Review: Glycine Combat 6 Vintage 43

When most people think of Glycine, they immediately picture its iconic Airman line. The impressive Combat Sub dive watches may also come to mind.

However, there’s a different, equally compelling series within the Glycine family that warrants attention: the Combat line.

In this review, we turn our focus to the newer iteration of a standout model in this series, the Glycine Combat 6.

Run Through The Jungle – the origins

In 1967, during the peak of the Vietnam conflict, the US had a staggering 380,000 troops stationed there. Providing each soldier with the necessary equipment was no small feat.

The tropical jungle environment posed its own challenges, from heavy rain and mud to humidity and extreme temperature shifts. These conditions took a toll on everything, including clothing, weapons, and, of course, watches.

This naturally opened up a huge market for privately purchased equipment, sold both to the personnel preparing for deployment and troops already stationed in Vietnam, via Post Exchange points in the US military bases in Vietnam. Watch companies recognized a massive opportunity, a rare occurrence not seen since World War II.

Glycine, already beloved by both military and civilian pilots, decided to broaden its horizons beyond the skies. The goal was to cater to soldiers, athletes, and anyone who needed a rugged watch capable of withstanding the challenges of their daily lives.

That’s how the Glycine Combat was born.

The first of its kind

The first Glycine Combat was designated as the reference 645, a number that might ring a bell for vintage Glycine enthusiasts. It was originally associated with the Compressor line, which primarily featured elegant sports watches with Piquerez (EPSA) Compressor cases.

As you may recall, Glycine had a long-standing partnership with EPSA, known for producing cases for the entire Airman lineup. Given this relationship, Glycine turned to EPSA for cases for their dress watches, similar to Enicar.

But the question arises: would you really sell a dress watch to individuals fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia?

Well, the answer is no. The standard 645 Compressors, besides their dressy appearance and less-than-optimal legibility for a field watch, lacked a crucial military watch feature – hacking seconds.

So, the engineers and watchmakers at Glycine-Altus once again took it upon themselves to address a real need and to design a watch that combined the merits of two excellent lines that they were producing. The result was this:

Combat ref.645 from March 1968, photo: courtesy of Emre Kiris and Glycintennial

Of course, the new watch needed to incorporate features found in standard US military watches of that era, such as the MIL-W-3818 and GG-W-113 General Purpose watches. The most crucial feature was the 24-hour scale.

While civilian time-telling typically uses the 12-hour AM/PM format, the military, maritime, aviation, and communications sectors required the use of the 24-hour mode. The addition of the 24-hour scale made it easier for the average G.I. to read time in this format.

In the 1960s, the practice of synchronizing watches to the mission clock had become standard practice not only in the air force but also in land warfare. Timing was crucial in every aspect of combat—maintaining radio silence, coordinating timed explosives, evacuating areas targeted for artillery or bombing, and meeting tight schedules for helicopter extractions.

So, Glycine brought its iconic hacking feature, originally introduced with the Airman, to the Combat. When you pull out the crown, a small wire pops up at 12 o’clock, halting the seconds hand.

The design of the seconds hand may seem familiar—it’s the same lollipop-style design used in the Airman, without a counterweight.

Glycine’s hacking seconds mechanism, as used in the ref.645 Combat – photo: courtesy of Emre Kiris/Glycintennial
Dial of the ref.645 Combat, with the aperture for the seconds-stop wire clearly visible in the centre of the 2 in the numeral at 12 – photo:courtesy of Emre Kiris/Glycintennial

The case of the original Combat might appear somewhat too fine for a field watch, but don’t be misled—it was still significantly more robust than the cases of standard-issue American military watches of its time. It was, after all, an EPSA Compressor, known for its excellent water-resistant design of that era.

In later batches, produced around 1970, the design was updated, similar to the standard 645 Compressor, with thicker lugs.

Glycine also kept the movement of the standard Compressors – the tried and tested ETA 2472. This choice made perfect sense for what was intended as a private alternative to standard issue watches.

It was designed to be worn constantly, so in the midst of action, a soldier wouldn’t need to worry about possibly forgetting to wind it.

While a date complication may seem unimportant, it was certainly convenient for NCOs and officers when filling out official paperwork.

That said, the ref. 645 Combat was a remarkable piece, spec’d to the nines, and ready for any action.

While there seems to be a myth about it not having gained popularity and only 100 or so having been produced, that myth is false. After the initial run of 100 pieces, the Combat was produced in batches of 500 from 1967 until sometime in the early 1970s.

This means that at least several thousand of them were made, dispelling the notion that it’s a “rare bird” as some collectors would have you believe.

Carry On My Wayward Son – the modern Combat

Glycine’s modern Combat line, as we know it today, made its debut back in the early 2000s. The particular model we’re reviewing today, the Combat 6, entered the scene sometime in the late 2000s.

At first, it came exclusively in a 43mm case, riding the wave of the 2000s trend for larger watches. Fast forward to today, and the Combat collection offers three case sizes – 36mm, 40mm, and 43mm – but the Combat 6 Vintage remains the exclusive choice for those who prefer the 43mm option.

Over the course of about 15 years, this watch has seen quite an evolution – from models with applied logos to ones with printed logos, featuring movements like the ETA 2824 and Sellita SW-200, and more. There was even the relatively short-lived 41mm Combat 7, which may have been a bit less formal with its all-brushed case but had a ton of character.

The Smoking Gun

The Combat 6 Vintage isn’t trying to mimic the appearance of the original 1967 piece. Instead, it’s more like a nod to the American military watches of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. But there’s a specific Glycine watch that inspired it.

Some may think, ‘Oh, it’s just a Hamilton Khaki clone!’ However, that’s not quite accurate.

The Hamilton Khaki Field had its origins in a watch made to the specifications of the Ordnance Department of the US Department of Defense – the GG-W-113. What you might not know is that Glycine also produced watches to those very same specifications.

Yes, Glycine made GG-W-113 watches under the Altus brand. It’s believed they were only produced for one year, in 1986, exclusively for the United States Air Force. I haven’t found any with a different production year stamped on them, which seems to support that story.

Unfortunately, unlike Hamilton, Benrus, and Marathon GG-W-113 watches, very little is known about the Altus (Glycine) version.

Alright, enough with the history lesson. Let’s get back to talking about the watch in question.

The star of the show – the dial

What first struck me about the Combat 6 Vintage was the dial. It’s an absolute delight to behold, especially with the narrow bezel that makes it almost all dial. The matte black backdrop is just perfect – not too rough, not too smooth.

It’s not quite the same as the Airman No.1, though. If I were to compare it to another watch with a similar texture, it would be the matte black Certina DS-1. It’s matte but also has a subtle sheen to it.

Thanks to the domed shape of the dial, there’s a warm undertone that adds to its charm. And that warmth is beautifully complemented by the glossy white print and hands. So, even though the dial doesn’t feature any applied elements, the contrast between the background and the print gives it a surprising depth you might not expect.

The date window doesn’t have an applied frame, but the cleverly faceted cut-out and the neatly printed white frame do wonders to make it visually appealing. The previous version of the Combat 6 Vintage had a white-on-black date disk, which some will probably miss.

I don’t mind the date disk in white here. The faceted cut-out is well-executed, and that printed frame around it manages to make it a visual point of interest rather than an unwelcome nuisance.

If I had to point out one thing, it would have to be the lume. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not ‘Dan Henry 1970’ bad by any means. You can actually read this watch in the dark, well, at least the hands can be seen, because the hour markers tend to fade out rather quickly.

The ones at 12, 3, 6, and 9 hold on a bit longer, but not by much. If the lume on the Airman No.1 is on the weaker side, the Combat 6 takes it a step further. Part of it is due to the cream-colored tint, and part of it is because it’s applied quite thinly on the dial.

That cream tint is a fantastic aesthetic choice, and no, it doesn’t try to mimic a vintage watch, in case you were wondering. There’s no mistaking this watch for being older than it is. What it does is add even more warmth to the overall look of the Combat 6.

In the past, earlier versions of the Combat 6 with the GG-W-113-inspired dial had lume that leaned slightly towards green, giving it a cooler vibe.

Then again, I’ve learned to not expect too much from tinted lume. Let’s be honest, modern watches inspired by the GG-W-113 style rarely give us that strong, glowing lume we dream of.

Even the iconic Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical doesn’t quite nail it in the lume department. Maybe a more efficient luminescent material could help, but with that cream tint, it’s not going to turn into a ‘lume torch’ anytime soon.

Don’t Fear the (43mm) Reaper

The 43mm diameter of the Combat might sound somewhat detracting, if like me you prefer smaller watches. Because of the narrow bezel, the watch definitely looks its size.

I was slightly afraid that once I put it on, I’ll see the dreaded „lug overhang.” However, that didn’t happen. Instead, it turned out to be surprisingly comfortable. The case boasts relatively short, gently curved lugs, resulting in a lug-to-lug distance of just over 49mm, which is about the same as the 40mm Longines Spirit.

When you hold it in your hand, you’ll notice its weight, but once it’s on your wrist, it wears more comfortably than you’d expect.

The Combat 6 may be a substantial watch, but it’s also delightfully slim. At just 10.7mm, it’s impressively thin for a sporty field watch housing a Sellita SW-200 or an ETA 2824. Its center of gravity seems to sit low, ensuring it doesn’t feel top-heavy.

For the money, the case finishing is also great. The brushed finish with polished chamfers and a polished bezel against a brushed top definitely makes it more elegant – and thus, more versatile – than the sandblasted Hammy Khaki Field. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a formal watch you’d pair with a suit. However, it does seem to work with smart casual outfits, making it a decent „allround” piece.

The crown guards are definitely a sports/utilitarian accent here, but I really like how they’re profiled and integrated into the case flank. They do enlarge the watch visually, not like it needs that, it’s big as it is. But they also give it a certain…streamlined appearance. Oh, and as the name suggests, they do a good job of protecting the relatively large crown from accidental impacts.

The sapphire crystal has a slight dome to it. Manufacturers, including Glycine, often call this crystal profile ‘double-domed,’ but I prefer to keep it simple and just say ‘domed’ (not to be confused with box-type domed). It nicely accentuates the domed dial, enhancing the streamlined appearance I mentioned earlier.

The strap

Combat 6 Vintage models are equipped with a NATO strap. The GL0459 model features a black strap with the typical nylon weave, while the GL0457 and GL0458 models have blue and olive green straps, respectively, with a checkered/braided weave.

The area with the holes has a leather patch sewn on to prevent fraying by the holes, a feature you’ll find on many OEM NATO straps, such as those from Hamilton and Certina.

In the Combat 6, though, it has a downside – the strap is difficult to take off the watch, should you want to simply switch to a different NATO. If you plan to switch to a two-piece strap, you’ll need to remove the spring bars anyway.

Speaking of spring bars, this watch has thick and sturdy ones, so the last thing you could possibly worry about is them popping out by accident.
One thing to note is that there isn’t much space between the spring bars and the round of the case. Thick straps won’t work with it, so be aware of that when choosing a strap.

The movement

Like the previously covered Combat Sub, all varieties of the standard Combat are powered by the Sellita SW-200 aka Glycine GL224. Here, it can be seen through a display back.

It has a rather standard matte-frosted finish on the plates, and pretty simple decoration on the rotor. Is it a looker? Not really. Does it look bad? No, not at all.

I’d say its finishing falls somewhere in line with the SW-200 movement found in Oris watches. It would be underwhelming in the 2K euro price ballpark, but for 495 euro that the Glycine costs, it’s perfectly fine.

The packaging

The Combat 6 Vintage comes supplied in Glycine’s standard black box, which for a watch priced as sensibly is great. A quality watch calls for quality packaging, and Glycine delivers on that front.

I also got another „REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT” tag with the Glycine logo, like the one I got with the Airman. So, one for the car key, one for the home keys. Yeah, it’s a trinket, but a cool and practical one.

Would I change anything about it?

Not much, really. I’d definitely like better lume on it, that’s for sure. Drilled lugs would also be nice, so that switching between NATOs and two-piece straps could be easier. However, the latter of the two suggestions could possibly not look as good as I imagine it would.

Since the Combat is made in three different sizes, it would also be good to see this dial in the 36 and 40mm cases. I’m not suggesting they make it smaller. However, offering this dial in the 36mm and 40mm Combats would provide a great option for those who prefer smaller case sizes or have smaller wrists.

The 50m WR rating is also nothing too fancy. Then again, if you don’t intend on taking it into the pool regularly, I don’t think it’s anything to worry about. It’s important to remember that this is a field watch, so it’s not designed with dive watch capabilities in mind.

For What It’s Worth…

I enjoy this watch far more than I expected. I saw the Combat 6 Vintage in all its iterations multiple times on forums. It’s a popular piece, though I think it doesn’t get the love it deserves. Taking into consideration the bang for the buck factor, the design and the finishing, it definitely doesn’t get enough attention.

As I delved deeper into the history of the Combat, I was pleasantly surprised by the wealth of stories waiting to be uncovered. While it may not boast the sensational tales of the Airman’s association with the golden age of air travel, its role in the skies over Vietnam, and its journey into space, the Combat has a unique history of its own.

It all began with a watch designed for those who required a rugged and reliable timepiece, capable of standing up to life’s challenges. Back in 1967, that meant serving in a harsh and demanding wartime environment. The original Combat watch was clearly crafted to surpass the standard-issue military watches of its time, and it certainly achieved that goal.

The modern Combat, in a typically Glycine fashion, gives a lot of watch for not a lot of money. Most importantly, it’s the kind that brings a smile to my face when I put it on in the morning, and that makes me glance at my wrist for more reasons than just to tell the time. Ultimately, that’s what truly matters, and then some.

Get yours here. It’s also available with a dial in white, navy blue, or olive green.

Technical specs

  • Model reference number: GL0459
  • Price: 495 euros at the Glycine Europe website
  • Case diameter: 43 mm
  • Thickness: 10.7 mm
  • Lug-to-lug: 49 mm
  • Lug width: 22 mm
  • Case material: 316L stainless steel
  • Crystal: Front – domed sapphire, back – flat mineral
  • Movement: Sellita SW-200 aka Glycine GL224 – automatic, 26 jewels, 28800 A/h, date
  • Water resistance: 50m/5ATM/5bar
  • Lume: Tinted (aged tritium look) Super-LumiNova

About The Author

4 thoughts on “Review: Glycine Combat 6 Vintage 43”

  1. Great background and review. Love how you always bring the rich history of brands to light in an engaging way.

  2. Fascinating article – as always! I have a 42 mm Combat Sub… perfect tool watch in my opinion. And fairly priced as well

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