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The 7 best MIL-SPEC watches under $5,000 The 7 best MIL-SPEC watches under $5,000

The 7 best MIL-SPEC watches under $5,000

Borna Bošnjak

The watch world’s connection with military life is unequivocal. Even though “MIL-SPEC” – the abbreviation for military specification – has become more and more of a marketing term in recent years, it actually holds meaning, pertaining to a particular set of quality standards for a given application. Whether this means a specific water-resistance rating, type of crystal or spring-bar set-up, inevitable features include excellent legibility and a degree of simplicity. We’ll disregard the fact that these “standards” tend to require the items to be as easy on the military budgets as possible. So here are our favourite, and by extension the best, MIL-SPEC watches.

Bulova Classic Hack Military

Honouring the watches provided to WWII troops, the Bulova Hack stays true to some of its military heritage, though changes just enough to freshen things up. With a stark blue dial offset by the flash of the red seconds hand, its 37mm size certainly harks back to the 32mm of the original. Powered by a hacking Miyota 8S20 calibre, it’s an affordable field-watch option. Price: A$550

Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm

There’s not much to say that you won’t already know when it comes to the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical. Manually wound, with 24-hour markings on a legible, black dial, this is one of the most popular picks not only for a field watch, but for any watch at this price point overall. The 38mm case contains Hamilton’s H-50 movement with 80 hours of power reserve, and the 20mm lug width make it super versatile in terms of strap options. Price: A$750 from the T+T Shop

CWC Mellor-72 Mechanical

The Cabot Watch Company Mellor-72 is a tribute to the very first watch the company produced for the British Ministry of Defence, originally issued to the Army, Navy and Air Force trifecta. Powered by a hand-wound Sellita in a 38mm case, the simple dial has printed Arabics and a broad arrow insignia, while the strap is held in place by fixed spring bars. Price: £400

Tornek-Rayville TR-660

These days, you may be inclined to sell a kidney, your first-born or both to pick up a vintage TR-900 or period-correct Fifty Fathoms. Luckily for us that still need their kidneys and don’t have any children, Tornek-Rayville re-released the beautiful TR-660. At 40mm in diameter and with a lug-to-lug of 48.5mm, it’s appropriately sized, and the decorated Seiko NE15 (read NH35) within ensures affordable pricing too. I’ll be waiting in line for the next round of pre-orders. Price: US$950

Marathon Large Diver’s Automatic (GSAR)

best mil-spec watches

The Marathon GSAR is the only watch on this list that’s actually currently issued to the military, built to US specifications and provided to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The robust diver boasts 300 metres of water resistance, while tritium tubes on its indices and hands ensure constant low-light visibility. Powered by a Sellita automatic movement, its 41mm diameter may be too large for some, so Marathon also offer a 36mm version. Price: US$1,500

Benrus Type I and Type II

best mil-spec watches

Benrus was a crucial supplier for the US military during the Vietnam War, equipping virtually all of its specialist departments. MIL-W-50717 specified the design details for Benrus’ production, for both the sterile-dialled Type I and Type II with its 24-hour scale. Previously not available to the public, Benrus is now offering both the Type I and Type II as limited-edition models, in a 42.5mm x 47.5mm case, powered by an unspecified ETA automatic or Soprod P024, respectively. Price: US$1,695 (Type I), US$1,495 (Type II)

Bremont Broadsword

best mil-spec watches

Inspired by the Dirty Dozen of WWII, the Bremont Broadsword is certainly a step-up in terms of price. While a discussion could be had whether luxury watches can truly be tool watches, its simplicity, legibility and hardened steel case certainly argues the “for” case. The “HMAF”, or Her (now His) Majesty’s Armed Forces, insignia below the Bremont logo alludes to the brand’s unique partnership with the Ministry of Defence. With a top-grade Sellita SW260 movement customised for Bremont, it’s a fairly fuss-free and affordable-to-service calibre. Price: A$4,400 from the T+T Shop