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Vintage military watches are one of the most interesting sub-sets of timepiece collecting. For many collectors, they encapsulate the essence of "tool watch" in their most elemental form, if for no other reason than they were built to withstand the rigors of combat in the harshest environments possible. Their stark designs were universally practical and rugged, and exude a kind of toughness that may often be imitated, but is never equalled by fashion retailers.
Smiths is a brand that might be eclipsed by other producers of military watches like Hamilton, Benrus, or the "Dirty Dozen" of World War II fame. And yet Smiths had a long and celebrated history of producing watches and instruments in England, including dashboard clocks and gauges for various British automobiles. A Smiths even traveled to Everest (some would argue to the summit itself on the wrist of Edmund Hillary).
Smiths was the last surviving British watch company to manufacture watches entirely in the UK. From the 1950s until the company was shuttered in the 70s, Smiths supplied watches to the Ministry of Defense. The W10 aviators' watches are the most iconic of these, being issued from the late 60s until the company closed. Like the JLC or IWC Mark XI aviators' watches, the W10 aviators' watches had to meet a rigorously-enforced set of standards issued by the Ministry of Defense. In addition to being anti-magnetic and dust-proof, the watches had to be water-resistant to a depth of twenty feet.
Its caliber 60466E movement, with an anti-magnetic dust cover, takes design inspiration from the antimagnetic and dust-proof Jaeger-LeCoultre movement found in the Mark XI. However, it was the last serially-produced British-made movement. Unfortunately, when Smiths ran into financial trouble at the close of the 1970s, the British government refused their request for financial aid (instead giving money, or so the legend goes, to John DeLorean), and the brand ceased operations, bringing the era of British watchmaking to a close.
While the design of the W10--with its black dial, white Arabic numerals, and luminous (tritium) hands--was carried on by manufacturers like Hamilton, there is nothing to equal the English-made Smiths W10. This W10 is true survivor, with a 35mm case and long lugs, and has an incredible backstory that you can recount to everyone who spots the Smiths on your wrist. Unlike the multitude of "vintage military style" wristwatches available from a growing number of fashion retailers, the Smiths W10 is the real deal, a testament to the endurance of the W10 design and the toughness of authentic military watches.
Stainless steel case is approximately 35mm (excluding crown). Calibre 60446E manual-winding movement. Circa 1968
Overall condition: Stainless steel case is in excellent condition, showing no major blemishes or signs of over-polishing. Dial is in very good condition, with crisp printing. Hands have been repainted, but the dial is otherwise untouched. The luminescent elements on the dial have patinated evenly. Unsigned crown; original case back bears military engravings. Fixed spring bars.
Includes two 18mm nylon straps from Crown & Buckle