During the Second World War, scores of watch manufacturers produced watches for the German military. Some were recognizable brands, such as Zenith, Longines, Mimo (Girard-Perregaux), Glycine, and Doxa.
The German military specification
All standard-issue watches had the same core features. The general service watch had to be equipped with a shock protection device, a highly legible lumed dial, and a waterproof case with a hermetic crown and a screw-down back. You’ll find these features in any watch stamped DH, D, DU, and KM.
Practically speaking, the German mil-spec watches were unmatched in their ability to withstand the conditions a watch might face on the frontlines. Even pocket watches for the German military had to be equipped with shock protection. In the context of a pocket watch, this might seem excessive. However, the quartermasters who designed the specifications left nothing to chance. This is thoroughness at its finest.
Compared to these, British and American mil watches of the period – for instance, the A-11 or the ATP – are miserably lacking in features. For example, the RAF’s famous 6B/159 watches didn’t have lume, water-resistance, or shock protection. Whatever the reason, the British considered replacing broken balance staffs more economical than purchasing shock-protected watches. In economic terms, this might make sense, but in practice, you wouldn’t want to have your watch stop working while you’re on a mission.
Core design features by service branch
Wehrmacht – general service: Stamped DH (Dienstuhr – Heer) or DU (Dienstuhr). A highly legible black dial, luminous hands, and hour markers. A chrome-top or stainless steel case.
Sanitatsdienst der Wehrmacht (medical corps): Like the DH, but equipped with a white dial.
Kriegsmarine: A white dial, signed K.M., calibre number on the dial.
Luftwaffe: Practically identical to the DH, stamped D
Doxa DH and D
As with numerous brands, there were a few versions of the German mil-spec Doxa.
The two basic versions featured a dial with all numerals lumed in a 33 mm chrome-plated or a 34 mm steel case.
The DH version featured a Sanitatsdienst version with a white dial.
Most D-stamped specimens – Luftwaffe-issued – are identical to the Wehrmacht version (DH). Except for one uncommon version.
Although technically, these watches follow the same serial number system as any other Doxa from 1940 to 1966, they don’t follow it exactly. The earliest specimens appear to have serial numbers in the 45…-46… range of 7 digit serials. This corresponds to civilian watches made in 1945 and 1946. This suggests that these watches were made as a separately numbered batch.
While some D and DH watches had spring bars, ones by Doxa always had fixed lugs – welded in cases made of chrome-plated brass, rods with flattened ends mounted in drilled holes in stainless steel ones.
These Doxas use the same movement – the Doxa 12′” cal.1, an FHF 1146 with modified bridges, equipped with a Super Shock-Resist device.
The pilot’s version?
Doxas with D-stamped dials typically have all Arabic numerals lumed. One version, however, doesn’t. This also happens to be the least common type.
The dial of this watch appears to be exclusive to the 34mm steel model. It’s immediately apparent that the indexes have been designed for maximum legibility. Lumed 3-9-12, other markers have a lumed dot on the minute track.
Considering that this version is the least common, it may have been issued to fighter pilots. Bomber pilots were issued the Beobachtungsuhr, a 55mm monster worn over the jacket on a long strap.
It’s always the pilots who make up the smallest percentage of air force personnel. Like any air force, the Luftwaffe would have had a vital ground service component – mechanics, administrative staff, logistical staff, meteorological and communication departments, and Fallschirmjaeger (paratrooper) units. All of these don’t warrant a version of the standard-issue watch with a dial designed to improve legibility at a glance.
However, this is only a theory. For example, this uncommon Doxa dial is very similar to the dial found in Zeniths made for both the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe.
The fact that there are much fewer of these watches in circulation could therefore be an indication that they were made with fighter pilots in mind.
All in all…
German milwatches, including those from Doxa, are fantastic. You’re getting a piece of history of horology and World War II. If the watch is D-stamped, it’s also a piece of military aviation history. It can be hard to find a good specimen of Doxa “D,” but if you find one, you’re in luck.
A word of caution
If you’re looking for D/DH watches, Doxa or not, be sure you’ve examined other specimens of the watch you’re seeking. Fakers “convert” tons of civilian watches into DH and D milwatches.
As many of these specimens are in poor condition—after all, they’ve been through war—keep an eye out for over-restored pieces and basket cases. Sadly, relumes are notorious.
Don’t be fooled by pieces with Nazi “insignia.” They’re outright fakes. So far, the only German military watch known to me, which has the “Reichsadler” (an eagle perched on a laurel wreath surrounding a swastika) marking is the Kriegsmarine naval artillery pocket chronograph.
If you see any of the “SS-Panzertruppen der Legion Condor” dials – run like hell. Such a travesty never existed. Also, the only tank unit of the LC consisted of Wehrmacht – not SS – personnel.
Always stick to the known patterns when working with milwatches, and if you see anything that raises a red flag, walk away or ask the collectors’ community for assistance.
What do you think of this Doxa “D” from the Luftwaffe? Let me know in the comments below.