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 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

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"

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

Toyota Hilux terrorists

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

Casio F-91W Osama Bin Laden

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

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
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

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

Watches of Espionage Tudor
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)

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

Panerai PAM02973
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

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

969 Quartz Astron 50th Anniversary Limited Edition
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

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

Bradley Fighting Vehicle

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

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

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. 

Expedition Seiko
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

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

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

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

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. 


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Been rocking the Citizen Garrison, a solar powered derivative of the US WW2 watch, the Hamilton, for over 6 years. Never had to change the battery and 1/4 the cost. Same heritage.


Re Marc Shimonkevitz; vehicles – A number of years ago, there was a news story about a US plumbing contractor who traded in his Ford 4×4 work truck (with business name and phone number on the side) and bought/leased a new vehicle. A few months later, the old truck was spotted in battle in Western Asia – still wearing the decals from his plumbing business in the USA. The poor guy began getting hate-voice mails. I believe he even got a visit from some national security folks – poor guy had no idea. Seems the trade-in was legitimate, but the myriad of paths beyond the dealership was complex. In short – one never knows; take your name off the car when you trade it in!!


Nice article.

I am fully aware of how the UN, other agencies get their Toyota Hiluxes (Gibraltar Toyota distributor). So how do the bad guys get them? Are they really capturing or taking over that many abandoned Toyotas?

I know the story of the Abbey Gate technical (actually and FJ78, I think, not a Hilux). That was abandonded, our boys grabbed it, and the rest is literally history (it was broughr to the Pentagon to go on display).

Are they all stolen/captured/abandoned? Is there a black market for these trucks?

I have always wondered about their sourcing.

Mark H Shimonkevitz

Another amazing article to read in the library instead of doing my college stuff. I would have compared the G-Wagon “ Wolf ” with the Sinn UX S GSG9 but the rest is on point, especially the Vostok and Astron.

High quality article like usual.

Watches of Science

Budget minded follower here (father of 3 with 2 in college…) – we do a lot of upland bird hunting and scouting trips – going to vote for the F91W and an old Ford Escape …. (LOL) … great article as always. Look forward to the next.

Warren G

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