We were sent a copy of an official MoD reply to an enquiry in 2014 regarding the current general service issue watch, oddly many people believe this to be a CWC but it doesn't actually appear anywhere on this document nor in documents from 2012 and 2014. The official watch for general service use up until comparatively recently when MWC became the main MoD supplier was a Seiko / Pulsar PXD433 NSN 6645-99-605-2627 and we know that 293 were issued in the 4 years 2012-2016 this freedom of information request was Ref: FOI2016/06648 and can be seen here https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/540450/DE_S_FOI_2016_06648___Information_of_British_Armed_Forces_Watches_and_suppliers_in__Annex_A_.pdf
Many of the above watch are branded Pulsar and in fact I haven't seen one branded Seiko, Seiko Corporation acquired the Pulsar brand way back in 1978 hence watches appear and both times but are actually made by the same manufacturer. If anyone has an image of a Seiko branded PXD433 please let us know because we have spoken to a large number of our military contacts and all have said the only thing they've ever seen is a pulsar and even that is rare, of course with such a small quantity issued when you consider that there are around 80,000 serving military they are clearly not used on a regular basis.
The British military currently issue the Seiko PX8307X1 NSN: 6645-99-958-4756 for aircrew use. As of 2016 there were 2,027 of these watches issued so it's the only British military issue watch that is issued in any significant quantity although it has to be said that even 2,027 watches is not a particularly large number when you consider they've been ordered over a long period of time and appear to have first been issued in 2009. Working on the basis that from 2009 to 2016 is a seven year period and allowing for attrition the number is surprisingly low. I have been informed by reliable sources they are normally procured in batches of 1000 per time which would suggest there were two separate orders at some point.
When we look at the historical numbers of watches which were issued in the past it becomes very clear that the military are currently buying very few watches in the United Kingdom which explains why in conversations with many serving military buyers who have purchased military watches it turns out they buy from companies such as Marathon, Nite, MWC and CWC.
This watch is also referred to in the document which we mentioned in the previous column which has a link to the actual freedom of information request.
Currently the Royal Navy issue divers watch is the Citizen Divers Watch BN0000-04H NSN: 6645-99-852-5953, these were supplied to the Ministry of defence by Northern Diver International Ltd. The watch has a solid one-piece case with screwdown crown, they are a low maintenance watch with an Eco-Drive movement. In the first column the document from 2016 confirms that 316 had been issued so considering it's over fairly long period of time once again quite a small number.
We know a Royal Navy diver quite well and he happened to mention that in his opinion this watch is absolutely hideous and he wouldn't even consider wearing one. Having seen the watch ourselves we can't claim to have been overly impressed, as collectors of military watches we felt it was not in the same league as a CWC, Marathon or MWC divers watch and did not feel particularly robust. Clearly, the Ministry of Defence deemed it fit for purpose but the Royal Navy diver who spoke to us said he thought they were cutting corners, in fact when you research the pricing they can be found in the UK at between £150 and £180 on Amazon or eBay, clearly the UK military would've paid significantly less. At this price they could not be in the same league as the alternative watches is targeted at military applications.
Interestingly I go to many people the Citizen, Pulsar and Seiko military chronographs don't seem overly exciting the reality is that some of the previous models have become quite costly for what is in effect a fairly basic watch, having spoken to quite a few collectors there is increasing collectability around the two models which were made, we have recently seen examples selling at around €1500 / £1375 / US$1850.
These Seiko Gen I chronographs were issued by the Royal Air Force from 1984 until 1990, the later Gen 2 watches were issued from 1990 onwards. The first generation watches are much more collectable than the second and in fact use a 7A28 Seiko movement which has a very good reputation for long-term reliability. The movement used in Gen 1 was a 15 jewel movement the Gen 2 uses a non-jewelled quartz movement. Having said that I own one of the Gen 2 watches and it has proven very reliable and quite wearable because it has a 38 mm case so this is a practical watch for day-to-day use if you want to buy something which will only go up in price. The case size of both watches is the same the only difference is the positioning of the dials with the Gen 1 being 9,6,3 and the Gen 2 being 12, 9, The encircled “P”indicates the presence of Promethium-147 lume6.
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