When it comes to being in the middle of nature, surrounded by water, land or sheep, all you need from a watch – durability aside – is the time. Simple and uncomplicated, it’s why the field watch remains the timepiece of choice for casual watch wearers with a sense of adventure. With that in mind, Mike Christensen took the latest Farer Field Watch collection out for some winter waves and fresh air down on England’s Jurassic Coast, to see how it fared.
The elements, the seasons, the warmth, the cold, the skies, the terrain, the rain, the snow, the wind, the sun. The browns, the greens, the silvers, the blues, the whites, the yellows. The air, the space, the depths, the hills, the oceans, the woods, the leaves, the wilderness. The touches, the smells, the sights, the noises, the silence, the tastes, the thirst, the hunger, the senses. The rest, the thinking time, the freedom, the serenity.
Beyond the realities of parenthood and work, can you tell I am a bit of an outdoorsy person? I was brought up to thrive in the great outdoors – climbing trees, digging holes, exploring woods and jumping into the lakes, rivers and oceans that we often frequented. That all rubbed off and now being immersed in nature, when time doesn’t matter, is a daily prerequisite for however long I can manage.
When life offers me free time, I spend nearly all of it out running in the countryside or in the ocean surfing. Of late, I’ve also become more accustomed to long, slow walks replete with no phone and eyes open to the world. Each gives me a thrill as well as the creative licence to think clearly – and the commonality these three pastimes share? A need to tell the time.
Classic, non-flashy field watches will always be a popular timepiece among watch wearers, whether you’re a serious collector, a one-piece kinda guy or, like me, a somewhere in-betweener.
By definition, a field watch is a simple military watch, made to do one thing: tell the time accurately. That principle appeals to my primitive love of the outdoors, as well as my uncomplicated taste in horology. Don’t get me wrong, I get a buzz from seeing the most technical aspects of watchmaking, but when it comes to what’s on my own wrist, in many respects my taste is pared back.
Of course, the significance of the field watch’s remarkable and esteemed history should never be underestimated. While pocket watches made all the difference in World War One, it was field watches whose contribution cannot be played down in WWII. Known as the “watch that won the war” in America and W. W. W. (Wrist. Watch. Waterproof) in the UK, the field watch is a stickler for the dictionary definition of function over form, while still being extremely pleasing on the eye for people like myself.
With iterations of the A-11 model, the likes of Hamilton and Bulova are the godfathers of the Field if you like, and it’s worth remembering when we admire our field watches today that less than 100 years ago this easy-to-read and extremely versatile design, in all its glorious precision, was used to synchronise air and ground forces at war.
In that respect, I like my watches to perform their sole telling-the-time purpose. I like my watches to feel worn, to have a bit of character and to wear a few cuts and bruises on them, which is why, newsflash, I like field watches. They are made to be durable and waterproof, more often than not with a stainless-steel casing, and that suits my active lifestyle – my battlefield is outdoors among the elements.
At 38.5mm, the new Farer Field pieces are plenty big enough to glance down at tell the time, whether I’m running, climbing or waiting for the next set of waves to approach. There is no extra fuss or features to the design and, at a time where watches are becoming increasingly more complex and complicated in their technology, I welcome the simplicity of them.
Farer’s core values lie in adventure being universally accessible to everyone and its watches are intended to be specific to their original purpose. For example, pilot watches are made to fly in, divers to dive in and in the case of the field watch, “it’s literally meant to be used as a for-everything watch,” says Farer’s CEO Paul Sweetenham.
“We do all the real adventures with our watches,” says Sweetenham. “For us, it’s a very important illustration that the watch is meant to be used on your journey, collect scars and all that good stuff.” Farer’s Field Watch is genuinely versatile, with three straps at the point of sale and I like the date indicator, too.
Where Farer really tickles my fancy is in its perky aesthetic. I don’t know what it says about me but I favour a dial that stands out a bit. I want to show off a flash of colour on my wrist. and all three iterations of Farer’s Field Watch offer such an opportunity; Exmoor in olive green, Lomond in exquisite blue and Pembroke in white with a navy blue sector dial. I took each one on a mini adventure to see which I prefer.
If there is any positive to come out of the Coronavirus, it’s my U-turn of going for long walks. Pre-pandemic me would lament the inefficiency of a walk over a run, but walking has recalibrated me and enabled me to slow everything down. It’s also enabled me to look around to better appreciate my surroundings and be more curious and inquisitive about nature – all of it. What type of tree is that? Is that mushroom edible? What animal footprints are they?
Wearing the Lomond, what started as a leisurely wander turned into a bit of a surf recce – jumping over barbed wire and fences to stumble across a secret surf spot. The heaven’s opened, it poured with rain, winds were gusting but down below protected by a bowl of sheer cliffs, I found the most idyllic spot to surf. The Horween leather strap fared nicely in the stormy weather, and is exactly the kind of wear I want a my watch to have. The tide was due to start coming in so checking the time, I knew the race was on to reach the surf for the best possible waves.
Every surfer will know the feeling, but en-route to a session when you’re so eager to get in the water, duck dive that first set then paddle into your first wave, something quite childlike overcomes you and you just want to run. The adrenaline rush has me instinctively checking my wrist for the time, not wanting to lose a minute – because perfect surf conditions can turn on their head in a split second – quite literally. You are beholden to the elements, and I love that about surfing – it’s like no other sport in that respect. Usually, I’ll know how much time I can be in the water for, and the time is very readable on the Pembroke’s matte white and navy blue sector dial. All it needs is a glance to know. I’m also safe in the knowledge that it offers 200 metres of water resistance, so nothing is going to stand in the way of me catching some waves.
With every surf, especially in the British winter, there comes a time where the cold seeps through the thick wetsuit, your shoulders are spent, the light may be fading, the tide is too high and your quest for “one last wave” is up. But that’s the beauty of surfing; there’s always next time.
The only thing more freedom-inducing that running in the wilderness, is running in the wilderness without the burden of checking your pace and minutes per kilometre. There is a time and a place for my Strava-linked Garmin to dictate play, but scaling England’s green and pleasant undulating coastal paths wasn’t one of them. Like I’ve already mentioned, I like a watch to serve its primary purpose well, and for that I had the Exmoor to ensure I wouldn’t land myself a parking ticket by trailing running for too long.
It’s a sartorial preference but I do like it when my watch matches the elements I’m immersed in and on this particular overcast Jurassic Coast afternoon, the olive green went a fair way to matching the largely untrodden greenery I was able to stretch out my legs and open my lungs on. Which leaves me to say two more things about Farer’s Field Watch; one, it has a lovely pair of lugs on it, sitting comfortably on my wrist with no irritation as I run. And two, thanks to the lume-flecked hands, I was back to the car in good time – the Swiss-made Sellita SW221-1 automatic movement doing its job admirably. Maybe next time, I’ll attempt to outrun the 38-hour power reserve. Who’s keen?
My pick of the three is the olive green Exmoor. As well as the olive, elements of orange, yellow and air force blue make it really pop for me. Aside from retaining the clear Farer DNA, it’s clean and functional which are the key qualities to this trusty ol’ field watch.
For a closer look at Farer’s Field collection, be sure to listen to the dulcet tones of Nick Kenyon’s video review.
Made in partnership with Farer. However, the opinions expressed in this article are our own in accordance with our Editorial Policy.