacific Ocean in 1974. To be clear, this is not your grandpa’s Walmart hook and loop strap. Cons: With a casual and utilitarian look, a hook and loop strap simply isn’t going to be for everyone. Sizing will also be an issue for some as the wearing experience will depend on the lug length of the watch in question, wrist size, and how tightly the strap is worn.  ORDER HERE Single Pass Zulu Alpha Strap 4.0 - $145 It’s crazy to think we’re on the fourth iteration of our collaboration with Zulu Alpha, one of the world’s premier makers of fabric straps and a supplier of other webbing items to the British Ministry of Defense (MOD). Back in 2022, we started with the 1.0, with each subsequent variant incorporating color changes and small upgrades inspired by the community. Our Single Pass Zulu Alpha 4.0 is the culmination of everything we’ve learned working with Zulu Alpha and direct feedback from end users. Completely constructed in Great Britain, the 4.0 is 11.8 IN (30 CM) long, 1.2mm thick, and complete with a uniquely adhered patch with the W.O.E. Spearhead logo. Secured by way of an over-engineered stainless steel buckle that is also available with a PVD finish, the 4.0 is available in both 20 and 22-mm widths and will fit the vast majority of adult wrists. If you’re looking for the most premium, capable, and durable fabric strap on the market, this is it, full stop. Cons: Every aspect of our Zulu Alpha straps is ultra-premium, produced entirely in the UK, and designed without compromise. The price reflects our no-holds-barred approach to a fabric watch strap for the most extreme conditions. ORDER HERE USA Five Eye - Third Option Foundation - $40 While it’s otherwise the same as our standard Five Eye Straps, our USA Third Option Foundation Fundraiser offers the most eye-catching visual format in our entire collection with a subtle play on the red, white, and blue color scheme. Benefitting CIA paramilitary officers and their families, $20 (50%) of every USA Five Eye sale goes directly to Third Option Foundation. Just as at home sipping PBR in your local dive bar as it is sailing the Cape on your dad’s catamaran, the USA Stripe Five Eye is the undisputed strap of summer. Available in both 20 and 22mm, the USA Five Eye can also be purchased with PVD hardware, a look works a lot better than we thought it would. Cons: Celebrating freedom and donating to charity aren’t for everyone.  This strap is a limited edition. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. ORDER HERE W.O.E Leather Straps While there is a lot of virtue signaling and overstated marketing language associated with goods that are “Made in America”, supporting small businesses in the United States is in line with our core beliefs as a community. This is especially true when it comes to leather goods. There is no shortage of reasonably high-quality leather straps imported from Asia, but we believe the finest leather straps come from right here in the USA or, in some cases, Europe.  With that in mind, our collection of leather straps is entirely produced by hand in small batches from the finest quality materials in the United States or Europe, with each strap demonstrating subtle differences and the ability to patina over time for a custom look and feel. Like all leather straps, these are not your best options for use in or around water but do provide a durable and handsome pairing for field watches, vintage divers on desk duty, or any other refined watch in your collection. Jedburgh Leather Watch Strap - $125 Named after the Jedburgh teams of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), “The Jedburgh” was W.O.E’s first leather strap, handmade in the USA with American-made English bridle leather. Available to fit 20 and 22-mm lugs, the Jedburgh is complete with a subtle W.O.E. Spearhead stamp at the tip, white hand stitching throughout, and a buckle available in either polished stainless steel or black-coated PVD. The Jedburgh is designed to break in for a comfortable custom fit that is best for wrists between 5.75 to 7.5 IN (14.6 to 19.1 CM). For a refined look, the Jedburgh also tapers 4 millimeters from the lugs to the buckle, meaning the buckle measures 16mm on the 20mm strap and 18mm for the 22mm variant. Cons: Tapering from 20 to 16mm and shorter than some of our straps, the Jedburgh is not the best choice for larger wrists or heavier watches. While we’ve seen some of you guys push the envelope, the Jedburgh is also not the best option for extreme use i.e. jumping out of airplanes. ORDER HERE Horween Leather and Canvas Strap - $185 Produced in the United States in extremely limited quantities, our Leather and Canvas Strap pairs Horween leather tanned in Chicago with repurposed camouflage canvas from surplus military uniforms. These robust straps were designed by W.O.E. in collaboration with Greg Stevens Design, one of the best in the custom leather strap business, and manufactured by hand in Utah. Available in 20 and 22-mm widths, the Leather and Canvas strap is thicker than the Jedburgh and does not taper, making this strap an excellent choice for heavier watches while being designed to fit wrist sizes between 6.25 to 7.75 IN (15.9 to 19.7 CM). Given our use of repurposed military uniforms, this strap also offers a wide range of variation in terms of the actual color and condition of the canvas material. Complete with a signed stainless steel buckle, the Leather and Canvas Strap is a more rugged leather option ideally suited for larger watches and larger wrists. Cons: Manufactured without taper and with a less subtle look compared to many of our straps, our Leather and Canvas Strap is unapologetically extreme and therefore not for everyone. ORDER HERE Leather Single Pass Zulu - $92 Our newest leather strap, the Leather Single Pass Zulu is intended to serve as a bridge between our leather strap collection and the legendary nylon pull-through straps long favored by military members and divers. Manufactured in the United States from a single layer of premium cowhide measuring 1.4mm thick, the Leather Single Pass Zulu also provides a “pull up” effect meaning the leather lightens when stretched or creased, creating a custom finish unique to your wearing experience. In comparison to many nylon pull-through straps, the tail on our Single Pass Zulu is shorter, and the hardware is closer together, designed for wrists up to 7.5 IN (19.1 CM). With hand stitching and more rugged leather material, the Single Pass Zulu is our most casual leather strap, pairing well with utilitarian tool watches.  Cons: Despite being modeled after nylon straps designed for diving, this leather strap is not intended for in-water use. Wearing leather straps on dive watches is a controversial topic, anyway.  ORDER HERE Final Thoughts:  While we believe there is a strap in our collection that will work for virtually any watch or scenario, like choosing a new watch, strap selection is highly individual and personal. There is no one-size-fits-all solution and like with any tool, we encourage you to experiment and find out what works best for you. Subsequent iterations of our straps will always be informed by your feedback. Be sure to let us know what you think.  View our entire strap collection HERE.

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Precision In Flight: IWC’s Historical & Enduring Bond With Military Aviation

Precision In Flight: IWC’s Historical & Enduring Bond With Military Aviation

As a CIA Case Officer, one of my go-to watches was an IWC Mark XVII. It’s a great and versatile watch that can fit in...

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As a CIA Case Officer, one of my go-to watches was an IWC Mark XVII. It’s a great and versatile watch that can fit in with a suit and tie at a diplomatic function in Europe or jeans and a dirty t-shirt in the African bush. Notably, IWC also has a strong squadron watch program and a significant following in the aviation community around the world.  To document a first-hand perspective, we asked Nic Barnes, an Australian military pilot, to write a Dispatch on the history of the brand and his experience using IWC watches as a military aviator. This piece is co-written with Henry Black, a previous W.O.E. contributor and full-time journalist based in Australia. As always, this content is not sponsored and the views and perspectives are of the authors. At W.O.E., we are brand agnostic but do support any brand that supports our community. Precision In Flight: IWC’s Historical & Enduring Bond With Military Aviation IWC’s Special Pilot’s Watch Ref. IW436. (Photo Credit: IWC) International Watch Company (IWC) Schaffhausen is a watchmaker steeped in history. Their modern line of luxury tool watches are direct descendants of the company’s military aviation watches of the mid-20th Century.  IWC Schaffhausen’s history with pilot’s watches predates World War II. In 1936, the company was owned by Ernst Homberger who had two sons that were keen amateur pilots. The boys helped to produce the Special Pilot’s Watch (Ref. IW436) using their flying experience to dictate the specifications and requirements of the timepiece. The design established the foundational DNA for IWC’s future pilot’s watches with an emphasis on legibility and durability that would in time lead to two distinct watch families - the ‘Big Pilot’ and ‘Mark’ series. Watches Of War During WWII, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) identified a requirement to replace the aging Army Trade Pattern (ATP) watches that had adorned the wrists of their troops since 1939. These new timepieces needed to be waterproof, shockproof, and highly accurate with a black dial, legible Arabic numerals, and the ability to read the watch at night. Twelve Swiss watchmakers took on the task of manufacturing these W.W.W. (‘Wrist Watch Waterproof’) specification watches. As one of the 12 makers, IWC provided an estimated 5,000 – 6,000 ‘Dirty Dozen’ timepieces to the MoD. The design would later evolve into the IWC Mark 11 – introduced after the war in the late 1940s.  IWC’s W.W.W. is one of the rarer ‘Dirty Dozen’ watches in circulation today. (Photo Credit: Watch-Site x Steltman Watches) Interestingly, while IWC was supplying W.W.W. watches to Commonwealth forces, it was concurrently supplying the German Luftwaffe (Air Force) with ‘B-Uhr’ timepieces. These onion-crowned watches were over 50mm in size and featured sword hands along with a prominent triangle and paired dots marking the 12 o’clock position. Much of the design DNA in today’s IWC Pilot’s line-up can be seen in these oversized pilot’s watches for the Luftwaffe with IWC’s modern Big Pilot’s watches drawing their aesthetics directly from the Luftwaffe B-Uhrs. Of note, IWC supplied watches to both the Axis and the Allies during WWII. IWC produced approximately 1,000 B-Uhr models for the Luftwaffe (Photo Credit: SJX) War Reaches Schaffhausen WWII did not leave IWC’s hometown of Schaffhausen unscathed. In April 1944 a disorientated U.S. Air Force bomber group of 15 B-24 Liberators mistook the Swiss town for a German target. Dropping as many as 371 high explosive bombs and incendiary munitions on the town, the resulting carnage killed 40 people (including members of author Henry’s own family) and caused widespread damage. One bomb dropped through the roof of the IWC factory but luckily did not explode.  A B-24 Liberator of the 392nd Bomb Group that accidentally bombed Schaffhausen in 1944. (Photo Credit: United States Army Air Force) Interestingly, declassified correspondence from November 1944 gives further insight into such incidents. Director of Office of Strategic Services (OSS), William J. Donovan describes to Commander of the United States Army Air Forces, General Henry H. Arnold that the accidental American bombing of Swiss towns was deeply disturbing the Chief of Staff of the Swiss Army and increasing ‘the difficulty in obtaining Swiss cooperation in our present task of penetrating Germany’. Mark 11 – A New Standard in Military Aviation Timepieces After the war, IWC introduced their navigator's wristwatch Mk.11 - Stores Ref. 6B/346 (Mark 11), taking the basic principles of the tough tool watch that was the W.W.W. and upping the ante. The Mark 11 removed the sub-seconds and utilized an IWC Calibre 89 manual wind movement with a central seconds. It featured a Faraday cage to resist magnetic interference and proved to be immensely capable as a timepiece for military aviators. These watches were issued to Commonwealth Air Forces, including the Royal Air Forces of Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, the South African Air Force, and the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). IWC Mark 11 for the Royal Australian Air Force circa 1957 (Photo Credit: IWC) Neo-Classic IWC Military-Inspired Models The design of the Mark 11 (which was in production from 1949-1953 with a second iteration for the civilian market from 1973-1984) went on to influence the ‘Mark’ timepieces that followed, specifically the Mark XII (introduced in 1994) and Mark XV (introduced in 1999). These subsequent iterations utilized a similar handset design including the iconic ‘block’ hour hand and classical sizing – the Mark XII was 36mm, and the Mark XV was 38mm. The Mark XII used a Jaeger Le-Coultre calibre while the Mark XV used a heavily modified ETA 2892-A2. The Mark XV was the last of the Mark series to feature the ‘block’ hour hand (Photo Credit: Henry Black) The Mark XVI represented a turning point in IWC’s modern pilot designs – one that has continued to the current Mark XX. While retaining their commitment to solid specifications, the numeral font, dotted triangle marker at 12, and use of flieger sword hands have far more in common with the Luftwaffe B-Uhr watches than the MoD Mark 11s that share the Mark name. This flieger design is reflected across other modern IWC pilots including the Big Pilot and Pilot Chronograph, unfortunately leaving the original Mark 11 with no aesthetic successor in the brand’s current catalogue. IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic Edition ‘RAAF’ (Photo Credit: @timepoor) Modern Military Connections In 2007, IWC entered a commercial relationship with the US Navy, becoming an official licensee and beginning their line of TOP GUN watches. Featuring the logo of the 1980s hit movie of the same name, the series of watches became a stable of IWC’s offerings with licensing fees directly funding morale, welfare, and recreation programs for US sailors, retirees, and their families. TOPGUN & Other "Unit Watches" The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition 'SFTI' features the school’s patch on the dial (Photo Credit: @h.m.uhren) This prepared the foundation of a more organic relationship – IWC’s foray into custom squadron watches. Having seen watches from the TOP GUN line, pilots from the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School (the real TOPGUN) reached out to IWC to investigate the feasibility of making their own piece for the Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor (SFTI) program. The result was the 2018 release of the IWC’s first custom military piece – the Edition ‘SFTI’ in both a Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII and a Pilot’s Watch Chronograph. These exclusive watches continue to be made today but can only be purchased by TOPGUN graduates. The IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic Edition 'SFTI' worn by Monica Barbaro on the set of Top Gun: Maverick  (Photo Credit: Paramount) The SFTI connection paid dividends for IWC when filming began for Top Gun: Maverick. The film crew noticed the Navy pilots wearing their custom IWCs and, in pursuit of authenticity, ended up being introduced by the pilots to IWC CEO Chris Grainger-Herr, resulting in almost every character in the film wearing IWCs.  Since the first SFTI watches, exclusive squadron collaborations have continued at a small scale and considered pace. This means IWC is very particular about the projects the brand approves, with limited production slots available. Falling under the Richemont group, IWC is generally hesitant to publicly elaborate on their military collaborations although Watches and Wonders 2022 marked a departure from this discretion. The IWC booth featured an exhibit of the brand’s military projects to date – with a total of 18 on display IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph ‘APACHE AH-64E’ (Photo Credit: @chrisgraingerherr) While predominantly working with US Navy fighter squadrons, other military editions were shown including watches for Swiss Air Force Staffel 11, French Aeronavale, No. 663 Squadron Army Air Corps (British AH-64 Apache attack helicopters), and a very special homage to the IWC Mark 11 issued to Royal Australian Air Force aircrew in the 1950s. Notably, all known custom military projects have strict and tangible ties to professional military aviation. IWC Big Pilot’s Watch ‘TYPHOON DRIVER’ (Photo Credit: @blackseries_driver) The Future of Aviation Horology  Beyond atmospheric flight, IWC was recently involved with the Inspiration4 private space program. Commanded by the billionaire owner of the world’s largest private air force, Jared Isaacman (under usual W.O.E. criteria you’d expect him to be a Breitling guy), Each of the four astronauts of this first all-civilian mission to orbit wore a custom Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition ‘Inspiration4’. After the mission each watch was auctioned, raising a total of $405,000 USD for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Collaborations with Isaacman’s space endeavors are forecast to continue with the launch of the Polaris Dawn mission later this year. This mission is scheduled to include the first private spacewalk and result in another auction of new special edition IWCs to be worn during the flight.  The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition ‘Inspiration4’ (Image credit: IWC) Final Thoughts While the role of wristwatches in aviation has changed over the last century, IWC’s commitment to aviation ‘use-your-tools’ wristwatches remains. From the humble beginnings of IWC’s Special Pilot’s Watch in 1936 to their custom pieces for private space exploration, IWC has firmly and legitimately positioned itself as a brand for professional aviators, synonymous with the frank design purpose of the pilot’s watch. IWC Pilot’s Chronograph ‘Death Rattlers’ (Photo Credit: @wingwatches) Their commitment to legibility, durability, and continuous technical improvement, along with their lasting ties to military aviation resonates with the W.O.E. community, creating unique watches to be cherished and used by generations to come. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. Read Next: Watches Of The War In Ukraine   About The Authors: Nic is an Australian military pilot who has been a follower of W.O.E. since the early days. He has a particular interest in custom military watch projects having designed and produced timepieces with multiple brands Henry is a journalist based in Australia who writes about watches in his spare time. He’s worked around the world including in conflict zones. He’s passionate about watches and how the hobby brings people together. Cover Photo Credit: IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic Edition ‘AÉRONAVALE’ (Photo Credit: @etienne_b___r)

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The Best Military Watches For Land, Sea, & Air

The Best Military Watches For Land, Sea, & Air

A Capable Timepiece Is An Essential Tool For Service Members Timepieces intended for the military have inspired the broader watch industry since the earliest days...

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A Capable Timepiece Is An Essential Tool For Service Members Timepieces intended for the military have inspired the broader watch industry since the earliest days of wristwatches. Names like the Rolex Submariner, Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, Breguet Type XX, and Hamilton Khaki have all been influenced by or owe their very existence to military use. Buying a watch can be challenging and modern watch marketing clouds the picture, with major watch brands seeking an edge by calling out tenuous or altogether false associations with certain hyped military organizations or units, particularly from the world of special operations. In reality, most modern military members utilize digital tool watches (D.T.W.) to perform their duties, seeking attainability and utility above all else. But, as we’ve so often documented in the W.O.E. Dispatch, a growing subset of the military and the Intelligence Community value the combination of utility, heritage, and mechanical intrigue presented by analog timepieces. In addition, many outside the military reach for military watches because they provide not only a rugged aesthetic but also a higher level of legibility and durability in comparison to more pedestrian options. In this Dispatch, we’ll present our choices for analog watches intended for military members operating in the most common environments: land, sea, and air. If you’re on the cusp of graduating from basic training, officer candidate school (OCS), another more specialized pipeline, or you’re just a regular civilian who appreciates the “Use Your Tools” ethos, our picks represent a wide range of price points, spanning affordable options for the brand-new privates out there as well as a few luxury options for the academy ring-knockers with family manors in the Hamptons. Land - Watches For The Field Timex Expedition North Field Mechanical - $229 Timex has surprisingly deep military associations dating back to World War I when the brand created specialized pocket watches for artillery gunners. Also known for watches worn by US presidents and its plastic, disposable field watches provided to the US Army in the 1980s, modern Timex has a legitimate right to the field watch DNA embodied by the Expedition North Field Mechanical. Measuring 38mm in diameter, the North Field Mechanical offers 100 meters of water resistance, a hand-winding mechanical caliber, and an anti-reflective sapphire crystal, rare specs for this price range that combine to represent a solid field watch for any infantryman on a budget. CWC G10 Military Issue Watch - $300  In contrast to almost every other brand on this list, CWC was created for no reason other than to supply military watches to the British Ministry of Defense (MOD), providing its first quartz-powered G10 in 1980. The modern G10 is — beyond a slimmer case profile — almost identical to the original, still equipped with fixed lug bars, a Swiss quartz caliber, a legible dial and handset, a battery hatch for easy battery changes, and a relatively modest 50 meters of water resistance. Over 200,000 of these simple field watches have been issued over the years, serving as further proof of the utility of this legendary British field watch design. Marathon General Purpose Mechanical - $420 Almost a Canadian answer to a brand like CWC, Marathon was founded in 1939 and was already supplying watches and clocks to the Allied war effort by 1941. Better known for its SAR collection of dive watches, Marathon also produces a large volume of its General Purpose Mechanical field watches for military contracts. Powered by a Seiko NH35, the automatic GPM is housed within a 34mm High-Impact Composite Fibreshell case paired with a stainless steel bezel. Easily visible at night thanks to tritium gas tubes on the dial and hands, the GPM’s smaller size is actually an asset, making the watch unobtrusive when paired with a bunch of tactical equipment. As a note for anyone less familiar with watch sizes, the combination of the 34mm case and a 16-millimeter wide strap means the GPM wears relatively small. Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic - $695  A supplier to the US Military since the First World War, Hamilton is probably the number one name in field watches thanks to its heritage and the value proposition offered by the modern Khaki Field collection. Our pick for this list is the Khaki Field Automatic, offering a more modern design compared to its more-celebrated hand-winding sibling, the Khaki Field Mechanical, as well as 100 meters of water resistance, and a Swiss automatic caliber offering 80 hours of power reserve. If you’re newer to watches and looking for a proven do-it-all field design that is as appropriate for daily wear as military service, this is going to be one of your best bets. Seiko Alpinist SPB121 - $725  The successor to the SARB017, an all-time watch enthusiast favorite from Seiko, the SPB121 is the modern form of the Alpinist, which is the Japanese brand’s explorer’s or field watch. Measuring 39.5mm in diameter, the Alpinist has a few quirks including the use of a cyclops, the odd pairing of green and gold on the dial and hands, and an internal compass bezel. Still, a legible design, impressive lume, and a ridiculous-for-this-category 200 meters of water resistance mean the Alpinist is a field watch deserving of Seiko’s heritage in this department, having been the producer of capable field watches for specialized units including MACV-SOG during the Vietnam War. Tudor Ranger - $3,300  Once positioned as a cheaper Rolex alternative within the same family business structure, modern Tudor has become so much more than that. As we’ve established many times in the Dispatch, Tudors of Espionage (T.O.E.) are very much a thing including special unit versions of the brand’s dive watches, the Black Bay and Pelagos, as well as the brand’s Explorer-like field watch, the Ranger. Also one of the least expensive sports watches in the collection, the modern Ranger is now 39mm in diameter, powered by an in-house caliber, and capable of hard use for anyone looking to test the “Use Your Tools” ethos on a Swiss luxury watch. Rolex Explorer 40 - $7,700 Assuming you’re an Academy graduate, former captain of the polo team, daddy’s special boy, and a newly minted second lieutenant, you may be able to flex something like the Rolex Explorer 40 in uniform. An inspiration for virtually the entire Rolex sport collection, the Explorer as a model family has incredible chops in the arena of mountaineering history, having accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on their 1953 ascent of the world's tallest mountain. Today serving more as a luxury item given the price point, the Explorer is still one hell of a watch for anything outdoors, but likely not a serious option for most service members relying upon their biweekly direct deposit. Sea - Watches For The Maritime Environment Scurfa Diver One D1-500 - $250  To put it mildly, the advent of so-called “microbrands” has changed the watch landscape forever, bringing previously unobtainable features and specifications to price points once thought unimaginable. A great example of this trend is Scurfa Watches founded by commercial saturation diver Paul Scurfield. For around $250, the Diver One serves up a domed sapphire crystal, 500 meters of water resistance, a real helium escape valve tested by the founder, some of the best lume on this entire list, and a custom rubber strap. For anyone on the aquatic end of the military searching for a durable dive watch for a more affordable price even compared to brands like Seiko or Citizen, Scurfa is one of the more compelling options to explore. Seiko Prospex SRPE99 - $550  Affectionately known to enthusiasts as the “Turtle” for its cushion case shape, the SRPE99 is inspired by the older 6309, one of Seiko’s most iconic dive watch designs and a watch issued to numerous special operations units including the US Navy SEALs. Revived in 2016, the modern Turtle provides hacking and hand-winding functionality, a larger 45mm case that thankfully wears smaller thanks to its shorter lugs, and much of the old-school Turtle DNA throughout the dial and hands. With the SKX having been discontinued a few years back, the Turtle is Seiko’s flagship automatic diver in this price bracket. Seiko makes some of the most effective utilitarian dive watches on the market, and the Turtle — whichever variant you go for — is a great place to start for any military diver. Tornek-Rayville TR-660 - $895  One of the more intriguing tales in dive watch history, the original Tornek-Rayville was essentially a modified Blancpain Fifty Fathoms intended to subvert the Buy American Act requiring military organizations to purchase US-made goods. Designed for US Navy SEALs and other amphibious special operators, vintage Tornek-Rayville TR-900s have become prohibitively expensive for most, making Mk II and Bill Yao’s relaunch of the brand and watch a couple of years back all the more exciting. While it stays close to the vintage look, the modern TR-660 is subtly upgraded everywhere you look from the Seiko automatic caliber to the domed sapphire crystal to the custom-woven nylon strap. If celebrating the old-school with a modern diving tool appeals to you, Tornek-Rayville is a niche pick worthy of a closer look. Citizen Aqualand JP2007-17W - $550  In military and commercial diving circles, Citizen is one of the top names in the game thanks to models like the Aqualand, an analog-digital diver that debuted in 1985. An ISO-6425-rated professional dive watch, the Aqualand combines diving functionality including a depth gauge in a robust utilitarian package that simply works, earning fans among Navy SEALs and other amphibious military units. The modern Aqualand appears almost unchanged compared to the OG other than a new caliber using one battery instead of three on the older model. Last year, Citizen unveiled the JP2007-17W, a new Aqualand with a full lume dial housed within a dark grey PVD case. For the price, it’s among the best picks on this list for anyone doing the military’s wettest and saltiest work. Marathon GSAR 41mm - $1,500  Many of the watches on this list are great for military divers, but only the Marathon GSAR is currently for military and government issue through official supply channels. Surprisingly, the SAR family of watches has a history closely linked to the enthusiast community, with Marathon having tapped the head of a niche military watch forum for help designing the watch in 2001. Intended for Canadian Air Force Search and Rescue Technicians (SAR Techs), the modern GSAR or Government Search And Rescue provides 300 meters of water resistance, a Swiss automatic caliber, tritium tubes on the dial and hands, and one of the best rubber straps in the price range. Our in-house maritime expert, Benjamin Lowry, recently went diving with the SAR collection, confirming its utility in the underwater environment.  Sinn U50 Hydro - $2,690  Another brand closely associated with military diving is Sinn, which was founded by a pilot named Helmut Sinn in 1961. Despite its aviation heritage, Sinn is well known for dive watches backed by impressive tech not commonly seen elsewhere including the oil-filled approach utilized in the new U50 Hydro. Based on the 41mm U50, the U50 Hydro swaps an automatic movement for quartz which is the only option when the central case is filled with oil, a seldom seen method of combatting water pressure that makes the watch all but pressure-proof. Another oil-filled watch from Sinn is standard issue for the KSM or Kommando Spezialkräfte der Marine, essentially the German Navy SEAL equivalent and the brand also makes special “mission timers” for the GSG 9, the German Federal Police’s special operations unit. Tudor Pelagos 39 - $4,700 A favorite of the W.O.E. team, our next pick is the Tudor Pelagos 39, the hotly-anticipated smaller version of the 42mm Pelagos that is just a bit too large for some wrists. While it’s not cheap, Tudor presents a solid value for what you’re getting in a modern luxury dive watch from Switzerland, with the P39 housed within a grade 2 titanium case and equipped with a manufacture caliber providing 70 hours of power reserve. The Pelagos FXD might seem like the obvious choice here, but we’re going with the 39 for its versatility, a watch that looks just as appropriate on its rubber strap with dive gear as it does on its bracelet with a dress uniform. Whether we like it or not, most knuckle-dragging enlisted divers simply aren’t reaching for a $5,000 watch for actual diving duties. Omega Seamaster Diver 300 - $5,900  Often associated with James Bond, the Omega Seamaster Diver 300 is also a watch with legitimate military history including use by the Special Boat Service, Danish Frogmen, and the US Navy SEALs. Originally intended as a direct competitor to the Rolex Submariner, Omega’s professional diving watch now comes in at around half the trading price of a regular Sub while offering finishing and specifications that exceed the Rolex in some departments. Rather than simply engraving a caseback for special orders from military organizations, Omega also has a completely different version of the Diver 300 with a matte-finished case and bracelet, no-date dial, and a special color for its luminescent material. The days of military organizations issuing watches like the Seamaster are long gone, but for anyone seeking a dive watch offering a blend of military provenance and luxury, the Seamaster Diver 300 is one of the better options.  Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 42mm - $16,600  To get it out there right up front, a $17,000 watch probably isn’t going to be the number one pick for military members, but it is important to pay homage to the original gangsters in this space. Dating back to 1953 and designed specifically for the needs of French commando frogmen, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms cemented the format we now innately understand as the prototypical dive watch. Having climbed the ranks of luxury brands over the past 70 years, the recently-released Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatic Titanium 42mm isn’t for everyone given its price tag, but would still serve as one hell of a dive watch for anyone with the scratch. Air  - Watches For Pilots & Aircrew Seiko SSK001 - $460  Beyond durability, low-pressure resistance, and legibility, the ability to track a second timezone is one of the most useful aspects of a pilot’s watch. If there has been one major change in more affordable watches in the past few years, it is the advent of less expensive mechanical GMT watches, with Seiko’s SSK collection leading the way. For under $500, the SSK001 offers a friction-fit, bidirectional GMT bezel, an automatic “caller” GMT caliber, and the established case silhouette and dial format calling back to Seiko’s legendary SKX007 and SKX009. Also backed by 100 meters of water resistance, the Seiko SSK001 is one of the better inexpensive GMT watches on the market and ideal for a budding military pilot while also being a brand with extensive service history in the US Military in particular. Sangin Kinetic II - $600  Despite plenty of negative outcomes from the Global War On Terror, one of the positives has been the rise of entrepreneurship among GWOT veterans whether we’re talking about coffee, apparel brands, knives, or watches. Sangin was founded by a Marine Recon Raider and specializes in watches intended for military environments while also representing solid value for what you’re getting. The Kinetic II is Sangin’s purpose-built aviator’s watch, the result of extensive testing by over forty military pilots and aircrew. With a ridiculous 300 meters of water resistance, Swiss-made Super-LumiNova on the dial and hands, and a Swiss Ronda GMT quartz caliber, the Kinetic II is a lesser-known but not less capable option for any military pilot looking to celebrate the community with a legitimate tool watch. Longines Spirit Zulu Time - $3,150  Another brand with legendary status in the arena of pilot’s watches is Longines which produced specialized watches intended for flight for none other than Charles Lindbergh. Also once a supplier to the Czech military, modern Longines still makes some excellent watches for pilots including the Spirit Zulu Time. With refined looks, design DNA that calls back to vintage Longines designs, and an impressive caliber offering “true” GMT (or Zulu Time) functionality and 72 hours of power reserve, the Zulu Time is one of the better “entry-to-luxury” options for a GMT watch today. Of interest to military pilots, the Zulu Time is also available on a wide range of straps including an excellent leather strap with a micro-adjusting clasp, a traditional nylon strap, and a well-done stainless steel bracelet. Bremont U-2 - $4,950 Coming from a brand founded by a pair of pilots, Bremont was always going to need to be on this list. Also one of the primary producers of “unit watches” in the current watchmaking landscape, Bremont’s U-2, which was designed with input from serving military pilots, is our pick for this list. Housed within a 43mm case made of hardened steel, the chronometer movement inside the U-2 is located within a rubberized movement mount that reduces the effect of shocks. Also including an internal rotating bezel operated by way of one of the two crowns, the U-2 can be used for a variety of different navigational computations. There have been numerous unit-specific versions of Bremont watches over the years, the U-2 is one of the most common models chosen by military aviation professionals for good reason. Breitling Navitimer - $9,850 Among the all-time icons in the world of aviation timekeeping, the Breitling Navitimer is at or very near the top, having been created with pilots in mind back in 1953 in association with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). Like a few other watches on this list, Breitling has ascended to a more luxurious position but still has a strong history of use by military pilots as well as numerous other sketchy dudes. Looking at the functionality, the Navitimer is of course a chronograph but also offers a unique rotating internal bezel that can be used for a wide range of navigational and computational functions directly related to the needs of pilots in the air. You wouldn’t necessarily think of a watch costing nine grand on the wrist of a military pilot, but when it comes to the Breitling Navitimer and a few other models from the brand including the Aerospace and Emergency, it happens more often than you’d imagine. IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX - $5,250  Used by military pilots on both sides of World War II, IWC is another brand with serious legitimacy in the world of military aviation. While IWC’s chronographs including the Top Gun collection receive a lot of the shine, our pick in this category is the Mark XX which traces its history to the Mark XI, a watch produced for the British Military by IWC (and other brands) in the wake of the Second World War. Today, the Mark series serves as a robust time-only watch honoring IWC’s heritage in the space while also providing crystal clear legibility for modern pilots. Recently reimagined, the Mark XX offers 100 meters of water resistance and a more wearable case compared to previous iterations. For the price, the movement is also solid, providing an extended five-day or 120-hour power reserve. Rolex GMT-Master II - $10,900  In the arena of sports GMT watches, whether we like it or not, one name reigns supreme: The Rolex GMT-Master II. When the original GMT-Master was unveiled in 1954, the watch aligned with the early jet-setting era and the advent of business travel, but the GMT-Master and later the GMT-Master II would become legendary in our community thanks to the watch’s use by pilots as well as special operations personnel. One might argue the modern GMT-Master II feels more jewel than tool, but there are still numerous instances of military members selecting this iconic model for hard use in austere environments including the cockpit. Final Thoughts As we mentioned, any of the watches in this could be replaced by a capable digital tool watch, but for anyone in uniform who values the mechanical intrigue and heritage represented by a quality timepiece, this list is for you. Our goal is to let this be a living article that we can add as we go until we’ve created the most complete list of excellent analog military watches on the internet. If you think something is missing, be sure to let us know in the comments. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. READ NEXT: Watches of Diplomatic Security

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The Watch Industry & Celebrity Marketing Through the Ages

The Watch Industry & Celebrity Marketing Through the Ages

Celebrity Watch Deals Are Nothing New—But Are They As Compelling As They Once Were?  Last year, watch media was flown into Mykonos, Greece from all...

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Celebrity Watch Deals Are Nothing New—But Are They As Compelling As They Once Were?  Last year, watch media was flown into Mykonos, Greece from all over the globe. The occasion? The 75th Anniversary of the Omega Seamaster. The real reason folks came out? Dinner with George Clooney, the salt-and-pepper Hollywood heartthrob on Omega’s payroll. A play-by-play account of the experience from an insider ran in Revolution Magazine: The sun was setting on a beach Omega managed to make private for the evening. Picture this: 2,000 candles covered the sand where a strong breeze was making sure my hair would make me look as if I had just gotten out of bed, or as if I had stuck two fingers into an electrical socket. There were 140 guests split into two tables and I was fortunate enough to sit at George Clooney’s…I mean, he’s a fuckin’ 62-year-old god I would date in a split second, even if, for the record, he is my Dad’s age. Thankfully, he’s married to a goddess named Amal Clooney, and fully taken. Although… I have to say that when I laid eyes on him, it felt as if I was struck by a bolt of lightning from Zeus himself. Omega CEO Reynaldo Aeschlimann (far left), George Clooney, (right of center), and a few other of Omega’s notable celebrity partners in Mykonos. (Photo Credit: Revolution) Needless to say, celebrities are a highly effective tool for getting the watch media to write about a certain event or product. That much is evident from the sort of celebrity coverage the watch world gave to the Met Gala the other week. In fact, entire TikTok and Instagram accounts have cropped up dedicated to covering what watches celebrities wear. And with them, a large following. W.O.E. is indifferent when it comes to this kind of celebrity marketing and I can confidently say a movie star wearing a watch has never impacted my buying habits. That said, for better or worse, celebrity endorsements are a massive part of modern watch culture. What we think about them doesn’t matter. They’re not going anywhere.  So how exactly did we get here? What happened to the iconic watch advertisements featuring people of real consequence shaping the course of history?  It has to do with the shifting aspirations of watch consumers, the changing role of the wristwatch, and the influencer economy. In this Dispatch, we’ll explore how watch marketing shifted from pilots, explorers, and divers to vapid Hollywood celebrities and K-pop superstars. The Early Age Of “Celebrity” Testimonials  Charles Lindbergh pictured alongside the Spirit of St. Louis in 1927.  Many pilots died trying to claim the Orteig Prize, a $25,000 cash prize for anyone who could fly from New York to Paris nonstop. Charles Lindbergh famously won the prize in 1927, but not before between six and 15 pilots perished in the competition, depending on the source of reporting. Lindbergh eventually became somewhat of an ambassador for Longines and later developed the “Lindbergh Hour Angle Watch” with Philip Van Horn Weems of the US Navy, an early pioneer of modern aerial navigation techniques. A celebrated pilot and explorer, Lindbergh was one of the earliest “celebrity” ambassadors for Longines in the ‘30s.  A 1931 advertisement for the Longines “Lindbergh Hour Angle Watch”. In the aviation world, one mid-century aviator’s name looms large, and that is, of course, Chuck Yeager. He was famously a Rolex ambassador, but he wasn’t the first ambassador who challenged the status quo in a profession and rose to stardom that Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf would capitalize on. Wilsdorf was a brilliant marketer, and while the testimonial model was certainly used before, he took it to a new level and leveraged celebrity status in a novel way.  Rolex advertisement featuring legendary pilot Chuck Yeager. In 1927, Mercedes Gleitze swam across the English Channel with a Rolex strapped to her wrist (some accounts say it was around her neck). She was just 26 years old and spent a grueling 10 hours in the water. When she reached shore, her watch was in perfect order. In the 1920s, this was an incredible feat of engineering and paired well with the equally challenging real-world accomplishment. Wilsdorf then made her a brand ambassador, using Gleitze’s stardom as a record holder to demonstrate the waterproof properties of the “Oyster” case.  An advertisement for Rolex’s Oyster case technology celebrating Mercedes Gleitze’s English Channel swim.  That was the first instance of “celebrity” ambassadors by Rolex. Now back to Yeager. It was in 1987 that Yeager first appeared in a Rolex advertisement, although the brand had worked with him during his years of service as an aviator on product testing and development. It was only in the ‘80s that he became a spokesperson for Rolex. Rolex regarded airmen as celebrities in the mid-century era, because they were. Various advertisements even cite the Crown’s involvement with the US Air Force’s Thunderbirds, the jet demonstration team. During the ‘50s and ‘60s, the image of American might via the Thunderbirds helped Rolex sell watches.  Rolex advertisement highlighting the brand’s relationship with the US Air Force Thunderbirds. Partnerships were not limited to the high-flying variety. Underwater, Aqualung was touting its relationship with Jacques Costeau, underwater adventurer and documentarian, and Doxa was also tied up in this partnership. The ‘60s were an age of adventure, and Costeau’s films and shows filled viewers' imaginations with the magical world beneath the sea—providing a point of view they’d never seen before.  A 1958 ad from US Divers, the United States Aqua Lung affiliate, using Cousteau to market its diving equipment.  All of these “ambassadors'' (different brands called them by different names) had one thing in common: their popularity came from performing feats against the odds and contributing something important to their field. In other words, their real-world accomplishments moved the needle. As a generalization, the same can’t be said about today’s celebrity watch ambassadors, the majority of whom come from film, sports, or music. But this change also has to do with the fact that the watches being advertised back then filled a much different need than the watches of today. It’s easy to forget today, but watches were once tools. The Transmogrification From Tool To Luxury In Watches Jacques Cousteau and Luis Marden wearing Aqualung equipment, excellent social proof for Aqualung as a brand. (Photo Credit: National Geographic) Among Dr. Robert Cialdini’s “Weapons of Mass Influence'' is the concept of “social proof”. This means that in most instances, humans observe their environment and surroundings to learn what is the “correct behavior”. In simple terms, it’s looking to prominent figures for influence, observing what strategies have worked for successful individuals in the past. If Jacques Costeau used Aqualung diving equipment when he produced his famous documentary The Silent World in ‘56 and laid the foundations for what would become an era of undersea living research, then Aqualung could cite him as social proof that their equipment performed well enough for Costeau to carry out his job, which ultimately contributes to the field of undersea scientific research.  Up until the advent of phones, smartwatches, and other “wearables” that keep time, the crucial task was solely that of the mechanical wristwatch. There was no other choice. It wasn’t necessarily a fashion accessory, it had to perform its job just like any other tool one would rely on.  While often considered luxury items, watches are still critical tools in certain instances. (Photo Credit: Tudor Watch) Now in 2024 that’s not the case for the broader public. In the W.O.E. community it still very much is—while timepieces are in part about culture, they are still crucial tools used to accomplish tasks. But it’s important to remember that suits in Geneva aren’t necessarily marketing watches for the niche W.O.E. crowd. To reach a larger qualified demographic, watches are now marketed as luxury accessories.  The key takeaway is that while watches were once a necessity for the masses, they now primarily serve as a luxury item for those with horological interests and money to spend.  Classical Expressions Of Heroism Replaced By Celebrities Han So Hee, the star of K-drama Nevertheless, became an Omega ambassador in 2022.  Since the watch isn’t necessarily what it once was in terms of the role it plays, that means the way most watches are marketed and positioned must change, too.  To prove the point, let’s look at the inverse of the above hypothesis: Tools that have always been tools will still use “testimonial” style advertising, citing ambassadors that use their products for their jobs. Take a look at diving equipment manufacturer, Draeger’s online catalog and you’ll see operators, not celebrities, using their products.  The same goes for just about any gear company that’s popular in our community. You won’t find celebrities endorsing companies producing power tools and gear to get the job done.  So why did it happen in watches? Watch brands, like any other company, have one purpose: to make money. And in 2024 this means mainstream appeal. They’re going to make the most effective investment in terms of share of voice (SOV), often hiring agencies to make smart investment decisions that ultimately lead to the highest number of sales.  Whether we like it or not, actors like Brad Pitt, a Breitling ambassador, are an excellent vehicle for boosting watch awareness and sales. For better or worse, celebrities are synonymous with luxury and wield great influence. Brad Pitt, David Beckham, and Lady Gaga are leveraged to create social proof, which is in stark contrast to the “hero” or boundary-pushing individuals brands may have looked to in the past. The truth is that traditional celebrities simply have larger followings than outstanding individuals moving the needle in the world today. Investing in celebrity partnerships exposes a higher number of individuals to the brand.  Recently, K-Pop star Lisa launched her own Bulgari watch that takes inspiration from the Swiss Alps and the national flower of Switzerland, Edelweiss. This sort of release demonstrates the sort of deal watch companies engage in: They get to use a big name that draws in people, and in return, the celebrity gets clout and a big check. Lisa, a Thai national who is a member of a K-pop group, is not a known watch fan. It’s a transactional relationship, the same sort of arrangement that happens in the fashion world.  The John Mayer X Audemars Piguet Limited Edition Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar is a rare example of a celebrity being associated with watches because of a genuine passion for horology. (Photo Credit: Hodinkee)  On the contrary, some deals exist in the celebrity space that make a lot of sense including the John Mayer X Audemars Piguet Limited Edition Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar. Mayer stands out as the mainstream celebrity who has done a lot in terms of bringing watches to a wider audience while having a true passion for the craft. There are exceptions to every rule.  Nirmal “Nims” Purja, a former Bremont ambassador, is an excellent modern example of a brand getting behind a boundary-pushing athlete and explorer. (Photo Credit: Bremont)  While the golden era of exploration is over, there are still people today who have done far more to the advancement of humankind than any actor, fashion icon, or TikTok influencer. The problem is, that they do not wield the same influence as modern mega-celebrities do.   While it’s true that suits in Geneva hire celebrities to promote products, it’s also true that the general buying public doesn’t buy based on heroic actions of servitude anymore. While an explorer may have hundreds of thousands of followers and a certain level of influence, their ability to alter consumer decision-making en masse for $10,000 watches unfortunately just isn’t what it once was. This is more a reflection of societal interests than it is a core problem with the watch industry.  One of our altruistic motivations at W.O.E. is to maintain the ethos of the tool watch, using watches as a prism to tell stories of the unnamed men and women who actually make a difference in the world, not just on the silver screen. So What About The W.O.E. Community? What’s The Best Course Of Action?  Ryan Gosling, our nemesis and one of TAG Heuer’s modern ambassadors. (Photo Credit: TAG Heuer) With the advent of AI, the enshittification of the internet, and social media, this celebrity trend is most likely here to stay. But that doesn’t mean that you as an enthusiast have to embrace it. There’s still plenty of marketing that big watch brands use that specifically resonates with our community.  The celebrity trend only means that it’s harder for people who appreciate tool watches to find their tribe in the larger watch world. It’s like anything. There are groups inside a large whole, and then sub-groups inside those. What was once a much larger segment of the watch space has shrunk down to a much smaller group that occupies only a corner of the hobby now. We look at the world as it is, rather than how we might like it to be. This is just a fact. Those who simply don’t care about celebrities represent a smaller slice of the overall target market than those who do.  Concluding Thoughts Lisa, a K-Pop superstar, recently became a Bulgari ambassador. (Photo Credit: Bulgari) Like many interests and hobbies, what you put in is what you get out. There’s a surface-level veneer meant to appeal to the masses, and this is where standard celebrity partnerships fall. But dig deeper and there’s always another layer of authenticity and organizations doing something interesting. The deeper you go and the longer you spend wading through the watch world, the easier it becomes to separate what’s meaningful from what’s meaningless. One thing’s for sure: here at W.O.E, we’re not putting any celebrities on the payroll any time soon.  If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. READ NEXT: A Saudi Astronaut’s Rolex GMT at the International Space Station

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Sketchy Dudes Wear Breitling - We Don’t Make The Rules

Sketchy Dudes Wear Breitling - We Don’t Make The Rules

Watches of Espionage is vehemently brand agnostic. The watches we cover are dictated by the community and one brand that consistently pops up is Breitling....

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Watches of Espionage is vehemently brand agnostic. The watches we cover are dictated by the community and one brand that consistently pops up is Breitling. There are few truths in the world of intelligence, but one of them is Sketchy Dudes Wear Breitling. Before the Breitling fan clubs take out their pitchforks and start a bonfire, we want to be clear that this phrase is neither a commendation nor a criticism. It’s an observation that, while it remains relevant today, particularly applies to the 1990s and 2000s when Breitling was the adventure watch for unapologetic men focused on aviation and diving. Breitling was a signal that the wearer is adventurous but also appreciates fine craftsmanship in utilitarian tools. Blackwater CEO Erik Prince in Afghanistan wearing a custom Breitling Emergency. (Photo Credit: Vogue) Breitling - Tools For Professionals While likely an unintended consequence of marketing watches as “tools for professionals”, the brand developed an almost cult-like following in the national security community with both good and bad actors. Breitling watches can be found on the wrists of many gray area operators — from CEO of Blackwater Erik Prince’s Breitling Emergency (READ HERE), former Soviet arms dealer Viktor Bout’s Breitling B-1, and Director of CIA George Tenet’s Breitling Aerospace. When Leonardo DiCaprio played Danny Archer, a former Rhodesian smuggler turned mercenary in the movie Blood Diamond, he wore a Breitling Chrono Avenger. All of these men are sketchy, some good sketchy, some bad sketchy, but sketchy nonetheless.  Then Director of CIA wearing Breitling Aerospace while testifying for the 9/11 Commission. (Credit: AP) Breitling - A (Very Brief) History Lesson Breitling SA was founded in 1884 by Leon Breitling and passed down through his bloodline until 1979 when the brand was purchased by Ernst Schneider, a professional soldier turned watch executive. Under the leadership of Ernst and later his son, Théodore Schneider (an aviation enthusiast and helicopter pilot), Breilting found its niche manufacturing “tools for professionals”, developing several partnerships with military aviation units including the Frecce Tricolori, the aerobatic team of the Italian Air Force. Breitling Jet Team (MigFlug) Sketchy Breitling References While collectors value several vintage Breitling references, including the iconic Navitimer 806 and Cosmonaute 809, several analog-digital models cemented Breitling’s role as a leader in producing practical tool watches built for adventure. Breitling Aerospace: W.O.E.’s Jordanian Breitling Aerospace. (Photo Credit: James Rupley) While we are certainly biased, the Breitling Aerospace maintains legendary status in our community because, at its core, it is a highly functional tool. The dual digital screens of the chronometer-certified "SuperQuartz" have practical features including a digital chronograph, a second-time zone, day and date, an alarm, and a countdown timer. The combination of a well-finished titanium case and bracelet with traditional analog hands results in a robust piece that can be worn to a black tie dinner in Mayfair or the cockpit of a Caravan on a dirt strip in Mozambique. The Aerospace was introduced in 1985, more than a decade after the “Quartz Crisis,” where many consumers moved to cheaper, more accurate timepieces, resulting in a dramatic decline in the mechanically-driven Swiss watch industry.   As previously documented, I was gifted a Breitling Aerospace with a gold Royal Crown of Jordan on the dial from King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein and wore it for much of my career while operational at CIA. The Aerospace’s technical complications were legitimately useful for conducting clandestine operations where time matters. The Aerospace as we knew it was quietly discontinued, the recent release of the updated but likely-limited Aerospace B70 Orbiter indicates more is on the horizon for one of the brand’s sketchiest model families. Breitling Emergency: Perhaps the best example of Breitlings legendary tool watch status is the Breitling Emergency. Developed in 1995 in partnership with French aviation manufacturer Dassault Electronique, the original Emergency contained a beacon that transmits a signal on the international distress frequency of 121.5 MHz. In an emergency, the wearer unscrews the cap at four o’clock and extends a thin wire antenna which automatically activates the signal. Commercial and military aircraft monitor the frequency and are able to alert search and rescue teams of an individual's location, anywhere in the world. The watch was specifically marketed to the military and aviation sectors and, according to Breitling, has been used to rescue individuals including in 1997 when a reed boat was blown off course while sailing from Easter Island to Australia. Breitling Emergency Catalog (1985) The Breitling Emergency would go on to be favored by those who operated on the fringe of nonpermissive environments including several specialized aviation units, Blackwater personnel, and former SAS turned African mercenary Simon Mann. Today, the Breitling Emergency is still available at a massive 51mm diameter and complete with dual frequency distress beacons at 121.5 MHz and 406 MHz, both of which are monitored through the international Cospas-Sarsat system and based on a network of satellites in low-altitude earth orbit (LEOSAR). Breitling - The Unit Watch Pioneer Breitling Avenger Seawolf commissioned by Breitling SAS D Squadron in 2003/2004. We have covered modern “unit watches” extensively and much of what we see today implemented by Tudor, Bremont, IWC, and others was originally pioneered by Breitling in the 1990s and 2000s. This was a core aspect of Breitling's sketchiness, and the close relationship between Breitling and several elite units made it a prized possession for many operating at the tip of the spear. Originally focused on aviation squadron watches, Breitling branched out to Special Operations Forces, including US Army Delta Force and the British Special Air Service in the early 2000s. British SAS G Squadron Richard Williams wearing a custom 22 Special Air Service Breitling Avenger Seawolf in Iraq. (Photo Credit: Richard Williams) Breitling's customization program was not limited to the military or governments but extended to commercial entities. In 2010, Russian Oligarch Roman Abramovich commissioned 50 Breitling SuperOcean automatics with "Eclipse" on the dial, the name of one of his 533 ft super yachts, pretty sketchy if you ask me . . . (Photo Credit: Chiswick Auctions) Hollywood:   Breitling’s sketchiness also extends to the silver screen with several W.O.E. characters wearing the legendary tool watches in major Hollywood productions. Blood Diamond (2006) - Breitling Chrono Avenger In Blood Diamond, Danny Archer, a dreamy Rhodesian smuggler and ex-mercenary, embarks on a hair-raising adventure to find a large diamond amid the Sierra Leone Civil War. Leonardo DiCarprio's character wears a Breitling Chrono Avenger with a black dial and a solid titanium 44mm case on a brown calf leather strap. A Rhodesian mercenary turned diamond smuggler is the very definition of sketchy so this watch is on point. The movie takes place in 1999 when Breitling was at the height of its sketchiness and was a go-to tool for gray area operators and real mercenaries. Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout wearing a Breitling B-1 after his arrest in Thailand in a 2008 sting operation by the Drug Enforcement Administration. (Photo Credit: DEA) Thunderball (1965) - Breitling Top Time While Bond is known for Rolex and Omega, several other brands have graced the wrist of the world's most famous spy. In 1965’s Thunderball, the real OG Bond, Sean Connery, was outfitted with a Breitling Top Time that Q modified to include a Gieger counter to track down missing nuclear warheads… as sketchy as it gets.  Point Break (1991) - Breitling Navitimer Quartz As mentioned in a recent “Hollywood Watches of Espionage,” Breitling featured in Point Break on the wrist of bank robber/surf bro Bodhi, portrayed by the late Patrick Swayze. The Breitling Navitimer Quartz is shown in the scene leading up to a specific robbery where Bodhi ceremoniously declares: “The little hand says it’s time to rock and roll.” Very sketchy indeed. Breitling Of Today The past few years have seen massive changes for Breitling. In the early 2000s, the brand prospered in an era defined by massive case diameters and a masculine customer base. However, in many ways galvanized by the release of the Tudor Black Bay in 2012, the industry began to shift in favor of “vintage-inspired” styling, more attainable in-house calibers, and restrained dimensions.  "Arabic Breitling" -  Aviator 8 Etihad Limited Edition. Limited edition of 500 pieces and features stylized Arabic numerals on the dial, as is the norm with most Middle East editions. (Photo Credit: James Rupley) Breitling was admittedly slow to catch up but has made impressive improvements in its direction and product offering since being acquired in 2017 and appointing industry legend Georges Kern as CEO. Some enthusiasts still take issue with some of Breitling's price points or styling, however, it’s clear the brand is moving in the right direction in 2024, jumping from its 2017 $950M acquisition price to a 2022 valuation of $4.5Bn. The brand’s recent acquisition of Universal Genève is another intriguing development. It’s unclear what Breitling will do with the enthusiast-favorite vintage name, but we’re excited to see where it goes. Breitling CEO Georges Kern (Photo Credit: WatchPro) Is Breitling Still Sketchy? The question then becomes, is the kinder gentler Breitling of today as sketchy as it once was, especially as the brand enjoys a broader appeal and newfound level of mass market success? Yes and no. The brand’s long-standing military unit watch program is still active but appears to have waned, leaving the door ajar for brands like Bremont and Tudor. Producing military-specific personalized watches is likely not a key driver of revenue, but it is a central aspect of what has made Breitling one of the watches of choice for sketchy dudes.  While we are supportive of these changes at Breitling, and the strategy is clearly working, we hope the brand will continue to be inspired by its roots producing tool watches for those that operate on the fringes of sketchiness. With rumors of a new incoming Aerospace, our fingers are crossed for a return to Breitling’s legendary levels of sketchiness. -- If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. READ NEXT: CIA Officer’s Love Affair with the Arabic Seiko

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Watches And Wonders Releases For The W.O.E. Community

Watches And Wonders Releases For The W.O.E. Community

Last week was Watches and Wonders, a trade show in Switzerland where watch brands showcase their latest releases. Journalists, tastemakers, and watch enthusiasts flock to...

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Last week was Watches and Wonders, a trade show in Switzerland where watch brands showcase their latest releases. Journalists, tastemakers, and watch enthusiasts flock to Geneva to see and photograph new timepieces, meet with brand representatives, and drink no shortage of champagne and Negronis. Watches and Wonders is a masterclass in marketing, also known as the mass manipulation of consumers. We have previously written about covert influence in watch media (READ HERE) and this event is the Superbowl or, if you will, the Fashion Week. Propelled by the rise of digital media, what was once a straightforward industry trade show has been catapulted into the feeds of even the most basic enthusiast, with extensive coverage across all forms of social media, podcasts, and legacy watch publications.  Photo Credit: Watches and Wonders For weeks leading up to the event, the internet has been rife with “Watches and Wonders Predictions,” an organic marketing exercise that benefits both brands and content creators. The most influential tastemakers are invited to Switzerland as guests of the trade show, with hotels and other expenses covered either by the Watches and Wonders foundation or the brands. Lavish parties are thrown to showcase the watches but more importantly to woo the journalists, who are then expected to (objectively) cover the new watches, often simply regurgitating press releases with brand-approved language. Whether or not they are invited back next year is implied in part on their coverage of the event or the particular brand that sponsored their attendance. It’s brilliant.    Photo Credit: Watches and Wonders Don’t Hate The Player Or The Game To be clear, we don’t hate the players or the game. On the contrary, we admire the masterclass that is Watches and Wonders. It’s a fascinating exercise in human psychology, consumer behavior, and marketing. As enthusiasts, the releases are exciting, the speculation and leaks are admittedly fun, and the grand reveals offer the age-old intrigue of the unknown. While we normally don’t cover new releases, we want to highlight several watches that speak specifically to our community and our “Use Your Tools” ethos.  Photo Credit: Watches and Wonders We originally planned to cover 10-12 timepieces, but frankly struggled to identify more than a handful that met our criteria. The industry is trending towards high fashion and this seemed to be the year of dress watches and precious metals, which needless to say is not really within our wheelhouse. These are by no means endorsements, but here are a few that caught our eye. Rolex GMT-Master II Grey-Black Bezel Price: $10,900 (In Theory) A CIA Case Officer has been described as a “Ph.D. that can win in a bar fight”, and that fictional person would (traditionally) wear a Rolex GMT.  Whether the updated grey and black bezel on the newest GMT Master II is to your taste is up to you, but we would argue it gives the watch a modern look that is also more subtle than something like the legendary Pepsi bezel. For the traditionalists, the Pepsi is still available and was not discontinued as indicated by the rumor mill.  It’s an easy win and we like it. Cons: The days of a Case Officer or SpecOps operator walking into a boutique on R&R and walking out with a Rolex GMT are over. Given the astronomical secondary market prices (at times over double retail for certain references), it’s hard to say a new Rolex GMT is a true tool watch with a straight face. Modern Rolex models tend to be pretty shiny and this new GMT is unfortunately no exception. It can and will still be used as a tool by a select few, but the modern GMT Master II lacks much of its original tool watch feel. Also, good luck getting one at retail. Doxa Sub 200T Price: $1,550 - $1,590 For both the military and recreational diving communities, Doxa is a legendary name, having famously been worn by Dirk Pitt, Clive Cussler’s fictional undersea hero, and in the US Navy’s pioneering SEALAB experiments. Better known for their storied salvaging efforts, US Navy Divers also have been at the pointy end of the espionage spear, responsible for developing and executing a daring mission to tap Soviet undersea communication cables in the 1970s on Operation Ivy Bells. Jumping ahead to 2024, Doxa sneaked in just ahead of the Watches and Wonders releases, unveiling the Sub 200T about a week ahead of the big show. Providing a smaller alternative to the established Sub 300 and 300T, the 200T comes in with a 39mm diameter and more slender case while maintaining much of the Doxa Sub design language. Available in a staggering array of colors and matte or sunray dial finishes, the Sub 200T seems poised to provide a smaller-wearing alternative for those who have traditionally considered Doxa’s chunky cushion case to be a bit too much. Cons: Most Doxa Sub models wear considerably smaller than their stated diameter, meaning this 39mm Sub 200T might wear more like 36 or 37mm on the wrist, pretty small. Tudor Black Bay 58 GMT “Coke” Price: $4,400 - $4,600 While they may not have the historic caché offered by Rolex’s GMT Master models, Tudor’s GMT watches have come a long way since the release of the Black Bay GMT in 2018. However, from that 41mm wide by 15mm thick model’s inception, many were quick to call for a smaller and thinner option. But what most enthusiasts wanted was a Black Bay 58 GMT, and that’s exactly what we got in 2024. At this point, Tudor’s relationship with our community is well-established. Still producing unit watches for some of the world’s most elite military operators, Tudors of Espionage (T.O.E.) are very much a thing. That said, the new Black Bay 58 GMT feels like more of a vintage throwback than a modern practitioner's watch, but still offers its own play on the desirable “Coke” format along with the best set of dimensions thus far for a Tudor GMT, measuring 39mm wide and under 13mm thick. Cons: The new BB58 GMT relies heavily on “gilt” gold-tone markings that aren't for everyone. The faux rivets on the bracelet have to go and it’s really hard to understand why they use them on new designs. There is no utility to this feature and it crosses the line of homage-corny. The nicest thing we have heard about faux rivets is, “...they don’t bother me that much.” Bremont Terra Nova Price: $2,850 - $4,250 We are big fans of Bremont and we've previously covered the UK brand’s intriguing relationships with intel and military units around the globe (READ HERE). It would be intellectually dishonest to ignore the new Terra Nova collection of field watches “inspired by military pocket watches of the early 20th century”. That said, it’s hard to sugarcoat this one. To use a cricket metaphor, it was a swing and a miss. The rebranding fell flat with both enthusiasts and Bremont traditionalists.   Prior to the event, newly appointed Bremont CEO Davide Cerrato (formerly of Tudor, Montblanc, and Panerai) foreshadowed a pivot to a lower price point and we were genuinely excited about these releases. The strategy was sound but the implementation was flawed. The Terra Nova and the redesigned Bremont Supermarine are a stark departure from what makes Bremont loved by many, standing out as classy and refined aviation-inspired watches. Cons: The list is unfortunately long. The new logo, font, and overall design and manufacturing quality fall well short of expectations. To make matters worse, the price range places it squarely in competition with the likes of Tudor and many others. On the bright side, the brand appears to still offer the previous models (with original branding) and Special Projects appear unchanged. Understanding that a full pivot like this is bold, and takes a lot of time, effort, and money, we would love to see Bremont bounce back from this and return to its roots. Tudor Black Bay Monochrome Price: $4,225 - $4,550 We didn’t set out to profile two watches from the same brand, but Tudor came in with another solid (though predictable) win, not our fault. A follow-up to last year’s redesigned 41mm Black Bay Burgundy that added additional strap and bracelet options as well as METAS certification, the new Black Bay Monochrome makes one of Tudor’s single strongest arguments for a vintage-inspired sports watch to wear every day. Though we’ve often argued the Pelagos 39 is the modern Tudor-Sub, the Black Bay Monochrome is now right up there with a slimmer case design compared to previous iterations and more subtle looks than something like a ceramic Rolex Submariner. In our opinion, this is a major step up from the Black Bay 58, which we also love. Cons: If forced to nitpick a great watch, again enough with the faux rivets.  Fortunately, this watch is also available with a “Five-Link” (Jubilee) or an integrated rubber strap, both of which feel like better moves. Zenith DEFY Revival A3648 Price: $7,700 It’s not a name we talk about all the time in our shadowy corner of the watch world, but Zenith is a brand we respect and is also doing some very interesting things in 2024. Better known for its contributions to the world of chronographs, having unveiled one of the automatic chronographs in 1969 with the El Primero, modern Zenith balances a collection of up-to-date designs and heritage. This particular inclusion in this list is slightly less about being an ideal watch for Intel/Spec Ops and more about simply being a great new luxury tool watch. Completely overshadowed by the collection of chronographs, Zenith also produced several chunky yet capable dive watches in the late 1960s and 1970s including the rarely-seen Defy A3648. It’s not going to be for everyone, but the modern DEFY Revival A3648 is a near 1:1 of the original with a 37mm case and a very old-school feeling bracelet. With no less than 600 meters of water resistance, it’s also as capable a dive watch as you could ever want while offering a serious splash of orange on the bezel, dial, and hands that will speak to dive watch enthusiasts. Cons: It’s awesome they made this thing 37mm, but a lot of modern-day collectors might not be able to handle the lack of girth. Bright colors on watches are not for everyone (myself included), and a more subtle option might be cool to see in the future. Grand Seiko SBGJ277 Price: $6,800  Like Zenith, we seldom talk about Grand Seiko, instead concentrating on Seiko’s well-established and legendary historical associations with military special operations. With that in mind, Grand Seiko has operated as a separate brand for years now and provides some of the best watchmaking in its price category. The newly-released SBGJ277 leans into Grand Seiko’s history with high-beat mechanical calibers, in this case operating at 5 hz or 36,000 VPH. In addition, this new member of the brand’s Sport collection offers 100 meters of water resistance and a 55-hour power reserve, more than enough to suit the average Case Officer while differentiating from the established Rolex and Tudor crowds. Cons: While the finishing on this SBGJ277 is impressive for the dollar amount, the additional polished elements and textured dial both serve to create a more refined and therefore less utilitarian look. It’s not to say you couldn’t “Use Your Tools” with this watch but rather that it doesn’t look or feel the part as much as some others on this list. Again, we are not necessarily endorsing these watches, but each of them caught our eye and calls for a closer look. We understand that these watches are not cheap and if you’re interested in learning more about entry-level options that are well-suited to our community, check out “Best Watches Under $1,000 - Ask the Experts.” Next week we will resume our regular programming.  *sponsored by Rolex, Doxa, Tudor, Zenith, Bremont, and Grand Seiko (Just Kidding) -- If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. READ NEXT: Remembering the Legacy of Billy Waugh Through His Watches

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Hollywood Watches of Espionage, Part II

Hollywood Watches of Espionage, Part II

Sketchy Surfers, Intelligence Officers, And A Dictator – Timepieces Add Depth To Characters While Entertaining Watch Nerds As we established in our first installment of...

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Sketchy Surfers, Intelligence Officers, And A Dictator – Timepieces Add Depth To Characters While Entertaining Watch Nerds As we established in our first installment of this series (READ HERE), watches play a significant role in film and television, particularly as it relates to the world of espionage. Watch enthusiasts can’t help but notice when a propmaster or costume designer has absolutely nailed the watch or in some cases, missed the mark entirely. Portrayals of watches on the wrists of characters representing the military and intelligence communities are often particularly challenging, with factors like paid product placement further complicating the issue. In the vast majority of films or TV shows, watches play little to no role in the overall plot, instead serving as a minor detail representing at times incredible attention to detail on behalf of the filmmakers. However, here and there, watches add something to a film as a whole, adding depth to a character or acting as a plot element. For intelligence officers and special operations, the tiniest details matter, and, if nothing else, watch spotting within the context of our community is an old-fashioned good time. In this piece, we’ll take a look at five additional examples of W.O.E. in Hollywood and provide our thoughts on the watch choices for a given character. Point Break - A Sketchy Breitling Navitimer Quartz (Pluton) Starting with one of history’s finest action films, Point Break is the improbable story of undercover FBI Agent Johnny Utah, played by Keanu Reeves, infiltrating a band of surfers with a penchant for bank robbery led by the charismatic Bodhi, portrayed by the late Patrick Swayze. While Bodhi is much too laid back and cool to wear a watch in much of the film, he does wear a Breitling Navitimer Quartz (also sometimes known as the Pluton) when it’s bank robbing time, even going so far as to say “little hand says it’s time to rock and roll” after a full-screen watch shot that we will attempt to recreate here. (Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox) It’s unclear whether Breitling’s early 90s marketing budget played a role in making the Navitimer Quartz Bodhi’s watch of choice, but it’s tough to argue with their decision-making process. Essentially the same watch as the Chronosport UDT, which was produced by Breitling and favored by Navy SEALs and other special operations forces of the day, the Navitimer Quartz provided 200 meters of water resistance and a slew of digital functions on top of its basic timekeeping abilities, exactly the kind of specs you need when you’re surfing in the morning and making tactical withdrawals in the afternoon. We don’t make the rules, sketchy dudes wear Breitling.  Jack Ryan - Hamilton Khaki Field Auto Chrono Inspired by Tom Clancy’s best-selling series of books, Jack Ryan stars John Krasinski as a CIA analyst turned special operator, almost single-handedly saving the world from certain doom at least once in each of the show’s four seasons. While any number of inexpensive digital watches from brands like G-Shock might have made even more sense given Ryan’s Global War On Terror Marine Corps background, the analyst of action opted for a Hamilton Khaki Field Auto Chrono Automatic for the first couple of seasons. Stemming from Hamilton’s Khaki collection, which is inspired by the brand’s history of producing field watches for military forces as far back as the First World War, the Khaki Field Auto Chrono opts for a tacti-cool all-black treatment from the PVD-coated stainless steel case to the hands and indices. Conceptually, an automatic chronograph with 100 meters of water resistance checks out for Ryan’s character, but we can’t help but wonder if the watch might be a little bit hard to read given the almost total lack of contrast. Overall, it’s not a terrible choice, and at just under $2,000 would be affordable for the presumed GS-13. Spy Game - Victorinox Swiss Army Officer’s 1884 In Spy Game, Robert Redford stars as Nathan Muir, a seasoned CIA Case Officer on the cusp of retirement tasked with freeing his former protégé Tom Bishop, portrayed by Brad Pitt, from imprisonment in China. Released in 2001, this film inspired a generation of post -9/11 Case Officers and is a relatively accurate (though Hollywoodized) portrayal of the business of intelligence. On Redford’s wrist throughout the film is a Victorinox Swiss Army Officer’s 1884. Victorinox is of course better known for its ubiquitous Swiss Army collection of knives and has also been a major producer of Swiss watches since at least the early 90s. While many watch snobs might turn up their noses at a brand like Victorinox, the watch makes perfect sense in this instance. Serving as the prototypical career C/O, Redford’s character is a gray man, blending in and avoiding auspicious clothing or luxury items that might solicit further questions about his background or occupation. As much as many within the CIA appreciate and use watches from luxury brands including Rolex, Tudor, or Breitling, certain circumstances require a more subtle approach. The straightforward white dial and stainless steel format of the Victorinox Swiss Army Officer’s 1884 does exactly that, providing reliable quartz timekeeping and the additional functionality provided by a secondary 24-hour scale without attracting the type of undue attention that can get you killed and, perhaps more importantly, prevent you from rescuing Brad Pitt.  The Dictator - Cartier Pasha  Revered for his seminal work Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator is the (true) story of General Aladeen, leader of oil-rich nation called Wadiya. After the assassination of yet another body double, Gen. Aladeen opts to travel to the relative safety of New York City with a Cartier Pasha on his wrist. So named for Thami El Glaoui, the Pasha of Marrakesh, the internet claims the Pasha was a special design dating back to the early 1930s and intended for the Pasha’s sporty lifestyle. Whether that’s true or not is another matter, but the story does lend itself to the inclusion of the modern Pasha, which was unveiled in 1985 and famously designed by Gerald Genta, in this film.  Still, despite the supposed history of being designed for a fabulously wealthy Middle Eastern governing figure, we can’t help but wonder whether something even more ridiculous might have been a better fit for General Aladeen’s character and lifestyle. Just to throw a few ideas out there, what about a diamond-encrusted Patek Philippe or even an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak? That said, the Pasha’s historical tie-in demonstrates great care on behalf of either Sacha Baron Cohen himself or perhaps a particularly astute wardrobe designer. The watch might even be the least ridiculous part of the entire film. Argo - Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea 116660 In Argo, based on the real story of CIA technical officer Tony Mendez, played by Ben Affleck, is tasked with extracting six Americans holed up with the Canadian ambassador in Tehran, Iran after militants stormed the US Embassy on November 4th, 1979, taking 66 American diplomats hostage. Disguised as a film producer scouting locations for a science fiction film in Tehran, Affleck’s character wears a Rolex, which would theoretically be right in keeping with his cover assuming the Rolex in question was period correct. No joy, however, as the Rolex worn by Affleck in Argo was a decidedly modern Sea-Dweller Deepsea reference 116660, a watch released by the Crown in 2008.  How this came to pass is anyone’s guess. In 2022, Hodinkee reported an urban legend that the prop department provided a replica of a period-correct Rolex Submariner for Affleck to wear, but the actor preferred a genuine Rolex. Any Rolex from the era, but perhaps especially the Submariner, would have made perfect sense. A posh Hollywood producer wearing a rugged luxury watch intended for diving for his adventurous location-scouting trip to Tehran? Hell yes. Instead, a modern 44mm Rolex theoretically designed for saturation diving time traveled to 1979 to assist Affleck on his personnel extraction adventure, once again proving that details matter in espionage as well as filmmaking.  If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. READ NEXT: Bond: A Case for Omega

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Coming Soon - W.O.E. Collaboration With Tactile Turn

Coming Soon - W.O.E. Collaboration With Tactile Turn

Pen, Flashlight, Knife, Watch - The Essentials “If you didn’t write it down, it didn't happen” is a common saying in the intelligence business.  In...

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Pen, Flashlight, Knife, Watch - The Essentials “If you didn’t write it down, it didn't happen” is a common saying in the intelligence business.  In a digital era, there is something satisfying about staying old school, and a custom pen, built to last a lifetime, is a must. Custom Tactile Turn X W.O.E. Titanium Pen TENTATIVE RELEASE DATE 16 APRIL View Here For CIA Case Officers, a quality pen and 3x5 cards are essential aspects of everyday carry and they are still items I carry religiously to this day. Despite rapid advancements in note-taking devices, I still defer to a pen and paper regularly. As a part of our ongoing effort to produce the best possible custom tools, we set out to design a purpose-built writing instrument fit for our community. Enter the W.O.E. Custom Tactile Turn Bolt Action Pen. Milled from a solid block of titanium in the United States, our pen is lightweight and durable. For a premium feel, we opted for Tactile Turn’s Bolt Action construction, which extends or retracts the refill with one smooth, spring-loaded motion, more satisfying than the hollow click from your drugstore ten-pack of pens. Inspired by our love for PVD-coated watches, we PVD’d the inside of the bolt and the clip, adding a subtle “Tactile Turn X WOE” engraving on the clip’s underside. Most importantly, the bolt is operated by way of a unique watch-style crown with a spearhead engraving. Details matter. It is so often the little things that have the greatest impact. To be clear, this is by no means a “tactical pen”. Our titanium pen is a TSA-approved item primarily intended for writing, though we admit it may have other uses. We’ll leave it at that. Far from inexpensive perishable pens, our Bolt Action Pen is designed to last a lifetime and utilizes readily available Pilot G2 0.7mm refills. For the complete specifications, read HERE. Product Development At W.O.E. At Watches of Espionage, our product development model is to partner with true professionals – masters of their craft – to develop distinct and highly functional products that honor our community and our core belief that you should “use your tools.” In creating our ideal Everyday Carry (EDC) pen, we reached out to Tactile Turn because they are the best in the business at creating high-quality writing tools, hand-machined in Texas, right here in the United States. As a company, we seek to partner with US manufacturers and use our platform to promote their craftsmanship. Working with Tactile Turn has been a pleasure, and it is no surprise that there is a significant crossover between the watch and EDC communities. The good people at Tactile Turn are industry leaders for a reason, doing incredibly detailed and consistent work machined by hand. They are also true innovators and were able to prototype the watch-style crown to produce a unique product for our community. Further, they stand behind their work with a lifetime warranty for all of their products including our W.O.E. Bolt Action Pen. About Tactile Turn Tactile Turn was founded in 2012 by Will Hodges who happens to be a watch guy with Tudor, Sinn, and OMEGA in the collection. Frustrated by the disconnect between the things we buy and how they’re made, Will took things into his own hands, purchasing a WWII-era lathe and producing his first 1000 pens completely by hand. Things have taken off since then, and Tactile Turn now operates a serious 48,000-square-foot production facility in Dallas, Texas where a small team of machinists produce every single pen by hand. Will is still at the helm and still obsessed with producing quality pens in the United States that will probably outlive their owners. At W.O.E., we only work with suppliers who understand the "use your tools" ethos, and Tactile Turn is an excellent example. TENTATIVE RELEASE DATE 16 APRIL View Here All photos are courtesy of Ed Jelley.

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The W.O.E. Tudor PVD Pelagos FXD

The W.O.E. Tudor PVD Pelagos FXD

Customizing my dream watch, the W.O.E. PVD Pelagos FXD When Tudor released the Black Pelagos FXD last year, I instantly knew I wanted one to...

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Customizing my dream watch, the W.O.E. PVD Pelagos FXD When Tudor released the Black Pelagos FXD last year, I instantly knew I wanted one to land in my collection.  Watches of Espionage is vehemently brand agnostic, but we have a special respect for Tudor, given the brand's seven-plus decade relationship with our community.  The FXD platform is the latest manifestation of this particular relationship. It’s the only modern “luxury” watch that was developed for not one, but two, modern SpecOps units. And I don’t mean a special edition made for a specific unit–the entire design, and every design decision, of the FXD stems from a particular use case in the SpecOps world.  That said, I already had the blue French “Commando Hubert” version. Was it prudent to want the same watch, just in black?   Of course. This whole passion is irrational anyway.  But if I was going to go for this watch, I wanted to do something different with it.  Over the past six months, I worked with several craftsmen to customize the FXD to make it mine, a poor man's “pièce unique”. The first thing we did was PVD’d the titanium fixed spring bar case resulting in a striking black-on-black look. This of course involves taking the whole case apart and PVDing each element, including the bezel. The PVD also has a mostly matte finish, so it matches the ceramic bezel insert well. Even though this was going to be mine, I wanted to maintain a standard that could have come from the factory. And since the caseback is sterile from the factory, we topped it off by engraving a W.O.E. insignia. Every watch has meaning, and this one commemorates the establishment of W.O.E. as a community, an accomplishment I never set out to achieve. The last step was designing a new handmade strap with our friends at Zulu Alpha, the W.O.E.-ZA 4.0 (available HERE).  That’s an overview of the watch; now I’ll get into the thought process behind each detail and my philosophy behind modifying this particular piece.  The W.O.E. FXD The W.O.E. FXD (if I can be vain enough to call it that) is a homage, a term that may conjure images of Seikos modified to look like Rolex – something that I am personally not a fan of.  But it’s an homage in the true sense of the word, specifically to the SpecOps who modified their Tudor MilSubs for operational use. One popular narrative is that the Orfina Porsche Design Chronograph I was the first PVD watch. However, SpecOps personnel modified their Swiss tool watches long before that.  Most notably, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Shayetet 13 (S-13) frogmen darkened their issued Tudor Submariner 7928 in the late 1960s, crudely painting them black to prevent glare and reflection of the steel cases.  For Special Operations personnel, and particularly those in a maritime environment, the glint of a watch during an operation could have lethal consequences.  The watches were tools, and they were modified to carry out their job effectively.  While it’s nearly impossible to trace the lineage of PVD watches for every brand, military applications likely had a direct impact on this development of all PVD watches. In fact, Rolex's only known “black” dive watch was a one-off blacked out version of the MilSub Ref. 5513 for the South African Special Forces.  While Rolex didn’t roll out PVD in a commercial capacity, its sister brand, Tudor, would go on to produce PVD watches in later years, whether directly influenced by the S-13 and other military units we can only speculate.  But heritage matters; it informs every decision a brand makes. PVD: StealthMaxx DLC Finish Recalling that our friend Cole Pennington PVD’d an Arabic Seiko for a Hodinkee Magazine article, I contacted Jack at International Watch Works, a family-owned business.  When asked about the feasibility of PVD’ing the titanium case, he said it was not a problem; he had in fact just completed PVD’ing a blue Marine Nationale FXD (which turned out to be for Tom Place, a stuntman searching for his long-lost Rolex at the bottom of a lake).  The process was relatively simple.  Jack disassembled the watch and coated every bit of titanium, leaving the dial assembly and ceramic bezel insert to the side.  “PVD” is an abbreviation for Physical Vapor Deposition. It’s a process, not necessarily a coating. A solid material is selected, in this case diamond like carbon (DLC), to coat a base metal or substrate surface. That material is vaporized and deposited on the base or substrate material, bonding molecularly with the base material. The PVD/DLC coating is so fine that the serial numbers and factory engravings on the caseback are still visible even after the coating. It’s only microns thick; it’s not thick enough to obscure the characteristics of the case. Having worn the watch daily and with a lot of time in the pool and ocean, I have noticed no wear or abrasion on the coating, although I wouldn’t necessarily view scars as a bad thing.  During our conversation, Jack informed me that he has PVD’d watches for SpecOps personnel for years, which comes as no surprise given his location in North Carolina. Engraving: Always Read the Caseback The W.O.E. insignia signifies a very deep meaning for many in our community, with influence from the spearhead worn by our predecessors in the WWII-era Office of Strategic Services (OSS) as well as modern day intel and SpecOps units.  Today, this insignia has become an important part of my life. It’s a source of pride that I don’t share with many.  The caseback engraving is covered by the strap and that’s just how I like it. It's not for you, it’s for me.  The deep diamond tip engraving through the PVD into the titanium creates a more substantial profile and a stark contrast to the black case. It’s bold. Looking at it, it’s easy to see how much meaning comes with it.  W.O.E. - Zulu Alpha 4.0 Strap As a “fixed” springbar case, the Pelagos FXD is often called a “strap monster”-- a term so overused it’s become meaningless. Yes, any 22mm strap will work on the watch, but it’s really about finding the right strap. With a customization like this, I wanted to ensure the strap was the perfect match–subtle enough not to overshadow the watch. So I reached out to our friends at UK-based and veteran owned Zulu Alpha Straps to create a unique design that honored our ethos as a community and tapped into the traditions of those who came before us.  The result is an understated olive allied green strap with a discreet W.O.E. spearhead-only insignia applied between the strap keepers, which is covered up when worn. Again, it’s not about showing the insignia. Like the caseback, it’s obscured when the watch is worn.  The development of this strap coincided with Zulu Alpha’s latest iteration of the “OTAN” strap and significant performance enhancements.  To promote longevity, the strap has a narrower tang, round holes, and a slightly shorter length at 30 cm.  The “patch” was adhered directly to the strap with a new technology developed by ZA, resulting in a OEM feel.  While we never planned to commercialize this version, we knew we would receive many requests, so this is dubbed, the W.O.E.-ZA 4.0. Photo Credit: Rob / @rw_m100 Dial Modification I have considered customizing the dial with a red W.O.E. at 6 o’clock.  That said, this would require a complete dial refinish.  While the watch is striking to those who know the FXD, when worn it's a more subtle customization as there are no visible insignias.  Discretion is a prized attribute in our field, if you know, you know is the way. Controversy of Watch Customization Customizing watches is a major point of contention in the collecting community, with many “purists” believing the watches should remain as they were originally designed.  Turning this upside-down, London-based George Bamford originally made a name for himself in the 2000s for customizing Rolex watches into unconventional designs, much to the chagrin of the Swiss luxury brands.   Bamford Watch modification (A Blog to Watch) However, times have changed, and Bamford has since been embraced by many watch houses and even has joint customizations programs with major brands including Zenith and Tag Heuer.  Further, “mod culture” as it’s known appears to have trickled into mainstream design and while the suits in Geneva would never admit it, the new Day-Date “emoji dial” is certainly reminiscent of a customized dial treatment than a traditional Rolex design.   Will we see a PVD FXD released from Tudor? Tudor’s playbook is simple.  It designs a watch, releases it to the masses and then iterates on that design with size, material, and color schemes.  This process has led some detractors to criticize the brand (Do we really need another Black Bay?)--but in the end, it works.  While selfishly I hope this remains one of the few “PVD FXDs,” it would be an easy win for Tudor to produce this design for the masses and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a version become available to the public in the coming years. A Few Thoughts To the uninitiated, this article may seem like a waste of time.  So, what, you painted your watch black?  Maybe. But it’s never just a watch.  When I look at this watch, I think of the people that made both it and W.O.E. a reality, and of all the times it’s been on my wrist.  No matter where this platform goes, it will always hold a special place because it is uniquely mine. There Are No Rules We are of the strong belief that there are no rules when it comes to timepieces.  If you want to polish your Rolex every few years to keep it looking shiny, do it.  If your dream is to modify your Patek to look like a Seiko, have fun.  If you want to put aftermarket diamonds on your AP to celebrate making it out of the trap, congratulations.   Don’t let conventional wisdom and outside pressure dictate how you enjoy this passion. Life’s too short to live in a box dictated by the watch industry suits or hype collectors pushing an agenda.  Have fun, use your tools, and don't take things too seriously.  -- If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our free weekly newsletter for further updates HERE.  Sincere appreciation to my dear friend and master of his craft James Rupley for capturing these pictures of the W.O.E. FXD and really bringing it to life for the community. Read Next: James Bond Should Wear a Rolex

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South African Issued Tudor Submariners - Making Time Podcast

South African Issued Tudor Submariners - Making Time Podcast

Our good friends Darren and Ross Povey from Tudor Collector discussed the history of military issued Tudor Submariners on the most recent episode of “Making...

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Our good friends Darren and Ross Povey from Tudor Collector discussed the history of military issued Tudor Submariners on the most recent episode of “Making Time” podcast.  We plan to do a complete W.O.E. Dispatch on South African MilSubs in the future but this is a great opportunity to learn about the history of Tudor and various military watches from the expert.  South African MilSubs are controversial pieces given the ties to the South African Defence Force, but they are fascinating snapshots into that period of history.   Pictured above is a black 7016 from approximately 1974.  I acquired this piece from Ross when I visited Zulu Alpha in Liverpool last year and it is the crown jewel of my collection.  There are fewer than 10 confirmed pieces.  As many of you know, I have spent much of my life living and working in Africa and this piece has long been a “grail” watch for me.  It’s an honor to be the custodian today.  See above for the story of the watch and how W.O.E. became the lucky owner.

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Ask Watches Of Espionage Anything, Part III

Ask Watches Of Espionage Anything, Part III

In this edition of the Dispatch, we’ll answer some common questions we get about W.O.E., timepieces and the Intelligence Community at large. Many of these...

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In this edition of the Dispatch, we’ll answer some common questions we get about W.O.E., timepieces and the Intelligence Community at large. Many of these responses can – and probably will at some point–serve as stand alone stories, but for now, here’s some additional insight on Watches of Espionage. If you have any more questions, please ask in the comments section and we’ll address them in a following article. See past questions “Ask W.O.E. Anything Part I” and “Ask W.O.E. Anything Part II” 22 Special Air Service Breitling Avenger Seawolf with the SAS insignia at 9 o'clock. (Courtesy SAS Melvyn Downes) W.O.E. recently posted a SAS Breitling Avenger with the Special Air Services (SAS) insignia on the dial, do unit watches cause OPSEC issues? We have extensively covered “Unit Watches” from various Intelligence and Special Operations organizations and profiled programs from Tudor, Bremont and Omega.  To summarize, a unit watch is one that is customized by the manufacturer for members of a specific unit or organization inside the military. Civilian organizations inside the NatSec space can also receive these watches, but the term “Unit Watch” almost exclusively applies to military units. Customizations to the watch can include the unit’s insignia on the dial and/or a custom engraving on the caseback.  While more honorific in nature, we have documented many instances of these watches worn operationally overseas.  This has caused many to question if the watch itself is an “Operational Security” (OPSEC) vulnerability.  If an individual is captured, wouldn't the “bad guys” know he was a member of the SAS? British SAS G Squadron Richard Williams wearing a custom 22 Special Air Service Breitling Avenger Seawolf in Iraq. The fact of the matter is that most elite units (even Tier One SpecOps) operate overtly most of the time.  While deployed to a War Zone, they’re generally wearing uniforms with their nation’s flags on their plate carriers and are not “under cover.”  While elite units and intelligence organizations certainly have operations where they operate under some form of cover, including posing as businessmen, most of the time this isn’t the case for someone in an “assaulter” role or even CIA Paramilitary Officer.  If an individual is operating under a “Non-Official Cover” (i.e. not a government official) then they certainly would not wear a Unit Watch.  They would pick a watch to match their persona.  Given the rapid proliferation of digital timepieces, many “operators” choose to wear a G-Shock, Suunto or other digital watch while operational, and reserve the unit watch for the garrison. What was the most dangerous thing you did at CIA?  The job of a Case Officer is to collect intelligence– to steal secrets through recruiting and running human assets (“spies”).  It's more dangerous than the average trade, but it's certainly not like it is in the movies. I never got into a fistfight in an elevator, a high-speed chase through a European capital, or performed a risky surreptitious entry into a Russian oligarch's dacha.  Most of my work was discreetly meeting with assets and liaison services in cafes, back alleys, and hotel rooms to collect intelligence. W.O.E. in Afghanistan, early 2000s.  W.O.E. in Sudan, early 2000s, Breitling Aerospace on the wrist. The easy answer to this question would be “warzone” assignments, where during the Global War on Terror, IEDs, shootings, and kidnappings were a real and present threat.  That said, in a warzone, Case Officers carry guns, wear body armor and generally operate alongside GRS and/or paramilitary officers.  The most dangerous thing I did was operate alone in Africa, and in one specific capital where crime, terrorism, and counterintelligence risks from the local service were deemed “critical.”  During this assignment, I did my cover job during the day and then at night went out on the street alone and without a phone (read CIA Officers and Apple Watches).  After a multi-hour Surveillance Detection Route, I met developmentals and recruited assets in hotels, bars, dark alleys, and cars hunkered down in low-trafficked areas of town.  Most of the time I was unarmed, as being caught with a firearm would have posed significant problems for my cover (see CIA Case Officer’s Everyday Carry - EDC).  The risk from terror groups and the local intelligence service was significant, but the constant exposure to the streets, and everything that comes with that, night after night over a multi-year assignment dramatically increased the probability of carjacking and violent crime, something that can generally be avoided for the average tourist or business traveler. Do you only wear your watches on straps?  How do you feel about bracelets? (Photo Credit: James Rupley) It is no secret that W.O.E. loves straps. This has led our own line of leather and nylon straps that we designed. I constantly rotate my watches through a plethora of straps and it’s a great way to change up the look and feel of a watch.  That said, it is hard to beat a well-designed bracelet and I wear my watches regularly on the original bracelet.  Rolex Oyster and Jubilee bracelets are incredibly comfortable and are probably my favorite.  Most of the watches in my collection, including Tudor, IWC, and Breitling also all come on great bracelets.  The one exception is Seiko and particularly the Arabic Seiko: the bracelet feels cheap and I threw that one in the trash as soon as I got it.  So in short, yes, I am a big fan of bracelets.  After wearing a watch on a nylon or leather strap for a while, it is always refreshing going back to the original bracelet. (Photo Credit: James Rupley) How do you store watches and do you use a watch winder? If you have more than two to three watches of value, you need to invest in a safe that is mounted to the wall or floor.  Frankly, no matter what, it is worth acquiring a fireproof safe for valuables, firearms, and important documents.  For years I have kept my watches in affordable (read cheap) plastic cases and put them inside the safe.  Like all of our designs, I have made them for myself and the 6 Watch Storage & Travel Case is exactly the type of case I have used for years (but much better quality than the ones I used to purchase off Amazon).   There are some fantastic high-end watch cases and watch boxes (like Bosphorous Leather) that are true works of art, but it is hard for me to justify spending that type of money on something that will mostly sit in a safe.  There are also some really cool “display cases” on the market, but unless you have a walk-in safe, this is a sign to the goons that reads “take me.” Bosphorus Leather “Watch Collector Case” (Photo Credit: Bosphorus Leather) I have never used a watch winder.  There is conflicting information on whether a watch winder is good or bad for watches but it generally seems like if you have new watches you should be okay.  That said, many of my watches are vintage and I would not want to keep them winding every day. It’s simply not necessary.  However, the main reason I do not use a watch winder is cost.  A 4 Piece Wolf watch winder starts at over $2,000.  I would much rather use that money to purchase a pre-owned Breitling or Tudor or multiple Seikos.  Additionally, I actually enjoy setting the time on my watch each time I pick one up to wear it.  It’s something of a ritual to take a few minutes to wind the watch and set the time.  And yes, I always set the correct time on my watches. (Photo Credit: James Rupley) In purchasing a pre-owned Rolex, do "Box and Papers" matter? Vintage watch dealer Eric Wind has famously said that, "Saying you only want to buy a vintage watch if it has the original box and papers is the equivalent of walking around a high school with a ‘Kick Me’ sign taped to your back—except it says, ‘Rip Me Off.’ ”  Given his breadth of experience, I will take this at face value. (Photo Credit: James Rupley) That said, I do enjoy having a “full set” when possible because it’s a neat historical addition to the watch, but I would not necessarily pay the extra premium for a piece of paper that can easily be forged.  A few years ago I purchased an early 1980s “Root Beer” Rolex GMT Master 1675/3 with the original box and papers from the original owner.  The receipt shows the exact day and store where he purchased the watch in the Caribbean.  It’s a piece of living history and part of the story of that watch.  While I rarely look at the paperwork, it is a something I treasure because it’s part of the ephemeral nature of ownership and a sign that the watch has seen plenty before–and hopefully after me.  One of these boxes is fake, can you tell which?  “Box and papers” can add $1,000-2,000+ to the price of a pre-owned watch, and for me, this is simply not worth it.  Of all the things to fake, the papers are the easiest to forge, and boxes are often paired with pre-owned watches and it’s difficult to determine originality. What are some good fiction spy books? There are plenty of great classic espionage fiction authors a la John le Carre and Rudyard Kipling; however, if you are looking for contemporary works, my favorite authors are Jason Matthews (former Case Officer and Breitling owner), David McCloskey (former CIA Analyst), Jack Carr (former Navy SEAL) and David Ignatius (journalist and columnist with Washington Post).  With the exception of Ignatius, all of these authors come from the IC/SpecOps and have real world experience.   (Photo Credit: James Rupley) It’s impossible to write about our community with authority if you have not lived it, and each one of these pieces contain little “if you know, you know” nuggets that cannot be faked.  Further, the fiction genre often allows the authors to include details that otherwise would have been removed by the CIA’s publication review. (there have been multiple items in the above books that were removed from my work because they were considered “classified.”) Movie adaptation of Red Sparrow Additionally, it will come as no surprise that watches are mentioned and often play a central role in all/most of these pieces. Red Sparrow trilogy- Former CIA officer Jason Matthews Agents of Innocence - David Ignatious  Damascus Station- Former CIA Analyst David McCloskey Terminal List series- Former Navy SEAL For military fiction and the future of warfare, check out 2034 and Ghost Fleet.  What do you think about the recent Moonswatch/Blancpain releases? I don’t think about them. Why has the W.O.E. platform been so successful?  What advice do you have for growing my Online Journal/Instagram page? W.O.E.’s “quick” growth and high engagement is largely due to the fact that it’s such a niche topic, with broad appeal.  But the real “secret” is authenticity.  This is a passion and a hobby and I never set out for this to be a business.  I genuinely enjoy researching topics and creating products for our community.  In fact, I don’t post on topics that will get high engagement, instead I write about things that I find interesting.  A successful article is one that I enjoyed researching and writing, not one that gets a lot of likes and comments.  The community (you) is not stupid and can see through anything that is artificial, fabricated, or click bait. If you are interested in launching a podcast, newsletter or social media page, my advice is to identify a niche topic that you are passionate about and have a unique perspective on and double down on that. Lastly, this takes time.  While W.O.E. might seem like an overnight success, I have put a lot of effort into cultivating this content to provide this resource to our community. Like with anything, consistency is key. Would you wear a fake watch/Rolex? I can think of very few instances where wearing a fake Rolex is acceptable. In response to “Trading A Rolex To Get Out Of A Sticky Situation - Myth Or Reality?” several commenters suggested traveling with a fake Rolex for bartering.  The logic may be sound, but if you are really at the point where you have decided to part with a $5-10k watch, your life is likely on the line and the cost is trivial.  Further, whoever you are giving the watch to is presumably in a position of power and likely someone you do not want to piss off should they determine the watch is fake. Seized fake Rolex by US Customs and Border Protection I have heard of some people with expensive watch collections that have “dummy” displays in their house, the idea being that if someone breaks in to steal their collection, they would take the fake watches without realizing the real collection is hidden in a safe.  This is something that could potentially make sense, but is not necessarily something I would advise.  If someone goes the distance to specifically target you for your watch collection, they are likely going to be pissed to find out they stole fake watches, and may come back for retribution.  No watch is worth your life. All that said, I do have a fake Rolex Submariner that I received as a gag gift from a wealthy friend in Dubai.  I have never worn it or even taken out the links to fit it to my wrist.  Who knows, maybe it will come in handy one day. How accurate is your portrayal of your life and W.O.E.? When it comes to long-form writing, all of my stories and personal anecdotes are 100% accurate.  I have several friends from the community that read the Dispatch regularly and my Signal messages would immediately light up if I started making up there I was stories for clout.  Of course, I do change times/dates/locations and minor details for the sake of anonymity (or if the CIA’s Prepublication Review Board advises I do so). In many ways, being anonymous allows me to be more honest in my writing.  I recently posted a picture of my entire watch collection.  This could easily be construed as bragging about material possessions and is something I would never do on a personal social media account.  In fact, most of my close friends don’t even know about the number of watches I own or the value of my watch collection.  Anonymity permits me to engage in a form of honesty that would otherwise be self-corrected.  While my portrayal of my life and thoughts are genuine, I do think a lot of people interpret this as a persona of something I am not.  I am not a commando or Jason Bourne.  I am a (relatively) normal guy who is fortunate enough to do some abnormal things with extraordinary people.  For that I am very grateful. What is the future of Watches of Espionage? Our goal for Watches of Espionage is to become the number one resource for military, intelligence, and NatSec content and products as it relates to timepieces. Long-form written articles are our main product, and we intend to keep this free and open for everyone to learn from. In 2023, we set the foundation for this expansion with the establishment of the website, development of some incredible products, and expansion of written form content. We raised $24,800 for Third Option Foundation and we have more fundraisers scheduled for this year that will be both meaningful and interesting. We have resisted offers from advertisers so that we can maintain complete editorial control of our content.  Remaining authentic and representing our community respectfully is key to our past and future success and we will not sell out for a quick buck.  W.O.E is and always will be an enthusiast platform solely for our community, and it's not for everyone. Over the coming year, we hope to expand the number of articles per week and potentially move into other mediums.  Regarding products, we are happy to now have W.O.E. products in stock and we are working on some new and exciting projects for 2024, including some EDC items.  We are also still in the initial stages of producing W.O.E. content in a print medium, something that we are being methodical about to make sure we get it right. We appreciate those who have supported W.O.E., as this support will give us the opportunity for increased quality content and products. As always, thank you for the support.  This would not be possible without you. Stay tuned, -W.O.E. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE.   -- This Dispatch has been reviewed by the CIA’s Prepublication Classification Review Board to prevent the disclosure of classified information. READ NEXT: Best Watches Under $1,000 - Ask the Experts

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Top Dispatch Articles of 2023 - Watches of Espionage

Top Dispatch Articles of 2023 - Watches of Espionage

Top Dispatch Articles of 2023 - Watches of Espionage  As 2023 comes to a close, we take a look at the top Dispatch articles from...

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Top Dispatch Articles of 2023 - Watches of Espionage  As 2023 comes to a close, we take a look at the top Dispatch articles from the year.  Thank you for all of your support, we look forward to a great year in 2024. -W.O.E. 10. Hollywood Watches of Espionage Mercenaries, Arms Dealers, CIA Contractors, and Navy SEALs – a timepiece can complement a fictional character. Watches play a significant role in film. An accurate depiction of a character often includes a watch they might actually wear, and this is especially true in the military, intelligence and espionage genre. When this happens, it lends a sense of credibility to the work.  This is likely a mixture of art imitating life and vice versa.  Believe it or not, we know plenty of real “spies” and “operators” whose watch choices were influenced by movies.  The Bond Omega and Bond Rolex are obvious ones. But other watches are also featured on the silver screen, and we’ll explore them here. Continue Reading 9. Trading a Rolex to Get out of a Sticky Situation - Myth or Reality? The "Escape and Evasion" Rolex The final requirement to be certified as a CIA Case Officer (C/O) is to pass the certification course at a classified government training center commonly referred to as “the Farm.”  Students learn the tradecraft to clandestinely recruit and handle assets.  The entire learning process is a surreal experience, and the atmosphere at “the Farm” is somewhere between a college campus with a constant stream of students riding by on cruiser bikes (IYKYK), a covert paramilitary base with state-of-the-art tactical facilities, and Hogwarts, a place where you learn the dark arts they don’t teach in regular school. Continue Reading 8. Bond: A Case for Omega Here, we will first share the full story of Omega’s origins with James Bond, followed by a detailed analysis of the history of product placement in Bond, and the critical role it plays in keeping the franchise alive. While this piece does not serve as a direct response to the first Dispatch, it aims to present a more thorough history of Bond, offer a better understanding of why adjustments have been made, and propose a case for why we can celebrate Omega’s inclusion in 007’s history Continue Reading 7. Remembering the Legacy of Billy Waugh Through His Watches Former CIA Paramilitary Officer Billy Waugh passed away at the age of 93 exactly one week ago; but we don’t mourn his death–instead we celebrate his incredible life of service in the best way we know how–through his timepieces. William “Billy” Waugh is the Forest Gump of CIA and Special Forces with a larger than life personality and an uncanny knack for adventure. At the conclusion of WWII he attempted to enlist in the United States Marine Corps at age 15. His age got in the way, but three years later, in ‘48, he successfully enlisted in the United States Army, launching a career that would become nothing short of legendary in the Special Operations community. Continue Reading 6. Advice for Buying a Watch The Watches of Espionage community can be broken down into two segments: professional watch nerds tired of the traditional watch media; and complete newbies, those initially attracted by Military and Intelligence content but with little interest in watches.  Over time, the latter group usually develops an interest in watches and regularly asks where to begin.   This Dispatch is for you, newbies.  It’s a cheat sheet for breaking into the world of watches. Our goal is simple: to cultivate and preserve watch culture in the NatSec community.  We have no commercial relationships with any of the brands mentioned, and we’re brand-agnostic. Continue Reading 5. The History Of Casio G-Shocks And The US Military The History Of G-Shocks And The US Military - Benjamin Lowry Forty years have passed since the introduction of the Casio G-Shock in 1983. And while the basic formula behind the world’s most durable watch has remained largely unchanged since the legendary DW-5000C first hit store shelves, the world of warfare and the United States Military in particular have made significant strides in both equipment and tactical doctrine. Conflicts in Panama, the Persian Gulf, and Bosnia/Herzegovina were waged in a bygone analog era, influenced by lessons learned in the Vietnam War. But the terrorist attacks of September 11th changed all of that, embroiling the United States in a new type of war based on counter-insurgency in the digitally-augmented age. Continue Reading 4. CIA Officers and Apple Watches Counterintelligence Risks of Smart Watches “Apple watches are for nerds.”   Though we don’t actually think this, it’s easy to understand how one could come to that conclusion. The Apple Watch of today could be seen as the “calculator watch” of the ‘90s–in other words, a product with a nerdy association. One thing we can say is that smart watches are NOT/NOT for intelligence officers.  Smart watches, like the Apple Watch, offer significant lifestyle benefits: fitness tracking, optimizing communication, and sleep monitoring.  However, for CIA Human Intelligence (HUMINT) collectors who rely on anonymity to securely conduct clandestine operations, the networked device is a counterintelligence (CI) vulnerability and potential opportunity for exploitation. For every benefit the Apple Watch provides, it also comes with a threat. Continue Reading 3. CIA Case Officer’s Everyday Carry - EDC A Real “Spy’s” Every Day Carry (EDC)  We get a lot of questions about “everyday carry,” commonly known as “EDC.” So in light of these requests, we want to provide some insight into our typical EDC and what I carried as a CIA Case Officer (C/O) in Africa and the Middle East. Continue Reading 2. Tudors of Espionage (T.O.E.s) The Shield Protects the Crown:  W.O.E. is a watch snob–or at least I was. For years, I looked down on Tudor as an inferior tool watch existing in the shadow of its big brother Rolex. I never understood why someone with a Rolex would purchase a Tudor.  After all, Tudor is a poor man's Rolex, or so I thought. Most haters are motivated by insecurity, but my views were simply shaped by ignorance. I didn’t know much about Tudor and was unaware of Tudor’s long standing relationship with the Intelligence and Special Operations communities, a personally relevant intersection. Continue Reading 1. Casio F-91W, the Preferred Watch of Terrorists The Terrorist Timepiece - Casio F-91W The Casio F-91W’s reputation looms large in both horology and national security circles, and for good reason. The simple, cheap and effective plastic watch is likely one of the most ubiquitous timepieces on the planet, with an estimated three million produced each year since sometime in the early 1990s. However, the watch that is coveted by hipsters and former presidents alike has a more sinister utility: it has been used to deadly effect as a timer for explosive charges and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and worn regularly by members of al-Qaeda, ISIS and other transnational militant groups. Continue Reading

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Tactical Watches & Christmas Films - Die Hard, Lethal Weapon & Home Alone

Tactical Watches & Christmas Films - Die Hard, Lethal Weapon & Home Alone

Movie Watches To Watch For This Christmas Season: Watches of Espionage Edition Like we’ve always said here at W.O.E., tradition matters. It’s what builds culture...

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Movie Watches To Watch For This Christmas Season: Watches of Espionage Edition Like we’ve always said here at W.O.E., tradition matters. It’s what builds culture and forms the pillars of our community. And during the Holiday season, tradition means appreciating the cinematic masterpiece that is Die Hard. As usual, we’ll look at the movie–and a couple other Christmas movies– through the lens of watches and national security. Die Hard- “It’s the greatest Christmas story ever told”  Inside the wrist- tacticool style There are people out there that might tell you Die Hard is not a Christmas Movie. The debate has been going on for over 30 years. We’re not going to take a position on the matter other than saying that the movie is playing theaters right now. You can go see the movie, in 2023, during the holiday season. It doesn't matter what naysayers think. It’s a Christmas movie. A family comes together, a Christmas holiday is saved, and everything is merry and bright in the end. Re-creation Die Hard layout using a Tag model 932.206 from our friend @movementsofaction With that being said, let’s get into why the TAG Heuer 3000 Series Quartz Chronograph is a fitting watch for protagonist John McClane, masterfully played by Bruce Willis. McClane is a NYC cop, and in 1988 when the movie came out, the city was grappling with a massive crack cocaine problem and a record number of homicides–1,842 in total. The streets were tough. McClane was tougher. He’s a little rough around the edges, and that unpolished element of his character was exacerbated by his newly-estranged wife moving his family to Los Angeles. While visiting her for her company’s holiday Christmas party, all hell breaks loose as a group of German terrorists hold the entire party hostage, killing a few employees in the process. With his skills learned from being a cop on the mean streets of New York and his knack for improvisation, McClane jumps into action…and you know the rest. Yippee Ki Yay, motherf*cker! TAG Heuer 3000 Series Quartz Chronograph - worn inside the wrist allows McClane to check the time while putting in work. Worn inside the wrist in true tacticool fashion is a TAG Heuer 3000 Series Quartz Chronograph. It’s the perfect watch for McClane. The NYPD isn’t issuing watches, so this is a private purchase–or a gift from his ex-wife. It has a blue-collar character to it, and it’s the sort of watch that’s charming because it isn’t really a watch guy watch. It’s exactly the kind of watch you wear if you don’t care about watches. For McClane, it was a tool.  The Actual Tag worn by John McClane (Photo Credit: PropstoreAuction) If McClane wore a Rolex or Patek, it wouldn’t telegraph the right message. McClane is effortlessly cool because he just doesn’t give a damn. In a world where we fetishize what watches are worn on screen, there’s a certain charm to a guy wearing a quartz TAG Heuer while using a Beretta 92F/S and a Heckler & Koch MP5 (actually a modified HK94s) acquired from the terrorists he eliminated to eventually get to Hans Gruber, played by Alan Rickman–his breakout role. In addition to McClane’s TAG, Watches play a significant role in the plot. In fact, one crucial W.O.E.-related scene was reportedly left on the cutting room floor. In the original script, the members of the terrorist group synchronized their own black TAGs prior to entering Nakatomi Plaza. McClane would go on to remove one watch from the body of a dispatched terrorist, and use this small detail to identify Gruber as the leader of the group when he pretended to be a hostage. McClane’s ex-wife Holly wears a Rolex DateJust, a gift from her coworker and a not-so-subtle signal that she has moved on from the more “common” lifestyle of the wife of a cop. Gruber’s Cartier Tank says everything you need to know about him–he has good taste and wealth to match. And he probably didn’t earn it the right way. After all, how do you fund a massive “terrorist plot” to kill innocent Americans? Lethal Weapon - A Christmas Story Speaking of guns and TAG Heuers in the late ‘80s, there’s another Christmas Movie that showcases a law enforcement officer showing us how to make an otherwise mundane watch cool. Martin Riggs, played by Mel Gibson in all four Lethal Weapon movies, wears a black plastic TAG Heuer Formula One. It’s 35mm, minuscule by today’s standards. But that doesn’t matter. It’s the man that makes the watch. (Photo Credit Unknown) Riggs is a former Army Green Beret turned cop, and that explains the spec of the Formula One on his wrist. It’s black on black on black–black dial, case, and plastic strap. The color echoes his inconsolable attitude after the death of his wife. The plastic Formula One was incredibly popular in the era, almost like the Moonswatch of today. It was cheap, it was relatively cool, and it was ubiquitous. It was launched in 1986, one year before Lethal Weapon was released. We also have credible intelligence that the Formula One will be making a comeback in the not-too-distant future as well. Home Alone - Rolex the Escape and Evasion Tool And of course a look at Christmas movies through the scope of W.O.E. wouldn’t be complete without a mention of one key moment that we’ve discussed before: trading a Rolex to get out of a sticky situation. Kevin at high port practicing questionable trigger discipline, Breitling concealed under the Christmas sweater cuff. In Home Alone, Kate McAllister, mother to the protagonist of the movie, 8 year-old Kevin, needs to get back to Chicago from Paris as quickly as she can after realizing she forgot him at home. At the airport she barters with an elderly couple for a seat on the plane back to CONUS with two first class tickets, $500, gold jewelry…and most relevant to W.O.E., a watch. But not just any watch, a Rolex. The elderly woman asks Kate if it’s a real Rolex and she’s met with Kate’s non-answer “Do you think it is?” immediately followed with “But who can tell, right?” The interaction points to the nature of Rolex watches as universal currency- a tool. In this case it’s to get out of France, but a Rolex will most likely work as a bartering chip just about anywhere. It’s not just a tactic for those in SpecOps and the intelligence community. But of course, the repercussions of someone finding out it’s fake could be much more dire in that line of work. Luckily for Kate, she found her way back to the US and lived to fight another day. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to the W.O.E. community.  Get out there and use your tools. Read Next: Hollywood Watches of Espionage

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W.O.E. 2023 Holiday Gift Guide

W.O.E. 2023 Holiday Gift Guide

In preparation for the holidays, we provide the W.O.E. stamp of approval on the following products.   We have closed up “shop” for the year but...

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In preparation for the holidays, we provide the W.O.E. stamp of approval on the following products.   We have closed up “shop” for the year but will be back next year with some exciting tools for our community.  Please sign up for “Notify Me When Available” for anything that interests you.  In the meantime, check out the following items as gifts for loved ones, friends or yourself.  There are no affiliate links or discount codes.  We are highlighting these tools because we believe in them, not for financial gain.  None of these are sponsored products. Please highlight any other gift ideas in the comment section.  We are always in the market for new tools and specifically love support small businesses and people doing innovative things. Watches We chose three watches at different price points.  Check out our previous Dispatch on “Best Watches Under $1,000” for a more comprehensive list. Seiko: SEIKO 5 Sports- SRPG35 - $210 A simple field watch and perfect first mechanical watch for yourself or a friend.  Purchasing a watch for a father/son/daughter or nephew?  The Seiko 5 Sports line is a great place to start. Elliot Brown - HOLTON: 101-001  - $511 The Holton Professional was developed in response to a request from a specialist branch of the UK military who demanded a fit-for-purpose professional watch capable of a life in the field.  We will do a more thorough write up on EB at some point, lots of history here! Omega Seamaster Diver 300M - Green - $5,600 The Omega Seamaster has a long history with our community, as we have documented with the British Special Boat Service (SBS) Seamaster.  Since 1993, the Seamaster Professional Diver 300M has enjoyed a legendary following. Today’s modern collection has embraced that famous ocean heritage and updated it with OMEGA’s best innovation and design. This 42 mm model is crafted from stainless steel and includes a green ceramic bezel with a white enamel diving scale.  Gear and Community The Grey NA TO - Supporter Subscription  - $100 year TGN is a community of like-minded individuals who believe in using their tools.  Hosts Jason Heaton and James Stacey break down their love for adventure, their addiction to watches, and also discuss travel, diving, driving and gear.  A subscription to The Grey NA TO includes a NA TO strap (grey, of course), stickers and access to additional content.  At $100 a year, a unique gift for someone who has everything. Field Ethos - Magazine Subscription - $15.00 - quarterly  The premier lifestyle publication for the unapologetic man is here. Enjoy a mix of modern adventure, historical context, and perspectives forged through global travel while staying current with the latest products that elevate an unapologetic life. Eagles and Angels Ltd - Signature Hats & Tools - $39.00 and up We salvage the old uniforms of our brave men and women, transforming them into high-end accessories to be proudly worn by those who support our troops. Each piece is beautifully crafted in the US and carries the story of the soldier who wore it first. Each purchase helps support the families of fallen heroes. The Observer Collection - Piecekeeper - $30.00 The Piecekeeper is designed to halt hostilities between your watch and laptop. The same natural dyed Italian suede used in the Observer Collection bags creates a comfortable barrier between watch bracelet and workspace preventing scratches to both watch and laptop. Leather Works Minnesota - No. 9 Wallet - "Coral" Mahogany - $110 So named for the number of pockets this wallet has, the No. 9 boasts the most capacity out of any wallet in our line. It’s easy to see why it immediately became one of our best sellers. This is the wallet for the ultra-organized, the one who needs to keep it all with them, or the person who has a card for everything. Art Ad Patina - The best in the game when it comes to vintage watch advertisements.  Prices vary.  Bad Art Nice Watch - Custom Print Commission a piece on your favorite watch.  North Carolina artist, Bryan Braddy, combines his passion for watches with his love for art.  What started as a doodle at his kitchen table with his daughters has blossomed from a hobby into a business. Embracing the concepts of wabi-sabi, the acceptance, and contemplation of imperfection, guide the principles of his style. “I want you to see my artistic choices, good or bad, with the pen or the brush.” King Kennedy Rugs - Driver Rug-  prices vary We have no idea who runs this company, but his rugs are incredible. Check out these “Vintage Rolex Hand Woven Rugs” rugs from Pakistan. $325  Prairie Fire Art Company - "The Professional" Billy Waugh MACV-SOG Art Print - $65.00 Billy Waugh had a 50 year career in Army Special Forces and as a paramilitary officer.  He patrolled the jungles of Laos and Vietnam. He hunted down Carlos the Jackal. He was the first to put sights on UBL and he invaded Afghanistan when most said he was too old for the mission. "Beware of an old man in a profession where men usually die young". Knives Winkler Knives, WK Huntsman - $300.00 The Huntsman is an adaptation of a Small Hunting Knife I made back in the 1990’s. Perfect for hunting and everyday carry. This model is fast becoming one of our most recommended designs. Sangin Knives - Carbon Fiber Corsair - $699 Sangin is known for their watches, but they also recently stepped into the knife game with a premium blade, the Corsair.   The Corsair is a 9.0” blade, made from premium Crucible Metals CPM M4. The blade is finished in an ultra-corrosion resistant black KG Gunkote. The Corsair is fitted with premium Camo Carbon Fiber handles, giving it a unique design with a sturdy feel, ready to be used in any scenario. With precision-turned titanium tubing, we can hold incredibly tight tolerances which allow our handles to be press fitted and secured using friction. This is a significant upgrade, solving the issue of handle scale fracturing and separation from the steel. Half Face Blades, Brad Cavner signature series - $375 Half Face Blades was founded by Andrew Arrabito, Navy SEAL (ret.), to meet the need for high-quality, “go-to” knives and axes – usable, personalized, functional, versatile tools that work for every person in every walk of life.  Toor Knives - Field 2.0 - $295.00 Toor designed the Field 2.0 with every day use in mind and it has quickly become known as the workhorse of our Outdoor Series. Its small size allows for all day carry comfort, while having the capability to handle almost any task out on the trail. Tools Soturi - The ‘Diplomat’ Strap - $185 Our most refined Cordura strap, The Diplomat is a tailored addition to our lineup that is just at home in the field as it is the office. Featuring a fully rolled edge, tapered design, and supple nubuck leather lining; it’s built to suit your every endeavor. Bergeon - 7825 Spring Bar Tweezer Spring Bar Removal Fitting Tool - $170 Bergeon 7825 is a tweezers, special watchmaker tool for inserting and removing spring bars in difficult to access end links and the short spring bars in the inner link.  Jack Carr - Signature Whiskey Glass - $23.00 Handblown by Mexican Artisans and made from recycled glass Coca-Cola bottles.  Crossed Hawks etched emblem on front of glass. Ball and Buck - Arthur Zippo - Brushed Brass - $68.00 Originally made in 1941, Zippo served as an essential accessory to American soldiers fighting in World War II and on. Their heralded tradition continues wherever men roam, igniting in every condition it encounters; the lighter's metal ring sweetly sounding in an American echo. With The Arthur Zippo, you can proudly display your support of American quality and manufacturing. Whether you're enjoying a smoke or building a fire in the woods, the Ball and Buck Zippo lighter is sure to become a staple for your everyday carry. Books G-SHOCK 40th Anniversary Book - $65 Celebrating the story of G-SHOCK, a truly unique watch whose pioneering innovation, function, and versatile design has made it a cult-collectible worn by devoted fans across the globe as well as by cultural icons in the worlds of fashion, sports, music, and popular culture for the past forty years. The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal - $15.99 It was the height of the Cold War, and a dangerous time to be stationed in the Soviet Union. One evening, while the chief of the CIA’s Moscow station was filling his gas tank, a stranger approached and dropped a note into the car. In the years that followed, that man, Adolf Tolkachev, became one of the most valuable spies ever for the U.S. But these activities posed an enormous personal threat to Tolkachev and his American handlers.  Watchistry  - Marine Nationale Book - $77.00 An exploration of a collection of 34 watches and instruments issued to the French Navy. 224 pages of photos and text cover vintage military watches from Tudor, Omega, Longines, Breguet, Auricoste, Doxa, Triton and others are featured, along with detailed provenance and commentary. It represents an unprecedented look at the nuance and breadth of the pieces used by the Marine Nationale. A Die Hard Christmas - $19.99 True story.  All John McClane wants for Christmas is to reunite with his estranged family. But when his wife’s office holiday party turns into a deadly hostage situation, he has to save her life before he can get home in time for Christmas!  The unconventional fan-favorite movie Die Hard is now an illustrated storybook- complete with machine guns, European terrorists, and a cop who’s forced to rely on all his cunning and skills (and the help of a fellow officer) to save the day.  Small Arms of WWII: United States of America, James Rupley, Ian McCollum-  $98.00 The Second World War was a fascinating and dynamic time in the history of firearms – a period that began with revolvers and bolt-action weapons, and ended with the first generations of modern select-fire combat rifles. We detail these developments in Small Arms of WWII, discussing not just what the weapons were, but why they were developed and how they performed in the field. If you want to get a better understanding of how these weapons changed warfare and were in turn themselves changed by warfare, this is the book series for you!  A Man & His Watch: Iconic Watches and Stories from the Men Who Wore Them, Matt Hranek - $28.49 Paul Newman wore his Rolex Daytona every single day for 35 years until his death in 2008. The iconic timepiece, probably the single most sought-after watch in the world, is now in the possession of his daughter Clea, who wears it every day in his memory. Franklin Roosevelt wore an elegant gold Tiffany watch, gifted to him by a friend on his birthday, to the famous Yalta Conference where he shook the hands of Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill. JFK's Omega worn to his presidential inauguration, Ralph Lauren's watch purchased from Andy Warhol's personal collection, Sir Edmund Hillary's Rolex worn during the first-ever summit of Mt. Everest . . . these and many more compose the stories of the world's most coveted watches captured in A Man and His Watch.  The Wrong Wolf, Chris Craighead and Matthew Klein $19.99 From the very start, the Wrong Wolf knew he was different. Over the course of a journey marked by loss, mercy, courage and self-sacrifice, he learns that where and how you are born does not always determine where you end up. Sweetwater - Jason Heaton - $14.99 With an American presidential election looming, a decades-old plane crash is once again thrust into the news. Old secrets threaten to expose dangerous truths and underwater archaeologist Julian "Tusker" Tusk finds himself at the center of a mystery with the highest of stakes. With time running out, Tusker is forced to come to terms with not only his own past, but that of his father, in an adventure that spans two generations and hits close to home in more ways than one.  Moscow X, David McCloskey - $25.49 CIA officers Sia and Max enter Russia under commercial cover to recruit Vladimir Putin’s moneyman. Sia works for a London law firm that conceals the wealth of the superrich. Max’s family business in Mexico―a CIA front since the 1960s―is a farm that breeds high-end racehorses. They pose as a couple to target Vadim, Putin’s private banker, and his wife, Anna, who―unbeknownst to CIA―is a Russian intelligence officer under deep cover at the bank. Clothes Relwen - Quilted Insulated Tanker Jacket - $318  This will be your go-to, so don’t fight it. Our Tanker is that one jacket that fills all the voids, whether tailgating, going out for dinner, or off to work. The soft peached nylon/cotton shell utilizes a water-resistant polyurethane coating, ideal for all weather conditions. Lightweight quilting provides warmth across temperate conditions making for highly pragmatic style. Clarks, Desert Boot Suede - $150 Cultural cachet and design DNA: no shoe is quite like the Clarks Originals Desert Boot. Nathan Clark’s 1950 design was inspired by a rough boot from Cairo’s Old Bazaar, and its minimal, progressive style sparked a worldwide footwear revolution GBRS Group - Set Point Flannel - $75.00 The Set Point by GBRS Group MD Approach Flannel is a multi-purpose flannel for everyday use. Combining the crisp look of a heavier flannel with the comfort of a lighter one makes this flannel resourceful on any occasion. Vuori- Strato Tech Tee - $54 The Strato Tech Tee is the softest piece of workout apparel on the planet, doubling as your go-to t-shirt. With next-level comfort, our softest performance knit is quick drying and moisture wicking. Goodr - Bosley's Basset Hound Dreams - $25 Tortoiseshell sunglasses? More like houndshell shades. These sunnies were named in honor of Bosley, king of the basset hounds. So every time you wear these no slip, no bounce brown frames with non-reflective polarized brown lenses, you’ll be in the presence of royalty. Hot sauce Tabasco: Priceless, available at your local convenience store, this delicious nectar of the gods.  Tabasco. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.   -- *W.O.E. has received no financial compensation for the above products and these are NOT/NOT sponsored.  Please do your own research before making any purchases.

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Advice for Buying a Watch

Advice for Buying a Watch

The Watches of Espionage community can be broken down into two segments: professional watch nerds tired of the traditional watch media; and complete newbies, those...

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The Watches of Espionage community can be broken down into two segments: professional watch nerds tired of the traditional watch media; and complete newbies, those initially attracted by Military and Intelligence content but with little interest in watches.  Over time, the latter group usually develops an interest in watches and regularly asks where to begin.   This Dispatch is for you, newbies.  It’s a cheat sheet for breaking into the world of watches. Our goal is simple: to cultivate and preserve watch culture in the NatSec community.  We have no commercial relationships with any of the brands mentioned, and we’re brand-agnostic. (James Rupley) Step 1: Do your research:  There are more resources than ever on watches, and if you are reading this then you’ve already demonstrated that you’re far enough down the rabbit hole and you want to know more.  We at W.O.E. do not do traditional watch reviews- but other platforms do and do it well.  Hodinkee, Bark and Jack, Teddy Baldassarre, Fratello, aBlogtoWatch, etc.  There are plenty of great outlets with different perspectives putting out content on Youtube, online editorial platforms, and podcasts. But it’s important to exercise caution when it comes to any enthusiast media, as much of the content on these sites are paid advertisements and/or heavily influenced by the watch brands.  Read our Covert Influence In Watch Media piece so that you approach it with a skeptical eye. Step 2:  Talk with people. The simple lost art of conversation.  Ask your friends, coworkers and family members about their watches.  See a guy with an interesting watch on at a bar, coffee shop, or even at the urinal? Ask him what he is wearing.  Why did he buy that specific watch?  What does he like and dislike about it?  Ask to try it on. Most people into watches want nothing more than to talk about them. Major cities likely have watch meetups. RedBar Group is the largest and most well-known of these group meet ups.  I have never been to a watch meet up but know a lot of people enjoy this community and it is a great way to get your hands on lots of watches in the wild. Step 3:  Visit an AD.  An “Authorized Dealer” is a store that sells watches from major brands, and they have an official relationship with said brands.  We recommend visiting a dealer with a larger selection of brands so that you can physically try on different watches to see what works for you.  Tourneau, Watches of Switzerland, and Bucherer are some of the largest ones, but chances are even your local mall has a store that sells watches. Sales associates can be notoriously pretentious and they’re not always “watch guys” but there is something to be learned from everyone.  At a minimum they should have the training to explain the range on the market. Step 4:  Buy your first watch.  After spending a few weeks/months on steps 1-3, you should have a general idea of what interests you.  It’s time to buy your first watch. Regardless of one's socioeconomic status and access to disposable income, we recommend starting with a watch under-$1,000, and even under $500 is better.  Just because you can afford a Rolex doesn't mean you should start there.  Check out our previous Dispatch on “Best watches under $1,000” for some thoughts from a broad range of practitioners with experience. (James Rupley) Step 5:  Pause - wear your watch, repeat steps 1-3.  It’s tempting to immediately focus on the next watch, always wanting more.  But wear your watch, find out what you like/dislike about it. Sometimes you learn things about your taste only after wearing a watch for a while. Think about how it feels on your wrist, how it works with your lifestyle, etc. Most importantly, however, is to make sure that the watch works as an extension of your own life philosophy. Maybe the values of the brand don’t line up with your own–or maybe they do. This is the time to learn. (James Rupley) Step 6: Accessorize.  A strap is a great way to change up the feel of your watch.  We have a host of straps in the W.O.E. shop, but don’t let us limit your options.   In the strap game, you generally get what you pay for. Like most things in life.  Stay away from Amazon and pay a few extra dollars for something of quality.  Most of the major watch content outlets also sell straps and are a good one-stop-shop.  Buying a strap from a smaller business is a great way to show your support and rep that brand/community.  Here are some of the different straps you should consider: 2 Piece Leather: These should be handmade in the USA or Europe, nothing mass produced. There are some great craftsmen out there making one off and small batch straps like our Jedburgh and Leather and Canvas DNC Strap.  A good leather strap can work on mostly any watch. Affordable Nylon:  You can buy these anywhere and should be somewhere in the $20-40 price range.  Our Five Eye is on the higher end of this but in return you get quality. The better ones are well-made but cheap enough that you can use and abuse them and throw them out like a pair of good socks.  A simple nylon strap is a great way to support a group/person that you’re interested in. (James Rupley) High-End Fabric Strap:  In my opinion, Zulu Alpha is the best quality fabric strap on the market. The Quantum Watch Strap from TAD has great hardware and Tudor has some great fabric straps (see Hodinkee video). None of these are cheap but you get what you pay for. Single piece leather is tricky, most are thick and I do not like to use bent spring bars on my watches. These do fit some of my pieces with a wider gap between the spring bar and I wear them. I am a big fan of both Soturi and Zanes. Rubber: I have owned a few from Everest and overall have been happy with them. There are plenty of options on the market here and quality generally coincides with price. Elastic MN Straps: I have a MN strap from NDC straps which I like and have heard great things about Erika’s Originals.  A great way to change up your watch. A new strap can completely change the feel of your watch.  Most watches are 20 mm or 22 mm so if you buy a handful of straps you can rotate them between your watches. (Photo Credit: @navs.watch) General Advice & Tips: As you look to expand your collection, here are some general tips that we use as a north star.  Remember, none of these are hard and fast rules: Buy what makes you happy; no one else cares what you are wearing and 99.9% of people will not notice the watch you have on your wrist. (This one is cliché but it’s entirely true.) Buy the watch you can afford. You won't be happy if you spend more than you can afford.  “Buyer’s remorse” is real and can undermine the sense of satisfaction from wearing the watch.  DO NOT FINANCE YOUR WATCH. Don't buy for investment. Your watch may appreciate in value, but buy with the expectation you will wear it until you die (and a loved one will wear it after you die). Values are generally trending downward in the watch world anyway. That’s not what they’re made for, and treating a watch like a financial instrument takes away something from the passion. When in doubt, stick with a known brand: Seiko, Sinn, Rolex, Breitling, Omega, Tudor, JLC, IWC, Bremont, Patek, etc.  There are some great micro brands out there (like Tornek-Rayville, Sangin Instruments, Elliot Brown etc), but also a lot with smoke and mirrors, especially in the “tactical” space. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Any worthwhile watch company wasn’t either.  When you do decide to go into the micro-brand space, do your homework. Buy the seller and build a relationship with that person. If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.  A lot of people have had great experiences with Ebay and other online forums, but there is something about building a relationship with the actual person selling the watch that makes it special. Plus, it’s very easy to get burned on Ebay. It’s less easy to get burned by someone you know and trust. Take your time. Do your research. Even if you have the money to buy the watch you want right away, spend time learning about the different variations and history of the reference or brand. This will likely change your outlook and make you appreciate the watch you end up with even more. (James Rupley) As a closing remark, don't feel like you need a "luxury watch," a ~$500 watch can be just as meaningful as a $5,000 watch. Remember, those Speedmasters that went to the moon and the 1675 GMT-Master examples that our pilot heroes wore were all value buys back in the day. They weren’t luxury products in that period.  As we have said many times, the man makes the watch, not the other way around. Vintage Watches: Lastly, if you are just starting out, we recommend staying away from vintage watches.  While there are some great deals out there and it is a lot of fun, it is not for the uninitiated.  There are plenty of fakes at every level and it is easy to get ripped off if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.  Additionally, old watches come with old problems, this can be exciting once you have a handful of watches in your collection, but sending your sole watch off for service for 3 months doesn’t make for a good time.    If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE.   Read Next: Blackwater Breitling - The Story

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What Watch Pairs With What Military Aircraft?

What Watch Pairs With What Military Aircraft?

Honoring an age-old tradition of matching watches up with heavy-hitting machinery. At W.O.E., we cover all sorts of subjects relevant to our community, ranging from...

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Honoring an age-old tradition of matching watches up with heavy-hitting machinery. At W.O.E., we cover all sorts of subjects relevant to our community, ranging from in-depth profiles of impactful Intelligence Community and military practitioners to breaking down geopolitical conflicts through the lens of watches. Today, however, we figured we’d go a little lighter and engage in an age-old tradition that, while slightly more juvenile than most of our content, continues to be relevant and just plain fun. Just about every watch platform has matched up the Rolex Submariner with the perennial watch-guy favorite–the air cooled Porsche 911. But we’ll leave that to the popular watch style blogs. We’re here to talk about metal with a purpose beyond simply looking cool. We’re going to match up iconic watches with well-known aircraft. Many of you will be intimately familiar with both of these subjects, and finding the intricacies and characteristics that tie a watch to an airplane and vice versa is an exercise in diving deep into the engineering characteristics, legacy, and function of both the plane and the watch.  Tom Cruise wearing Porsche Design Chronograph 1 (Photo Credit: Paramount) Before we apply full nose down inputs and dive in, we’d like to acknowledge that folks will have very serious opinions about these pairings, and that this list is just a starting point. If you disagree, we’d love to hear about it in the comments. We eschewed the traditional “rules” for pairings using things like country of origin or physical appearance to pair watches and cars and instead focused on the core ethos of each piece of equipment and the character and reputation it has developed in both aviation and horology circles. Now let’s roll, pitch, and yaw right into it: The Plane: Lockheed C-130 Hercules The “SUV of the sky” is ubiquitous and tough as nails. It’s been in service since 1956 and the fundamental design of the aircraft hasn’t changed much over more than half a century. It can land and take off from unprepared airstrips, it can operate in hot and high environments, it can be fitted with skis to land on ice, it can use JATO (jet assisted take off), it can act as an aerial refueling platform, it can serve as a command and control platform, it can even be kitted out for long-range search and rescue, and maybe most importantly, the AC-130, the gunship version known as the Angel of Death, can absolutely rain down hell on the enemy. The Watch: Seiko SKX007  You won’t find this steadfast tool watch on the wrist of anyone wearing a suit. It’s not particularly accurate, and it’s not known for superior fit and finishing, either. But it’s where a lot of us started our watch interest, and it’s where it can end, too. You don’t need another watch. This one is tough as hell and just keeps on running. Like the C-130, it’s spawned a bunch of variants.  The Link: The same places you’ll find the SKX007 being worn, you’ll find the C-130 being used. They’re both the standard unit of toughness that all other watches and utility aircraft are measured against. The Plane: Boeing C-32A  This is the plane that the highest officials in the US Government use for executive transport. You’ll typically find the Vice President (Air Force Two) and the Secretary of State aboard. It can also serve as Air Force One when the President’s 747 is considered overkill for a specific destination. It’s a symbol of American might and democracy that you’ll find all over the world. The Watch: Rolex GMT-Master and GMT-Master II Photo Credit: James Rupley The Case Officer’s watch. It can get dirty and take a beating, but has a certain polished cache that’s elevated it to iconic status. It can tell time in three different time zones at once; and the design hasn’t changed much since 1954, when it was first worn by Pan-Am pilots. The model became popular with military pilots and was even famously worn by Chuck Yeager.  The GMT-Master II serves as a stand-in for worldliness The Link: Both of these at first appear polished and proper, but they’re also some of the most capable and bad-ass platforms around. The C-32A has a whole host of classified defense systems. And the guy wearing a GMT-Master probably isn’t a stranger to doing what it takes to get it done. The Plane: Lockheed Martin F-16 For the last 30 years, when someone says “fighter jet”, it’s most likely the F-16 that many people–familiar with military aircraft or not–think of. It’s the most widely operated fighter in the world. In other words, it’s the OG fighter aircraft of the modern era. It’s a multi-role aircraft, and there’s even a project led by the US Air Force, Project Venom, to operate F-16s autonomously. The F-16 has come a long way since its first flight in 1973. The US Air Force had once said that it would be retired in 2025, but then signed on to keep the F-16 flying for another 20 years. It’s not going anywhere just yet. And that’s a great thing. If it ain't broken, don’t fix it.  The Watch: IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Actual military pilots wear all sorts of watches. Everything from Garmins to Bremonts. But there’s such a thing as a prototypical “pilot’s watch” and it’s the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch, specifically, the 43. It’s the watch that some real fighter pilots wear, but that many, many more people who wish to be a fighter pilot wear. It’s become an icon for what it represents, not necessarily for what it actually is. But what it is, is a watch that’s been at the center of the military aviation scene since before World War II.  IWC has a long history with aviation, and continues to produce Unit/Squadron watches for many aviators. The Link:  The link here is obvious–these are both the icons of their type. They’re what first comes to mind when thinking of fighter jets and pilots watches. They’re also sort of the most basic iterations of their forms as well. The Plane: A-10 Warthog  This aircraft’s primary role is CAS (close air support) and it absolutely excels at it thanks to its twin-turbofan, straight wing setup. It frequently gets “down in the dirt” and you’ve almost certainly seen memes or videos of the infamous “BBRRRRRTTTTT” that’s emitted from the 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon affixed to the nose of the airplane. It crushes tanks, lights up enemies, and emerged as an absolute icon after Desert Storm. BBBBRRRRTTTT. The Watch: Tudor Ranger The Ranger is mostly considered a field watch, not necessarily a pilot’s watch. Its simple, stripped-down nature is where its beauty lies. Consider it the modern version of what the Rolex 1016 was (or the vintage Tudor Ranger)–a simple-as-hell time only tool watch that was indestructible and somewhat of an everyman’s watch. You have 3, 6, and 9, and nothing much else except fantastic legibility. It just gets the job done and doesn’t cost too much. The Link: The A-10 is cheap as chips to operate and consistently crushes the competition when it comes to fixed-wing CAS. The Ranger embodies the same ethos–value-forward, reliable, and has a “git ‘er done” way about it. They’re both simple. The Plane: Lockheed Martin F-35 The F-35 was delivered ten years late and went 1.7 trillion USD over budget, but it’s the most technologically advanced plane that has ever existed. It’s over the top in every single way, not to mention it costs $41,986 an hour to fly. But trying to find anything that rivals it. You won’t China’s J-20? Nope. Russia’s Su-57? Negative. The aircraft defines air superiority through its host of technical features, many of which are still classified (on the US-operated variants, of course). The Watch: RM 39-01 Richard Mille marketing shot If you want one of these, it’ll set you back about 150K. But you’ll also have the most feature-rich, tech-forward analog pilot’s watch that exists. A titanium case and a skeletonized carbon fiber dial characterize the watch, along with the signature Richard Mille lightweight technical look. Richard Mille is the epitome of technical mastery in watchmaking, and the RM 39-01 is the brand’s foray into pilot’s watches. It’s the opposite of legible and robust, but sometimes the most technically advanced things are just that way. The Link: The amount of engineering that goes into these two things– and the price tag– are both superlative. The Aircraft: UH-60 Black Hawk You’ve seen Black Hawk Down. Hell, we know some of you even fly the Black Hawk, which is operated in a branch-specific variant by the US Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. The design dates back to 1974 with Sikorsky, and now the US military operates over 2,000 Black Hawk helicopters. Roughly 30 other countries around the world also operate the UH-60 in some form or another, not to mention civilian operators that use it for firefighting, cargo transport, to search and rescue. It’s a ubiquitous helicopter when it comes to roles in the defense sector. Anyone who flies the Black Hawk knows that when it stops leaking hydraulic fluid, that’s when you have to worry. It can carry between 12 and 20 soldiers into battle and can lift 22,000 lbs. It was first used operationally in combat during the invasion of Grenada in 1983, and it’s been going strong ever since. The Watch: Marathon TSAR Cheap, chunky, and indestructible, the TSAR has been a mainstay in the inventory of issued watches of US forces over the past decade. Many models even feature the “US Government” markings on the dial in addition to the nuclear regulatory commision designation on the caseback. The watch has earned a stellar reputation by those to whom it has been issued to. It’s designed solely for utility, not looks. The tall case is meant to make it easy to operate the bezel with gloves on, and tritium tubes are employed for superior legibility and visibility in the dark. In short, it’s been a longstanding fixture in the military watch scene for good reason–it just works. The Link: The TSAR, like the Black Hawk, isn’t going to win any awards for looking good or being a hero. Neither draw a crowd. But those in the know will always choose these tools over the more sexy options.  (Marathon, Watch Maker for the Modern Military) The Aircraft: Lun-class Ekranoplan What makes this craft different from most on this list is that even though it has “wings”, it’s not an airplane, or airship even. It’s technically still just a standard maritime ship, because it only lifts about 13 feet off the water and flies in “ground effect”, meaning it takes advantage of reduced drag flying close to a fixed surface. In this case, the surface is the surface of the ocean. It’s essentially just a massive flying boat powered by eight turbofans mounted to canards near the bow of the ship. Flying in ground effect meant that unless the surface of the sea was steady, it simply couldn't fly, and that ultimately led to its demise. It’s an incredibly neat idea that’s also very Soviet–and it can certainly be debated whether or not it’s a good-looking craft or not.  The Watch: Hublot Big Bang  This is the model that’s most typically associated with Hublot, the brand that everyone loves to hate–and by most engineering and mechanical accounts, the watch is pretty strong. But most people agree–it has a very specific type of culture attached to it. The Link: Both the Ekranoplan and Hublot are loved by Russians, but that’s not all. They both had their mainstream time to shine decades ago, but still both have a small legion of loyal followers today that still live like it’s the heyday of the Ekranoplan and Hublot. But hey, they like what they like. SHOP NOW:  Five Eye Nylon Watch Strap

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Every Watch In Jack Carr’s Red Sky Mourning

Every Watch In Jack Carr’s Red Sky Mourning

Sketchy Breitlings, A Vietnam-Era Rolex, & More Making fun of Navy SEALs writing books is a joke that will never get old.  That said, there...

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Sketchy Breitlings, A Vietnam-Era Rolex, & More Making fun of Navy SEALs writing books is a joke that will never get old.  That said, there have been some great authors to come out of the Teams and Jack Carr is at the top of the list. Carr’s series of novels detailing the adventures of James Reece has become a massive hit, transcending the boundaries of our community to find broader mainstream success including a 2022 television adaptation starring Chris Pratt, The Terminal List. We have discussed watch culture in the SEAL Teams at length and Carr is also a watch enthusiast, with an extensive collection that includes a Rolex Sea-Dweller he wore while serving in the Teams as well as a Tudor Pelagos FXD Black, several Vietnam-era Seikos, an Ares, and more (Photo Credit: W.O.E./James Rupley) One of the key aspects that makes Carr’s writing compelling is the author’s incredible attention to detail, always doing additional research to describe firearms, gear, and watches in depth. Throughout the series, James Reece, Carr’s protagonist, wears a vintage Rolex Submariner gifted to him by his father, a Vietnam-era SEAL turned CIA Case Officer. In the television adaptation, Reece—portrayed by Chris Pratt—wears several watches including an Oris Aquis Pro Date Calibre 400, Resco Instruments BlackFrog Gen2 Black PVD (an insider told us he wanted to wear a military watch in specific scenes), a G-Shock GA-100-1A1, and a period correct 5.11 Military Tactical Field Ops Watch. Chris Pratt wearing a Resco Instruments BlackFrog Gen2 Black PVD in the television adaptation of The Terminal List. (Photo Credit: Justin Lubin) Carr’s seventh book in the James Reece series, Red Sky Mourning, was released last month. When I read it, I was truly surprised by the number of specific watches mentioned in the text, with one even playing a pivotal role in the plot. I knew Carr was a watch enthusiast, but this new novel shows how far down the rabbit hole the SEAL-turned-author has fallen. If you haven’t checked out the book, be advised: This text contains some spoilers. Elba Industries Breitling Emergency In Red Sky Mourning, at least one watch with a special complication plays an integral role in the plot. Andrew Hart, the dastardly fictional head of the fictional Elba Industries, wears a sketchy Breitling Emergency complete with a co-signed dial featuring Elba’s logo, a golden bee, an homage to co-signed “unit watches” from Breitling including the Blackwater Breitling we have discussed in great detail. Given Carr’s history in the SEAL Teams and working with CIA, it would be reasonable to assume the author has seen a few of these watches in his day. Former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince wearing a Blackwater-signed Breitling Emergency. An analog digital timepiece from Breitling’s golden era producing “watches for professionals”, the Emergency contains an antenna that broadcasts a signal on the 121.5 MHz aircraft emergency frequency when activated. Commercial and military aircraft monitored the frequency and were able to alert search and rescue teams of an individual's location, anywhere in the world. At Red Sky Mourning’s climax, the signal from Hart’s Emergency is used to locate the ne'er-do-well and James Reece, an old-school Rolex guy through and through. Vintage Rolex Submariner A Rolex Submariner reference 5513 from the same era as the Sub worn by James Reece throughout the books. (Photo Credit: Wind Vintage) In the Terminal List series, James Reece is a former US Navy SEAL who has also worked extensively with the Agency. Reece’s father, Tom, was also a SEAL turned CIA Case Officer, having served in the Teams in Vietnam where he purchased the Submariner that also features prominently throughout the series on his son’s wrist. In Red Sky Mourning, James Reece’s Rolex is taken from him by the Chinese intelligence officer Ba Jin who also asks what year the Sub is from. Reece says, “It’s a ’68. You guys had just kicked off your Cultural Revolution a couple of years earlier. How many people did Mao kill in his efforts to purify the Party?” As you’d expect, Reece ends up getting the watch back in a way that does not work out well for Ba Jin. US Navy SEALs in Vietnam wearing Rolex or Tudor Submariners. Given the 1968 timeframe, the Submariner in question is most likely either a non-date chronometer certified 5512 or potentially the non-COSC 5513, both models that are closely associated with Vietnam-era SEALs. It’s also conceivable the watch is a date model 1680 that also offered the red Submariner text at the time that is so coveted by collectors today. While arguably this should have been an issued Tudor Submariner, a classic Rolex Submariner is the perfect choice for a legacy SEAL like Reece that also once again demonstrates the author’s attention to detail and love for horology. Rhodesian Army Roamer Anfibio W.O.E.’s personal Rhodesian Roamer (Photo Credit: James Rupley) In Red Sky Mourning, as he often does, Reece visits the Hastings family, home of his best friend Raife Hastings, a South African-born former SEAL teammate, and his father, Jonathan, who served with the Special Air Service (SAS) and later the famed Rhodesian Selous Scouts. Reaching extremely deep into the annals of military watch history, Carr equips Jonathan with a Roamer Anfibio, a seldom-discussed Swiss watch whose claim to fame is having been issued to the Rhodesian military back in the 1970s. Rhodesian issued Roamer on a leather military "Bund" strap worn by Colonel David “King” Parker, Commanding Officer of the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI). Col. Parker is wearing the Roamer, which was common according to pictures from the Bush War. Jonathan Hasting’s history with the Selous Scouts, a special forces component of the Rhodesian Army, makes this watch an excellent and historically accurate choice for Hastings who serves as something of an additional father figure to Reece. What led Roamer, a Swiss brand founded in 1888, to supply the Rhodesian military is one of watch history’s mysteries, but you can’t fault the quality of Carr’s homework. If you have been following this page, you know I've spent a lot of my life living, working, and traveling in Africa, a country with a large number of unique and lesser-known military watches. Interestingly, Hasting’s trajectory closely follows that of a real individual, someone who is not widely known outside of the Intelligence Community. Tianjin Seagull 1963 Chang Zheng is a Chinese Jin-Class Type 094 Submarine featuring  prominently in a cat-and-mouse game with the USS Reagan in the early pages of Red Sky Mourning. In describing her captain, Commander Zhen, Carr says mentions the, “…Tianjin Seagull 1963 watch on his wrist.”, a reference that serves as perhaps the second deepest watch cut in the book after the aforementioned Roamer Anfibio. Known to enthusiasts as simply the “Seagull 1963”, the Chinese-made manual-winding chronograph serves as perhaps the least expensive mechanical chronograph available today, with an ST19 caliber produced in China at Tianjin’s factory with tooling purchased from Switzerland back in the 1950s. A Chinese Jin-Class Type 094 Submarine like the Chang Zheng mentioned in Red Sky Mourning. Initially produced for Chinese Air Force pilots, the Seagull 1963 is an enthusiast-favorite watch because of its attainable price point—typically less than $500—in relation to its complication coupled with a surprisingly well-decorated movement. For a Chinese submarine commander, it also makes a lot of sense given the watch’s military history. Captaining a Chinese submarine likely involves direct inclusion in the communist party. For Commander Zhen to demonstrate his pride in the party by wearing a mechanical watch produced in his country feels dead-on accurate. Rolex Yacht-Master A second watch from the Crown mentioned in the text is the Rolex Yacht-Master, worn by Dr. Lawrence Miles, an avid sailor, former CIA contractor, and the billionaire founder of the Delphi Corporation. Reece goes to Miles’ home in Marin, California to learn more about the motivations behind the nefarious Andrew Hart. During their conversation, Miles describes a meeting he had with Hart and two other sketchy individuals, saying, “I remember they all wore the same watch—Breitling Emergencies. As a sailor you notice things like that,” he said, tapping the white gold Rolex Yacht-Master on his wrist and pointing to the stainless Submariner worn by his guest.” While white gold and platinum are the materials that come to mind first for the Yacht-Master, the new titanium version would also be an interesting pick for Miles’ character. (Photo Credit: Hodinkee) Also describing his sailing history, the Yacht-Master is the perfect choice for the billionaire and passionate sailor who spends his days overlooking San Francisco Bay. Unlike many Rolex sport models, there is no full-steel Yacht-Master in the modern catalog, meaning you’re looking at either full-gold, some combination of steel and platinum or steel and gold, or the new titanium variant released earlier this year. Given Miles’ financial situation, we like to think we went full billionaire bling. (Photo Credit: W.O.E./James Rupley) Digital Tool Watches (D.T.W.) & Smartwatches In addition to the above-listed mechanical analog watches, Carr also mentions a Timex Ironman in the text, placing the legendary attainable digital watch on the wrist of retired US Army General and current CIA Director Marcus Howe. In the text, Carr writes, “Howe looked down at the Timex Ironman watch that had graced his wrist for most of his time in uniform…” With a thirty-year background in US Army Special Forces, the humble Ironman is an appropriate and pragmatic option for the Agency director. Adding another layer, the Timex Ironman was commonly issued to CIA Paramilitary Officers as well as partner forces including Afghan units. While less key to the plot, smartwatches are also mentioned several times in the text, usually in discussions regarding their vulnerability. We’ve detailed the role and counterintelligence vulnerabilities of the smartwatch in modern espionage, and we appreciate Carr for bringing this element of modern watch culture into the book. Read more about “CIA Officers and Apple Watches” HERE. More than many thriller writers from outside the community, Carr manages to capture both the essential essence and concrete details of life within intelligence and special operations. Viewed from any number of angles and by various enthusiast communities for knives, firearms, tactical equipment, and watches, Carr packs the James Reece sagas with layer upon layer of references and Easter eggs that some will grasp and some won’t, but that’s the fun of it. We often make fun of SEALs, most of whom are authors, and will continue to do so. But Jack Carr has done it the right way, avoiding repetitively rehashing his own GWOT adventures in favor of the larger-than-life story of James Reece that is bolstered by Carr’s personal experience in the field of special operations and espionage. For watch enthusiasts, this level of attention to detail and historical accuracy is the good stuff and only adds another level of intrigue to Carr’s work. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE.  Read Next: SOG Seikos - Vietnam MACV-SOG Watches, Part II     Featured Image Credits: Breitling Emergency (Photo Credit: Lunar Oyster), Rolex Submariner 5513 (Photo Credit: Wind Vintage), Roamer Anfibio (Photo Credit: James Rupley)

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US Secret Service Omega Seamaster During Trump's Assassination Attempt

US Secret Service Omega Seamaster During Trump's Assassination Attempt

A Special Unit-Specific Version Of An Iconic Watch Designed For The US Secret Service This past Saturday, a series of gunshots was heard around the...

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A Special Unit-Specific Version Of An Iconic Watch Designed For The US Secret Service This past Saturday, a series of gunshots was heard around the world. Former US President Donald Trump was speaking at a rally in Pennsylvania in support of his upcoming presidential bid when suddenly, he flinched and reached for his right ear as shots rang out. In seconds, the former president’s US Secret Service protective detail took him to the ground, shielding Trump with their bodies as a USSS Counter Sniper Team engaged and killed Thomas Matthew Crooks. As Secret Service agents rushed Trump offstage, a member of his detail was photographed wearing a special unit-specific version of the Omega Seamaster, another example of a member of our community wearing a serious watch in the line of fire. The USSS Omega Seamaster Diver 300 “Unit Watch” on the wrist of an agent on Trump’s protective detail. (Photo Credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) As a disclaimer, our interest in the watch in no way diminishes the severity of the incident, the injured, or the tragic loss of firefighter Corey Comperatore. The Omega is relatively insignificant here, but timepieces are our prism to view history and current events. By any measurement, this assassination attempt was a security failure and will be investigated. Much of what transpired remains unclear and disinformation and misinformation are rampant. We will not opine on what we think happened and will wait for the details to come to light.  Regardless of the failures this past weekend, the Secret Service is an honorable profession with ranks filled with true professionals. Secret Service Agents are in harm’s way on a daily basis, regularly putting their lives on the line to protect the office of the President and those running for it. It is a zero-fail mission. The good guys have to get it right every single day, the bad guys only have to get it right once.   This article will likely be interpreted by some as political, but to be clear, it is not. On Saturday, July 13th, a timepiece—a special version of the Omega Seamaster Diver 300 designed for the US Secret Service—found itself at the center of a history-making event. We are here to talk about that watch. Omega Seamaster Diver 300 US Secret Service Unit Watch A community submission showing a USSS Omega Seamaster “Unit Watch”. In late 2023, US Secret Service Agents representing multiple field offices and units began taking delivery of a customized version of the Omega Seamaster Diver 300, a model family more closely associated with James Bond. Serving as the primary unit watch within Omega’s catalog, the Secret Service Seamaster differs from the standard version with a no-date format, beige luminescent material, and matte finishing throughout the case and bracelet. On the case back, the Secret Service star is engraved along with “Worthy of Trust and Confidence.” On the bottom of the case, agents can have their commission book number or something else unique to them printed in subtle text. While watches like this are sometimes purchased from a commemorative point of view, many are used as tools, with the pictured Special Agent in Trump’s protective detail providing further evidence. Importantly, this reference is available only to military and law enforcement units, including the US Navy SEALs, Danish Frogman Corps (Frømandskorpset), and other American and European units. Other individuals within the Secret Service including the Counter Assault Team (CAT aka HAWKEYE), which was also present during the assassination attempt, have also purchased the Omega. Of note, other USSS units have special versions of the Tudor LHD Pelagos and certain Breitling references. As is often the case in our community, the US Secret Service has a thriving watch culture. Again, the watch in question does not represent the most important aspect of the events that transpired over the weekend, instead serving as yet another example of how watches are utilized as tools in the daily lives of professionals in the military, intelligence, NatSec, and federal service communities. Thoughts and prayers for all involved in the events over the weekend. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. Read Next: U.S. Presidents and Timepieces, The Last 40 Years

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The Murky World Of Counterfeit Rolex

The Murky World Of Counterfeit Rolex

Fake Watch Shopping In Istanbul -  A Case Study As a CIA Case Officer operating overseas, you are exposed to the dark side of humanity....

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Fake Watch Shopping In Istanbul -  A Case Study As a CIA Case Officer operating overseas, you are exposed to the dark side of humanity. It is not a career for the faint-hearted and you learn some things they don’t teach in school. He who fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you. – Friedrich Nietzsche While the quote is dramatic, there is some merit to it. I didn’t fully realize how abnormal life at CIA was until I separated from the Agency. A byproduct of a career at CIA is a fascination with illicit activity; arms dealers, wildlife trafficking, organized crime, and, now that I am an aspiring watch nerd, counterfeit watches. Fake Watches - A Real-World Case Study Most articles on fake, or “replica” watches cover topics like “How to spot fake Rolex?”, “How much does a fake Rolex cost?”, or “Where to buy a fake Rolex?” These are all interesting topics, but we wanted to go deeper into the counterfeit luxury watch industry.  To do this, I went counterfeit watch shopping in Istanbul, Turkey. There’s nothing like first-hand experience. Counterfeit timepieces are a multi-billion-dollar industry, with shaky estimates indicating between 30 and 50 million fake watches entering the market each year. Contrast that figure with Rolex’s estimated annual production of approximately 1 million pieces per annum; It is reasonable to conclude that there are probably more fake Rolex watches on wrists than there are genuine examples throughout the world. This means that when you see someone wearing a Rolex, statistically speaking, it’s probably fake – a crazy thought. Istanbul - A Counterfeit Watch Mecca During a recent trip to Istanbul, I had a mission: to acquire a “super clone,” or ”superfake” a watch that is nearly indistinguishable from a real thing. Not only are cosmetic traits like the miniature laser-etched Rolex crown on the crystal present but if you take the watch apart, the movement itself is branded Rolex. Even for experienced watchmakers, some of these “super clones” are, all the way down to the movement components, virtually indistinguishable from genuine Rolex. There are differences, of course, but these “super clones” are astonishingly close to the genuine product to the untrained eye. I wanted to see for myself. Rolex crown laser-etched into the crystal, introduced in 2001 to deter counterfeiters. (Photo Credit: Bob’s Watches) Istanbul, Turkey Istanbul's Grand Bazaar is a covered market with over 4,000 shops selling everything from Turkish sweets to clothes and yes, of course, a large selection of counterfeit goods. Entering through the Nuruosmaniye Mosque gate, visitors are overwhelmed with a plethora of shops specifically targeting tourists. The presence of fake watches is immediately apparent and, in contrast to many markets around the world, completely in the open. The watch shopping experience varies depending on the shop but on the higher end is almost like a boutique experience, the only difference being the watches are fake and you can actually buy a “Rolex” rather than be put on a waiting list. They offer tea and coffee, a chair for your bored spouse to sit in, and customer service that exceeds the boutique experience presented by many luxury watchmakers. Interestingly, pictures are generally not discouraged and the sellers are relatively open about the sale of fakes. It isn’t just Rolex, either. Panerai, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and even counterfeit sketchy Breitlings are readily available, with starting (negotiable) prices of around $450. Most of the watches utilize Miyota movements and are, as you might expect, made in China. Pretty much any reference you can imagine is available including the Le Mans Daytona and Titanium Yachtmaster. 2024 Watches and Wonders releases? No worries, they should be available soon. What Is A “Fake” Rolex?  It is important to understand what a fake Rolex is. We have identified three categories of counterfeit Rolex watches to be aware of. Cheap Or Tourist Fakes: These cost somewhere between $50 and $300 and are generally picked up from street vendors in major tourist cities in Europe, South America, the Middle East, and even New York. You used to be able to spot them by their quartz movements which caused the second hand to “tick” instead of sweep, but now they tend to have automatic movements, more accurate details, and better finishing. But, in general, they are still sloppy fakes and you are not fooling anyone who owns a Rolex with this piece unless you are in a dark room. Super Clone or One For One: So-called replica watches, nearly identical to the genuine thing. They can cost over a thousand dollars and rumor has it that even when taken apart, it can be difficult to tell if the watch is genuine or a reproduction. In theory, one could wear a super clone to the local RedBar watch nerd meetup and fool everyone in the room. It’s been rumored that these have even been unknowingly sold by legitimate dealers as well, proving that the only way to know something is real is to buy it from the boutique. Frankenwatches:  A catch-all term used to describe watches that may be made up of parts that have been switched out and/or a real watch with fake parts (replaced bezel, dial, hands, etc…). Some are honest efforts to restore a watch, but more sinister versions are meant to fool prospective buyers. A recent notable example was the “Tropical” Omega Speedmaster Ref. 2915-1 ‘Broad Arrow’ auctioned by Phillips for over $3.4 million. As documented by popular watch blogger Perezcope, the watch itself was a frankenwatch, allegedly cobbled together by insiders with access to the Omega archives.   Tropical” Omega Speedmaster Ref. 2915-1 ‘Broad Arrow’ frankenwatch, sold Phillips for over $3.4 million (Photo Credit: Phillips) Why Are Fake Watches A Problem? At a minimum, fake watches are textbook examples of intellectual property (IP) theft, using the designs and logos that Swiss brands spent millions of dollars developing over decades. Some go as far as to link the sale of counterfeit watches to child labor, sweatshops, and even terrorism, human trafficking, and organized crime. While direct evidence of this is scarce, it is reasonable to assume that a link exists to some extent. That said, the vast majority of the counterfeit industry originates in China and it appears as though the Chinese government at least tacitly supports it and probably has some oversight and regulation. Are Fakes Substitutes For The Real Thing? According to Business Insider, 23.3 million counterfeit watches are circling the US, more than Rolex has sold worldwide in the past 15 years. The logical conclusion is that this hurts Rolex’s bottom line. But are fakes reasonable substitutes? Is Rolex losing potential customers to fake watches? Probably not. The fact is, the type of person that will buy and wear a fake, likely can’t afford the real thing. In other cases, some may buy a fake now and then the real thing as their financial circumstances change. UFC fighter Conor McGregor recently revealed during a GQ Sports interview that he used to wear fake watches to press conferences before he could afford a genuine Rolex. He is now a legitimate customer, owning millions of dollars in Rolex, AP, and Patek. One could argue that in McGregor’s case, the fake Rolex watches served as the “top of the funnel” for Swiss brands. Conor McGregor Wearing a (real?) Rolex Daytona “Eye of the Tiger” Should I Buy A Fake Rolex? We can think of very few legitimate reasons to purchase a fake Rolex, and yes, doing so does ultimately fuel the already insatiable market for these timepieces and potentially provide funding for organized crime syndicates. Further, in some places, it’s illegal to buy and transport fake watches. Our advice is simple, buy the (real) and best watch you can afford. There are plenty of great and legitimate watches on the market that cost less than your iPhone. Real Rolex Sub (Photo Credit: James Rupley) In response to “Trading A Rolex To Get Out Of A Sticky Situation - Myth Or Reality?”, many commenters suggested traveling with a fake Rolex for bartering. The logic may be sound, but if you are really at the point where you have decided to part with a watch worth thousands of dollars, your life is likely on the line and the cost is trivial. Further, whoever you are giving the watch to is presumably in a position of power and likely someone you do not want to piss off should they determine the watch is fake. The potential for this plan to backfire is simply too high. Le Mans Daytona and “Titanium” Yachtmaster - all fakes I have heard of some people with expensive watch collections that have “dummy” displays in their house, the idea being that if someone breaks in to steal their collection, they would take the fake watches without realizing the real collection is hidden in a safe. This is something that could potentially make sense but is not a practice I would advise. If someone goes the distance to specifically target you for your watch collection, they are likely going to be pissed to find out they stole fake watches and may come back for retribution. No watch is worth your life. All that said, I do have a fake Rolex Submariner that I received as a gag gift from a wealthy friend in Dubai. I have never worn it or even taken out the links to make it fit. Who knows, maybe it will come in handy one day. A real Rolex Daytona (Photo Credit: James Rupley) Should I Be Worried About Fake Watches? By some estimates 20-50% of art in museums is fake and even the largest auction houses with significant resources have been duped with fake watches. While the risk of unwittingly buying a modern watch that is fake is real, this is particularly real in the vintage market, where replacement parts and refinishing jobs can result in a “real” watch becoming a frankenwatch. As an individual buyer, you should not be responsible for identifying a fake.  The safest thing to do is to either buy new watches or build a relationship with a seller you not only trust but trust their expertise. The latter is difficult as it can be incredibly difficult to determine which parts are genuine and which are replacements.   Back In Istanbul Despite my best efforts, I was not able to track down a “super clone” in the Grand Bazaar. Many of the vendors claimed to have better quality watches and vigorously sent Whatsapp messages to their colleagues to bring one by, but they never appeared. The fakes in the souk were mediocre at best with loose bezels and crude finishing and claimed Miyota movements. Fun party gags? Maybe, but I didn’t buy one. W.O.E.’s personal fake watch, acquired in Dubai. I did pick up a set of (fake) boxes, papers, and a blank Rolex warranty card to match my gifted counterfeit Rolex. Similar to the watches themselves, the box was crudely crafted and isn't fooling anyone. While I do not advocate for anyone to purchase anything illicit, I did it in the name of science. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. Read Next: The W.O.E. Tudor PVD Pelagos FXD

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Custom G-Shock, Omega, & Tudor - Watches Fit To Guard A King

Custom G-Shock, Omega, & Tudor - Watches Fit To Guard A King

Unit Watches Of The UK’s Royalty and Specialist Protection Despite the rise of inexpensive Digital Tool Watches and feature-rich connected smartwatches, there is an ever-growing...

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Unit Watches Of The UK’s Royalty and Specialist Protection Despite the rise of inexpensive Digital Tool Watches and feature-rich connected smartwatches, there is an ever-growing subset of the military, intelligence, and law enforcement communities with a passion for mechanical or otherwise more interesting timepieces. We’ve discussed so-called “unit watches” in detail many times. However, in this Dispatch, we’ll take a closer look at unit watches from the world of law enforcement, specifically the UK’s Royalty and Specialist Protection (RaSP), an intriguing unit from within the Metropolitan Police’s Specialist Operations directorate. To date, there are three known unit watches from RaSP, a Casio G-Shock from the attainable tier as well as a Tudor and Omega from the world of Swiss luxury, all of which see active service as tools in the performance of the unit’s unique role. Protecting Royals, Politicians, & A Castle Or Two Officers stand guard outside Windsor Castle. (Photo Credit: Maureen McLean) Similar to the role played by the US Secret Service, who are also no strangers to unit watches, RaSP provides close protection services to the UK royal family including the king, the prime minister, various other politicians, ambassadors, and visiting heads of state. In addition, the unit also serves as specially trained armed security for royal residences including palaces in London, Windsor Castle, and other sites in Scotland. Unlike the United States, which has not been ruled by anyone wearing a crown since a kerfuffle ending in 1783, the average police officer in Great Britain doesn’t carry a firearm, making the armed and highly trained RaSP a higher level of protection and response in the event of terrorist attacks or assassination attempts on the Royal Family. Hired from the ranks of experienced frontline police officers as opposed to “off the street”, RaSP officers have been called into action on several prominent occasions. Royal Protection Officers tackle an attacker after an assassination attempt on then-Prince Charles (standing far right) in Sydney in 1994. (Photo Credit: Express UK) Far from idle threats, Royalty Protection Officers engaged in a dramatic shootout during an attempted kidnapping of Princess Anne in 1974 as well as when then-Prince Charles was attacked during a speech in 1994. In recent years, the Duke of Sussex (Netflix calls him Prince Harry) made headlines when he fought to continue his RaSP protection detail even after leaving his royal role and moving to California in 2020. In close protection scenarios, RaSP officers typically wear a suit with a concealed firearm, radio, and less-than-lethal weapons in certain instances. In contrast, officers don a more traditional uniform when providing overt armed protective security at royal residences. This operational duality is reflected in the unit’s choices for customized timepieces. A Custom Full-Metal G-Shock For Royalty Protection Officers The RaSP’s customized GM-B2100BD-1A. (Photo Credit: G-Central) The impetus for this article stems from G-Central, a leader in G-Shock news and information. A few weeks back, we noticed a post covering a unit-specific version of the GM-B2100BD-1A, a full-metal variant of the so-called “CasiOak” that debuted back in 2019. With an analog-digital display and an IP-coated black stainless steel case and bracelet, the RaSP unit variant was spotted on uniformed officers outside Windsor Castle and included a custom United Kingdom flag integrating a Thin Blue Line motif on the clasp as well as a special XIV engraving on the bracelet. The XIV references the SO14, the former name of the Royalty Protection Department that merged with SO1 or Specialist Protection to become the modern RaSP in 2015. On the case back, the watch offered an engraved image of Windsor Castle. Judging by the wear across the case and bracelet on the watches spotted by G-Central, the Royalty Protection Officers use these tools in performing their duties, with the G-Shock serving as an excellent pairing with the more utilitarian uniform worn by the unit in this instance. While we always hear about G-Shock in military and law enforcement scenarios, customized unit versions are rare and in this case, pretty cool. A custom caseback and clasp engraving for the RaSP G-Shock. (Photo Credit: G-Central) Rather than an officially sanctioned unit watch, these G-Shock models appear to have been a smaller unofficial unit purchase only for members of Windsor Castle’s protective detail. With that in mind, the G-Shocks do not expressly display “RaSP”, instead using XIV as a reference to the unit’s history. For more refined scenarios including providing close protection for royals during public events, RaSP also has a couple of interesting official watches from more luxurious brands in its stable. Omega Planet Ocean For Royalty Protection Officers Known for recently providing customized versions of the Seamaster Diver 300 to US Navy SEALs, Danish Frogmen, and the US Secret Service, Omega also produced a very rare unit version of its Seamaster Planet Ocean for RaSP, designing the piece with input from the unit in 2018 with delivery of approximately 60 units taking place in 2020. From the front, the watch looks identical to civilian market versions. On the case sides, the watches are engraved with the officer’s initials, warrant number, and watch issue number, marking the only time we’ve seen engravings on the case side of a unit-customized Omega. In addition, the sapphire exhibition case back is emblazoned with a two-part emblem consisting of a crown representing the royalty side of the branch as well as a portcullis signifying the specialist side tasked with protecting government ministers and other dignitaries. In addition, the caseback's outer perimeter references the previous unit designations used by those departments that merged to eventually become RaSP. SO14 and SO1 we've already touched on, which were in existence until 2015, however SO12(A) was an earlier forerunner on the ministerial side. The Shield Protects The Crown (Photo Credit: Bob’s Watches) The phenomenon of Tudors of Espionage (T.O.E.) is nothing new, with the shield having provided special unit versions of many of its core models to various military and governmental organizations. Around 2017 or 2018, the unit commissioned 75 Tudor Black Bay Blue for current and former members of the unit through Watches of Switzerland. A Tudor rose with a crown on top is on the dial, representing an intriguing mashup between Tudor the watch brand’s rose logo—seen on the crown on this reference—and the traditional heraldic rose that often serves as an emblem of England. The case back is engraved with “ROYALTY & SPECIALIST PROTECTION”, an individual's identification number, and serialized one through 75. Photo Credit: Bob’s Watches (Left) & Ross Povey (Right) Like other special watches commissioned for military or government units, several of these RaSP Tudor Black Bay have made their way into private civilian hands by way of prominent auction houses and aftermarket resellers asking for prices as high as $30,000. One special example produced for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022 hammered for a staggering CHF 81,900, about $91k in today’s US dollars. These very public sales—one of which occurred around the time of The Queen's funeral—resulted in a change of policy from the department's senior leadership sometime in 2023, and there have been no newly developed official RaSP unit watches since. That’s why the above-mentioned G-Shock was produced on a smaller team-specific scale without RaSP markings. While we are not here to condemn unit members looking to turn a profit on personalized watches they likely never imagined would attain such value, we prefer to see these in the hands of the operators themselves, carrying forward the Use Your Tools ethos. Dual Purpose Tools While we typically concentrate on unit watches related to the military and intelligence community, there is clearly a significant community of watch enthusiasts in law enforcement and first responders. Unit watches like those produced for the UK’s Royalty Protection Officers serve a dual purpose role, acting as tools in the performance of their daily missions while also serving as keepsakes honoring their service both during and after the fact. Seeing such a wide swath of watchmaking within the Royalty Protection community, from a $500 G-Shock to luxury models from Omega and Tudor, further solidifies that our community is oriented around the capabilities and intrigue of the tool rather than flex culture. If you have other interesting unit watches to share, you know where to find us. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. READ NEXT: U.S. Presidents and Timepieces, The Last 40 Years

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Which Watch Would James Bond Really Wear?

Which Watch Would James Bond Really Wear?

Picking More Reasonable Timepieces For History's Most Famous Secret Agent When it comes to Watches of Espionage, James Bond is the elephant in the room....

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Picking More Reasonable Timepieces For History's Most Famous Secret Agent When it comes to Watches of Espionage, James Bond is the elephant in the room. While there is a significant gap between real-world intelligence operations and Hollywood's depiction, Ian Fleming’s character has had an indelible impact on our community’s watch culture. We know several real “spies” who purchased an Omega or Rolex because of the Bond connection. Even before the legendary films, 007 was already closely linked to the world of horology. Fleming, the legendary author behind Bond, even went so far as to name names, calling out a “Rolex Oyster Perpetual” in his 1954 novel, Live and Let Die while unfortunately failing to identify a specific model. Likely inspired by Fleming’s reference 1016 Explorer, many regard the James Bond of the literary world as an Explorer man as well. However, 1962’s Dr. No, the secret agent’s first foray into film, would forever alter Bond’s history with Rolex, with Sean Connery serving up a full-screen wrist shot of a Submariner reference 6538. Beyond a few abbreviated sojourns into other brands including Breitling, Seiko, and Hamilton, the Bond of film was primarily a Rolex guy until 1995’s GoldenEye where Irish actor Pierce Brosnan famously wore an Omega Seamaster Professional, a seismic shift for watch enthusiasts. In the Dispatch, we’ve argued for tradition in favor of The Crown in the past with an excellent counter-argument coming from Caleb Daniels in favor of Omega, which remains Bond’s chosen brand. It’s a fun debate, but what watch would a former British SpecOps turned “Secret Agent” really wear? Bond’s Rolex Submariner 6538 in Dr. No and the OMEGA Seamaster Professional in GoldenEye are both icons, but what if they’re not the right picks?  Taking a step back, there’s a good chance a real “secret agent" using their license to kill on MI6’s behalf wouldn’t wear a luxury watch at all. With the most up-to-date Rolex Submariner Date reference 126610 coming in at $10,250 (assuming you can get one) and Omega’s 007 Edition No Time To Die Seamaster priced right at ten grand US, the biggest issue here is probably cost taking into account Bond’s role as a civil servant. Add to that the ostentatious nature of these heavily-branded luxury watches for a guy who would probably prefer a low profile, and some other timepieces just might be better suited to Bond’s profession. In addition, we'd argue our Bond would also favor British watchmaking brands, with more great options than ever before coming from the UK. In this Dispatch, we’ll share our picks for which watch we think our more reasonable 007 would wear. CWC SBS Diver Issue Price: $750  Given Bond’s insurmountable Britishness, we would argue it makes sense to look at brands with strong ties to the Empire as well as the Ministry of Defense (MOD). The obvious choice is a brand with a strong following in the W.O.E. community, CWC or Cabot Watch Company, which was founded in 1972 for no reason other than supplying the MOD. For maritime specialist units including the Royal Marines and Special Boat Service, CWC has long supplied the SBS Diver Issue, a PVD-coated descendant of the original Royal Navy Diver’s watch that succeeded the Rolex Military Submariner in 1980. We know several former British SBS members who still have, and wear, their issued SBS, making this a logical watch for Bond. Robert 'Bob' Hawkins (1961-2023) was a legend in the Mine Warfare Clearance Diving community. Like Bond, Hawkins was a Commander in the Royal Navy and is seen here wearing the CWC SBS Diver Issue. With 300 meters of water resistance, the utility offered by day and date functions, and excellent legibility, the SBS Diver Issue is an excellent option for the modern British secret agent whether he’s doing some Thunderball-style diving combat or simply keeping a lower profile. Fixed lug bars mean Bond is stuck with pull-through straps, but for a secret agent who inspired a namesake nylon strap color scheme, it shouldn’t be a problem.  Vertex M100A Price: $2,625  For a more old-school look that also leans into the literary Bond who many argue wore a Rolex Explorer, we have the Vertex M100A. Dating back to 1912, Vertex is another brand closely associated with the Ministry of Defense, having produced watches for the British military as early as the First World War. Of the twelve manufacturers of the legendary “Dirty Dozen” watches produced for the Allied war effort in World War II, Vertex was the only British option, with the modern M100A calling back to that history with its core design while making room for more modern watchmaking standards and specifications. But what does James Bond have to do with a WWII field watch, you may ask? (Photo Credit: WatchGecko) Thunderball aside, the vast majority of Bond’s adventures both tactical and otherwise have taken place in the dry, and we might argue some of the key elements of a perfect Bond watch would be—even more than water resistance—legibility, durability, and the timeless style so often associated with Bond’s on-screen portrayals. Compared to something like the aforementioned blacked-out CWC, the Vertex would also be a lot easier to wear with a tux.  Elliot Brown Holton Professional Price: $541 Where the CWC SBS celebrates its history of issue to the Special Boat Service in both name and marketing, the Holton Professional from Elliot Brown takes a more subtle approach to its special operations associations. Founded in 2013, the founding principle of Elliot Brown’s collection is durability, with many of the watches finding favor within the British Military. Based in Poole, the elite Special Boat Service approached Elliot Brown in 2015 to help design a watch for the unit to issue. The result was the Holton Professional, a watch that has earned an NSN or Nato Stock Number making it available for official issue to military forces. Coming from another British brand, and with a quartz movement, hardened stainless steel bezel, and C3 Super-LumiNova, the Holton also presents a solid option for someone like Bond who is likely to be harder on his watches than most. For deep nerds, Bond has an entirely imagined special operations background, meaning Commander Bond may have either been issued the Holton Professional or purchased a special version as part of a smaller unit-specific order. Bremont S302 Price $4,200  Currently the subject of some well-deserved controversy regarding a recent rebranding effort, Bremont is still among our top picks for James Bond. Despite its foundations in aviation, Bremont also boasts an impressive array of diving-oriented watches under the Supermarine name. For a more luxurious option compared to some of the other watches we’ve highlighted, we select the S302 for Bond, a watch that combines 300 meters of water resistance with the useful addition of a GMT function. Where some of our choices thus far are more utilitarian and even tactical, Bremont manages to straddle the line, feeling just almost as at home with a suit from Savile Row as it does with a wetsuit, no mean feat. The S302’s GMT is particularly appropriate as well. As we discussed in our Dispatch unpacking Zulu Time, having a second timezone at a glance provides tremendous upside for an asset coordinating with a broader multi-agency effort. Besides, Bremont is one of the few companies that has actually made a unit watch for the British Secret Intelligence Service.  Christopher Ward C60 Trident Pro 300 Price: $1,095 Long scolded as a microbrand rehashing established designs, Christopher Ward has stepped up massively in recent years and is another brand with a strong following in the W.O.E. community, at an affordable price point. For a government employee like James Bond, the price of the C60 Trident Pro, one of Christopher Ward’s marquee dive watches, is fair. Add to that the watch’s solid water resistance and legible dial format and we have another under-the-radar pick for Bond. Adding an element of legitimacy, Christopher Ward has been quietly collaborating with numerous military units in recent years. Despite solid finishing for the price range, the Trident isn’t ostentatious and doesn’t advertise to prying eyes or invite further scrutiny. Bamford London GMT Price: $1,500  Better known for Bamford Watch Department’s watch customizations and collaborations with established watchmakers from the luxury tier, George Bamford also produces a more attainable line of wholly designed watches under the Bamford London moniker. Assuming our modern Bond was a man of more avant-garde styling who rubbed shoulders with Eton graduates, something like the Bamford London GMT could make a lot of sense.  Available in a wide array of dial colors, Bamford’s GMT is housed within a reasonable 40mm case complete with an internal rotating GMT bezel that obviates the risk of accidentally changing the secondary timezone on display. For the $1,500 asking price, Bond also gets an excellent bracelet, 100 meters of water resistance, as well as a sub-12mm case height that should work as well with a tuxedo as it would with a woolen commando sweater.  Arken Alterum Price: $750  A true microbrand at this stage, Arken presents a wild card choice for Bond. Housed within a scratch-resistant titanium case, the Alterum, the second watch from the brand, fuses GMT functionality with 200 meters of water resistance and a design format that is a lot further afield than many of our previous choices. Admittedly, the Alterum dial serves up a lot of information including the second time zone, managed by a GMT hand, as well as a date sub-register and an intriguing day/night indicator executed with a pair of apertures on the dial’s lower half. Despite the additional complexity, the overall effect is clean, subtle, and the kind of thing Bond could easily wear in virtually any environment without anyone asking too many questions.  Final Thoughts For the diehard Rolex and Omega James Bond fanboys, the picks in this Dispatch may be blasphemous. We invite you to submit your counterarguments in the comments. In any counterpoints, it's important to remember that for intelligence professionals like Bond, watches are, first and foremost, a tool. While there is a significant watch luxury watch culture in espionage, it’s not so hard to imagine a real-life James Bond might benefit from a watch that won’t get him mugged by some scooter-riding London street toughs. As for Bond's strap of choice, we'd argue 007 would do his best work with a Five Eye (FVEY). -- If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. Read Next: Does Rolex Make Mistakes? The Motley 8 - Error Batman Bezel

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Watches Worn By Pilots Of The D-Day Squadron

Watches Worn By Pilots Of The D-Day Squadron

Crossing The Atlantic In A DC-3 To Commemorate The 80th Anniversary Of Operation Overlord  Watches intended for pilots represent one of the most compelling categories...

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Crossing The Atlantic In A DC-3 To Commemorate The 80th Anniversary Of Operation Overlord  Watches intended for pilots represent one of the most compelling categories in the arena of tool watches, only matched in enthusiast appeal by watches designed for diving. Pilots are, for lack of a better term, cool. And in the realm of flying, it’s difficult to imagine a cooler undertaking than piloting 1940s aircraft over the Atlantic to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day. This is the mission of the D-Day Squadron, an intrepid group of enthusiasts, crew, and commercial and general aviation pilots tasked with flying vintage Douglas C-47s and DC-3s back to Normandy where they changed the course of history eight decades ago. As we have often described, pilots have a close relationship with timepieces, and in this Dispatch we’ll take a closer look at the watches these pilots wore while hand-wheeling 80-year-old aircraft across the Atlantic, battling arctic cold with no autopilot and only marginal heating systems. Despite the desperate need for sponsorship dollars to keep these vintage aircraft in operational condition, no watch brand jumped at the opportunity in this case, meaning the watches were a direct result of the preferences, personal choices, and stories of the pilots. As a professional photographer and amateur watch enthusiast, I was honored by the opportunity to ride along and document the journey, the watches, and more importantly, the stories behind them.  To the readers of W.O.E., it may not come as a surprise that the most common brand on the wrists of these pilots was Breitling. No matter how you slice it, flying 80-plus-year-old radial-engined airplanes across the Atlantic is sketchy—the good kind of sketchy. That said, smartwatches were also a common sight, and many pilots had opted not to wear a watch at all, but we’re not here to talk about them.  Breitling Emergency One of the pilots on C-47 Placid Lassie wore an orange-dialed Breitling Emergency with the brand’s Co-Pilot module, essentially a miniature digital watch integrated into the bracelet and capable of tracking UTC and flight time while also providing another chronograph. Pilots love redundancies. Frequently flying older aircraft, the pilot appreciated the utility of the Emergency, knowing that, as long as he could activate the watch’s signal in the event of a crash, his body would be found and returned to his family. His Emergency was one of the first sold in the US, something the pilot was proud of, representing his 20-year connection to Breitling that all started with a B1.  Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer The youngest pilot on the crossing was flying with his father, the D-Day Squadron chief pilot. The son wore a newly acquired watch, a Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer he picked up because he was tired of changing the batteries on his former quartz Timex. After initially deciding against what was for him an expensive mechanical watch, the young pilot ultimately decided to pull the trigger to commemorate a series of events: getting his type rating as a C-47 co-pilot, his first solo flight in a Twin Beach, and of course, the transatlantic crossing side-by-side with his father for D-Day 80. Omega Speedmaster Another pilot onboard D-Day veteran Placid Lassie was wearing an Omega Speedmaster he plans to give to his son one day. After losing a watch in the gym, he spent an entire year deciding which watch to get as a replacement. When his son was born, he decided it was time for something significant: “I like to buy one nice thing and keep that.” Influenced by the Speedy’s history in rally racing, the watch’s celebrated role in the Apollo missions, and its broader significance in aviation, he selected the Omega Speedmaster, purchasing a brand new example with the goal of adding his own patina over the years before gifting the watch to his son. The veteran pilot said he wears the watch for literally everything he does, including all of his travels, flying airplanes old and new (Douglas C-47s, Boeing 737s, and the North American T-6, a WWII Trainer), swimming in the ocean, sailing, and more. With only one service to date, he said the watch gets excellent marks for reliability. Before parting, he mentioned, “I’d love to have a Rolex, but I don’t know if it is for me.” Timex Expedition Chronograph  The loadmaster for C-47 Placid Lassie wore a simple Timex Chronograph. He admitted to not knowing too much about watches but picked this one because of its military look and the way the olive-drab color scheme matched the aircraft he helps care for.  Breitling Aviator 8 Curtiss Warhawk P-40 & Other Assorted Breitling Models  Purchased only three weeks before the crossing, the Douglas A-26 Invader Million Airess was late to the party, bringing with it the highest concentration of interesting watches I experienced during the trip. An owner of many luxury watches, he chose his most meaningful for the flight, a serial number 3 Breitling Aviator 8 Curtiss Warhawk P-40 that was also the first example sold in the United States. The watch commemorated a friend, the late Ollie Crawford who flew Curtiss P-40s during the war. A longtime friend of the brand, Crawford, who passed in 2019, was prominently featured in Breitling marketing over the years.  The pilot and owner described himself as a bit of a Breitling fan, even going as far as securing watches for the entire crew to wear for the historic flight including a modern Avenger, a Colt Skyracer, and two iterations of the Emergency. As previously mentioned, the Emergency models take on an even more significant role on a transatlantic flight done the old-school way.  Vaer C5 Tactical Field Solar  When asked about his all-black field watch, a Spirit of Douglas co-pilot said he simply wanted a dependable watch requiring no maintenance, eventually selecting an inexpensive solar-charging Vaer C5 for the crossing. After some prying, he also shared the story of his most meaningful watch, a 1975 Omega Speedmaster gifted to him by his grandfather after completing flight training. Remaining the source of great meaning many years later, the old Speedy served as a sign of approval after his grandfather initially criticized his decision to become a pilot. For fear of damaging such a significant family heirloom, he elected not to bring the Speedmaster along for the transatlantic journey.  Breitling Navitimer  One of the watches most concretely linked to aviation, it was no surprise to see a Breitling Navitimer on the wrist of one of the pilots of the UK-based C-47 Drag-em-oot. Also the owner of one of the Navitimers that went around the world onboard a DC-3 for a publicity stunt some years back, this is one he typically wears, making it the watch on his wrist for this historic event.  Praesidus C-47 D-Day  Another watch story from the trip that is worth telling but unrelated to the aircraft crossing is that of the Praesidus C-47 D-Day, a field watch with a dial made from the doors of a vintage C-47 present on D-Day. The watches were gifted to D-Day veterans present for the 80th-anniversary ceremony. The veterans seemed to appreciate them. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. READ NEXT: Covert Influence in Watch Media About the Author: René is an aviation photographer and writer from Germany focusing on vintage aircraft and warbirds. He has followed the W.O.E. blog from the very beginning with a keen interest in tool watches. All photos are credited to @romeolimaphoto. 

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An Overview Of The Watches Of Espionage Strap Collection

An Overview Of The Watches Of Espionage Strap Collection

Materials, History, Fit, & Which Strap Is Right For You One of the most common ways for members of our community to customize their watches...

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Materials, History, Fit, & Which Strap Is Right For You One of the most common ways for members of our community to customize their watches is with a new strap that is, in either material or design, more appropriate for austere conditions. Over the past couple of years, we have grown our strap collection to include more refined options made from domestically sourced leather and more attainable choices designed to excel in the most extreme scenarios. We are often asked what is the best strap for a given use case, and in this Dispatch, we’ll provide an overview of our strap collection including some pros and cons, historical and design background, and recommendations based on some of the questions we are most commonly asked. As always, everything we make is developed for the quiet professional, someone who appreciates the history of Intelligence and Special Operations and honors those who came before us. W.O.E. Fabric Straps Closely associated with military watches, pull-through fabric watch straps trace their origins to the mid-century when they were utilized by American and British armed forces, with the most popular format tracing dating back to 1973 and a British Military design known as the G10. Commonly issued to the British Ministry of Defense, the G10 also cemented the formula for the majority of nylon watch straps to follow. In starting our collection of fabric watch straps, we partnered with veteran-owned and UK-based Zulu Alpha Straps to create the most premium fabric straps possible which are also manufactured in Great Britain. Then, to provide a more attainable alternative that also conforms to the obsessive quality standards of our community, we designed the Five Eye nylon strap that we believe is the best on the market for the price. Five Eye Nylon Watch Strap - $35-38 Named after the intelligence-sharing alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the Five Eye (FVEY) Nylon Watch Strap is our modern take on the iconic British Military G10 design from 1973. This collection is more attainable compared to our Zulu Alpha collaborations while still providing a premium wearing experience and unrivaled durability for a watch of this style. The Five Eye is built from a custom matte woven material with a reinforced stitched tip and is complete with our custom stainless steel hardware. We didn’t reinvent the wheel but did take the original design to the next level with modern materials, manufacturing standards, and colors tailored to the unique needs of our community. To suit a wider variety of watches, we offer solid colors, striped variants, and Five Eye straps with black-coated PVD hardware, all in 20 and 22-mm sizes that will fit wrists from 6.25 to 9 IN (15.9 to 22.9 CM). Of note, like all “affordable” nylon straps, these are produced in Asia. Cons: With almost four hundred five-star reviews, the Five Eye doesn’t have a lot of cons, but like any nylon strap, the look isn’t elegant or refined and wouldn’t be a great pairing for dressier watches. ORDER HERE Glomar Explorer - Hook And Loop Watch Strap - $45  Modeled off traditional hook-and-loop dive watch straps, the Glomar Explorer is a premium single-pass adjustable adventure strap for those who use their watches as tools. We set out to create a premium “hook and loop” watch strap, something that many consider an oxymoron. After many iterations over a six-month period and extensive testing, we finally came up with the design of the Glomar Explorer. We developed an ultra-thin custom matte weave nylon construction, a custom 316L stainless steel engraved buckle, and a strap keeper to ensure the watch remains secure on your wrist. The Glomar Explorer is available in two lengths, Short (for wrists between 5.5 to 6.5 IN/14 to 16.5 CM) and Standard (for wrists between 6.5 to 8.5 IN/16.5 to 21.5 CM), and in two colors: black and admiralty grey with olive green coming soon. The strap name is derived from USNS Hughes Glomar Explorer, a deep-sea drillship platform that was used by the CIA to recover a Soviet submarine K-129 in the Pacific Ocean in 1974. To be clear, this is not your grandpa’s Walmart hook and loop strap. Cons: With a casual and utilitarian look, a hook and loop strap simply isn’t going to be for everyone. Sizing will also be an issue for some as the wearing experience will depend on the lug length of the watch in question, wrist size, and how tightly the strap is worn.  ORDER HERE Single Pass Zulu Alpha Strap 4.0 - $145 It’s crazy to think we’re on the fourth iteration of our collaboration with Zulu Alpha, one of the world’s premier makers of fabric straps and a supplier of other webbing items to the British Ministry of Defense (MOD). Back in 2022, we started with the 1.0, with each subsequent variant incorporating color changes and small upgrades inspired by the community. Our Single Pass Zulu Alpha 4.0 is the culmination of everything we’ve learned working with Zulu Alpha and direct feedback from end users. Completely constructed in Great Britain, the 4.0 is 11.8 IN (30 CM) long, 1.2mm thick, and complete with a uniquely adhered patch with the W.O.E. Spearhead logo. Secured by way of an over-engineered stainless steel buckle that is also available with a PVD finish, the 4.0 is available in both 20 and 22-mm widths and will fit the vast majority of adult wrists. If you’re looking for the most premium, capable, and durable fabric strap on the market, this is it, full stop. Cons: Every aspect of our Zulu Alpha straps is ultra-premium, produced entirely in the UK, and designed without compromise. The price reflects our no-holds-barred approach to a fabric watch strap for the most extreme conditions. ORDER HERE USA Five Eye - Third Option Foundation - $40 While it’s otherwise the same as our standard Five Eye Straps, our USA Third Option Foundation Fundraiser offers the most eye-catching visual format in our entire collection with a subtle play on the red, white, and blue color scheme. Benefitting CIA paramilitary officers and their families, $20 (50%) of every USA Five Eye sale goes directly to Third Option Foundation. Just as at home sipping PBR in your local dive bar as it is sailing the Cape on your dad’s catamaran, the USA Stripe Five Eye is the undisputed strap of summer. Available in both 20 and 22mm, the USA Five Eye can also be purchased with PVD hardware, a look works a lot better than we thought it would. Cons: Celebrating freedom and donating to charity aren’t for everyone.  This strap is a limited edition. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. ORDER HERE W.O.E Leather Straps While there is a lot of virtue signaling and overstated marketing language associated with goods that are “Made in America”, supporting small businesses in the United States is in line with our core beliefs as a community. This is especially true when it comes to leather goods. There is no shortage of reasonably high-quality leather straps imported from Asia, but we believe the finest leather straps come from right here in the USA or, in some cases, Europe.  With that in mind, our collection of leather straps is entirely produced by hand in small batches from the finest quality materials in the United States or Europe, with each strap demonstrating subtle differences and the ability to patina over time for a custom look and feel. Like all leather straps, these are not your best options for use in or around water but do provide a durable and handsome pairing for field watches, vintage divers on desk duty, or any other refined watch in your collection. Jedburgh Leather Watch Strap - $125 Named after the Jedburgh teams of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), “The Jedburgh” was W.O.E’s first leather strap, handmade in the USA with American-made English bridle leather. Available to fit 20 and 22-mm lugs, the Jedburgh is complete with a subtle W.O.E. Spearhead stamp at the tip, white hand stitching throughout, and a buckle available in either polished stainless steel or black-coated PVD. The Jedburgh is designed to break in for a comfortable custom fit that is best for wrists between 5.75 to 7.5 IN (14.6 to 19.1 CM). For a refined look, the Jedburgh also tapers 4 millimeters from the lugs to the buckle, meaning the buckle measures 16mm on the 20mm strap and 18mm for the 22mm variant. Cons: Tapering from 20 to 16mm and shorter than some of our straps, the Jedburgh is not the best choice for larger wrists or heavier watches. While we’ve seen some of you guys push the envelope, the Jedburgh is also not the best option for extreme use i.e. jumping out of airplanes. ORDER HERE Horween Leather and Canvas Strap - $185 Produced in the United States in extremely limited quantities, our Leather and Canvas Strap pairs Horween leather tanned in Chicago with repurposed camouflage canvas from surplus military uniforms. These robust straps were designed by W.O.E. in collaboration with Greg Stevens Design, one of the best in the custom leather strap business, and manufactured by hand in Utah. Available in 20 and 22-mm widths, the Leather and Canvas strap is thicker than the Jedburgh and does not taper, making this strap an excellent choice for heavier watches while being designed to fit wrist sizes between 6.25 to 7.75 IN (15.9 to 19.7 CM). Given our use of repurposed military uniforms, this strap also offers a wide range of variation in terms of the actual color and condition of the canvas material. Complete with a signed stainless steel buckle, the Leather and Canvas Strap is a more rugged leather option ideally suited for larger watches and larger wrists. Cons: Manufactured without taper and with a less subtle look compared to many of our straps, our Leather and Canvas Strap is unapologetically extreme and therefore not for everyone. ORDER HERE Leather Single Pass Zulu - $92 Our newest leather strap, the Leather Single Pass Zulu is intended to serve as a bridge between our leather strap collection and the legendary nylon pull-through straps long favored by military members and divers. Manufactured in the United States from a single layer of premium cowhide measuring 1.4mm thick, the Leather Single Pass Zulu also provides a “pull up” effect meaning the leather lightens when stretched or creased, creating a custom finish unique to your wearing experience. In comparison to many nylon pull-through straps, the tail on our Single Pass Zulu is shorter, and the hardware is closer together, designed for wrists up to 7.5 IN (19.1 CM). With hand stitching and more rugged leather material, the Single Pass Zulu is our most casual leather strap, pairing well with utilitarian tool watches.  Cons: Despite being modeled after nylon straps designed for diving, this leather strap is not intended for in-water use. Wearing leather straps on dive watches is a controversial topic, anyway.  ORDER HERE Final Thoughts:  While we believe there is a strap in our collection that will work for virtually any watch or scenario, like choosing a new watch, strap selection is highly individual and personal. There is no one-size-fits-all solution and like with any tool, we encourage you to experiment and find out what works best for you. Subsequent iterations of our straps will always be informed by your feedback. Be sure to let us know what you think.  View our entire strap collection HERE.

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Precision In Flight: IWC’s Historical & Enduring Bond With Military Aviation

Precision In Flight: IWC’s Historical & Enduring Bond With Military Aviation

As a CIA Case Officer, one of my go-to watches was an IWC Mark XVII. It’s a great and versatile watch that can fit in...

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As a CIA Case Officer, one of my go-to watches was an IWC Mark XVII. It’s a great and versatile watch that can fit in with a suit and tie at a diplomatic function in Europe or jeans and a dirty t-shirt in the African bush. Notably, IWC also has a strong squadron watch program and a significant following in the aviation community around the world.  To document a first-hand perspective, we asked Nic Barnes, an Australian military pilot, to write a Dispatch on the history of the brand and his experience using IWC watches as a military aviator. This piece is co-written with Henry Black, a previous W.O.E. contributor and full-time journalist based in Australia. As always, this content is not sponsored and the views and perspectives are of the authors. At W.O.E., we are brand agnostic but do support any brand that supports our community. Precision In Flight: IWC’s Historical & Enduring Bond With Military Aviation IWC’s Special Pilot’s Watch Ref. IW436. (Photo Credit: IWC) International Watch Company (IWC) Schaffhausen is a watchmaker steeped in history. Their modern line of luxury tool watches are direct descendants of the company’s military aviation watches of the mid-20th Century.  IWC Schaffhausen’s history with pilot’s watches predates World War II. In 1936, the company was owned by Ernst Homberger who had two sons that were keen amateur pilots. The boys helped to produce the Special Pilot’s Watch (Ref. IW436) using their flying experience to dictate the specifications and requirements of the timepiece. The design established the foundational DNA for IWC’s future pilot’s watches with an emphasis on legibility and durability that would in time lead to two distinct watch families - the ‘Big Pilot’ and ‘Mark’ series. Watches Of War During WWII, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) identified a requirement to replace the aging Army Trade Pattern (ATP) watches that had adorned the wrists of their troops since 1939. These new timepieces needed to be waterproof, shockproof, and highly accurate with a black dial, legible Arabic numerals, and the ability to read the watch at night. Twelve Swiss watchmakers took on the task of manufacturing these W.W.W. (‘Wrist Watch Waterproof’) specification watches. As one of the 12 makers, IWC provided an estimated 5,000 – 6,000 ‘Dirty Dozen’ timepieces to the MoD. The design would later evolve into the IWC Mark 11 – introduced after the war in the late 1940s.  IWC’s W.W.W. is one of the rarer ‘Dirty Dozen’ watches in circulation today. (Photo Credit: Watch-Site x Steltman Watches) Interestingly, while IWC was supplying W.W.W. watches to Commonwealth forces, it was concurrently supplying the German Luftwaffe (Air Force) with ‘B-Uhr’ timepieces. These onion-crowned watches were over 50mm in size and featured sword hands along with a prominent triangle and paired dots marking the 12 o’clock position. Much of the design DNA in today’s IWC Pilot’s line-up can be seen in these oversized pilot’s watches for the Luftwaffe with IWC’s modern Big Pilot’s watches drawing their aesthetics directly from the Luftwaffe B-Uhrs. Of note, IWC supplied watches to both the Axis and the Allies during WWII. IWC produced approximately 1,000 B-Uhr models for the Luftwaffe (Photo Credit: SJX) War Reaches Schaffhausen WWII did not leave IWC’s hometown of Schaffhausen unscathed. In April 1944 a disorientated U.S. Air Force bomber group of 15 B-24 Liberators mistook the Swiss town for a German target. Dropping as many as 371 high explosive bombs and incendiary munitions on the town, the resulting carnage killed 40 people (including members of author Henry’s own family) and caused widespread damage. One bomb dropped through the roof of the IWC factory but luckily did not explode.  A B-24 Liberator of the 392nd Bomb Group that accidentally bombed Schaffhausen in 1944. (Photo Credit: United States Army Air Force) Interestingly, declassified correspondence from November 1944 gives further insight into such incidents. Director of Office of Strategic Services (OSS), William J. Donovan describes to Commander of the United States Army Air Forces, General Henry H. Arnold that the accidental American bombing of Swiss towns was deeply disturbing the Chief of Staff of the Swiss Army and increasing ‘the difficulty in obtaining Swiss cooperation in our present task of penetrating Germany’. Mark 11 – A New Standard in Military Aviation Timepieces After the war, IWC introduced their navigator's wristwatch Mk.11 - Stores Ref. 6B/346 (Mark 11), taking the basic principles of the tough tool watch that was the W.W.W. and upping the ante. The Mark 11 removed the sub-seconds and utilized an IWC Calibre 89 manual wind movement with a central seconds. It featured a Faraday cage to resist magnetic interference and proved to be immensely capable as a timepiece for military aviators. These watches were issued to Commonwealth Air Forces, including the Royal Air Forces of Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, the South African Air Force, and the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). IWC Mark 11 for the Royal Australian Air Force circa 1957 (Photo Credit: IWC) Neo-Classic IWC Military-Inspired Models The design of the Mark 11 (which was in production from 1949-1953 with a second iteration for the civilian market from 1973-1984) went on to influence the ‘Mark’ timepieces that followed, specifically the Mark XII (introduced in 1994) and Mark XV (introduced in 1999). These subsequent iterations utilized a similar handset design including the iconic ‘block’ hour hand and classical sizing – the Mark XII was 36mm, and the Mark XV was 38mm. The Mark XII used a Jaeger Le-Coultre calibre while the Mark XV used a heavily modified ETA 2892-A2. The Mark XV was the last of the Mark series to feature the ‘block’ hour hand (Photo Credit: Henry Black) The Mark XVI represented a turning point in IWC’s modern pilot designs – one that has continued to the current Mark XX. While retaining their commitment to solid specifications, the numeral font, dotted triangle marker at 12, and use of flieger sword hands have far more in common with the Luftwaffe B-Uhr watches than the MoD Mark 11s that share the Mark name. This flieger design is reflected across other modern IWC pilots including the Big Pilot and Pilot Chronograph, unfortunately leaving the original Mark 11 with no aesthetic successor in the brand’s current catalogue. IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic Edition ‘RAAF’ (Photo Credit: @timepoor) Modern Military Connections In 2007, IWC entered a commercial relationship with the US Navy, becoming an official licensee and beginning their line of TOP GUN watches. Featuring the logo of the 1980s hit movie of the same name, the series of watches became a stable of IWC’s offerings with licensing fees directly funding morale, welfare, and recreation programs for US sailors, retirees, and their families. TOPGUN & Other "Unit Watches" The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition 'SFTI' features the school’s patch on the dial (Photo Credit: @h.m.uhren) This prepared the foundation of a more organic relationship – IWC’s foray into custom squadron watches. Having seen watches from the TOP GUN line, pilots from the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School (the real TOPGUN) reached out to IWC to investigate the feasibility of making their own piece for the Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor (SFTI) program. The result was the 2018 release of the IWC’s first custom military piece – the Edition ‘SFTI’ in both a Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII and a Pilot’s Watch Chronograph. These exclusive watches continue to be made today but can only be purchased by TOPGUN graduates. The IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic Edition 'SFTI' worn by Monica Barbaro on the set of Top Gun: Maverick  (Photo Credit: Paramount) The SFTI connection paid dividends for IWC when filming began for Top Gun: Maverick. The film crew noticed the Navy pilots wearing their custom IWCs and, in pursuit of authenticity, ended up being introduced by the pilots to IWC CEO Chris Grainger-Herr, resulting in almost every character in the film wearing IWCs.  Since the first SFTI watches, exclusive squadron collaborations have continued at a small scale and considered pace. This means IWC is very particular about the projects the brand approves, with limited production slots available. Falling under the Richemont group, IWC is generally hesitant to publicly elaborate on their military collaborations although Watches and Wonders 2022 marked a departure from this discretion. The IWC booth featured an exhibit of the brand’s military projects to date – with a total of 18 on display IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph ‘APACHE AH-64E’ (Photo Credit: @chrisgraingerherr) While predominantly working with US Navy fighter squadrons, other military editions were shown including watches for Swiss Air Force Staffel 11, French Aeronavale, No. 663 Squadron Army Air Corps (British AH-64 Apache attack helicopters), and a very special homage to the IWC Mark 11 issued to Royal Australian Air Force aircrew in the 1950s. Notably, all known custom military projects have strict and tangible ties to professional military aviation. IWC Big Pilot’s Watch ‘TYPHOON DRIVER’ (Photo Credit: @blackseries_driver) The Future of Aviation Horology  Beyond atmospheric flight, IWC was recently involved with the Inspiration4 private space program. Commanded by the billionaire owner of the world’s largest private air force, Jared Isaacman (under usual W.O.E. criteria you’d expect him to be a Breitling guy), Each of the four astronauts of this first all-civilian mission to orbit wore a custom Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition ‘Inspiration4’. After the mission each watch was auctioned, raising a total of $405,000 USD for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Collaborations with Isaacman’s space endeavors are forecast to continue with the launch of the Polaris Dawn mission later this year. This mission is scheduled to include the first private spacewalk and result in another auction of new special edition IWCs to be worn during the flight.  The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition ‘Inspiration4’ (Image credit: IWC) Final Thoughts While the role of wristwatches in aviation has changed over the last century, IWC’s commitment to aviation ‘use-your-tools’ wristwatches remains. From the humble beginnings of IWC’s Special Pilot’s Watch in 1936 to their custom pieces for private space exploration, IWC has firmly and legitimately positioned itself as a brand for professional aviators, synonymous with the frank design purpose of the pilot’s watch. IWC Pilot’s Chronograph ‘Death Rattlers’ (Photo Credit: @wingwatches) Their commitment to legibility, durability, and continuous technical improvement, along with their lasting ties to military aviation resonates with the W.O.E. community, creating unique watches to be cherished and used by generations to come. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. Read Next: Watches Of The War In Ukraine   About The Authors: Nic is an Australian military pilot who has been a follower of W.O.E. since the early days. He has a particular interest in custom military watch projects having designed and produced timepieces with multiple brands Henry is a journalist based in Australia who writes about watches in his spare time. He’s worked around the world including in conflict zones. He’s passionate about watches and how the hobby brings people together. Cover Photo Credit: IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic Edition ‘AÉRONAVALE’ (Photo Credit: @etienne_b___r)

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The Best Military Watches For Land, Sea, & Air

The Best Military Watches For Land, Sea, & Air

A Capable Timepiece Is An Essential Tool For Service Members Timepieces intended for the military have inspired the broader watch industry since the earliest days...

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A Capable Timepiece Is An Essential Tool For Service Members Timepieces intended for the military have inspired the broader watch industry since the earliest days of wristwatches. Names like the Rolex Submariner, Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, Breguet Type XX, and Hamilton Khaki have all been influenced by or owe their very existence to military use. Buying a watch can be challenging and modern watch marketing clouds the picture, with major watch brands seeking an edge by calling out tenuous or altogether false associations with certain hyped military organizations or units, particularly from the world of special operations. In reality, most modern military members utilize digital tool watches (D.T.W.) to perform their duties, seeking attainability and utility above all else. But, as we’ve so often documented in the W.O.E. Dispatch, a growing subset of the military and the Intelligence Community value the combination of utility, heritage, and mechanical intrigue presented by analog timepieces. In addition, many outside the military reach for military watches because they provide not only a rugged aesthetic but also a higher level of legibility and durability in comparison to more pedestrian options. In this Dispatch, we’ll present our choices for analog watches intended for military members operating in the most common environments: land, sea, and air. If you’re on the cusp of graduating from basic training, officer candidate school (OCS), another more specialized pipeline, or you’re just a regular civilian who appreciates the “Use Your Tools” ethos, our picks represent a wide range of price points, spanning affordable options for the brand-new privates out there as well as a few luxury options for the academy ring-knockers with family manors in the Hamptons. Land - Watches For The Field Timex Expedition North Field Mechanical - $229 Timex has surprisingly deep military associations dating back to World War I when the brand created specialized pocket watches for artillery gunners. Also known for watches worn by US presidents and its plastic, disposable field watches provided to the US Army in the 1980s, modern Timex has a legitimate right to the field watch DNA embodied by the Expedition North Field Mechanical. Measuring 38mm in diameter, the North Field Mechanical offers 100 meters of water resistance, a hand-winding mechanical caliber, and an anti-reflective sapphire crystal, rare specs for this price range that combine to represent a solid field watch for any infantryman on a budget. CWC G10 Military Issue Watch - $300  In contrast to almost every other brand on this list, CWC was created for no reason other than to supply military watches to the British Ministry of Defense (MOD), providing its first quartz-powered G10 in 1980. The modern G10 is — beyond a slimmer case profile — almost identical to the original, still equipped with fixed lug bars, a Swiss quartz caliber, a legible dial and handset, a battery hatch for easy battery changes, and a relatively modest 50 meters of water resistance. Over 200,000 of these simple field watches have been issued over the years, serving as further proof of the utility of this legendary British field watch design. Marathon General Purpose Mechanical - $420 Almost a Canadian answer to a brand like CWC, Marathon was founded in 1939 and was already supplying watches and clocks to the Allied war effort by 1941. Better known for its SAR collection of dive watches, Marathon also produces a large volume of its General Purpose Mechanical field watches for military contracts. Powered by a Seiko NH35, the automatic GPM is housed within a 34mm High-Impact Composite Fibreshell case paired with a stainless steel bezel. Easily visible at night thanks to tritium gas tubes on the dial and hands, the GPM’s smaller size is actually an asset, making the watch unobtrusive when paired with a bunch of tactical equipment. As a note for anyone less familiar with watch sizes, the combination of the 34mm case and a 16-millimeter wide strap means the GPM wears relatively small. Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic - $695  A supplier to the US Military since the First World War, Hamilton is probably the number one name in field watches thanks to its heritage and the value proposition offered by the modern Khaki Field collection. Our pick for this list is the Khaki Field Automatic, offering a more modern design compared to its more-celebrated hand-winding sibling, the Khaki Field Mechanical, as well as 100 meters of water resistance, and a Swiss automatic caliber offering 80 hours of power reserve. If you’re newer to watches and looking for a proven do-it-all field design that is as appropriate for daily wear as military service, this is going to be one of your best bets. Seiko Alpinist SPB121 - $725  The successor to the SARB017, an all-time watch enthusiast favorite from Seiko, the SPB121 is the modern form of the Alpinist, which is the Japanese brand’s explorer’s or field watch. Measuring 39.5mm in diameter, the Alpinist has a few quirks including the use of a cyclops, the odd pairing of green and gold on the dial and hands, and an internal compass bezel. Still, a legible design, impressive lume, and a ridiculous-for-this-category 200 meters of water resistance mean the Alpinist is a field watch deserving of Seiko’s heritage in this department, having been the producer of capable field watches for specialized units including MACV-SOG during the Vietnam War. Tudor Ranger - $3,300  Once positioned as a cheaper Rolex alternative within the same family business structure, modern Tudor has become so much more than that. As we’ve established many times in the Dispatch, Tudors of Espionage (T.O.E.) are very much a thing including special unit versions of the brand’s dive watches, the Black Bay and Pelagos, as well as the brand’s Explorer-like field watch, the Ranger. Also one of the least expensive sports watches in the collection, the modern Ranger is now 39mm in diameter, powered by an in-house caliber, and capable of hard use for anyone looking to test the “Use Your Tools” ethos on a Swiss luxury watch. Rolex Explorer 40 - $7,700 Assuming you’re an Academy graduate, former captain of the polo team, daddy’s special boy, and a newly minted second lieutenant, you may be able to flex something like the Rolex Explorer 40 in uniform. An inspiration for virtually the entire Rolex sport collection, the Explorer as a model family has incredible chops in the arena of mountaineering history, having accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on their 1953 ascent of the world's tallest mountain. Today serving more as a luxury item given the price point, the Explorer is still one hell of a watch for anything outdoors, but likely not a serious option for most service members relying upon their biweekly direct deposit. Sea - Watches For The Maritime Environment Scurfa Diver One D1-500 - $250  To put it mildly, the advent of so-called “microbrands” has changed the watch landscape forever, bringing previously unobtainable features and specifications to price points once thought unimaginable. A great example of this trend is Scurfa Watches founded by commercial saturation diver Paul Scurfield. For around $250, the Diver One serves up a domed sapphire crystal, 500 meters of water resistance, a real helium escape valve tested by the founder, some of the best lume on this entire list, and a custom rubber strap. For anyone on the aquatic end of the military searching for a durable dive watch for a more affordable price even compared to brands like Seiko or Citizen, Scurfa is one of the more compelling options to explore. Seiko Prospex SRPE99 - $550  Affectionately known to enthusiasts as the “Turtle” for its cushion case shape, the SRPE99 is inspired by the older 6309, one of Seiko’s most iconic dive watch designs and a watch issued to numerous special operations units including the US Navy SEALs. Revived in 2016, the modern Turtle provides hacking and hand-winding functionality, a larger 45mm case that thankfully wears smaller thanks to its shorter lugs, and much of the old-school Turtle DNA throughout the dial and hands. With the SKX having been discontinued a few years back, the Turtle is Seiko’s flagship automatic diver in this price bracket. Seiko makes some of the most effective utilitarian dive watches on the market, and the Turtle — whichever variant you go for — is a great place to start for any military diver. Tornek-Rayville TR-660 - $895  One of the more intriguing tales in dive watch history, the original Tornek-Rayville was essentially a modified Blancpain Fifty Fathoms intended to subvert the Buy American Act requiring military organizations to purchase US-made goods. Designed for US Navy SEALs and other amphibious special operators, vintage Tornek-Rayville TR-900s have become prohibitively expensive for most, making Mk II and Bill Yao’s relaunch of the brand and watch a couple of years back all the more exciting. While it stays close to the vintage look, the modern TR-660 is subtly upgraded everywhere you look from the Seiko automatic caliber to the domed sapphire crystal to the custom-woven nylon strap. If celebrating the old-school with a modern diving tool appeals to you, Tornek-Rayville is a niche pick worthy of a closer look. Citizen Aqualand JP2007-17W - $550  In military and commercial diving circles, Citizen is one of the top names in the game thanks to models like the Aqualand, an analog-digital diver that debuted in 1985. An ISO-6425-rated professional dive watch, the Aqualand combines diving functionality including a depth gauge in a robust utilitarian package that simply works, earning fans among Navy SEALs and other amphibious military units. The modern Aqualand appears almost unchanged compared to the OG other than a new caliber using one battery instead of three on the older model. Last year, Citizen unveiled the JP2007-17W, a new Aqualand with a full lume dial housed within a dark grey PVD case. For the price, it’s among the best picks on this list for anyone doing the military’s wettest and saltiest work. Marathon GSAR 41mm - $1,500  Many of the watches on this list are great for military divers, but only the Marathon GSAR is currently for military and government issue through official supply channels. Surprisingly, the SAR family of watches has a history closely linked to the enthusiast community, with Marathon having tapped the head of a niche military watch forum for help designing the watch in 2001. Intended for Canadian Air Force Search and Rescue Technicians (SAR Techs), the modern GSAR or Government Search And Rescue provides 300 meters of water resistance, a Swiss automatic caliber, tritium tubes on the dial and hands, and one of the best rubber straps in the price range. Our in-house maritime expert, Benjamin Lowry, recently went diving with the SAR collection, confirming its utility in the underwater environment.  Sinn U50 Hydro - $2,690  Another brand closely associated with military diving is Sinn, which was founded by a pilot named Helmut Sinn in 1961. Despite its aviation heritage, Sinn is well known for dive watches backed by impressive tech not commonly seen elsewhere including the oil-filled approach utilized in the new U50 Hydro. Based on the 41mm U50, the U50 Hydro swaps an automatic movement for quartz which is the only option when the central case is filled with oil, a seldom seen method of combatting water pressure that makes the watch all but pressure-proof. Another oil-filled watch from Sinn is standard issue for the KSM or Kommando Spezialkräfte der Marine, essentially the German Navy SEAL equivalent and the brand also makes special “mission timers” for the GSG 9, the German Federal Police’s special operations unit. Tudor Pelagos 39 - $4,700 A favorite of the W.O.E. team, our next pick is the Tudor Pelagos 39, the hotly-anticipated smaller version of the 42mm Pelagos that is just a bit too large for some wrists. While it’s not cheap, Tudor presents a solid value for what you’re getting in a modern luxury dive watch from Switzerland, with the P39 housed within a grade 2 titanium case and equipped with a manufacture caliber providing 70 hours of power reserve. The Pelagos FXD might seem like the obvious choice here, but we’re going with the 39 for its versatility, a watch that looks just as appropriate on its rubber strap with dive gear as it does on its bracelet with a dress uniform. Whether we like it or not, most knuckle-dragging enlisted divers simply aren’t reaching for a $5,000 watch for actual diving duties. Omega Seamaster Diver 300 - $5,900  Often associated with James Bond, the Omega Seamaster Diver 300 is also a watch with legitimate military history including use by the Special Boat Service, Danish Frogmen, and the US Navy SEALs. Originally intended as a direct competitor to the Rolex Submariner, Omega’s professional diving watch now comes in at around half the trading price of a regular Sub while offering finishing and specifications that exceed the Rolex in some departments. Rather than simply engraving a caseback for special orders from military organizations, Omega also has a completely different version of the Diver 300 with a matte-finished case and bracelet, no-date dial, and a special color for its luminescent material. The days of military organizations issuing watches like the Seamaster are long gone, but for anyone seeking a dive watch offering a blend of military provenance and luxury, the Seamaster Diver 300 is one of the better options.  Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 42mm - $16,600  To get it out there right up front, a $17,000 watch probably isn’t going to be the number one pick for military members, but it is important to pay homage to the original gangsters in this space. Dating back to 1953 and designed specifically for the needs of French commando frogmen, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms cemented the format we now innately understand as the prototypical dive watch. Having climbed the ranks of luxury brands over the past 70 years, the recently-released Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatic Titanium 42mm isn’t for everyone given its price tag, but would still serve as one hell of a dive watch for anyone with the scratch. Air  - Watches For Pilots & Aircrew Seiko SSK001 - $460  Beyond durability, low-pressure resistance, and legibility, the ability to track a second timezone is one of the most useful aspects of a pilot’s watch. If there has been one major change in more affordable watches in the past few years, it is the advent of less expensive mechanical GMT watches, with Seiko’s SSK collection leading the way. For under $500, the SSK001 offers a friction-fit, bidirectional GMT bezel, an automatic “caller” GMT caliber, and the established case silhouette and dial format calling back to Seiko’s legendary SKX007 and SKX009. Also backed by 100 meters of water resistance, the Seiko SSK001 is one of the better inexpensive GMT watches on the market and ideal for a budding military pilot while also being a brand with extensive service history in the US Military in particular. Sangin Kinetic II - $600  Despite plenty of negative outcomes from the Global War On Terror, one of the positives has been the rise of entrepreneurship among GWOT veterans whether we’re talking about coffee, apparel brands, knives, or watches. Sangin was founded by a Marine Recon Raider and specializes in watches intended for military environments while also representing solid value for what you’re getting. The Kinetic II is Sangin’s purpose-built aviator’s watch, the result of extensive testing by over forty military pilots and aircrew. With a ridiculous 300 meters of water resistance, Swiss-made Super-LumiNova on the dial and hands, and a Swiss Ronda GMT quartz caliber, the Kinetic II is a lesser-known but not less capable option for any military pilot looking to celebrate the community with a legitimate tool watch. Longines Spirit Zulu Time - $3,150  Another brand with legendary status in the arena of pilot’s watches is Longines which produced specialized watches intended for flight for none other than Charles Lindbergh. Also once a supplier to the Czech military, modern Longines still makes some excellent watches for pilots including the Spirit Zulu Time. With refined looks, design DNA that calls back to vintage Longines designs, and an impressive caliber offering “true” GMT (or Zulu Time) functionality and 72 hours of power reserve, the Zulu Time is one of the better “entry-to-luxury” options for a GMT watch today. Of interest to military pilots, the Zulu Time is also available on a wide range of straps including an excellent leather strap with a micro-adjusting clasp, a traditional nylon strap, and a well-done stainless steel bracelet. Bremont U-2 - $4,950 Coming from a brand founded by a pair of pilots, Bremont was always going to need to be on this list. Also one of the primary producers of “unit watches” in the current watchmaking landscape, Bremont’s U-2, which was designed with input from serving military pilots, is our pick for this list. Housed within a 43mm case made of hardened steel, the chronometer movement inside the U-2 is located within a rubberized movement mount that reduces the effect of shocks. Also including an internal rotating bezel operated by way of one of the two crowns, the U-2 can be used for a variety of different navigational computations. There have been numerous unit-specific versions of Bremont watches over the years, the U-2 is one of the most common models chosen by military aviation professionals for good reason. Breitling Navitimer - $9,850 Among the all-time icons in the world of aviation timekeeping, the Breitling Navitimer is at or very near the top, having been created with pilots in mind back in 1953 in association with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). Like a few other watches on this list, Breitling has ascended to a more luxurious position but still has a strong history of use by military pilots as well as numerous other sketchy dudes. Looking at the functionality, the Navitimer is of course a chronograph but also offers a unique rotating internal bezel that can be used for a wide range of navigational and computational functions directly related to the needs of pilots in the air. You wouldn’t necessarily think of a watch costing nine grand on the wrist of a military pilot, but when it comes to the Breitling Navitimer and a few other models from the brand including the Aerospace and Emergency, it happens more often than you’d imagine. IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX - $5,250  Used by military pilots on both sides of World War II, IWC is another brand with serious legitimacy in the world of military aviation. While IWC’s chronographs including the Top Gun collection receive a lot of the shine, our pick in this category is the Mark XX which traces its history to the Mark XI, a watch produced for the British Military by IWC (and other brands) in the wake of the Second World War. Today, the Mark series serves as a robust time-only watch honoring IWC’s heritage in the space while also providing crystal clear legibility for modern pilots. Recently reimagined, the Mark XX offers 100 meters of water resistance and a more wearable case compared to previous iterations. For the price, the movement is also solid, providing an extended five-day or 120-hour power reserve. Rolex GMT-Master II - $10,900  In the arena of sports GMT watches, whether we like it or not, one name reigns supreme: The Rolex GMT-Master II. When the original GMT-Master was unveiled in 1954, the watch aligned with the early jet-setting era and the advent of business travel, but the GMT-Master and later the GMT-Master II would become legendary in our community thanks to the watch’s use by pilots as well as special operations personnel. One might argue the modern GMT-Master II feels more jewel than tool, but there are still numerous instances of military members selecting this iconic model for hard use in austere environments including the cockpit. Final Thoughts As we mentioned, any of the watches in this could be replaced by a capable digital tool watch, but for anyone in uniform who values the mechanical intrigue and heritage represented by a quality timepiece, this list is for you. Our goal is to let this be a living article that we can add as we go until we’ve created the most complete list of excellent analog military watches on the internet. If you think something is missing, be sure to let us know in the comments. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. READ NEXT: Watches of Diplomatic Security

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The Watch Industry & Celebrity Marketing Through the Ages

The Watch Industry & Celebrity Marketing Through the Ages

Celebrity Watch Deals Are Nothing New—But Are They As Compelling As They Once Were?  Last year, watch media was flown into Mykonos, Greece from all...

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Celebrity Watch Deals Are Nothing New—But Are They As Compelling As They Once Were?  Last year, watch media was flown into Mykonos, Greece from all over the globe. The occasion? The 75th Anniversary of the Omega Seamaster. The real reason folks came out? Dinner with George Clooney, the salt-and-pepper Hollywood heartthrob on Omega’s payroll. A play-by-play account of the experience from an insider ran in Revolution Magazine: The sun was setting on a beach Omega managed to make private for the evening. Picture this: 2,000 candles covered the sand where a strong breeze was making sure my hair would make me look as if I had just gotten out of bed, or as if I had stuck two fingers into an electrical socket. There were 140 guests split into two tables and I was fortunate enough to sit at George Clooney’s…I mean, he’s a fuckin’ 62-year-old god I would date in a split second, even if, for the record, he is my Dad’s age. Thankfully, he’s married to a goddess named Amal Clooney, and fully taken. Although… I have to say that when I laid eyes on him, it felt as if I was struck by a bolt of lightning from Zeus himself. Omega CEO Reynaldo Aeschlimann (far left), George Clooney, (right of center), and a few other of Omega’s notable celebrity partners in Mykonos. (Photo Credit: Revolution) Needless to say, celebrities are a highly effective tool for getting the watch media to write about a certain event or product. That much is evident from the sort of celebrity coverage the watch world gave to the Met Gala the other week. In fact, entire TikTok and Instagram accounts have cropped up dedicated to covering what watches celebrities wear. And with them, a large following. W.O.E. is indifferent when it comes to this kind of celebrity marketing and I can confidently say a movie star wearing a watch has never impacted my buying habits. That said, for better or worse, celebrity endorsements are a massive part of modern watch culture. What we think about them doesn’t matter. They’re not going anywhere.  So how exactly did we get here? What happened to the iconic watch advertisements featuring people of real consequence shaping the course of history?  It has to do with the shifting aspirations of watch consumers, the changing role of the wristwatch, and the influencer economy. In this Dispatch, we’ll explore how watch marketing shifted from pilots, explorers, and divers to vapid Hollywood celebrities and K-pop superstars. The Early Age Of “Celebrity” Testimonials  Charles Lindbergh pictured alongside the Spirit of St. Louis in 1927.  Many pilots died trying to claim the Orteig Prize, a $25,000 cash prize for anyone who could fly from New York to Paris nonstop. Charles Lindbergh famously won the prize in 1927, but not before between six and 15 pilots perished in the competition, depending on the source of reporting. Lindbergh eventually became somewhat of an ambassador for Longines and later developed the “Lindbergh Hour Angle Watch” with Philip Van Horn Weems of the US Navy, an early pioneer of modern aerial navigation techniques. A celebrated pilot and explorer, Lindbergh was one of the earliest “celebrity” ambassadors for Longines in the ‘30s.  A 1931 advertisement for the Longines “Lindbergh Hour Angle Watch”. In the aviation world, one mid-century aviator’s name looms large, and that is, of course, Chuck Yeager. He was famously a Rolex ambassador, but he wasn’t the first ambassador who challenged the status quo in a profession and rose to stardom that Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf would capitalize on. Wilsdorf was a brilliant marketer, and while the testimonial model was certainly used before, he took it to a new level and leveraged celebrity status in a novel way.  Rolex advertisement featuring legendary pilot Chuck Yeager. In 1927, Mercedes Gleitze swam across the English Channel with a Rolex strapped to her wrist (some accounts say it was around her neck). She was just 26 years old and spent a grueling 10 hours in the water. When she reached shore, her watch was in perfect order. In the 1920s, this was an incredible feat of engineering and paired well with the equally challenging real-world accomplishment. Wilsdorf then made her a brand ambassador, using Gleitze’s stardom as a record holder to demonstrate the waterproof properties of the “Oyster” case.  An advertisement for Rolex’s Oyster case technology celebrating Mercedes Gleitze’s English Channel swim.  That was the first instance of “celebrity” ambassadors by Rolex. Now back to Yeager. It was in 1987 that Yeager first appeared in a Rolex advertisement, although the brand had worked with him during his years of service as an aviator on product testing and development. It was only in the ‘80s that he became a spokesperson for Rolex. Rolex regarded airmen as celebrities in the mid-century era, because they were. Various advertisements even cite the Crown’s involvement with the US Air Force’s Thunderbirds, the jet demonstration team. During the ‘50s and ‘60s, the image of American might via the Thunderbirds helped Rolex sell watches.  Rolex advertisement highlighting the brand’s relationship with the US Air Force Thunderbirds. Partnerships were not limited to the high-flying variety. Underwater, Aqualung was touting its relationship with Jacques Costeau, underwater adventurer and documentarian, and Doxa was also tied up in this partnership. The ‘60s were an age of adventure, and Costeau’s films and shows filled viewers' imaginations with the magical world beneath the sea—providing a point of view they’d never seen before.  A 1958 ad from US Divers, the United States Aqua Lung affiliate, using Cousteau to market its diving equipment.  All of these “ambassadors'' (different brands called them by different names) had one thing in common: their popularity came from performing feats against the odds and contributing something important to their field. In other words, their real-world accomplishments moved the needle. As a generalization, the same can’t be said about today’s celebrity watch ambassadors, the majority of whom come from film, sports, or music. But this change also has to do with the fact that the watches being advertised back then filled a much different need than the watches of today. It’s easy to forget today, but watches were once tools. The Transmogrification From Tool To Luxury In Watches Jacques Cousteau and Luis Marden wearing Aqualung equipment, excellent social proof for Aqualung as a brand. (Photo Credit: National Geographic) Among Dr. Robert Cialdini’s “Weapons of Mass Influence'' is the concept of “social proof”. This means that in most instances, humans observe their environment and surroundings to learn what is the “correct behavior”. In simple terms, it’s looking to prominent figures for influence, observing what strategies have worked for successful individuals in the past. If Jacques Costeau used Aqualung diving equipment when he produced his famous documentary The Silent World in ‘56 and laid the foundations for what would become an era of undersea living research, then Aqualung could cite him as social proof that their equipment performed well enough for Costeau to carry out his job, which ultimately contributes to the field of undersea scientific research.  Up until the advent of phones, smartwatches, and other “wearables” that keep time, the crucial task was solely that of the mechanical wristwatch. There was no other choice. It wasn’t necessarily a fashion accessory, it had to perform its job just like any other tool one would rely on.  While often considered luxury items, watches are still critical tools in certain instances. (Photo Credit: Tudor Watch) Now in 2024 that’s not the case for the broader public. In the W.O.E. community it still very much is—while timepieces are in part about culture, they are still crucial tools used to accomplish tasks. But it’s important to remember that suits in Geneva aren’t necessarily marketing watches for the niche W.O.E. crowd. To reach a larger qualified demographic, watches are now marketed as luxury accessories.  The key takeaway is that while watches were once a necessity for the masses, they now primarily serve as a luxury item for those with horological interests and money to spend.  Classical Expressions Of Heroism Replaced By Celebrities Han So Hee, the star of K-drama Nevertheless, became an Omega ambassador in 2022.  Since the watch isn’t necessarily what it once was in terms of the role it plays, that means the way most watches are marketed and positioned must change, too.  To prove the point, let’s look at the inverse of the above hypothesis: Tools that have always been tools will still use “testimonial” style advertising, citing ambassadors that use their products for their jobs. Take a look at diving equipment manufacturer, Draeger’s online catalog and you’ll see operators, not celebrities, using their products.  The same goes for just about any gear company that’s popular in our community. You won’t find celebrities endorsing companies producing power tools and gear to get the job done.  So why did it happen in watches? Watch brands, like any other company, have one purpose: to make money. And in 2024 this means mainstream appeal. They’re going to make the most effective investment in terms of share of voice (SOV), often hiring agencies to make smart investment decisions that ultimately lead to the highest number of sales.  Whether we like it or not, actors like Brad Pitt, a Breitling ambassador, are an excellent vehicle for boosting watch awareness and sales. For better or worse, celebrities are synonymous with luxury and wield great influence. Brad Pitt, David Beckham, and Lady Gaga are leveraged to create social proof, which is in stark contrast to the “hero” or boundary-pushing individuals brands may have looked to in the past. The truth is that traditional celebrities simply have larger followings than outstanding individuals moving the needle in the world today. Investing in celebrity partnerships exposes a higher number of individuals to the brand.  Recently, K-Pop star Lisa launched her own Bulgari watch that takes inspiration from the Swiss Alps and the national flower of Switzerland, Edelweiss. This sort of release demonstrates the sort of deal watch companies engage in: They get to use a big name that draws in people, and in return, the celebrity gets clout and a big check. Lisa, a Thai national who is a member of a K-pop group, is not a known watch fan. It’s a transactional relationship, the same sort of arrangement that happens in the fashion world.  The John Mayer X Audemars Piguet Limited Edition Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar is a rare example of a celebrity being associated with watches because of a genuine passion for horology. (Photo Credit: Hodinkee)  On the contrary, some deals exist in the celebrity space that make a lot of sense including the John Mayer X Audemars Piguet Limited Edition Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar. Mayer stands out as the mainstream celebrity who has done a lot in terms of bringing watches to a wider audience while having a true passion for the craft. There are exceptions to every rule.  Nirmal “Nims” Purja, a former Bremont ambassador, is an excellent modern example of a brand getting behind a boundary-pushing athlete and explorer. (Photo Credit: Bremont)  While the golden era of exploration is over, there are still people today who have done far more to the advancement of humankind than any actor, fashion icon, or TikTok influencer. The problem is, that they do not wield the same influence as modern mega-celebrities do.   While it’s true that suits in Geneva hire celebrities to promote products, it’s also true that the general buying public doesn’t buy based on heroic actions of servitude anymore. While an explorer may have hundreds of thousands of followers and a certain level of influence, their ability to alter consumer decision-making en masse for $10,000 watches unfortunately just isn’t what it once was. This is more a reflection of societal interests than it is a core problem with the watch industry.  One of our altruistic motivations at W.O.E. is to maintain the ethos of the tool watch, using watches as a prism to tell stories of the unnamed men and women who actually make a difference in the world, not just on the silver screen. So What About The W.O.E. Community? What’s The Best Course Of Action?  Ryan Gosling, our nemesis and one of TAG Heuer’s modern ambassadors. (Photo Credit: TAG Heuer) With the advent of AI, the enshittification of the internet, and social media, this celebrity trend is most likely here to stay. But that doesn’t mean that you as an enthusiast have to embrace it. There’s still plenty of marketing that big watch brands use that specifically resonates with our community.  The celebrity trend only means that it’s harder for people who appreciate tool watches to find their tribe in the larger watch world. It’s like anything. There are groups inside a large whole, and then sub-groups inside those. What was once a much larger segment of the watch space has shrunk down to a much smaller group that occupies only a corner of the hobby now. We look at the world as it is, rather than how we might like it to be. This is just a fact. Those who simply don’t care about celebrities represent a smaller slice of the overall target market than those who do.  Concluding Thoughts Lisa, a K-Pop superstar, recently became a Bulgari ambassador. (Photo Credit: Bulgari) Like many interests and hobbies, what you put in is what you get out. There’s a surface-level veneer meant to appeal to the masses, and this is where standard celebrity partnerships fall. But dig deeper and there’s always another layer of authenticity and organizations doing something interesting. The deeper you go and the longer you spend wading through the watch world, the easier it becomes to separate what’s meaningful from what’s meaningless. One thing’s for sure: here at W.O.E, we’re not putting any celebrities on the payroll any time soon.  If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. READ NEXT: A Saudi Astronaut’s Rolex GMT at the International Space Station

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Sketchy Dudes Wear Breitling - We Don’t Make The Rules

Sketchy Dudes Wear Breitling - We Don’t Make The Rules

Watches of Espionage is vehemently brand agnostic. The watches we cover are dictated by the community and one brand that consistently pops up is Breitling....

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Watches of Espionage is vehemently brand agnostic. The watches we cover are dictated by the community and one brand that consistently pops up is Breitling. There are few truths in the world of intelligence, but one of them is Sketchy Dudes Wear Breitling. Before the Breitling fan clubs take out their pitchforks and start a bonfire, we want to be clear that this phrase is neither a commendation nor a criticism. It’s an observation that, while it remains relevant today, particularly applies to the 1990s and 2000s when Breitling was the adventure watch for unapologetic men focused on aviation and diving. Breitling was a signal that the wearer is adventurous but also appreciates fine craftsmanship in utilitarian tools. Blackwater CEO Erik Prince in Afghanistan wearing a custom Breitling Emergency. (Photo Credit: Vogue) Breitling - Tools For Professionals While likely an unintended consequence of marketing watches as “tools for professionals”, the brand developed an almost cult-like following in the national security community with both good and bad actors. Breitling watches can be found on the wrists of many gray area operators — from CEO of Blackwater Erik Prince’s Breitling Emergency (READ HERE), former Soviet arms dealer Viktor Bout’s Breitling B-1, and Director of CIA George Tenet’s Breitling Aerospace. When Leonardo DiCaprio played Danny Archer, a former Rhodesian smuggler turned mercenary in the movie Blood Diamond, he wore a Breitling Chrono Avenger. All of these men are sketchy, some good sketchy, some bad sketchy, but sketchy nonetheless.  Then Director of CIA wearing Breitling Aerospace while testifying for the 9/11 Commission. (Credit: AP) Breitling - A (Very Brief) History Lesson Breitling SA was founded in 1884 by Leon Breitling and passed down through his bloodline until 1979 when the brand was purchased by Ernst Schneider, a professional soldier turned watch executive. Under the leadership of Ernst and later his son, Théodore Schneider (an aviation enthusiast and helicopter pilot), Breilting found its niche manufacturing “tools for professionals”, developing several partnerships with military aviation units including the Frecce Tricolori, the aerobatic team of the Italian Air Force. Breitling Jet Team (MigFlug) Sketchy Breitling References While collectors value several vintage Breitling references, including the iconic Navitimer 806 and Cosmonaute 809, several analog-digital models cemented Breitling’s role as a leader in producing practical tool watches built for adventure. Breitling Aerospace: W.O.E.’s Jordanian Breitling Aerospace. (Photo Credit: James Rupley) While we are certainly biased, the Breitling Aerospace maintains legendary status in our community because, at its core, it is a highly functional tool. The dual digital screens of the chronometer-certified "SuperQuartz" have practical features including a digital chronograph, a second-time zone, day and date, an alarm, and a countdown timer. The combination of a well-finished titanium case and bracelet with traditional analog hands results in a robust piece that can be worn to a black tie dinner in Mayfair or the cockpit of a Caravan on a dirt strip in Mozambique. The Aerospace was introduced in 1985, more than a decade after the “Quartz Crisis,” where many consumers moved to cheaper, more accurate timepieces, resulting in a dramatic decline in the mechanically-driven Swiss watch industry.   As previously documented, I was gifted a Breitling Aerospace with a gold Royal Crown of Jordan on the dial from King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein and wore it for much of my career while operational at CIA. The Aerospace’s technical complications were legitimately useful for conducting clandestine operations where time matters. The Aerospace as we knew it was quietly discontinued, the recent release of the updated but likely-limited Aerospace B70 Orbiter indicates more is on the horizon for one of the brand’s sketchiest model families. Breitling Emergency: Perhaps the best example of Breitlings legendary tool watch status is the Breitling Emergency. Developed in 1995 in partnership with French aviation manufacturer Dassault Electronique, the original Emergency contained a beacon that transmits a signal on the international distress frequency of 121.5 MHz. In an emergency, the wearer unscrews the cap at four o’clock and extends a thin wire antenna which automatically activates the signal. Commercial and military aircraft monitor the frequency and are able to alert search and rescue teams of an individual's location, anywhere in the world. The watch was specifically marketed to the military and aviation sectors and, according to Breitling, has been used to rescue individuals including in 1997 when a reed boat was blown off course while sailing from Easter Island to Australia. Breitling Emergency Catalog (1985) The Breitling Emergency would go on to be favored by those who operated on the fringe of nonpermissive environments including several specialized aviation units, Blackwater personnel, and former SAS turned African mercenary Simon Mann. Today, the Breitling Emergency is still available at a massive 51mm diameter and complete with dual frequency distress beacons at 121.5 MHz and 406 MHz, both of which are monitored through the international Cospas-Sarsat system and based on a network of satellites in low-altitude earth orbit (LEOSAR). Breitling - The Unit Watch Pioneer Breitling Avenger Seawolf commissioned by Breitling SAS D Squadron in 2003/2004. We have covered modern “unit watches” extensively and much of what we see today implemented by Tudor, Bremont, IWC, and others was originally pioneered by Breitling in the 1990s and 2000s. This was a core aspect of Breitling's sketchiness, and the close relationship between Breitling and several elite units made it a prized possession for many operating at the tip of the spear. Originally focused on aviation squadron watches, Breitling branched out to Special Operations Forces, including US Army Delta Force and the British Special Air Service in the early 2000s. British SAS G Squadron Richard Williams wearing a custom 22 Special Air Service Breitling Avenger Seawolf in Iraq. (Photo Credit: Richard Williams) Breitling's customization program was not limited to the military or governments but extended to commercial entities. In 2010, Russian Oligarch Roman Abramovich commissioned 50 Breitling SuperOcean automatics with "Eclipse" on the dial, the name of one of his 533 ft super yachts, pretty sketchy if you ask me . . . (Photo Credit: Chiswick Auctions) Hollywood:   Breitling’s sketchiness also extends to the silver screen with several W.O.E. characters wearing the legendary tool watches in major Hollywood productions. Blood Diamond (2006) - Breitling Chrono Avenger In Blood Diamond, Danny Archer, a dreamy Rhodesian smuggler and ex-mercenary, embarks on a hair-raising adventure to find a large diamond amid the Sierra Leone Civil War. Leonardo DiCarprio's character wears a Breitling Chrono Avenger with a black dial and a solid titanium 44mm case on a brown calf leather strap. A Rhodesian mercenary turned diamond smuggler is the very definition of sketchy so this watch is on point. The movie takes place in 1999 when Breitling was at the height of its sketchiness and was a go-to tool for gray area operators and real mercenaries. Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout wearing a Breitling B-1 after his arrest in Thailand in a 2008 sting operation by the Drug Enforcement Administration. (Photo Credit: DEA) Thunderball (1965) - Breitling Top Time While Bond is known for Rolex and Omega, several other brands have graced the wrist of the world's most famous spy. In 1965’s Thunderball, the real OG Bond, Sean Connery, was outfitted with a Breitling Top Time that Q modified to include a Gieger counter to track down missing nuclear warheads… as sketchy as it gets.  Point Break (1991) - Breitling Navitimer Quartz As mentioned in a recent “Hollywood Watches of Espionage,” Breitling featured in Point Break on the wrist of bank robber/surf bro Bodhi, portrayed by the late Patrick Swayze. The Breitling Navitimer Quartz is shown in the scene leading up to a specific robbery where Bodhi ceremoniously declares: “The little hand says it’s time to rock and roll.” Very sketchy indeed. Breitling Of Today The past few years have seen massive changes for Breitling. In the early 2000s, the brand prospered in an era defined by massive case diameters and a masculine customer base. However, in many ways galvanized by the release of the Tudor Black Bay in 2012, the industry began to shift in favor of “vintage-inspired” styling, more attainable in-house calibers, and restrained dimensions.  "Arabic Breitling" -  Aviator 8 Etihad Limited Edition. Limited edition of 500 pieces and features stylized Arabic numerals on the dial, as is the norm with most Middle East editions. (Photo Credit: James Rupley) Breitling was admittedly slow to catch up but has made impressive improvements in its direction and product offering since being acquired in 2017 and appointing industry legend Georges Kern as CEO. Some enthusiasts still take issue with some of Breitling's price points or styling, however, it’s clear the brand is moving in the right direction in 2024, jumping from its 2017 $950M acquisition price to a 2022 valuation of $4.5Bn. The brand’s recent acquisition of Universal Genève is another intriguing development. It’s unclear what Breitling will do with the enthusiast-favorite vintage name, but we’re excited to see where it goes. Breitling CEO Georges Kern (Photo Credit: WatchPro) Is Breitling Still Sketchy? The question then becomes, is the kinder gentler Breitling of today as sketchy as it once was, especially as the brand enjoys a broader appeal and newfound level of mass market success? Yes and no. The brand’s long-standing military unit watch program is still active but appears to have waned, leaving the door ajar for brands like Bremont and Tudor. Producing military-specific personalized watches is likely not a key driver of revenue, but it is a central aspect of what has made Breitling one of the watches of choice for sketchy dudes.  While we are supportive of these changes at Breitling, and the strategy is clearly working, we hope the brand will continue to be inspired by its roots producing tool watches for those that operate on the fringes of sketchiness. With rumors of a new incoming Aerospace, our fingers are crossed for a return to Breitling’s legendary levels of sketchiness. -- If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. READ NEXT: CIA Officer’s Love Affair with the Arabic Seiko

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Watches And Wonders Releases For The W.O.E. Community

Watches And Wonders Releases For The W.O.E. Community

Last week was Watches and Wonders, a trade show in Switzerland where watch brands showcase their latest releases. Journalists, tastemakers, and watch enthusiasts flock to...

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Last week was Watches and Wonders, a trade show in Switzerland where watch brands showcase their latest releases. Journalists, tastemakers, and watch enthusiasts flock to Geneva to see and photograph new timepieces, meet with brand representatives, and drink no shortage of champagne and Negronis. Watches and Wonders is a masterclass in marketing, also known as the mass manipulation of consumers. We have previously written about covert influence in watch media (READ HERE) and this event is the Superbowl or, if you will, the Fashion Week. Propelled by the rise of digital media, what was once a straightforward industry trade show has been catapulted into the feeds of even the most basic enthusiast, with extensive coverage across all forms of social media, podcasts, and legacy watch publications.  Photo Credit: Watches and Wonders For weeks leading up to the event, the internet has been rife with “Watches and Wonders Predictions,” an organic marketing exercise that benefits both brands and content creators. The most influential tastemakers are invited to Switzerland as guests of the trade show, with hotels and other expenses covered either by the Watches and Wonders foundation or the brands. Lavish parties are thrown to showcase the watches but more importantly to woo the journalists, who are then expected to (objectively) cover the new watches, often simply regurgitating press releases with brand-approved language. Whether or not they are invited back next year is implied in part on their coverage of the event or the particular brand that sponsored their attendance. It’s brilliant.    Photo Credit: Watches and Wonders Don’t Hate The Player Or The Game To be clear, we don’t hate the players or the game. On the contrary, we admire the masterclass that is Watches and Wonders. It’s a fascinating exercise in human psychology, consumer behavior, and marketing. As enthusiasts, the releases are exciting, the speculation and leaks are admittedly fun, and the grand reveals offer the age-old intrigue of the unknown. While we normally don’t cover new releases, we want to highlight several watches that speak specifically to our community and our “Use Your Tools” ethos.  Photo Credit: Watches and Wonders We originally planned to cover 10-12 timepieces, but frankly struggled to identify more than a handful that met our criteria. The industry is trending towards high fashion and this seemed to be the year of dress watches and precious metals, which needless to say is not really within our wheelhouse. These are by no means endorsements, but here are a few that caught our eye. Rolex GMT-Master II Grey-Black Bezel Price: $10,900 (In Theory) A CIA Case Officer has been described as a “Ph.D. that can win in a bar fight”, and that fictional person would (traditionally) wear a Rolex GMT.  Whether the updated grey and black bezel on the newest GMT Master II is to your taste is up to you, but we would argue it gives the watch a modern look that is also more subtle than something like the legendary Pepsi bezel. For the traditionalists, the Pepsi is still available and was not discontinued as indicated by the rumor mill.  It’s an easy win and we like it. Cons: The days of a Case Officer or SpecOps operator walking into a boutique on R&R and walking out with a Rolex GMT are over. Given the astronomical secondary market prices (at times over double retail for certain references), it’s hard to say a new Rolex GMT is a true tool watch with a straight face. Modern Rolex models tend to be pretty shiny and this new GMT is unfortunately no exception. It can and will still be used as a tool by a select few, but the modern GMT Master II lacks much of its original tool watch feel. Also, good luck getting one at retail. Doxa Sub 200T Price: $1,550 - $1,590 For both the military and recreational diving communities, Doxa is a legendary name, having famously been worn by Dirk Pitt, Clive Cussler’s fictional undersea hero, and in the US Navy’s pioneering SEALAB experiments. Better known for their storied salvaging efforts, US Navy Divers also have been at the pointy end of the espionage spear, responsible for developing and executing a daring mission to tap Soviet undersea communication cables in the 1970s on Operation Ivy Bells. Jumping ahead to 2024, Doxa sneaked in just ahead of the Watches and Wonders releases, unveiling the Sub 200T about a week ahead of the big show. Providing a smaller alternative to the established Sub 300 and 300T, the 200T comes in with a 39mm diameter and more slender case while maintaining much of the Doxa Sub design language. Available in a staggering array of colors and matte or sunray dial finishes, the Sub 200T seems poised to provide a smaller-wearing alternative for those who have traditionally considered Doxa’s chunky cushion case to be a bit too much. Cons: Most Doxa Sub models wear considerably smaller than their stated diameter, meaning this 39mm Sub 200T might wear more like 36 or 37mm on the wrist, pretty small. Tudor Black Bay 58 GMT “Coke” Price: $4,400 - $4,600 While they may not have the historic caché offered by Rolex’s GMT Master models, Tudor’s GMT watches have come a long way since the release of the Black Bay GMT in 2018. However, from that 41mm wide by 15mm thick model’s inception, many were quick to call for a smaller and thinner option. But what most enthusiasts wanted was a Black Bay 58 GMT, and that’s exactly what we got in 2024. At this point, Tudor’s relationship with our community is well-established. Still producing unit watches for some of the world’s most elite military operators, Tudors of Espionage (T.O.E.) are very much a thing. That said, the new Black Bay 58 GMT feels like more of a vintage throwback than a modern practitioner's watch, but still offers its own play on the desirable “Coke” format along with the best set of dimensions thus far for a Tudor GMT, measuring 39mm wide and under 13mm thick. Cons: The new BB58 GMT relies heavily on “gilt” gold-tone markings that aren't for everyone. The faux rivets on the bracelet have to go and it’s really hard to understand why they use them on new designs. There is no utility to this feature and it crosses the line of homage-corny. The nicest thing we have heard about faux rivets is, “...they don’t bother me that much.” Bremont Terra Nova Price: $2,850 - $4,250 We are big fans of Bremont and we've previously covered the UK brand’s intriguing relationships with intel and military units around the globe (READ HERE). It would be intellectually dishonest to ignore the new Terra Nova collection of field watches “inspired by military pocket watches of the early 20th century”. That said, it’s hard to sugarcoat this one. To use a cricket metaphor, it was a swing and a miss. The rebranding fell flat with both enthusiasts and Bremont traditionalists.   Prior to the event, newly appointed Bremont CEO Davide Cerrato (formerly of Tudor, Montblanc, and Panerai) foreshadowed a pivot to a lower price point and we were genuinely excited about these releases. The strategy was sound but the implementation was flawed. The Terra Nova and the redesigned Bremont Supermarine are a stark departure from what makes Bremont loved by many, standing out as classy and refined aviation-inspired watches. Cons: The list is unfortunately long. The new logo, font, and overall design and manufacturing quality fall well short of expectations. To make matters worse, the price range places it squarely in competition with the likes of Tudor and many others. On the bright side, the brand appears to still offer the previous models (with original branding) and Special Projects appear unchanged. Understanding that a full pivot like this is bold, and takes a lot of time, effort, and money, we would love to see Bremont bounce back from this and return to its roots. Tudor Black Bay Monochrome Price: $4,225 - $4,550 We didn’t set out to profile two watches from the same brand, but Tudor came in with another solid (though predictable) win, not our fault. A follow-up to last year’s redesigned 41mm Black Bay Burgundy that added additional strap and bracelet options as well as METAS certification, the new Black Bay Monochrome makes one of Tudor’s single strongest arguments for a vintage-inspired sports watch to wear every day. Though we’ve often argued the Pelagos 39 is the modern Tudor-Sub, the Black Bay Monochrome is now right up there with a slimmer case design compared to previous iterations and more subtle looks than something like a ceramic Rolex Submariner. In our opinion, this is a major step up from the Black Bay 58, which we also love. Cons: If forced to nitpick a great watch, again enough with the faux rivets.  Fortunately, this watch is also available with a “Five-Link” (Jubilee) or an integrated rubber strap, both of which feel like better moves. Zenith DEFY Revival A3648 Price: $7,700 It’s not a name we talk about all the time in our shadowy corner of the watch world, but Zenith is a brand we respect and is also doing some very interesting things in 2024. Better known for its contributions to the world of chronographs, having unveiled one of the automatic chronographs in 1969 with the El Primero, modern Zenith balances a collection of up-to-date designs and heritage. This particular inclusion in this list is slightly less about being an ideal watch for Intel/Spec Ops and more about simply being a great new luxury tool watch. Completely overshadowed by the collection of chronographs, Zenith also produced several chunky yet capable dive watches in the late 1960s and 1970s including the rarely-seen Defy A3648. It’s not going to be for everyone, but the modern DEFY Revival A3648 is a near 1:1 of the original with a 37mm case and a very old-school feeling bracelet. With no less than 600 meters of water resistance, it’s also as capable a dive watch as you could ever want while offering a serious splash of orange on the bezel, dial, and hands that will speak to dive watch enthusiasts. Cons: It’s awesome they made this thing 37mm, but a lot of modern-day collectors might not be able to handle the lack of girth. Bright colors on watches are not for everyone (myself included), and a more subtle option might be cool to see in the future. Grand Seiko SBGJ277 Price: $6,800  Like Zenith, we seldom talk about Grand Seiko, instead concentrating on Seiko’s well-established and legendary historical associations with military special operations. With that in mind, Grand Seiko has operated as a separate brand for years now and provides some of the best watchmaking in its price category. The newly-released SBGJ277 leans into Grand Seiko’s history with high-beat mechanical calibers, in this case operating at 5 hz or 36,000 VPH. In addition, this new member of the brand’s Sport collection offers 100 meters of water resistance and a 55-hour power reserve, more than enough to suit the average Case Officer while differentiating from the established Rolex and Tudor crowds. Cons: While the finishing on this SBGJ277 is impressive for the dollar amount, the additional polished elements and textured dial both serve to create a more refined and therefore less utilitarian look. It’s not to say you couldn’t “Use Your Tools” with this watch but rather that it doesn’t look or feel the part as much as some others on this list. Again, we are not necessarily endorsing these watches, but each of them caught our eye and calls for a closer look. We understand that these watches are not cheap and if you’re interested in learning more about entry-level options that are well-suited to our community, check out “Best Watches Under $1,000 - Ask the Experts.” Next week we will resume our regular programming.  *sponsored by Rolex, Doxa, Tudor, Zenith, Bremont, and Grand Seiko (Just Kidding) -- If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. READ NEXT: Remembering the Legacy of Billy Waugh Through His Watches

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Hollywood Watches of Espionage, Part II

Hollywood Watches of Espionage, Part II

Sketchy Surfers, Intelligence Officers, And A Dictator – Timepieces Add Depth To Characters While Entertaining Watch Nerds As we established in our first installment of...

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Sketchy Surfers, Intelligence Officers, And A Dictator – Timepieces Add Depth To Characters While Entertaining Watch Nerds As we established in our first installment of this series (READ HERE), watches play a significant role in film and television, particularly as it relates to the world of espionage. Watch enthusiasts can’t help but notice when a propmaster or costume designer has absolutely nailed the watch or in some cases, missed the mark entirely. Portrayals of watches on the wrists of characters representing the military and intelligence communities are often particularly challenging, with factors like paid product placement further complicating the issue. In the vast majority of films or TV shows, watches play little to no role in the overall plot, instead serving as a minor detail representing at times incredible attention to detail on behalf of the filmmakers. However, here and there, watches add something to a film as a whole, adding depth to a character or acting as a plot element. For intelligence officers and special operations, the tiniest details matter, and, if nothing else, watch spotting within the context of our community is an old-fashioned good time. In this piece, we’ll take a look at five additional examples of W.O.E. in Hollywood and provide our thoughts on the watch choices for a given character. Point Break - A Sketchy Breitling Navitimer Quartz (Pluton) Starting with one of history’s finest action films, Point Break is the improbable story of undercover FBI Agent Johnny Utah, played by Keanu Reeves, infiltrating a band of surfers with a penchant for bank robbery led by the charismatic Bodhi, portrayed by the late Patrick Swayze. While Bodhi is much too laid back and cool to wear a watch in much of the film, he does wear a Breitling Navitimer Quartz (also sometimes known as the Pluton) when it’s bank robbing time, even going so far as to say “little hand says it’s time to rock and roll” after a full-screen watch shot that we will attempt to recreate here. (Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox) It’s unclear whether Breitling’s early 90s marketing budget played a role in making the Navitimer Quartz Bodhi’s watch of choice, but it’s tough to argue with their decision-making process. Essentially the same watch as the Chronosport UDT, which was produced by Breitling and favored by Navy SEALs and other special operations forces of the day, the Navitimer Quartz provided 200 meters of water resistance and a slew of digital functions on top of its basic timekeeping abilities, exactly the kind of specs you need when you’re surfing in the morning and making tactical withdrawals in the afternoon. We don’t make the rules, sketchy dudes wear Breitling.  Jack Ryan - Hamilton Khaki Field Auto Chrono Inspired by Tom Clancy’s best-selling series of books, Jack Ryan stars John Krasinski as a CIA analyst turned special operator, almost single-handedly saving the world from certain doom at least once in each of the show’s four seasons. While any number of inexpensive digital watches from brands like G-Shock might have made even more sense given Ryan’s Global War On Terror Marine Corps background, the analyst of action opted for a Hamilton Khaki Field Auto Chrono Automatic for the first couple of seasons. Stemming from Hamilton’s Khaki collection, which is inspired by the brand’s history of producing field watches for military forces as far back as the First World War, the Khaki Field Auto Chrono opts for a tacti-cool all-black treatment from the PVD-coated stainless steel case to the hands and indices. Conceptually, an automatic chronograph with 100 meters of water resistance checks out for Ryan’s character, but we can’t help but wonder if the watch might be a little bit hard to read given the almost total lack of contrast. Overall, it’s not a terrible choice, and at just under $2,000 would be affordable for the presumed GS-13. Spy Game - Victorinox Swiss Army Officer’s 1884 In Spy Game, Robert Redford stars as Nathan Muir, a seasoned CIA Case Officer on the cusp of retirement tasked with freeing his former protégé Tom Bishop, portrayed by Brad Pitt, from imprisonment in China. Released in 2001, this film inspired a generation of post -9/11 Case Officers and is a relatively accurate (though Hollywoodized) portrayal of the business of intelligence. On Redford’s wrist throughout the film is a Victorinox Swiss Army Officer’s 1884. Victorinox is of course better known for its ubiquitous Swiss Army collection of knives and has also been a major producer of Swiss watches since at least the early 90s. While many watch snobs might turn up their noses at a brand like Victorinox, the watch makes perfect sense in this instance. Serving as the prototypical career C/O, Redford’s character is a gray man, blending in and avoiding auspicious clothing or luxury items that might solicit further questions about his background or occupation. As much as many within the CIA appreciate and use watches from luxury brands including Rolex, Tudor, or Breitling, certain circumstances require a more subtle approach. The straightforward white dial and stainless steel format of the Victorinox Swiss Army Officer’s 1884 does exactly that, providing reliable quartz timekeeping and the additional functionality provided by a secondary 24-hour scale without attracting the type of undue attention that can get you killed and, perhaps more importantly, prevent you from rescuing Brad Pitt.  The Dictator - Cartier Pasha  Revered for his seminal work Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator is the (true) story of General Aladeen, leader of oil-rich nation called Wadiya. After the assassination of yet another body double, Gen. Aladeen opts to travel to the relative safety of New York City with a Cartier Pasha on his wrist. So named for Thami El Glaoui, the Pasha of Marrakesh, the internet claims the Pasha was a special design dating back to the early 1930s and intended for the Pasha’s sporty lifestyle. Whether that’s true or not is another matter, but the story does lend itself to the inclusion of the modern Pasha, which was unveiled in 1985 and famously designed by Gerald Genta, in this film.  Still, despite the supposed history of being designed for a fabulously wealthy Middle Eastern governing figure, we can’t help but wonder whether something even more ridiculous might have been a better fit for General Aladeen’s character and lifestyle. Just to throw a few ideas out there, what about a diamond-encrusted Patek Philippe or even an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak? That said, the Pasha’s historical tie-in demonstrates great care on behalf of either Sacha Baron Cohen himself or perhaps a particularly astute wardrobe designer. The watch might even be the least ridiculous part of the entire film. Argo - Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea 116660 In Argo, based on the real story of CIA technical officer Tony Mendez, played by Ben Affleck, is tasked with extracting six Americans holed up with the Canadian ambassador in Tehran, Iran after militants stormed the US Embassy on November 4th, 1979, taking 66 American diplomats hostage. Disguised as a film producer scouting locations for a science fiction film in Tehran, Affleck’s character wears a Rolex, which would theoretically be right in keeping with his cover assuming the Rolex in question was period correct. No joy, however, as the Rolex worn by Affleck in Argo was a decidedly modern Sea-Dweller Deepsea reference 116660, a watch released by the Crown in 2008.  How this came to pass is anyone’s guess. In 2022, Hodinkee reported an urban legend that the prop department provided a replica of a period-correct Rolex Submariner for Affleck to wear, but the actor preferred a genuine Rolex. Any Rolex from the era, but perhaps especially the Submariner, would have made perfect sense. A posh Hollywood producer wearing a rugged luxury watch intended for diving for his adventurous location-scouting trip to Tehran? Hell yes. Instead, a modern 44mm Rolex theoretically designed for saturation diving time traveled to 1979 to assist Affleck on his personnel extraction adventure, once again proving that details matter in espionage as well as filmmaking.  If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. READ NEXT: Bond: A Case for Omega

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Coming Soon - W.O.E. Collaboration With Tactile Turn

Coming Soon - W.O.E. Collaboration With Tactile Turn

Pen, Flashlight, Knife, Watch - The Essentials “If you didn’t write it down, it didn't happen” is a common saying in the intelligence business.  In...

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Pen, Flashlight, Knife, Watch - The Essentials “If you didn’t write it down, it didn't happen” is a common saying in the intelligence business.  In a digital era, there is something satisfying about staying old school, and a custom pen, built to last a lifetime, is a must. Custom Tactile Turn X W.O.E. Titanium Pen TENTATIVE RELEASE DATE 16 APRIL View Here For CIA Case Officers, a quality pen and 3x5 cards are essential aspects of everyday carry and they are still items I carry religiously to this day. Despite rapid advancements in note-taking devices, I still defer to a pen and paper regularly. As a part of our ongoing effort to produce the best possible custom tools, we set out to design a purpose-built writing instrument fit for our community. Enter the W.O.E. Custom Tactile Turn Bolt Action Pen. Milled from a solid block of titanium in the United States, our pen is lightweight and durable. For a premium feel, we opted for Tactile Turn’s Bolt Action construction, which extends or retracts the refill with one smooth, spring-loaded motion, more satisfying than the hollow click from your drugstore ten-pack of pens. Inspired by our love for PVD-coated watches, we PVD’d the inside of the bolt and the clip, adding a subtle “Tactile Turn X WOE” engraving on the clip’s underside. Most importantly, the bolt is operated by way of a unique watch-style crown with a spearhead engraving. Details matter. It is so often the little things that have the greatest impact. To be clear, this is by no means a “tactical pen”. Our titanium pen is a TSA-approved item primarily intended for writing, though we admit it may have other uses. We’ll leave it at that. Far from inexpensive perishable pens, our Bolt Action Pen is designed to last a lifetime and utilizes readily available Pilot G2 0.7mm refills. For the complete specifications, read HERE. Product Development At W.O.E. At Watches of Espionage, our product development model is to partner with true professionals – masters of their craft – to develop distinct and highly functional products that honor our community and our core belief that you should “use your tools.” In creating our ideal Everyday Carry (EDC) pen, we reached out to Tactile Turn because they are the best in the business at creating high-quality writing tools, hand-machined in Texas, right here in the United States. As a company, we seek to partner with US manufacturers and use our platform to promote their craftsmanship. Working with Tactile Turn has been a pleasure, and it is no surprise that there is a significant crossover between the watch and EDC communities. The good people at Tactile Turn are industry leaders for a reason, doing incredibly detailed and consistent work machined by hand. They are also true innovators and were able to prototype the watch-style crown to produce a unique product for our community. Further, they stand behind their work with a lifetime warranty for all of their products including our W.O.E. Bolt Action Pen. About Tactile Turn Tactile Turn was founded in 2012 by Will Hodges who happens to be a watch guy with Tudor, Sinn, and OMEGA in the collection. Frustrated by the disconnect between the things we buy and how they’re made, Will took things into his own hands, purchasing a WWII-era lathe and producing his first 1000 pens completely by hand. Things have taken off since then, and Tactile Turn now operates a serious 48,000-square-foot production facility in Dallas, Texas where a small team of machinists produce every single pen by hand. Will is still at the helm and still obsessed with producing quality pens in the United States that will probably outlive their owners. At W.O.E., we only work with suppliers who understand the "use your tools" ethos, and Tactile Turn is an excellent example. TENTATIVE RELEASE DATE 16 APRIL View Here All photos are courtesy of Ed Jelley.

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The W.O.E. Tudor PVD Pelagos FXD

The W.O.E. Tudor PVD Pelagos FXD

Customizing my dream watch, the W.O.E. PVD Pelagos FXD When Tudor released the Black Pelagos FXD last year, I instantly knew I wanted one to...

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Customizing my dream watch, the W.O.E. PVD Pelagos FXD When Tudor released the Black Pelagos FXD last year, I instantly knew I wanted one to land in my collection.  Watches of Espionage is vehemently brand agnostic, but we have a special respect for Tudor, given the brand's seven-plus decade relationship with our community.  The FXD platform is the latest manifestation of this particular relationship. It’s the only modern “luxury” watch that was developed for not one, but two, modern SpecOps units. And I don’t mean a special edition made for a specific unit–the entire design, and every design decision, of the FXD stems from a particular use case in the SpecOps world.  That said, I already had the blue French “Commando Hubert” version. Was it prudent to want the same watch, just in black?   Of course. This whole passion is irrational anyway.  But if I was going to go for this watch, I wanted to do something different with it.  Over the past six months, I worked with several craftsmen to customize the FXD to make it mine, a poor man's “pièce unique”. The first thing we did was PVD’d the titanium fixed spring bar case resulting in a striking black-on-black look. This of course involves taking the whole case apart and PVDing each element, including the bezel. The PVD also has a mostly matte finish, so it matches the ceramic bezel insert well. Even though this was going to be mine, I wanted to maintain a standard that could have come from the factory. And since the caseback is sterile from the factory, we topped it off by engraving a W.O.E. insignia. Every watch has meaning, and this one commemorates the establishment of W.O.E. as a community, an accomplishment I never set out to achieve. The last step was designing a new handmade strap with our friends at Zulu Alpha, the W.O.E.-ZA 4.0 (available HERE).  That’s an overview of the watch; now I’ll get into the thought process behind each detail and my philosophy behind modifying this particular piece.  The W.O.E. FXD The W.O.E. FXD (if I can be vain enough to call it that) is a homage, a term that may conjure images of Seikos modified to look like Rolex – something that I am personally not a fan of.  But it’s an homage in the true sense of the word, specifically to the SpecOps who modified their Tudor MilSubs for operational use. One popular narrative is that the Orfina Porsche Design Chronograph I was the first PVD watch. However, SpecOps personnel modified their Swiss tool watches long before that.  Most notably, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Shayetet 13 (S-13) frogmen darkened their issued Tudor Submariner 7928 in the late 1960s, crudely painting them black to prevent glare and reflection of the steel cases.  For Special Operations personnel, and particularly those in a maritime environment, the glint of a watch during an operation could have lethal consequences.  The watches were tools, and they were modified to carry out their job effectively.  While it’s nearly impossible to trace the lineage of PVD watches for every brand, military applications likely had a direct impact on this development of all PVD watches. In fact, Rolex's only known “black” dive watch was a one-off blacked out version of the MilSub Ref. 5513 for the South African Special Forces.  While Rolex didn’t roll out PVD in a commercial capacity, its sister brand, Tudor, would go on to produce PVD watches in later years, whether directly influenced by the S-13 and other military units we can only speculate.  But heritage matters; it informs every decision a brand makes. PVD: StealthMaxx DLC Finish Recalling that our friend Cole Pennington PVD’d an Arabic Seiko for a Hodinkee Magazine article, I contacted Jack at International Watch Works, a family-owned business.  When asked about the feasibility of PVD’ing the titanium case, he said it was not a problem; he had in fact just completed PVD’ing a blue Marine Nationale FXD (which turned out to be for Tom Place, a stuntman searching for his long-lost Rolex at the bottom of a lake).  The process was relatively simple.  Jack disassembled the watch and coated every bit of titanium, leaving the dial assembly and ceramic bezel insert to the side.  “PVD” is an abbreviation for Physical Vapor Deposition. It’s a process, not necessarily a coating. A solid material is selected, in this case diamond like carbon (DLC), to coat a base metal or substrate surface. That material is vaporized and deposited on the base or substrate material, bonding molecularly with the base material. The PVD/DLC coating is so fine that the serial numbers and factory engravings on the caseback are still visible even after the coating. It’s only microns thick; it’s not thick enough to obscure the characteristics of the case. Having worn the watch daily and with a lot of time in the pool and ocean, I have noticed no wear or abrasion on the coating, although I wouldn’t necessarily view scars as a bad thing.  During our conversation, Jack informed me that he has PVD’d watches for SpecOps personnel for years, which comes as no surprise given his location in North Carolina. Engraving: Always Read the Caseback The W.O.E. insignia signifies a very deep meaning for many in our community, with influence from the spearhead worn by our predecessors in the WWII-era Office of Strategic Services (OSS) as well as modern day intel and SpecOps units.  Today, this insignia has become an important part of my life. It’s a source of pride that I don’t share with many.  The caseback engraving is covered by the strap and that’s just how I like it. It's not for you, it’s for me.  The deep diamond tip engraving through the PVD into the titanium creates a more substantial profile and a stark contrast to the black case. It’s bold. Looking at it, it’s easy to see how much meaning comes with it.  W.O.E. - Zulu Alpha 4.0 Strap As a “fixed” springbar case, the Pelagos FXD is often called a “strap monster”-- a term so overused it’s become meaningless. Yes, any 22mm strap will work on the watch, but it’s really about finding the right strap. With a customization like this, I wanted to ensure the strap was the perfect match–subtle enough not to overshadow the watch. So I reached out to our friends at UK-based and veteran owned Zulu Alpha Straps to create a unique design that honored our ethos as a community and tapped into the traditions of those who came before us.  The result is an understated olive allied green strap with a discreet W.O.E. spearhead-only insignia applied between the strap keepers, which is covered up when worn. Again, it’s not about showing the insignia. Like the caseback, it’s obscured when the watch is worn.  The development of this strap coincided with Zulu Alpha’s latest iteration of the “OTAN” strap and significant performance enhancements.  To promote longevity, the strap has a narrower tang, round holes, and a slightly shorter length at 30 cm.  The “patch” was adhered directly to the strap with a new technology developed by ZA, resulting in a OEM feel.  While we never planned to commercialize this version, we knew we would receive many requests, so this is dubbed, the W.O.E.-ZA 4.0. Photo Credit: Rob / @rw_m100 Dial Modification I have considered customizing the dial with a red W.O.E. at 6 o’clock.  That said, this would require a complete dial refinish.  While the watch is striking to those who know the FXD, when worn it's a more subtle customization as there are no visible insignias.  Discretion is a prized attribute in our field, if you know, you know is the way. Controversy of Watch Customization Customizing watches is a major point of contention in the collecting community, with many “purists” believing the watches should remain as they were originally designed.  Turning this upside-down, London-based George Bamford originally made a name for himself in the 2000s for customizing Rolex watches into unconventional designs, much to the chagrin of the Swiss luxury brands.   Bamford Watch modification (A Blog to Watch) However, times have changed, and Bamford has since been embraced by many watch houses and even has joint customizations programs with major brands including Zenith and Tag Heuer.  Further, “mod culture” as it’s known appears to have trickled into mainstream design and while the suits in Geneva would never admit it, the new Day-Date “emoji dial” is certainly reminiscent of a customized dial treatment than a traditional Rolex design.   Will we see a PVD FXD released from Tudor? Tudor’s playbook is simple.  It designs a watch, releases it to the masses and then iterates on that design with size, material, and color schemes.  This process has led some detractors to criticize the brand (Do we really need another Black Bay?)--but in the end, it works.  While selfishly I hope this remains one of the few “PVD FXDs,” it would be an easy win for Tudor to produce this design for the masses and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a version become available to the public in the coming years. A Few Thoughts To the uninitiated, this article may seem like a waste of time.  So, what, you painted your watch black?  Maybe. But it’s never just a watch.  When I look at this watch, I think of the people that made both it and W.O.E. a reality, and of all the times it’s been on my wrist.  No matter where this platform goes, it will always hold a special place because it is uniquely mine. There Are No Rules We are of the strong belief that there are no rules when it comes to timepieces.  If you want to polish your Rolex every few years to keep it looking shiny, do it.  If your dream is to modify your Patek to look like a Seiko, have fun.  If you want to put aftermarket diamonds on your AP to celebrate making it out of the trap, congratulations.   Don’t let conventional wisdom and outside pressure dictate how you enjoy this passion. Life’s too short to live in a box dictated by the watch industry suits or hype collectors pushing an agenda.  Have fun, use your tools, and don't take things too seriously.  -- If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our free weekly newsletter for further updates HERE.  Sincere appreciation to my dear friend and master of his craft James Rupley for capturing these pictures of the W.O.E. FXD and really bringing it to life for the community. Read Next: James Bond Should Wear a Rolex

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South African Issued Tudor Submariners - Making Time Podcast

South African Issued Tudor Submariners - Making Time Podcast

Our good friends Darren and Ross Povey from Tudor Collector discussed the history of military issued Tudor Submariners on the most recent episode of “Making...

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Our good friends Darren and Ross Povey from Tudor Collector discussed the history of military issued Tudor Submariners on the most recent episode of “Making Time” podcast.  We plan to do a complete W.O.E. Dispatch on South African MilSubs in the future but this is a great opportunity to learn about the history of Tudor and various military watches from the expert.  South African MilSubs are controversial pieces given the ties to the South African Defence Force, but they are fascinating snapshots into that period of history.   Pictured above is a black 7016 from approximately 1974.  I acquired this piece from Ross when I visited Zulu Alpha in Liverpool last year and it is the crown jewel of my collection.  There are fewer than 10 confirmed pieces.  As many of you know, I have spent much of my life living and working in Africa and this piece has long been a “grail” watch for me.  It’s an honor to be the custodian today.  See above for the story of the watch and how W.O.E. became the lucky owner.

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Ask Watches Of Espionage Anything, Part III

Ask Watches Of Espionage Anything, Part III

In this edition of the Dispatch, we’ll answer some common questions we get about W.O.E., timepieces and the Intelligence Community at large. Many of these...

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In this edition of the Dispatch, we’ll answer some common questions we get about W.O.E., timepieces and the Intelligence Community at large. Many of these responses can – and probably will at some point–serve as stand alone stories, but for now, here’s some additional insight on Watches of Espionage. If you have any more questions, please ask in the comments section and we’ll address them in a following article. See past questions “Ask W.O.E. Anything Part I” and “Ask W.O.E. Anything Part II” 22 Special Air Service Breitling Avenger Seawolf with the SAS insignia at 9 o'clock. (Courtesy SAS Melvyn Downes) W.O.E. recently posted a SAS Breitling Avenger with the Special Air Services (SAS) insignia on the dial, do unit watches cause OPSEC issues? We have extensively covered “Unit Watches” from various Intelligence and Special Operations organizations and profiled programs from Tudor, Bremont and Omega.  To summarize, a unit watch is one that is customized by the manufacturer for members of a specific unit or organization inside the military. Civilian organizations inside the NatSec space can also receive these watches, but the term “Unit Watch” almost exclusively applies to military units. Customizations to the watch can include the unit’s insignia on the dial and/or a custom engraving on the caseback.  While more honorific in nature, we have documented many instances of these watches worn operationally overseas.  This has caused many to question if the watch itself is an “Operational Security” (OPSEC) vulnerability.  If an individual is captured, wouldn't the “bad guys” know he was a member of the SAS? British SAS G Squadron Richard Williams wearing a custom 22 Special Air Service Breitling Avenger Seawolf in Iraq. The fact of the matter is that most elite units (even Tier One SpecOps) operate overtly most of the time.  While deployed to a War Zone, they’re generally wearing uniforms with their nation’s flags on their plate carriers and are not “under cover.”  While elite units and intelligence organizations certainly have operations where they operate under some form of cover, including posing as businessmen, most of the time this isn’t the case for someone in an “assaulter” role or even CIA Paramilitary Officer.  If an individual is operating under a “Non-Official Cover” (i.e. not a government official) then they certainly would not wear a Unit Watch.  They would pick a watch to match their persona.  Given the rapid proliferation of digital timepieces, many “operators” choose to wear a G-Shock, Suunto or other digital watch while operational, and reserve the unit watch for the garrison. What was the most dangerous thing you did at CIA?  The job of a Case Officer is to collect intelligence– to steal secrets through recruiting and running human assets (“spies”).  It's more dangerous than the average trade, but it's certainly not like it is in the movies. I never got into a fistfight in an elevator, a high-speed chase through a European capital, or performed a risky surreptitious entry into a Russian oligarch's dacha.  Most of my work was discreetly meeting with assets and liaison services in cafes, back alleys, and hotel rooms to collect intelligence. W.O.E. in Afghanistan, early 2000s.  W.O.E. in Sudan, early 2000s, Breitling Aerospace on the wrist. The easy answer to this question would be “warzone” assignments, where during the Global War on Terror, IEDs, shootings, and kidnappings were a real and present threat.  That said, in a warzone, Case Officers carry guns, wear body armor and generally operate alongside GRS and/or paramilitary officers.  The most dangerous thing I did was operate alone in Africa, and in one specific capital where crime, terrorism, and counterintelligence risks from the local service were deemed “critical.”  During this assignment, I did my cover job during the day and then at night went out on the street alone and without a phone (read CIA Officers and Apple Watches).  After a multi-hour Surveillance Detection Route, I met developmentals and recruited assets in hotels, bars, dark alleys, and cars hunkered down in low-trafficked areas of town.  Most of the time I was unarmed, as being caught with a firearm would have posed significant problems for my cover (see CIA Case Officer’s Everyday Carry - EDC).  The risk from terror groups and the local intelligence service was significant, but the constant exposure to the streets, and everything that comes with that, night after night over a multi-year assignment dramatically increased the probability of carjacking and violent crime, something that can generally be avoided for the average tourist or business traveler. Do you only wear your watches on straps?  How do you feel about bracelets? (Photo Credit: James Rupley) It is no secret that W.O.E. loves straps. This has led our own line of leather and nylon straps that we designed. I constantly rotate my watches through a plethora of straps and it’s a great way to change up the look and feel of a watch.  That said, it is hard to beat a well-designed bracelet and I wear my watches regularly on the original bracelet.  Rolex Oyster and Jubilee bracelets are incredibly comfortable and are probably my favorite.  Most of the watches in my collection, including Tudor, IWC, and Breitling also all come on great bracelets.  The one exception is Seiko and particularly the Arabic Seiko: the bracelet feels cheap and I threw that one in the trash as soon as I got it.  So in short, yes, I am a big fan of bracelets.  After wearing a watch on a nylon or leather strap for a while, it is always refreshing going back to the original bracelet. (Photo Credit: James Rupley) How do you store watches and do you use a watch winder? If you have more than two to three watches of value, you need to invest in a safe that is mounted to the wall or floor.  Frankly, no matter what, it is worth acquiring a fireproof safe for valuables, firearms, and important documents.  For years I have kept my watches in affordable (read cheap) plastic cases and put them inside the safe.  Like all of our designs, I have made them for myself and the 6 Watch Storage & Travel Case is exactly the type of case I have used for years (but much better quality than the ones I used to purchase off Amazon).   There are some fantastic high-end watch cases and watch boxes (like Bosphorous Leather) that are true works of art, but it is hard for me to justify spending that type of money on something that will mostly sit in a safe.  There are also some really cool “display cases” on the market, but unless you have a walk-in safe, this is a sign to the goons that reads “take me.” Bosphorus Leather “Watch Collector Case” (Photo Credit: Bosphorus Leather) I have never used a watch winder.  There is conflicting information on whether a watch winder is good or bad for watches but it generally seems like if you have new watches you should be okay.  That said, many of my watches are vintage and I would not want to keep them winding every day. It’s simply not necessary.  However, the main reason I do not use a watch winder is cost.  A 4 Piece Wolf watch winder starts at over $2,000.  I would much rather use that money to purchase a pre-owned Breitling or Tudor or multiple Seikos.  Additionally, I actually enjoy setting the time on my watch each time I pick one up to wear it.  It’s something of a ritual to take a few minutes to wind the watch and set the time.  And yes, I always set the correct time on my watches. (Photo Credit: James Rupley) In purchasing a pre-owned Rolex, do "Box and Papers" matter? Vintage watch dealer Eric Wind has famously said that, "Saying you only want to buy a vintage watch if it has the original box and papers is the equivalent of walking around a high school with a ‘Kick Me’ sign taped to your back—except it says, ‘Rip Me Off.’ ”  Given his breadth of experience, I will take this at face value. (Photo Credit: James Rupley) That said, I do enjoy having a “full set” when possible because it’s a neat historical addition to the watch, but I would not necessarily pay the extra premium for a piece of paper that can easily be forged.  A few years ago I purchased an early 1980s “Root Beer” Rolex GMT Master 1675/3 with the original box and papers from the original owner.  The receipt shows the exact day and store where he purchased the watch in the Caribbean.  It’s a piece of living history and part of the story of that watch.  While I rarely look at the paperwork, it is a something I treasure because it’s part of the ephemeral nature of ownership and a sign that the watch has seen plenty before–and hopefully after me.  One of these boxes is fake, can you tell which?  “Box and papers” can add $1,000-2,000+ to the price of a pre-owned watch, and for me, this is simply not worth it.  Of all the things to fake, the papers are the easiest to forge, and boxes are often paired with pre-owned watches and it’s difficult to determine originality. What are some good fiction spy books? There are plenty of great classic espionage fiction authors a la John le Carre and Rudyard Kipling; however, if you are looking for contemporary works, my favorite authors are Jason Matthews (former Case Officer and Breitling owner), David McCloskey (former CIA Analyst), Jack Carr (former Navy SEAL) and David Ignatius (journalist and columnist with Washington Post).  With the exception of Ignatius, all of these authors come from the IC/SpecOps and have real world experience.   (Photo Credit: James Rupley) It’s impossible to write about our community with authority if you have not lived it, and each one of these pieces contain little “if you know, you know” nuggets that cannot be faked.  Further, the fiction genre often allows the authors to include details that otherwise would have been removed by the CIA’s publication review. (there have been multiple items in the above books that were removed from my work because they were considered “classified.”) Movie adaptation of Red Sparrow Additionally, it will come as no surprise that watches are mentioned and often play a central role in all/most of these pieces. Red Sparrow trilogy- Former CIA officer Jason Matthews Agents of Innocence - David Ignatious  Damascus Station- Former CIA Analyst David McCloskey Terminal List series- Former Navy SEAL For military fiction and the future of warfare, check out 2034 and Ghost Fleet.  What do you think about the recent Moonswatch/Blancpain releases? I don’t think about them. Why has the W.O.E. platform been so successful?  What advice do you have for growing my Online Journal/Instagram page? W.O.E.’s “quick” growth and high engagement is largely due to the fact that it’s such a niche topic, with broad appeal.  But the real “secret” is authenticity.  This is a passion and a hobby and I never set out for this to be a business.  I genuinely enjoy researching topics and creating products for our community.  In fact, I don’t post on topics that will get high engagement, instead I write about things that I find interesting.  A successful article is one that I enjoyed researching and writing, not one that gets a lot of likes and comments.  The community (you) is not stupid and can see through anything that is artificial, fabricated, or click bait. If you are interested in launching a podcast, newsletter or social media page, my advice is to identify a niche topic that you are passionate about and have a unique perspective on and double down on that. Lastly, this takes time.  While W.O.E. might seem like an overnight success, I have put a lot of effort into cultivating this content to provide this resource to our community. Like with anything, consistency is key. Would you wear a fake watch/Rolex? I can think of very few instances where wearing a fake Rolex is acceptable. In response to “Trading A Rolex To Get Out Of A Sticky Situation - Myth Or Reality?” several commenters suggested traveling with a fake Rolex for bartering.  The logic may be sound, but if you are really at the point where you have decided to part with a $5-10k watch, your life is likely on the line and the cost is trivial.  Further, whoever you are giving the watch to is presumably in a position of power and likely someone you do not want to piss off should they determine the watch is fake. Seized fake Rolex by US Customs and Border Protection I have heard of some people with expensive watch collections that have “dummy” displays in their house, the idea being that if someone breaks in to steal their collection, they would take the fake watches without realizing the real collection is hidden in a safe.  This is something that could potentially make sense, but is not necessarily something I would advise.  If someone goes the distance to specifically target you for your watch collection, they are likely going to be pissed to find out they stole fake watches, and may come back for retribution.  No watch is worth your life. All that said, I do have a fake Rolex Submariner that I received as a gag gift from a wealthy friend in Dubai.  I have never worn it or even taken out the links to fit it to my wrist.  Who knows, maybe it will come in handy one day. How accurate is your portrayal of your life and W.O.E.? When it comes to long-form writing, all of my stories and personal anecdotes are 100% accurate.  I have several friends from the community that read the Dispatch regularly and my Signal messages would immediately light up if I started making up there I was stories for clout.  Of course, I do change times/dates/locations and minor details for the sake of anonymity (or if the CIA’s Prepublication Review Board advises I do so). In many ways, being anonymous allows me to be more honest in my writing.  I recently posted a picture of my entire watch collection.  This could easily be construed as bragging about material possessions and is something I would never do on a personal social media account.  In fact, most of my close friends don’t even know about the number of watches I own or the value of my watch collection.  Anonymity permits me to engage in a form of honesty that would otherwise be self-corrected.  While my portrayal of my life and thoughts are genuine, I do think a lot of people interpret this as a persona of something I am not.  I am not a commando or Jason Bourne.  I am a (relatively) normal guy who is fortunate enough to do some abnormal things with extraordinary people.  For that I am very grateful. What is the future of Watches of Espionage? Our goal for Watches of Espionage is to become the number one resource for military, intelligence, and NatSec content and products as it relates to timepieces. Long-form written articles are our main product, and we intend to keep this free and open for everyone to learn from. In 2023, we set the foundation for this expansion with the establishment of the website, development of some incredible products, and expansion of written form content. We raised $24,800 for Third Option Foundation and we have more fundraisers scheduled for this year that will be both meaningful and interesting. We have resisted offers from advertisers so that we can maintain complete editorial control of our content.  Remaining authentic and representing our community respectfully is key to our past and future success and we will not sell out for a quick buck.  W.O.E is and always will be an enthusiast platform solely for our community, and it's not for everyone. Over the coming year, we hope to expand the number of articles per week and potentially move into other mediums.  Regarding products, we are happy to now have W.O.E. products in stock and we are working on some new and exciting projects for 2024, including some EDC items.  We are also still in the initial stages of producing W.O.E. content in a print medium, something that we are being methodical about to make sure we get it right. We appreciate those who have supported W.O.E., as this support will give us the opportunity for increased quality content and products. As always, thank you for the support.  This would not be possible without you. Stay tuned, -W.O.E. If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE.   -- This Dispatch has been reviewed by the CIA’s Prepublication Classification Review Board to prevent the disclosure of classified information. READ NEXT: Best Watches Under $1,000 - Ask the Experts

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Top Dispatch Articles of 2023 - Watches of Espionage

Top Dispatch Articles of 2023 - Watches of Espionage

Top Dispatch Articles of 2023 - Watches of Espionage  As 2023 comes to a close, we take a look at the top Dispatch articles from...

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Top Dispatch Articles of 2023 - Watches of Espionage  As 2023 comes to a close, we take a look at the top Dispatch articles from the year.  Thank you for all of your support, we look forward to a great year in 2024. -W.O.E. 10. Hollywood Watches of Espionage Mercenaries, Arms Dealers, CIA Contractors, and Navy SEALs – a timepiece can complement a fictional character. Watches play a significant role in film. An accurate depiction of a character often includes a watch they might actually wear, and this is especially true in the military, intelligence and espionage genre. When this happens, it lends a sense of credibility to the work.  This is likely a mixture of art imitating life and vice versa.  Believe it or not, we know plenty of real “spies” and “operators” whose watch choices were influenced by movies.  The Bond Omega and Bond Rolex are obvious ones. But other watches are also featured on the silver screen, and we’ll explore them here. Continue Reading 9. Trading a Rolex to Get out of a Sticky Situation - Myth or Reality? The "Escape and Evasion" Rolex The final requirement to be certified as a CIA Case Officer (C/O) is to pass the certification course at a classified government training center commonly referred to as “the Farm.”  Students learn the tradecraft to clandestinely recruit and handle assets.  The entire learning process is a surreal experience, and the atmosphere at “the Farm” is somewhere between a college campus with a constant stream of students riding by on cruiser bikes (IYKYK), a covert paramilitary base with state-of-the-art tactical facilities, and Hogwarts, a place where you learn the dark arts they don’t teach in regular school. Continue Reading 8. Bond: A Case for Omega Here, we will first share the full story of Omega’s origins with James Bond, followed by a detailed analysis of the history of product placement in Bond, and the critical role it plays in keeping the franchise alive. While this piece does not serve as a direct response to the first Dispatch, it aims to present a more thorough history of Bond, offer a better understanding of why adjustments have been made, and propose a case for why we can celebrate Omega’s inclusion in 007’s history Continue Reading 7. Remembering the Legacy of Billy Waugh Through His Watches Former CIA Paramilitary Officer Billy Waugh passed away at the age of 93 exactly one week ago; but we don’t mourn his death–instead we celebrate his incredible life of service in the best way we know how–through his timepieces. William “Billy” Waugh is the Forest Gump of CIA and Special Forces with a larger than life personality and an uncanny knack for adventure. At the conclusion of WWII he attempted to enlist in the United States Marine Corps at age 15. His age got in the way, but three years later, in ‘48, he successfully enlisted in the United States Army, launching a career that would become nothing short of legendary in the Special Operations community. Continue Reading 6. Advice for Buying a Watch The Watches of Espionage community can be broken down into two segments: professional watch nerds tired of the traditional watch media; and complete newbies, those initially attracted by Military and Intelligence content but with little interest in watches.  Over time, the latter group usually develops an interest in watches and regularly asks where to begin.   This Dispatch is for you, newbies.  It’s a cheat sheet for breaking into the world of watches. Our goal is simple: to cultivate and preserve watch culture in the NatSec community.  We have no commercial relationships with any of the brands mentioned, and we’re brand-agnostic. Continue Reading 5. The History Of Casio G-Shocks And The US Military The History Of G-Shocks And The US Military - Benjamin Lowry Forty years have passed since the introduction of the Casio G-Shock in 1983. And while the basic formula behind the world’s most durable watch has remained largely unchanged since the legendary DW-5000C first hit store shelves, the world of warfare and the United States Military in particular have made significant strides in both equipment and tactical doctrine. Conflicts in Panama, the Persian Gulf, and Bosnia/Herzegovina were waged in a bygone analog era, influenced by lessons learned in the Vietnam War. But the terrorist attacks of September 11th changed all of that, embroiling the United States in a new type of war based on counter-insurgency in the digitally-augmented age. Continue Reading 4. CIA Officers and Apple Watches Counterintelligence Risks of Smart Watches “Apple watches are for nerds.”   Though we don’t actually think this, it’s easy to understand how one could come to that conclusion. The Apple Watch of today could be seen as the “calculator watch” of the ‘90s–in other words, a product with a nerdy association. One thing we can say is that smart watches are NOT/NOT for intelligence officers.  Smart watches, like the Apple Watch, offer significant lifestyle benefits: fitness tracking, optimizing communication, and sleep monitoring.  However, for CIA Human Intelligence (HUMINT) collectors who rely on anonymity to securely conduct clandestine operations, the networked device is a counterintelligence (CI) vulnerability and potential opportunity for exploitation. For every benefit the Apple Watch provides, it also comes with a threat. Continue Reading 3. CIA Case Officer’s Everyday Carry - EDC A Real “Spy’s” Every Day Carry (EDC)  We get a lot of questions about “everyday carry,” commonly known as “EDC.” So in light of these requests, we want to provide some insight into our typical EDC and what I carried as a CIA Case Officer (C/O) in Africa and the Middle East. Continue Reading 2. Tudors of Espionage (T.O.E.s) The Shield Protects the Crown:  W.O.E. is a watch snob–or at least I was. For years, I looked down on Tudor as an inferior tool watch existing in the shadow of its big brother Rolex. I never understood why someone with a Rolex would purchase a Tudor.  After all, Tudor is a poor man's Rolex, or so I thought. Most haters are motivated by insecurity, but my views were simply shaped by ignorance. I didn’t know much about Tudor and was unaware of Tudor’s long standing relationship with the Intelligence and Special Operations communities, a personally relevant intersection. Continue Reading 1. Casio F-91W, the Preferred Watch of Terrorists The Terrorist Timepiece - Casio F-91W The Casio F-91W’s reputation looms large in both horology and national security circles, and for good reason. The simple, cheap and effective plastic watch is likely one of the most ubiquitous timepieces on the planet, with an estimated three million produced each year since sometime in the early 1990s. However, the watch that is coveted by hipsters and former presidents alike has a more sinister utility: it has been used to deadly effect as a timer for explosive charges and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and worn regularly by members of al-Qaeda, ISIS and other transnational militant groups. Continue Reading

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Tactical Watches & Christmas Films - Die Hard, Lethal Weapon & Home Alone

Tactical Watches & Christmas Films - Die Hard, Lethal Weapon & Home Alone

Movie Watches To Watch For This Christmas Season: Watches of Espionage Edition Like we’ve always said here at W.O.E., tradition matters. It’s what builds culture...

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Movie Watches To Watch For This Christmas Season: Watches of Espionage Edition Like we’ve always said here at W.O.E., tradition matters. It’s what builds culture and forms the pillars of our community. And during the Holiday season, tradition means appreciating the cinematic masterpiece that is Die Hard. As usual, we’ll look at the movie–and a couple other Christmas movies– through the lens of watches and national security. Die Hard- “It’s the greatest Christmas story ever told”  Inside the wrist- tacticool style There are people out there that might tell you Die Hard is not a Christmas Movie. The debate has been going on for over 30 years. We’re not going to take a position on the matter other than saying that the movie is playing theaters right now. You can go see the movie, in 2023, during the holiday season. It doesn't matter what naysayers think. It’s a Christmas movie. A family comes together, a Christmas holiday is saved, and everything is merry and bright in the end. Re-creation Die Hard layout using a Tag model 932.206 from our friend @movementsofaction With that being said, let’s get into why the TAG Heuer 3000 Series Quartz Chronograph is a fitting watch for protagonist John McClane, masterfully played by Bruce Willis. McClane is a NYC cop, and in 1988 when the movie came out, the city was grappling with a massive crack cocaine problem and a record number of homicides–1,842 in total. The streets were tough. McClane was tougher. He’s a little rough around the edges, and that unpolished element of his character was exacerbated by his newly-estranged wife moving his family to Los Angeles. While visiting her for her company’s holiday Christmas party, all hell breaks loose as a group of German terrorists hold the entire party hostage, killing a few employees in the process. With his skills learned from being a cop on the mean streets of New York and his knack for improvisation, McClane jumps into action…and you know the rest. Yippee Ki Yay, motherf*cker! TAG Heuer 3000 Series Quartz Chronograph - worn inside the wrist allows McClane to check the time while putting in work. Worn inside the wrist in true tacticool fashion is a TAG Heuer 3000 Series Quartz Chronograph. It’s the perfect watch for McClane. The NYPD isn’t issuing watches, so this is a private purchase–or a gift from his ex-wife. It has a blue-collar character to it, and it’s the sort of watch that’s charming because it isn’t really a watch guy watch. It’s exactly the kind of watch you wear if you don’t care about watches. For McClane, it was a tool.  The Actual Tag worn by John McClane (Photo Credit: PropstoreAuction) If McClane wore a Rolex or Patek, it wouldn’t telegraph the right message. McClane is effortlessly cool because he just doesn’t give a damn. In a world where we fetishize what watches are worn on screen, there’s a certain charm to a guy wearing a quartz TAG Heuer while using a Beretta 92F/S and a Heckler & Koch MP5 (actually a modified HK94s) acquired from the terrorists he eliminated to eventually get to Hans Gruber, played by Alan Rickman–his breakout role. In addition to McClane’s TAG, Watches play a significant role in the plot. In fact, one crucial W.O.E.-related scene was reportedly left on the cutting room floor. In the original script, the members of the terrorist group synchronized their own black TAGs prior to entering Nakatomi Plaza. McClane would go on to remove one watch from the body of a dispatched terrorist, and use this small detail to identify Gruber as the leader of the group when he pretended to be a hostage. McClane’s ex-wife Holly wears a Rolex DateJust, a gift from her coworker and a not-so-subtle signal that she has moved on from the more “common” lifestyle of the wife of a cop. Gruber’s Cartier Tank says everything you need to know about him–he has good taste and wealth to match. And he probably didn’t earn it the right way. After all, how do you fund a massive “terrorist plot” to kill innocent Americans? Lethal Weapon - A Christmas Story Speaking of guns and TAG Heuers in the late ‘80s, there’s another Christmas Movie that showcases a law enforcement officer showing us how to make an otherwise mundane watch cool. Martin Riggs, played by Mel Gibson in all four Lethal Weapon movies, wears a black plastic TAG Heuer Formula One. It’s 35mm, minuscule by today’s standards. But that doesn’t matter. It’s the man that makes the watch. (Photo Credit Unknown) Riggs is a former Army Green Beret turned cop, and that explains the spec of the Formula One on his wrist. It’s black on black on black–black dial, case, and plastic strap. The color echoes his inconsolable attitude after the death of his wife. The plastic Formula One was incredibly popular in the era, almost like the Moonswatch of today. It was cheap, it was relatively cool, and it was ubiquitous. It was launched in 1986, one year before Lethal Weapon was released. We also have credible intelligence that the Formula One will be making a comeback in the not-too-distant future as well. Home Alone - Rolex the Escape and Evasion Tool And of course a look at Christmas movies through the scope of W.O.E. wouldn’t be complete without a mention of one key moment that we’ve discussed before: trading a Rolex to get out of a sticky situation. Kevin at high port practicing questionable trigger discipline, Breitling concealed under the Christmas sweater cuff. In Home Alone, Kate McAllister, mother to the protagonist of the movie, 8 year-old Kevin, needs to get back to Chicago from Paris as quickly as she can after realizing she forgot him at home. At the airport she barters with an elderly couple for a seat on the plane back to CONUS with two first class tickets, $500, gold jewelry…and most relevant to W.O.E., a watch. But not just any watch, a Rolex. The elderly woman asks Kate if it’s a real Rolex and she’s met with Kate’s non-answer “Do you think it is?” immediately followed with “But who can tell, right?” The interaction points to the nature of Rolex watches as universal currency- a tool. In this case it’s to get out of France, but a Rolex will most likely work as a bartering chip just about anywhere. It’s not just a tactic for those in SpecOps and the intelligence community. But of course, the repercussions of someone finding out it’s fake could be much more dire in that line of work. Luckily for Kate, she found her way back to the US and lived to fight another day. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to the W.O.E. community.  Get out there and use your tools. Read Next: Hollywood Watches of Espionage

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W.O.E. 2023 Holiday Gift Guide

W.O.E. 2023 Holiday Gift Guide

In preparation for the holidays, we provide the W.O.E. stamp of approval on the following products.   We have closed up “shop” for the year but...

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In preparation for the holidays, we provide the W.O.E. stamp of approval on the following products.   We have closed up “shop” for the year but will be back next year with some exciting tools for our community.  Please sign up for “Notify Me When Available” for anything that interests you.  In the meantime, check out the following items as gifts for loved ones, friends or yourself.  There are no affiliate links or discount codes.  We are highlighting these tools because we believe in them, not for financial gain.  None of these are sponsored products. Please highlight any other gift ideas in the comment section.  We are always in the market for new tools and specifically love support small businesses and people doing innovative things. Watches We chose three watches at different price points.  Check out our previous Dispatch on “Best Watches Under $1,000” for a more comprehensive list. Seiko: SEIKO 5 Sports- SRPG35 - $210 A simple field watch and perfect first mechanical watch for yourself or a friend.  Purchasing a watch for a father/son/daughter or nephew?  The Seiko 5 Sports line is a great place to start. Elliot Brown - HOLTON: 101-001  - $511 The Holton Professional was developed in response to a request from a specialist branch of the UK military who demanded a fit-for-purpose professional watch capable of a life in the field.  We will do a more thorough write up on EB at some point, lots of history here! Omega Seamaster Diver 300M - Green - $5,600 The Omega Seamaster has a long history with our community, as we have documented with the British Special Boat Service (SBS) Seamaster.  Since 1993, the Seamaster Professional Diver 300M has enjoyed a legendary following. Today’s modern collection has embraced that famous ocean heritage and updated it with OMEGA’s best innovation and design. This 42 mm model is crafted from stainless steel and includes a green ceramic bezel with a white enamel diving scale.  Gear and Community The Grey NA TO - Supporter Subscription  - $100 year TGN is a community of like-minded individuals who believe in using their tools.  Hosts Jason Heaton and James Stacey break down their love for adventure, their addiction to watches, and also discuss travel, diving, driving and gear.  A subscription to The Grey NA TO includes a NA TO strap (grey, of course), stickers and access to additional content.  At $100 a year, a unique gift for someone who has everything. Field Ethos - Magazine Subscription - $15.00 - quarterly  The premier lifestyle publication for the unapologetic man is here. Enjoy a mix of modern adventure, historical context, and perspectives forged through global travel while staying current with the latest products that elevate an unapologetic life. Eagles and Angels Ltd - Signature Hats & Tools - $39.00 and up We salvage the old uniforms of our brave men and women, transforming them into high-end accessories to be proudly worn by those who support our troops. Each piece is beautifully crafted in the US and carries the story of the soldier who wore it first. Each purchase helps support the families of fallen heroes. The Observer Collection - Piecekeeper - $30.00 The Piecekeeper is designed to halt hostilities between your watch and laptop. The same natural dyed Italian suede used in the Observer Collection bags creates a comfortable barrier between watch bracelet and workspace preventing scratches to both watch and laptop. Leather Works Minnesota - No. 9 Wallet - "Coral" Mahogany - $110 So named for the number of pockets this wallet has, the No. 9 boasts the most capacity out of any wallet in our line. It’s easy to see why it immediately became one of our best sellers. This is the wallet for the ultra-organized, the one who needs to keep it all with them, or the person who has a card for everything. Art Ad Patina - The best in the game when it comes to vintage watch advertisements.  Prices vary.  Bad Art Nice Watch - Custom Print Commission a piece on your favorite watch.  North Carolina artist, Bryan Braddy, combines his passion for watches with his love for art.  What started as a doodle at his kitchen table with his daughters has blossomed from a hobby into a business. Embracing the concepts of wabi-sabi, the acceptance, and contemplation of imperfection, guide the principles of his style. “I want you to see my artistic choices, good or bad, with the pen or the brush.” King Kennedy Rugs - Driver Rug-  prices vary We have no idea who runs this company, but his rugs are incredible. Check out these “Vintage Rolex Hand Woven Rugs” rugs from Pakistan. $325  Prairie Fire Art Company - "The Professional" Billy Waugh MACV-SOG Art Print - $65.00 Billy Waugh had a 50 year career in Army Special Forces and as a paramilitary officer.  He patrolled the jungles of Laos and Vietnam. He hunted down Carlos the Jackal. He was the first to put sights on UBL and he invaded Afghanistan when most said he was too old for the mission. "Beware of an old man in a profession where men usually die young". Knives Winkler Knives, WK Huntsman - $300.00 The Huntsman is an adaptation of a Small Hunting Knife I made back in the 1990’s. Perfect for hunting and everyday carry. This model is fast becoming one of our most recommended designs. Sangin Knives - Carbon Fiber Corsair - $699 Sangin is known for their watches, but they also recently stepped into the knife game with a premium blade, the Corsair.   The Corsair is a 9.0” blade, made from premium Crucible Metals CPM M4. The blade is finished in an ultra-corrosion resistant black KG Gunkote. The Corsair is fitted with premium Camo Carbon Fiber handles, giving it a unique design with a sturdy feel, ready to be used in any scenario. With precision-turned titanium tubing, we can hold incredibly tight tolerances which allow our handles to be press fitted and secured using friction. This is a significant upgrade, solving the issue of handle scale fracturing and separation from the steel. Half Face Blades, Brad Cavner signature series - $375 Half Face Blades was founded by Andrew Arrabito, Navy SEAL (ret.), to meet the need for high-quality, “go-to” knives and axes – usable, personalized, functional, versatile tools that work for every person in every walk of life.  Toor Knives - Field 2.0 - $295.00 Toor designed the Field 2.0 with every day use in mind and it has quickly become known as the workhorse of our Outdoor Series. Its small size allows for all day carry comfort, while having the capability to handle almost any task out on the trail. Tools Soturi - The ‘Diplomat’ Strap - $185 Our most refined Cordura strap, The Diplomat is a tailored addition to our lineup that is just at home in the field as it is the office. Featuring a fully rolled edge, tapered design, and supple nubuck leather lining; it’s built to suit your every endeavor. Bergeon - 7825 Spring Bar Tweezer Spring Bar Removal Fitting Tool - $170 Bergeon 7825 is a tweezers, special watchmaker tool for inserting and removing spring bars in difficult to access end links and the short spring bars in the inner link.  Jack Carr - Signature Whiskey Glass - $23.00 Handblown by Mexican Artisans and made from recycled glass Coca-Cola bottles.  Crossed Hawks etched emblem on front of glass. Ball and Buck - Arthur Zippo - Brushed Brass - $68.00 Originally made in 1941, Zippo served as an essential accessory to American soldiers fighting in World War II and on. Their heralded tradition continues wherever men roam, igniting in every condition it encounters; the lighter's metal ring sweetly sounding in an American echo. With The Arthur Zippo, you can proudly display your support of American quality and manufacturing. Whether you're enjoying a smoke or building a fire in the woods, the Ball and Buck Zippo lighter is sure to become a staple for your everyday carry. Books G-SHOCK 40th Anniversary Book - $65 Celebrating the story of G-SHOCK, a truly unique watch whose pioneering innovation, function, and versatile design has made it a cult-collectible worn by devoted fans across the globe as well as by cultural icons in the worlds of fashion, sports, music, and popular culture for the past forty years. The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal - $15.99 It was the height of the Cold War, and a dangerous time to be stationed in the Soviet Union. One evening, while the chief of the CIA’s Moscow station was filling his gas tank, a stranger approached and dropped a note into the car. In the years that followed, that man, Adolf Tolkachev, became one of the most valuable spies ever for the U.S. But these activities posed an enormous personal threat to Tolkachev and his American handlers.  Watchistry  - Marine Nationale Book - $77.00 An exploration of a collection of 34 watches and instruments issued to the French Navy. 224 pages of photos and text cover vintage military watches from Tudor, Omega, Longines, Breguet, Auricoste, Doxa, Triton and others are featured, along with detailed provenance and commentary. It represents an unprecedented look at the nuance and breadth of the pieces used by the Marine Nationale. A Die Hard Christmas - $19.99 True story.  All John McClane wants for Christmas is to reunite with his estranged family. But when his wife’s office holiday party turns into a deadly hostage situation, he has to save her life before he can get home in time for Christmas!  The unconventional fan-favorite movie Die Hard is now an illustrated storybook- complete with machine guns, European terrorists, and a cop who’s forced to rely on all his cunning and skills (and the help of a fellow officer) to save the day.  Small Arms of WWII: United States of America, James Rupley, Ian McCollum-  $98.00 The Second World War was a fascinating and dynamic time in the history of firearms – a period that began with revolvers and bolt-action weapons, and ended with the first generations of modern select-fire combat rifles. We detail these developments in Small Arms of WWII, discussing not just what the weapons were, but why they were developed and how they performed in the field. If you want to get a better understanding of how these weapons changed warfare and were in turn themselves changed by warfare, this is the book series for you!  A Man & His Watch: Iconic Watches and Stories from the Men Who Wore Them, Matt Hranek - $28.49 Paul Newman wore his Rolex Daytona every single day for 35 years until his death in 2008. The iconic timepiece, probably the single most sought-after watch in the world, is now in the possession of his daughter Clea, who wears it every day in his memory. Franklin Roosevelt wore an elegant gold Tiffany watch, gifted to him by a friend on his birthday, to the famous Yalta Conference where he shook the hands of Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill. JFK's Omega worn to his presidential inauguration, Ralph Lauren's watch purchased from Andy Warhol's personal collection, Sir Edmund Hillary's Rolex worn during the first-ever summit of Mt. Everest . . . these and many more compose the stories of the world's most coveted watches captured in A Man and His Watch.  The Wrong Wolf, Chris Craighead and Matthew Klein $19.99 From the very start, the Wrong Wolf knew he was different. Over the course of a journey marked by loss, mercy, courage and self-sacrifice, he learns that where and how you are born does not always determine where you end up. Sweetwater - Jason Heaton - $14.99 With an American presidential election looming, a decades-old plane crash is once again thrust into the news. Old secrets threaten to expose dangerous truths and underwater archaeologist Julian "Tusker" Tusk finds himself at the center of a mystery with the highest of stakes. With time running out, Tusker is forced to come to terms with not only his own past, but that of his father, in an adventure that spans two generations and hits close to home in more ways than one.  Moscow X, David McCloskey - $25.49 CIA officers Sia and Max enter Russia under commercial cover to recruit Vladimir Putin’s moneyman. Sia works for a London law firm that conceals the wealth of the superrich. Max’s family business in Mexico―a CIA front since the 1960s―is a farm that breeds high-end racehorses. They pose as a couple to target Vadim, Putin’s private banker, and his wife, Anna, who―unbeknownst to CIA―is a Russian intelligence officer under deep cover at the bank. Clothes Relwen - Quilted Insulated Tanker Jacket - $318  This will be your go-to, so don’t fight it. Our Tanker is that one jacket that fills all the voids, whether tailgating, going out for dinner, or off to work. The soft peached nylon/cotton shell utilizes a water-resistant polyurethane coating, ideal for all weather conditions. Lightweight quilting provides warmth across temperate conditions making for highly pragmatic style. Clarks, Desert Boot Suede - $150 Cultural cachet and design DNA: no shoe is quite like the Clarks Originals Desert Boot. Nathan Clark’s 1950 design was inspired by a rough boot from Cairo’s Old Bazaar, and its minimal, progressive style sparked a worldwide footwear revolution GBRS Group - Set Point Flannel - $75.00 The Set Point by GBRS Group MD Approach Flannel is a multi-purpose flannel for everyday use. Combining the crisp look of a heavier flannel with the comfort of a lighter one makes this flannel resourceful on any occasion. Vuori- Strato Tech Tee - $54 The Strato Tech Tee is the softest piece of workout apparel on the planet, doubling as your go-to t-shirt. With next-level comfort, our softest performance knit is quick drying and moisture wicking. Goodr - Bosley's Basset Hound Dreams - $25 Tortoiseshell sunglasses? More like houndshell shades. These sunnies were named in honor of Bosley, king of the basset hounds. So every time you wear these no slip, no bounce brown frames with non-reflective polarized brown lenses, you’ll be in the presence of royalty. Hot sauce Tabasco: Priceless, available at your local convenience store, this delicious nectar of the gods.  Tabasco. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.   -- *W.O.E. has received no financial compensation for the above products and these are NOT/NOT sponsored.  Please do your own research before making any purchases.

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Advice for Buying a Watch

Advice for Buying a Watch

The Watches of Espionage community can be broken down into two segments: professional watch nerds tired of the traditional watch media; and complete newbies, those...

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The Watches of Espionage community can be broken down into two segments: professional watch nerds tired of the traditional watch media; and complete newbies, those initially attracted by Military and Intelligence content but with little interest in watches.  Over time, the latter group usually develops an interest in watches and regularly asks where to begin.   This Dispatch is for you, newbies.  It’s a cheat sheet for breaking into the world of watches. Our goal is simple: to cultivate and preserve watch culture in the NatSec community.  We have no commercial relationships with any of the brands mentioned, and we’re brand-agnostic. (James Rupley) Step 1: Do your research:  There are more resources than ever on watches, and if you are reading this then you’ve already demonstrated that you’re far enough down the rabbit hole and you want to know more.  We at W.O.E. do not do traditional watch reviews- but other platforms do and do it well.  Hodinkee, Bark and Jack, Teddy Baldassarre, Fratello, aBlogtoWatch, etc.  There are plenty of great outlets with different perspectives putting out content on Youtube, online editorial platforms, and podcasts. But it’s important to exercise caution when it comes to any enthusiast media, as much of the content on these sites are paid advertisements and/or heavily influenced by the watch brands.  Read our Covert Influence In Watch Media piece so that you approach it with a skeptical eye. Step 2:  Talk with people. The simple lost art of conversation.  Ask your friends, coworkers and family members about their watches.  See a guy with an interesting watch on at a bar, coffee shop, or even at the urinal? Ask him what he is wearing.  Why did he buy that specific watch?  What does he like and dislike about it?  Ask to try it on. Most people into watches want nothing more than to talk about them. Major cities likely have watch meetups. RedBar Group is the largest and most well-known of these group meet ups.  I have never been to a watch meet up but know a lot of people enjoy this community and it is a great way to get your hands on lots of watches in the wild. Step 3:  Visit an AD.  An “Authorized Dealer” is a store that sells watches from major brands, and they have an official relationship with said brands.  We recommend visiting a dealer with a larger selection of brands so that you can physically try on different watches to see what works for you.  Tourneau, Watches of Switzerland, and Bucherer are some of the largest ones, but chances are even your local mall has a store that sells watches. Sales associates can be notoriously pretentious and they’re not always “watch guys” but there is something to be learned from everyone.  At a minimum they should have the training to explain the range on the market. Step 4:  Buy your first watch.  After spending a few weeks/months on steps 1-3, you should have a general idea of what interests you.  It’s time to buy your first watch. Regardless of one's socioeconomic status and access to disposable income, we recommend starting with a watch under-$1,000, and even under $500 is better.  Just because you can afford a Rolex doesn't mean you should start there.  Check out our previous Dispatch on “Best watches under $1,000” for some thoughts from a broad range of practitioners with experience. (James Rupley) Step 5:  Pause - wear your watch, repeat steps 1-3.  It’s tempting to immediately focus on the next watch, always wanting more.  But wear your watch, find out what you like/dislike about it. Sometimes you learn things about your taste only after wearing a watch for a while. Think about how it feels on your wrist, how it works with your lifestyle, etc. Most importantly, however, is to make sure that the watch works as an extension of your own life philosophy. Maybe the values of the brand don’t line up with your own–or maybe they do. This is the time to learn. (James Rupley) Step 6: Accessorize.  A strap is a great way to change up the feel of your watch.  We have a host of straps in the W.O.E. shop, but don’t let us limit your options.   In the strap game, you generally get what you pay for. Like most things in life.  Stay away from Amazon and pay a few extra dollars for something of quality.  Most of the major watch content outlets also sell straps and are a good one-stop-shop.  Buying a strap from a smaller business is a great way to show your support and rep that brand/community.  Here are some of the different straps you should consider: 2 Piece Leather: These should be handmade in the USA or Europe, nothing mass produced. There are some great craftsmen out there making one off and small batch straps like our Jedburgh and Leather and Canvas DNC Strap.  A good leather strap can work on mostly any watch. Affordable Nylon:  You can buy these anywhere and should be somewhere in the $20-40 price range.  Our Five Eye is on the higher end of this but in return you get quality. The better ones are well-made but cheap enough that you can use and abuse them and throw them out like a pair of good socks.  A simple nylon strap is a great way to support a group/person that you’re interested in. (James Rupley) High-End Fabric Strap:  In my opinion, Zulu Alpha is the best quality fabric strap on the market. The Quantum Watch Strap from TAD has great hardware and Tudor has some great fabric straps (see Hodinkee video). None of these are cheap but you get what you pay for. Single piece leather is tricky, most are thick and I do not like to use bent spring bars on my watches. These do fit some of my pieces with a wider gap between the spring bar and I wear them. I am a big fan of both Soturi and Zanes. Rubber: I have owned a few from Everest and overall have been happy with them. There are plenty of options on the market here and quality generally coincides with price. Elastic MN Straps: I have a MN strap from NDC straps which I like and have heard great things about Erika’s Originals.  A great way to change up your watch. A new strap can completely change the feel of your watch.  Most watches are 20 mm or 22 mm so if you buy a handful of straps you can rotate them between your watches. (Photo Credit: @navs.watch) General Advice & Tips: As you look to expand your collection, here are some general tips that we use as a north star.  Remember, none of these are hard and fast rules: Buy what makes you happy; no one else cares what you are wearing and 99.9% of people will not notice the watch you have on your wrist. (This one is cliché but it’s entirely true.) Buy the watch you can afford. You won't be happy if you spend more than you can afford.  “Buyer’s remorse” is real and can undermine the sense of satisfaction from wearing the watch.  DO NOT FINANCE YOUR WATCH. Don't buy for investment. Your watch may appreciate in value, but buy with the expectation you will wear it until you die (and a loved one will wear it after you die). Values are generally trending downward in the watch world anyway. That’s not what they’re made for, and treating a watch like a financial instrument takes away something from the passion. When in doubt, stick with a known brand: Seiko, Sinn, Rolex, Breitling, Omega, Tudor, JLC, IWC, Bremont, Patek, etc.  There are some great micro brands out there (like Tornek-Rayville, Sangin Instruments, Elliot Brown etc), but also a lot with smoke and mirrors, especially in the “tactical” space. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Any worthwhile watch company wasn’t either.  When you do decide to go into the micro-brand space, do your homework. Buy the seller and build a relationship with that person. If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.  A lot of people have had great experiences with Ebay and other online forums, but there is something about building a relationship with the actual person selling the watch that makes it special. Plus, it’s very easy to get burned on Ebay. It’s less easy to get burned by someone you know and trust. Take your time. Do your research. Even if you have the money to buy the watch you want right away, spend time learning about the different variations and history of the reference or brand. This will likely change your outlook and make you appreciate the watch you end up with even more. (James Rupley) As a closing remark, don't feel like you need a "luxury watch," a ~$500 watch can be just as meaningful as a $5,000 watch. Remember, those Speedmasters that went to the moon and the 1675 GMT-Master examples that our pilot heroes wore were all value buys back in the day. They weren’t luxury products in that period.  As we have said many times, the man makes the watch, not the other way around. Vintage Watches: Lastly, if you are just starting out, we recommend staying away from vintage watches.  While there are some great deals out there and it is a lot of fun, it is not for the uninitiated.  There are plenty of fakes at every level and it is easy to get ripped off if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.  Additionally, old watches come with old problems, this can be exciting once you have a handful of watches in your collection, but sending your sole watch off for service for 3 months doesn’t make for a good time.    If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE.   Read Next: Blackwater Breitling - The Story

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What Watch Pairs With What Military Aircraft?

What Watch Pairs With What Military Aircraft?

Honoring an age-old tradition of matching watches up with heavy-hitting machinery. At W.O.E., we cover all sorts of subjects relevant to our community, ranging from...

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Honoring an age-old tradition of matching watches up with heavy-hitting machinery. At W.O.E., we cover all sorts of subjects relevant to our community, ranging from in-depth profiles of impactful Intelligence Community and military practitioners to breaking down geopolitical conflicts through the lens of watches. Today, however, we figured we’d go a little lighter and engage in an age-old tradition that, while slightly more juvenile than most of our content, continues to be relevant and just plain fun. Just about every watch platform has matched up the Rolex Submariner with the perennial watch-guy favorite–the air cooled Porsche 911. But we’ll leave that to the popular watch style blogs. We’re here to talk about metal with a purpose beyond simply looking cool. We’re going to match up iconic watches with well-known aircraft. Many of you will be intimately familiar with both of these subjects, and finding the intricacies and characteristics that tie a watch to an airplane and vice versa is an exercise in diving deep into the engineering characteristics, legacy, and function of both the plane and the watch.  Tom Cruise wearing Porsche Design Chronograph 1 (Photo Credit: Paramount) Before we apply full nose down inputs and dive in, we’d like to acknowledge that folks will have very serious opinions about these pairings, and that this list is just a starting point. If you disagree, we’d love to hear about it in the comments. We eschewed the traditional “rules” for pairings using things like country of origin or physical appearance to pair watches and cars and instead focused on the core ethos of each piece of equipment and the character and reputation it has developed in both aviation and horology circles. Now let’s roll, pitch, and yaw right into it: The Plane: Lockheed C-130 Hercules The “SUV of the sky” is ubiquitous and tough as nails. It’s been in service since 1956 and the fundamental design of the aircraft hasn’t changed much over more than half a century. It can land and take off from unprepared airstrips, it can operate in hot and high environments, it can be fitted with skis to land on ice, it can use JATO (jet assisted take off), it can act as an aerial refueling platform, it can serve as a command and control platform, it can even be kitted out for long-range search and rescue, and maybe most importantly, the AC-130, the gunship version known as the Angel of Death, can absolutely rain down hell on the enemy. The Watch: Seiko SKX007  You won’t find this steadfast tool watch on the wrist of anyone wearing a suit. It’s not particularly accurate, and it’s not known for superior fit and finishing, either. But it’s where a lot of us started our watch interest, and it’s where it can end, too. You don’t need another watch. This one is tough as hell and just keeps on running. Like the C-130, it’s spawned a bunch of variants.  The Link: The same places you’ll find the SKX007 being worn, you’ll find the C-130 being used. They’re both the standard unit of toughness that all other watches and utility aircraft are measured against. The Plane: Boeing C-32A  This is the plane that the highest officials in the US Government use for executive transport. You’ll typically find the Vice President (Air Force Two) and the Secretary of State aboard. It can also serve as Air Force One when the President’s 747 is considered overkill for a specific destination. It’s a symbol of American might and democracy that you’ll find all over the world. The Watch: Rolex GMT-Master and GMT-Master II Photo Credit: James Rupley The Case Officer’s watch. It can get dirty and take a beating, but has a certain polished cache that’s elevated it to iconic status. It can tell time in three different time zones at once; and the design hasn’t changed much since 1954, when it was first worn by Pan-Am pilots. The model became popular with military pilots and was even famously worn by Chuck Yeager.  The GMT-Master II serves as a stand-in for worldliness The Link: Both of these at first appear polished and proper, but they’re also some of the most capable and bad-ass platforms around. The C-32A has a whole host of classified defense systems. And the guy wearing a GMT-Master probably isn’t a stranger to doing what it takes to get it done. The Plane: Lockheed Martin F-16 For the last 30 years, when someone says “fighter jet”, it’s most likely the F-16 that many people–familiar with military aircraft or not–think of. It’s the most widely operated fighter in the world. In other words, it’s the OG fighter aircraft of the modern era. It’s a multi-role aircraft, and there’s even a project led by the US Air Force, Project Venom, to operate F-16s autonomously. The F-16 has come a long way since its first flight in 1973. The US Air Force had once said that it would be retired in 2025, but then signed on to keep the F-16 flying for another 20 years. It’s not going anywhere just yet. And that’s a great thing. If it ain't broken, don’t fix it.  The Watch: IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Actual military pilots wear all sorts of watches. Everything from Garmins to Bremonts. But there’s such a thing as a prototypical “pilot’s watch” and it’s the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch, specifically, the 43. It’s the watch that some real fighter pilots wear, but that many, many more people who wish to be a fighter pilot wear. It’s become an icon for what it represents, not necessarily for what it actually is. But what it is, is a watch that’s been at the center of the military aviation scene since before World War II.  IWC has a long history with aviation, and continues to produce Unit/Squadron watches for many aviators. The Link:  The link here is obvious–these are both the icons of their type. They’re what first comes to mind when thinking of fighter jets and pilots watches. They’re also sort of the most basic iterations of their forms as well. The Plane: A-10 Warthog  This aircraft’s primary role is CAS (close air support) and it absolutely excels at it thanks to its twin-turbofan, straight wing setup. It frequently gets “down in the dirt” and you’ve almost certainly seen memes or videos of the infamous “BBRRRRRTTTTT” that’s emitted from the 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon affixed to the nose of the airplane. It crushes tanks, lights up enemies, and emerged as an absolute icon after Desert Storm. BBBBRRRRTTTT. The Watch: Tudor Ranger The Ranger is mostly considered a field watch, not necessarily a pilot’s watch. Its simple, stripped-down nature is where its beauty lies. Consider it the modern version of what the Rolex 1016 was (or the vintage Tudor Ranger)–a simple-as-hell time only tool watch that was indestructible and somewhat of an everyman’s watch. You have 3, 6, and 9, and nothing much else except fantastic legibility. It just gets the job done and doesn’t cost too much. The Link: The A-10 is cheap as chips to operate and consistently crushes the competition when it comes to fixed-wing CAS. The Ranger embodies the same ethos–value-forward, reliable, and has a “git ‘er done” way about it. They’re both simple. The Plane: Lockheed Martin F-35 The F-35 was delivered ten years late and went 1.7 trillion USD over budget, but it’s the most technologically advanced plane that has ever existed. It’s over the top in every single way, not to mention it costs $41,986 an hour to fly. But trying to find anything that rivals it. You won’t China’s J-20? Nope. Russia’s Su-57? Negative. The aircraft defines air superiority through its host of technical features, many of which are still classified (on the US-operated variants, of course). The Watch: RM 39-01 Richard Mille marketing shot If you want one of these, it’ll set you back about 150K. But you’ll also have the most feature-rich, tech-forward analog pilot’s watch that exists. A titanium case and a skeletonized carbon fiber dial characterize the watch, along with the signature Richard Mille lightweight technical look. Richard Mille is the epitome of technical mastery in watchmaking, and the RM 39-01 is the brand’s foray into pilot’s watches. It’s the opposite of legible and robust, but sometimes the most technically advanced things are just that way. The Link: The amount of engineering that goes into these two things– and the price tag– are both superlative. The Aircraft: UH-60 Black Hawk You’ve seen Black Hawk Down. Hell, we know some of you even fly the Black Hawk, which is operated in a branch-specific variant by the US Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. The design dates back to 1974 with Sikorsky, and now the US military operates over 2,000 Black Hawk helicopters. Roughly 30 other countries around the world also operate the UH-60 in some form or another, not to mention civilian operators that use it for firefighting, cargo transport, to search and rescue. It’s a ubiquitous helicopter when it comes to roles in the defense sector. Anyone who flies the Black Hawk knows that when it stops leaking hydraulic fluid, that’s when you have to worry. It can carry between 12 and 20 soldiers into battle and can lift 22,000 lbs. It was first used operationally in combat during the invasion of Grenada in 1983, and it’s been going strong ever since. The Watch: Marathon TSAR Cheap, chunky, and indestructible, the TSAR has been a mainstay in the inventory of issued watches of US forces over the past decade. Many models even feature the “US Government” markings on the dial in addition to the nuclear regulatory commision designation on the caseback. The watch has earned a stellar reputation by those to whom it has been issued to. It’s designed solely for utility, not looks. The tall case is meant to make it easy to operate the bezel with gloves on, and tritium tubes are employed for superior legibility and visibility in the dark. In short, it’s been a longstanding fixture in the military watch scene for good reason–it just works. The Link: The TSAR, like the Black Hawk, isn’t going to win any awards for looking good or being a hero. Neither draw a crowd. But those in the know will always choose these tools over the more sexy options.  (Marathon, Watch Maker for the Modern Military) The Aircraft: Lun-class Ekranoplan What makes this craft different from most on this list is that even though it has “wings”, it’s not an airplane, or airship even. It’s technically still just a standard maritime ship, because it only lifts about 13 feet off the water and flies in “ground effect”, meaning it takes advantage of reduced drag flying close to a fixed surface. In this case, the surface is the surface of the ocean. It’s essentially just a massive flying boat powered by eight turbofans mounted to canards near the bow of the ship. Flying in ground effect meant that unless the surface of the sea was steady, it simply couldn't fly, and that ultimately led to its demise. It’s an incredibly neat idea that’s also very Soviet–and it can certainly be debated whether or not it’s a good-looking craft or not.  The Watch: Hublot Big Bang  This is the model that’s most typically associated with Hublot, the brand that everyone loves to hate–and by most engineering and mechanical accounts, the watch is pretty strong. But most people agree–it has a very specific type of culture attached to it. The Link: Both the Ekranoplan and Hublot are loved by Russians, but that’s not all. They both had their mainstream time to shine decades ago, but still both have a small legion of loyal followers today that still live like it’s the heyday of the Ekranoplan and Hublot. But hey, they like what they like. SHOP NOW:  Five Eye Nylon Watch Strap

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A Second Seiko 6139 Chronograph In Outer Space

A Second Seiko 6139 Chronograph In Outer Space

The Watch Journey Of A Vietnam Fighter Pilot & Astronaut  by Nick Ferrell NASA Astronaut and US Air Force Colonel Richard Covey recalls the first...

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The Watch Journey Of A Vietnam Fighter Pilot & Astronaut  by Nick Ferrell NASA Astronaut and US Air Force Colonel Richard Covey recalls the first time he glimpsed the sunrise over the curvature of the Earth from 150 miles up in space, “I thought two things: First, ‘Holy Cow!’ This was followed by wonder at the thin protective film of the Earth’s atmosphere, the only thing differentiating it from millions of lifeless rocks floating throughout the universe.” On Covey’s wrist was not his NASA-issued Omega Speedmaster Professional, but a 1970s Seiko 6139 chronograph, serving as the second now-confirmed instance of one of the world’s first automatic chronographs being used as a tool by NASA astronauts in space. Colonel Covey during the September 1985 Discovery Space Shuttle STS-51 mission with a 1971 Seiko 6139-6002 ”Cevert” on his right wrist and a 1980s Seiko A289-6019 on his left. (Photo Credit: NASA) Until recently, the legendary “Pogue” 6139 worn by Colonel William Pogue on 1973’s Skylab 4 was considered the only documented case of a 6139 in space. That is until I came across a photo of Colonel Covey during a space mission with what appeared to be a Seiko 6139 on one wrist with another then-unidentified watch on the other. Intrigued, I started my research. After some OSINT sleuthing and outreach, the Colonel himself agreed to speak with me. The Air Force, Becoming A Pilot, & Air Combat In Vietnam Covey’s path to becoming a NASA astronaut began in 1964 after attending the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) and graduating with a degree in engineering. On his wrist upon arrival was cutting-edge watch tech for the day, an electronic Accutron 214 gifted by his family for high school graduation. Fascinated by all things rocketry, Covey was fortunate to find an Academy mentor to guide him toward his ultimate goal of flying in space as an astronaut. Colonel Richard Covey’s Accutron 214 Electric Watch (Photo Credit: Colonel Covey) In 1971, after graduating from the competitive USAFA-Purdue Aeronautics and Astronautics M.S. program as well as 18 months of jet pilot training in the F-100 Super Sabre supersonic fighter and A-37B Dragonfly subsonic light attack aircraft, Covey received orders to the Air Force’s 8th Special Operations Squadron (8th SOS). Following the Tet Offensive, the conflict in Vietnam continued to escalate. Covey knew he would be going to war. USAF A-37 Dragonfly, aka “Super Tweet” subsonic light attack jet (Photo Credit: Ken Hammond) After arriving at Bien Hoa AFB in South Vietnam, Covey primarily flew A-37B close-air support (CAS) sorties in support of the Cambodian Government against Khmer Rouge forces operating on the Ho Chi Minh trail. During his first tour, Covey purchased a Seiko 6139, the first automatic chronograph released only two years prior in 1969 alongside other pioneering automatic chronographs from brands like Heuer, Breitling, and Hamilton.  A Seiko 6139 “Cevert” similar to the one Covey purchased at a PX during his first deployment to Vietnam. (Photo Credit: DC Vintage Watches) When asked why he selected the watch — a blue-dialed Seiko 6139-6002 “Cevert” — he noted it was, “...an oversized watch that made it not only functional, but very distinctive.” He labeled the 6139 a go-to among fellow combat pilots during both Vietnam tours, because “It was wholly up to the pilots to pick what watches best served them.”  Covey, front row center wearing his 1971 Seiko 6139-6002 chronograph, poses with his 8th Special Operations Squadron, Bien Hoa Air Force Base, South Vietnam, 1971 (Photo Credit: Colonel Richard Covey) Also issued to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force in the 1970s, the 6139’s appeal wasn’t limited to military pilots, finding favor with French auto racing legend François Cevert (the source of the blue-dialed 6139’s “Cevert” nickname), Tetsu Ikuzawa, one of Japan’s most successful racing drivers, and even Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason.  A 1972 Seiko 6139-6002 chronograph and a Japanese Air Self-Defense Force-issued 1973 Seiko 6139-7012, w/official JASDF engravings on case back, alongside a NASA STS-26 flight patch (Photo Credit: DC Vintage Watches) In 1973, Covey arrived in Vietnam for his second deployment, this time with the storied 74th Tactical Fighter Squadron, flying CAS missions with the A-7D light attack jet. The Colonel noted this mission — which involved operating outside of Vietnam against Soviet and Chinese-supported allies in support of friendly governments — was held close to the chest and pilots were ordered not to speak about their missions.  USAAF A-7D Corsair light attack jets over Southeast Asia (Photo Credit: USAF) In total, Covey flew 339 combat missions, the majority being pre-planned strikes informed by all-source intelligence, including intel gathered by the highly secretive Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) that has its own prominent Seiko associations. Coincidentally, SOG operator and former Dispatch subject Michael “Magnet” O’Byrne and Covey, both of whom used Seiko watches, had overlapping tours, with a high likelihood some of Covey’s missions were informed by O’Byrne’s SOG team—small world.  Covey (standing) wearing his Seiko 6139-6002 at Bien Hoa AFB in South Vietnam alongside an A-37D Dragonfly. (Photo Credit: Colonel Richard Covey) Following his second tour in Vietnam, Covey, who still wore his 6139 every time he climbed into a cockpit, became a test pilot, flying F-4 Phantoms, A-7Ds, and F-15s until 1979 when he achieved his lifelong dream of joining NASA to become an astronaut.  NASA, Riding Explosions, & More Watches   Colonel Covey wearing his 1971 Seiko 6139-6002 chronograph, NASA flight line at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, 1978 (Photo Credit: NASA) After years of intensive training, Covey was assigned to his first space mission in 1985, serving as the pilot of Space Shuttle Discovery on Space Mission STS-51-I, tasked with deploying three communications satellites over seven days in space. Over 15 years including combat in Vietnam, flying as a test pilot, astronaut training, and his first space mission, Covey continued to reach for his Seiko 6139 — “I never took it off during that time.” This is all more impressive considering Covey was also the owner of an Omega Speedmaster Professional issued to him by NASA.  Intriguing, Covey’s Seiko 6139 had competition on his first space mission, with the astronaut also wearing a quartz-powered 1980s Seiko A829-6019, a watch he said was widely favored by numerous NASA astronauts at the time. One watch was for Houston time, the other for Mission Elapsed Time (MET). When I asked where his Omega was, Covey quipped astronauts of the day favored Seiko over other watches due to the exceptional capabilities offered by the venerable Japanese brand. As was the case with Air Force fighter pilots in Vietnam, astronauts were free to choose watches that best served the unique requirements of their mission. A 1970s Seiko 6139-6002 on a news article celebrating the successful 1988 Discovery STS-26 space mission. Covey is to the immediate right of VPOTUS George Bush. (Photo Credit: DC Vintage Watch)  Covey’s second space mission came in 1988 as the pilot of STS-26, again flying aboard the Discovery to deploy a TDRS-3 NASA space communications satellite. A somber mission crewed by space flight veterans, STS-26 was the first space flight following the Challenger disaster, an event that hit particularly close to home for Covey who served as the CAPCOM  – the astronaut on Earth who communicates with crew members in their spacecraft – for the astronauts who perished in the accident.  The crew of NASA’s STS-26 space mission, Colonel Covey front right wearing his 1980’s Seiko A289-6019, October 1988 (Photo Credit: NASA) Promoted to commander, Covey undertook two more space missions, STS-38 and STS-61, with some 16 days aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis (1990) and the Endeavour (1993). STS-38 caught my eye, given its classified payload for the Department of Defense. Aviation Week reported the mission was suspected of having launched an electronics intelligence (ELINT) satellite headed for geosynchronous orbit to monitor the Desert Shield and Desert Storm conflicts. Some speculated a second satellite was also deployed, with a stealthier mission to covertly inspect other nation's geostationary satellites (Covey – “no comment”). In 2004, NBC published more details about the second bird, seemingly confirming its secretive mission.  Actor Ed Harris playing NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz in the film Apollo 13, wearing a 1970s Seiko 6139 - this dial variant hadn’t debuted during the film’s timeline (Photo Credit: Universal Pictures) Were Apollo 13 (1995) film producers aware of Covey’s Seiko 6139? Ed Harris, as Flight Director Gene Kranz, wore one like Covey’s in the film. Who knows? After I joked the dark blue Seiko 6139 should be called “The Covey,” he noted he was aware of the gold-dialed Seiko 6139-6005 worn by astronaut Colonel William Pogue, aka “The Pogue” (also purchased at a PX) during his 1973 Skylab 4 space mission. Vintage advertisements for the Seiko 6139 and A829 favored by Covey and other astronauts. (Photo Credit: Seiko) While the Seiko 6139 accompanied Covey for his first space mission, his Seiko A829 served as his primary watch for all four of his space flights. (with his NASA-issued Omega Speedmaster as backup to his Seiko - the horror). Following his final space mission in 1993, Covey retired from the USAF and NASA in 1994 to work in several senior defense sector positions, ultimately retiring in 2010. Throughout Covey’s USAF and NASA career, he would be awarded dozens of medals, foremost being the DoD Distinguished Service Medal, five USAF Distinguished Flying Crosses (four in Vietnam with the A-37 Dragonfly, one for the classified STS-38 space mission), and the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement for STS-38. During his career, Covey flew over 5,700 hours in 30 airframes and traveled 4,433,772 miles in 163 orbits of the Earth over nearly 27 days. Today, the retired Colonel’s everyday watch is an Omega Speedmaster Professional X-33 gifted to Covey by Omega when it debuted in 1998.  Colonel Covey receives the United States National Intelligence Medal of Achievement for his contributions to NASA’s classified STS-38 space mission. (Photo Credit: Colonel Richard Covey) But where are Covey’s space-flown watches Seiko watches today? Unfortunately, his Seiko A829 and NASA-issued Omega Speedmaster were stolen during a 1990’s break-in along with a two-tone Rolex Datejust. I also asked where his dark blue Seiko 6139 was now. “It wasn’t lost in the break-in, and I am certain I have it somewhere… My curiosity will lead me to look hard for it.” A few weeks later, Covey reached out to me, “Look what I found! If you hadn’t reminded me, I would not have remembered this is a space-flown watch.”  Colonel Covey’s February 1971 Seiko 6139-6002 chronograph, w/original “presidential” stainless-steel Seiko bracelet. (Photo Credit: Colonel Richard Covey) Despite the attention often falling on Omega where space travel is concerned, Covey’s story again illustrates the permeating influence of Seiko among military, intelligence professionals, and even astronauts. With an incredible career as a pilot as well as serving as a NASA astronaut and even making his mark on the world of espionage, Colonel Covey embodies the “Use Your Tools” ethos while reminding us that not every been-there-done-that watch has to cost an arm and a leg.  If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. READ NEXT: "Let's Roll" - A Hero's Rolex Frozen In Time - September 11, 2001 About The Author: Nick Ferrell is a vintage watch dealer and founder of Los Angeles-based DC Vintage Watches and the Sycamore watch line. He is a former U.S. diplomat and intelligence community member, and previously served on the National Security Council. When not obsessing over watches, he is an avid reader of, well, everything. DCVW’s Instagram account is @DCVintageWatches.

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Bribes & Operational Gifts  - The Role Of Timepieces In Clandestine Operations

Bribes & Operational Gifts - The Role Of Timepieces In Clandestine Operations

Using Watches To Make Friends, Exert Influence, & Recruit Spies The job of a CIA Case Officer (C/O), or Operations Officer, is to recruit spies...

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Using Watches To Make Friends, Exert Influence, & Recruit Spies The job of a CIA Case Officer (C/O), or Operations Officer, is to recruit spies and steal secrets. The core competency of a C/O is building relationships with individuals (targets) and ultimately recruiting them to provide Foreign Intelligence on their host government/organization in return for financial remuneration. The trade is not for the faint-hearted, one prized quality of a C/O is the ability to manipulate an individual to further the National Security interests of the United States. We have discussed the operational role of timepieces in espionage, but they can also play a role in the agent recruitment cycle—the transition of an individual from a target to a recruited asset (aka spy). Espionage is a human business and watches are transferable stores of value that have personal meaning—these traits make them effective tools of intelligence tradecraft. Recruitment Process (Photo Credit: James Rupley) In Hollywood, CIA’s recruitment often happens in one dramatic meeting and generally involves a large stack of cash and/or blackmail. In reality, the agent recruitment cycle is more attuned to dating, lasting months and often years. The most successful examples are not transactional, they are real mutually beneficial relationships built on trust. At CIA, the recruitment process is framed with the acronym: SADRAT Spot - Identify a target who may have access to Foreign Intelligence (FI) of strategic or tactical interest to the US Government. He—they are generally men—may be a North Korean intelligence officer, an Iranian nuclear scientist, or a fixer for a non-state terror network. Assess for Access & Suitability - Learn as much about the individual as possible through all means available. Does he have motivations or vulnerabilities that would make him susceptible to a CIA approach? Does he have children who want to go to college in the United States? An ailing mother who needs medical care? Or maybe he's just disenchanted with his employer, has a gambling addiction, or some other vulnerability that can be exploited.  Develop - Make contact with the target. It may be a chance encounter at a diplomatic function, an unsuspecting “bump” at the gym, or a “cold call” asking the individual to meet for a credible but contrived reason. Build a real and lasting relationship with the target to further inform your assessment. Gradually and methodically transition the relationship from casual to real and slowly introduce clandestine tradecraft.  Recruit - Formally ask the individual to enter a relationship with CIA. Most of the time, this is an anti-climactic moment as the asset believed he started working for CIA in the developmental phase. Agent Handle - Clandestinely “handle” the agent to produce regular FI. At this point, it is no longer a personal relationship, but a formal relationship between the asset and the US Government. The agent should be responsive to tasking and fill intelligence gaps in return for a salary. The asset may be transitioned to a new handling officer during a “turnover.” Terminate - In the movies this involves a bullet to the head or piano wire around the neck. While this may be true for some services (ahem Russia’s FSB), at CIA we want our “terminations” to be firm and final but cordial.  We want the asset to think fondly of the relationship, be treated fairly, and leave the door open for potential recontact in the future. (Photo Credit: James Rupley) Watches As Operational Gifts The recruitment cycle is slow and methodical, and the core step is the development of a Subject, which can last months or years. There are specific milestones a “developmental” must meet before moving to the next stage. At first, the acceptance of an expensive meal may be an indicator but over time, these financial benefits increase. A timepiece, whether luxury or affordable, is an ideal gift. It’s immediately recognizable, and it’s something that the agent can wear as a constant reminder of the friendship with the Case Officer and thus the greater relationship with the US Government. Further, the soon-to-be agent’s acceptance of an expensive gift from an American official is a strong indication that the individual is willing to move in the direction of a clandestine relationship. Most governments, including the US, have regulations that gifts should be reported and forfeited if accepted (or purchased from the government at a fair market value). If the developmental accepts the gift and does not report it, he has demonstrated that he is willing to break a rule for the personal benefit of himself and the relationship. It’s testing the waters for a future cash payment. (Photo Credit: James Rupley) Of course, when he or she accepts the watch, the Case Officer must work with the target to develop an appropriate cover story regarding the watch’s origin. A brand new Rolex Daytona on the wrist of a Russian Third Secretary would be difficult to explain, but a Seiko 5 costing a couple of hundred bucks could easily be explained away. Real World Examples  As a CIA Case Officer, I provided several watches to assets and developmentals during my career and they were effective tools to further the relationship. While the specifics of these cases remain classified, there are several examples available in the public domain and evidence that CIA isn’t the only service leveraging this technique. Saudi Intelligence, Hublot, & Twitter Ahmad Abouammo leaving Alameda County Santa Rita Jail in 2019 after his arrest. In 2022, Abouammo was sentenced to 42 months in federal prison for acting as a foreign agent. (Photo Credit: NBC News) In December 2014, Twitter employee Ahmad Abouammo met with an official of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in London and was given a Hublot Big Bang Unico King watch valued at $42,000, per Department of Justice (DOJ). Abouammo was a Media Partnerships Manager for the Middle East region and after the meeting, Abouammo provided information to “identify and locate Twitter users of interest to the Saudi Royal Family.” Mohammad Bin Salman with Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Montauk Highway. While the DOJ indictment described the watch as a "bribe," in reality, it was an operational gift provided by the Saudi Official (presumably an intelligence officer) to further the clandestine relationship. According to the DOJ, Twitter has a policy that employees report gifts such as expensive timepieces, which Abouammo did not. His acceptance of the gift was an indication that he was willing to move in the direction of a clandestine relationship, which he ultimately did. He would continue to meet with Saudi officials and provide sensitive information. In 2015 he established a bank account in Lebanon in which he received at least $200,000 in remuneration. At that point, he was recruited. Hublot Big Bang Unico King, described by Abouammo to the FBI as “plasticky” and “junky” To convert that timepiece to money, Abouammo flew back to the US with the Hublot and reportedly tried to sell this watch on Craigslist for $20,000, creating an electronic trail of the gift, one piece of evidence that ultimately led to his conviction. Abouammo would later tell the FBI the Hublot was "plasticky" and "junky."  To learn more about this process read our piece on Watches as Tools of Money Laundering and Illicit Finance.   Watches As Asset Payments  FBI Agent Turned Russian Spy Robert Hanssen FBI Special Agent Robert Hanssen was recruited by Soviet intelligence services and ran on and off for over 20 years until he was arrested in February 2001 servicing a dead drop in Virginia.  He was directly responsible for the deaths of several US assets and was described by the DOJ as "the most damaging spy in FBI history.”  According to the DOJ, Hanssen received at least two Rolex watches from his Russian handlers as forms of payment. In total, Hanssen received more than $1.4 million in cash, bank funds, and diamonds. Above is Robert Hanssen's “Rolex” and handcuffs at the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. Interestingly, the watch is fake, which some may say is fitting for a turncoat like Hanssen.  According to those who knew him, Hanssen was a watch collector and the FBI seized two other Rolexes when he was arrested. The Spy Museum also has at least one real TAG Heuer belonging to Hanssen not on display. Was the fake watch provided by Russian Intelligence? We can only speculate. CIA Case Officer Harold James Nicholson, A Rolex, & Russian SVR CIA Case Officer Jim Nicholson was arrested in November 1996 for spying for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and was dubbed the "Rolex-wearing spy nicknamed Batman." He was infamously photographed wearing a t-shirt that said “KGB is for me,” the irony of which is not lost.  According to a Washington Post article, Nicholson was then the highest-ranking CIA officer arrested under espionage charges and provided classified information including the “personal data on many if not all of the young CIA officers whom he helped train from 1994 to 1996.” At the time, CIA Case Officers were not known for their fashion and Nicholson reportedly developed expensive tastes including tailored suits and watches. During one overseas trip, he returned with a new “silver” Rolex watch.  While unconfirmed that this was a direct payment from the Russian SVR, there are indications that if not given then he purchased this or another watch with funds provided by his handling officer. Rolex also played a role in his tradecraft and was reportedly his visual recognition signal when meeting his Russian handlers. He was instructed to "wear his Rolex on his right wrist and carry a magazine and shopping bag." When he was arrested by the FBI at Dulles, FBI "Agents bent Jim over the trunk of the car, spreading his legs and frisking him. They stripped him of his wallet, Rolex, and shoulder bag." - The Spy’s Son. Liaison In addition to the use of timepieces in unilateral clandestine operations, watches make effective tools as gifts to create and solidify ties between intelligence services. We previously documented an example of a European intelligence service presenting a CIA Paramilitary Officer with a timepiece to commemorate operational success, but this tradition extends back to the earliest days of CIA. The Dalai Lama is a known watch enthusiast (Photo Credit: Patrick Leahy) In 1943, Ilia Tolstoy and Brooke Dolan, both members of CIA’s predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), presented the Dalai Lama with a Patek Philippe reference 658 on behalf of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Reportedly, the purpose of the gift was to win the Dalai Lama’s support for a potential road through Tibet into China to assist the Chinese in fighting the Japanese. The watch clearly had meaning for the Dalai Lama and is something he still carries today. While it is tempting to separate the gifts to and from “liaison,” a colloquial term to capture third-country intelligence services that work jointly with CIA, in the wilderness of mirrors of espionage, you are always assessing your partners for recruitment, and vice versa.  If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE. READ NEXT: CIA Officer’s Love Affair with the Arabic Seiko *This article has been reviewed by the CIA's Prepublication Classification Review Board to prevent the disclosure of classified information.

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Bezels & Blades - Tools With A Purpose

Bezels & Blades - Tools With A Purpose

Timepieces & Watches Have Deep Meaning In The NatSec Community Ask any self-respecting watch nerd what passions pair with timepieces and you will inevitably hear...

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Timepieces & Watches Have Deep Meaning In The NatSec Community Ask any self-respecting watch nerd what passions pair with timepieces and you will inevitably hear about Porsche, Leica cameras, and Negroni-flavored toothpaste. Like any community, watch enthusiasts have coalesced around several big personalities (tastemakers) who set the aspirational standards of success: a vintage Paul Newman Rolex Daytona poking out of a cashmere Loro Piana sweater while driving an air-cooled Porsche 911 to the country club with a chilled Negroni in the cup holder. Some say it’s pretentious. For our community, watches are tools, functional items we integrate into our daily lives. Meant to last a lifetime and be passed down to the next generation, their “value” isn’t monetary, it's derived from our shared experiences with these inanimate objects. The interest is the human element. There are a lot of parallels between our relationship with timepieces and knives. Today we’ll explore. (Photo Credit: James Rupley) Bezels & Blades I have written about my relationship with knives from an EDC standpoint while at CIA (READ HERE), and it’s true that the essentials for every Case Officer generally include a watch, pen, knife, and flashlight. Every CIA Case Officer's EDC should include a pokey thing. For generations, soldiers and intelligence officers have deployed around the globe to carry out vital national security operations. While the tradecraft, technology, and locations evolve over time, two things present with every practitioner both then and now are a simple wristwatch and a knife. Yarborough, Ka-Bar, and Fairbairn-Sykes are as iconic in our community as Submariner, Tuna, and Seamaster. When we return from these conflicts our blades are talismans, physical embodiments of the people, hardship and accomplishments we encountered. Their value is more than the sum of their parts. Even a simple and relatively cheap Spyderco can be an heirloom.  UDT Issued Tudor Submariner and SOG Knife (Photo Credit: UDT/SEAL Museum) Today everything is perishable: phones, computers, cars, and even spouses are replaced every few years. Most of these commodities are plastic and digital, and there are few functional tools capable of being used for decades and passed down to the next generation. No one needs a mechanical watch, premium knife, or titanium pen, but we use them because of what they represent and the stories they tell.   Knifemakers & Watchmakers Just as we do with watches, we appreciate blades for their utility, but also their design and craftsmanship. Like a good watchmaker, knifemakers are hyper-focused on details. They obsess over design, materials, and aesthetics to create a premium functional tool. These are purpose-built tools, not collectibles or fashion accessories. (Photo Credit: James Rupley) Knives In The Global War On Terror One positive consequence of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan is veteran-driven entrepreneurship. Many of these companies focus on utilitarian items with deep meaning to their community: coffee, watches, and particularly knives. Former Navy SEAL Andrew Arrabito founded Half Face Blades, Marine turned knifemaker Connor Toor founded Toor Knives, and a plethora of other former SpecOps personnel have directed their energy to the craft. Legendary knifemakers like Ernest Emerson and Daniel Winkler worked closely with elite units to develop tools for our community. The result of each of these efforts is a tool with both utility and meaning that transcends the physical object.  Connor Toor, Marine turned knifemaker and founder of Toor Corporation. (Photo Credit: Toor Corporation)  Similar to our approach to timepieces, when it comes to knives, we are brand agnostic and support a wide range of knifemakers, particularly those that focus on made-in-America and the community. The “knife community” is just as tribal as the “watch community” with online forums dissecting every detail and material to support “their brand.” The Best Knives (& Watches) Are Gifts Like watches, the best knives start their journey as gifts. When King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan gave me a Royal Jordanian Breitling, he also presented a Jordanian combat knife, a blend of the traditional Jambiya dagger (جنۢبية) and a modern weapon, with "The Arab Army" (al-Jaysh al-Arabiالجيش العربي) inscribed on the blade. Like the Breitling, which accompanied me for over a decade of Agency operations, the blade is a treasured keepsake, something I will pass on to my children when the time comes. While some cultures see this practice as taboo, signifying the severing of a friendship or wishing ill on the recipient, the symbolic meaning of gifting a knife is profound. This is particularly true in military and intelligence circles where deployments, graduations, and joint operations are often commemorated with knives. The Yarborough knife is one notable example, having historically been gifted to graduates of the U.S. Army Special Forces Qualification Course. (Photo Credit: Unknown) Father & Son - A Right Of Passage When I was eight years old, my father gave me a simple Swiss Army knife. It cost next to nothing but at the time it meant everything to me. It was more than “just a knife”, it was a symbol of responsibility and a milestone towards reaching manhood, a lesson in consequences. Today, the knife is long gone, but an inch-long scar remains on my left pointer finger. I have carried on this tradition, presenting my sons knives at specific milestones in their lives, and will give them watches as they get older. When I graduated from university, my father gave me my first real timepiece, a Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Hometime. At the time, I didn’t realize its significance, but in hindsight, it was a pivotal moment in my life and a lesson in appreciation of time. While I wear the watch less today, it bears the scars of over a decade of hard use (something not necessarily advisable for a JLC dress watch). Former CIA Officer J.R. Seeger’s collection of military-issued watches and OSS memorabilia (Photo Credit: J.R. Seeger) This tradition and its deep ties to our community are what led us to develop our knife, the Mosebey Blade. It’s a functional tool that is appreciated for its utility, craftsmanship, and aesthetics. The Mosebey Blade is a tool for the discerning gentleman, “a PhD who can win a bar fight,” named after one of the most legendary Africa Division CIA Case Officers. Bill “Bwana” Mosebey  Every tool we make comes with a history lesson. Our inaugural knife is named after Bill “Bwana” Mosebey, a legendary Africa Division Case Officer you’ve probably never heard of.  The Most Dangerous Man In Africa Born in 1938 in Pennsylvania, Mosebey was the great-grandson of Civil War spy William Leslie Mosebey. Before joining the CIA in 1959, Mosebey joined the US Army as a reservist, earning his airborne wings before completing special operations training. An agency legend during the Cold War, Mosebey spent the majority of his 34-year CIA career on “The Continent” conducting intelligence collection and covert action against the Soviet Union. Developing a reputation as “The Most Dangerous Man In Africa”, Mosebey earned numerous awards for his service including The William J. Donovan Award and the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, our Nation’s highest for intelligence officers. Retiring in 1995, Mosebey rejoined the agency in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11th, 2001.  Known for his tailored safari suits and waxed mustache, Mosebey was also an avid outdoorsman, woodsman, and historian, and spent considerable time hunting while on assignment for the CIA around the world. Never one for the spotlight, Mosebey single-handedly influenced geopolitics while serving as the consummate quiet professional, a classic gentleman who lived a life of adventure and service to his nation.  Our blade is a tribute to unsung heroes of the intelligence community like Mosebey, produced from the highest quality materials for a unique marriage of utility and refinement that embodies our “Use Your Tools” ethos.  The Mosebey Blade (Photo Credit: James Rupley) The result of a nine-month development effort, the Mosebey is a fully customized all-purpose blade made in the USA from premium domestic materials. We made no compromises on the design or craftsmanship of this unique tool for our community. Presented as a limited edition, each blade is individually numbered and serialized. Inspired by the design of a one-off blade W.O.E. purchased while living in Africa, we worked with Marine veteran turned knife maker Connor Toor to bring our tool to life. As with most of our tools, the branding is subtle with a deep laser-engraved W.O.E. spearhead on the blade and another inside the leather sheath. The spearhead is modeled off the insignia originally developed by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and used by modern-day intelligence and SpecOps units. The Mosebey Blade Order Here RELEASES 21 MAY, 6 PM ET If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for our weekly free newsletter for further updates HERE.

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The Seiko Found In The Wreckage Of A Spy Ship And North Korean Covert Operations

The Seiko Found In The Wreckage Of A Spy Ship And North Korean Covert Operations

A Seiko Dive Watch 7548 - 7000 was recovered from the wreckage of a North Korean Spy Ship after the Battle of Amami-Ōshima. Where did...

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A Seiko Dive Watch 7548 - 7000 was recovered from the wreckage of a North Korean Spy Ship after the Battle of Amami-Ōshima. Where did it come from and what does it tell us about North Korean Covert Action? At CIA, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is known as one of the “big four,” along with Russia, China, and Iran. The big four (five with Cuba sometimes included) are “hard target” countries that represent a particular challenge for traditional intelligence collection. Kim Jong Un wearing an IWC Portofino. (Photo Credit: Unknown) Hollywood will often relegate North Korean intelligence officers, primarily the Reconnaissance Bureau of the General Staff Department (RGB), as comedic bumbling amateurs, but we learned to never underestimate our adversaries. The Hermit Kingdom has been successful in projecting power well beyond its borders, including the 1987 bombing of Korean Air Flight 858 killing 115 people with a bomb in the overhead bin, the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures in response to the upcoming film The Interview, kidnapping dozens of Japanese citizens off the beach, and notably the 2017 assassination of Kim Jong Nam with a VX nerve agent in the Kuala Lumpur airport. Operatives have been particularly effective at conducting covert action and subversion activities in neighboring waters surrounding Japan and South Korea. A Seiko In A North Korean Spy Ship The Seiko 7548 - 7000 recovered from the Changyu 3705. (Photo Credit: Instagram: @thewristplorer & Japan Coast Guard Museum Yokohama)  A Seiko on display in a museum located in Japan is nothing out of the ordinary. Seiko itself even maintains a public museum in Tokyo’s shopping district, Ginza, where notable watches from the brand are on display. These watches are part of the larger story of Japanese horology, otaku culture, and all that comes with it.  Drive 30 minutes by car to the south, just outside the metropolis of Tokyo, there’s a Seiko diver sitting in a glass case at the Japan Coast Guard Museum Yokohama. It’s crusted in sea salt and flotsam-filled grime, and its bezel insert is nowhere to be found. This watch, in particular, a ref. 7548 - 7000, while horologically interesting, is part of a much different story, the story of relations between the nations of Japan and North Korea, often characterized by hostility and tension. Sometimes a watch has multiple stories to tell — be it of horological significance, the course of nations, or in this case, both. December 21st, 2001 - The Waters Of Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan The Changyu 3705 shortly before being fired upon by the Japan Coast Guard. (Photo Credit: Japan Coast Guard) The Japanese Defense Intelligence Headquarters was picking up unusual signals from a communication station in Kikaijima, a small island in the Amami archipelago, far away from any major metropolitan area of Japan. The subtropical archipelago sits about 130 miles north of Okinawa. The communications caused what looked like a fishing trawler to come under investigation by the Japan Coast Guard. Four vessels were deployed to ascertain the ship’s intentions — benign or nefarious. The ship was issued a warning to halt. It did not comply. It resembled a fishing vessel, common in these waters. But breaking an official order certainly was uncommon. This was a fushin-sen, or “suspicious ship”, after all. Following established escalation procedures, the Japan Coast Guard fired 25 warning shots across the bow of the boat. Normally that would be enough to persuade even the most recalcitrant fishing trawler — possibly using illegal techniques to harvest fish — to cut its engine and allow the Coast Guard to board for inspection. Instead, the ship in question started performing evasive maneuvers and increasing its speed to 33 knots — staggeringly fast for a trawler. Japan’s Special Boarding Unit was established as a response to repeated spy ship incursions into Japanese waters. (Photo Credit: Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force) Meanwhile, the Japan Coast Guard had readied its Special Boarding Unit, known as the Tokubetsukeibitai, in case the situation reached a point where it would be needed. Instead of heeding the warning shots, the trawler fired back and a firefight ensued. It was equipped with light and heavy machine guns and the occupants of the ship utilized rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) to return fire to the Japan Coast Guard vessel. Later, Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) and a double-barrel ZPU-2 anti-aircraft weapons system would be found aboard. Bullet holes on the recovered wreck of the Changyu 3705, now on display at the Japan Coast Guard Museum Yokohama. (Photo Credit: Japan Coast Guard Museum Yokohama) The ship was no ordinary fishing vessel, it was a North Korean spy ship, later identified as the Changyu 3705. It was meticulously disguised as a fishing trawler with Chinese characters painted on its hull. Everyone aboard the North Korean vessel perished when the ship sank; a few bodies were recovered, while the majority went missing. It was unclear if it was Japanese rounds that sent it to the bottom of the East China Sea or if the crew scuttled it, but roughly six hours after warning shots were fired, the North Korean vessel became a s