The regular GP reader is likely no stranger to the Weiss Watch Company, founded in 2013 by Cameron Weiss and based in Los Angeles, California. Weiss, a graduate of the Nicolas G. Hayek Watchmaking School and a WOSTEP Certified Watchmaker who underwent extensive training at Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin, is part of a collective of new business owners striving to bring back the manufacture of mechanical timepieces to the United States. His latest offering, the 38mm Standard Issue Field Watch (from here on out the “SIFW”), is the most affordable Weiss timepiece yet, and makes the brand’s aesthetic accessible to another demographic.
The Good: The SIFW could easily become an everyday watch so long as you don’t mind (or better yet, enjoy ) having to wind it each morning. You would likely have to change the canvas 2-piece strap to a leather one for certain occasions (unless you want to look like a GI just returned from the War at that rooftop cocktail party you have on Thursday night), but other than this small consideration, this is a pretty great everyday wear in either a black or white dial (I requested the black version for review). A steel case with a time-only black or white dial is going to work at the office, out on the town, or any other number of places – though the lack of a screw-down crown here is going to render it a no-go for the beach or pool (more on this later).
Who They’re For: If you love the “field watch look” but want something refined that comes in at that Goldilocks size, with many of its parts made and designed in America to boot, then this is certainly the watch for you – at least with respect to aesthetics (there are more practical options for actual use in the field). Cameron Weiss has taken many of the hallmarks of the American field watch classics, such as the A-11 and the A-17, and updated them for the modern wearer, and he’s incorporated a nicely finished mechanical movement, which should thrill many purists out there.
Watch Out For: I find myself wishing (like, really wishing) that the SIFW watch had a screw-down crown, brighter lume and that the crystal were less reflective. It’s also important, however, to acknowledge that while the Standard Issue Field Watch is certainly playing upon the heritage of the mechanical field watch that was at one point in time issued to GIs (i.e. during World War II), it is not necessarily a watch that is meant for the field today, given some of its feature set. Reflective surfaces (including polished bezels and sapphire crystals) are a no-no in a military or hunting setting, as are non-screw down crowns in any environment in which the watch might become submerged (as opposed to simply wet). Then, of course, the Standard Issue Field Watch is mechanical, rather than automatic, which would render it somewhat dated in a field setting, simply by virtue of the fact that there are watches available today that don’t require any winding, which is generally not something somebody wants to worry about in an outdoors setting when there are plenty of other important things to occupy one’s attention.
Again, however, it doesn’t strike me that Weiss’s raison d’etre is to create watches that are actually meant for an outdoors or military setting, but rather to call upon the military heritage of the American field watch in order to design a modern upgrade that looks the part aesthetically and is well-made; in this, I believe they have succeeded beautifully.
Alternatives: The first alternative that comes to mind is the relatively new Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical . At $475, the Khaki Field Mechanical is less than half the price of the Weiss, though it features central rather than sub-seconds and is mass-produced by a Swatch-group company (it’s been some years since Hamilton was still an American brand), so if the “Buy American!” aspect of the Weiss is what’s appealing to you, then you should be ready to pony up for the fact that their operation is small and their watch cases and many of their movement components are hand-made (or hand-decorated) in-house. Another possible alternative is the Marathon General Purpose Mechanical with Tritium for $650. Marathon has been supplying timing instruments to the US and Canadian militaries for many years, and, as such, the General Purpose Mechanical is built in accordance with modern mil-spec. The look here is thus significantly more “contemporary field watch” than “classic field watch,” and the watch is Swiss-made, rather than (partially) American-made.
Review: I’ve been a fan of Weiss for quite a while and jumped at the chance to review their newest offering; having now handled most of their other models, I was curious to see how this one held up, and I can safely say that I haven’t been disappointed. While I would not, in fact, wear the SIFW in the field, as it simply lacks too many of the traits requisite toward really getting the shit kicked out of it, I would certainly wear it as an everyday watch in any, let’s say, non-tactical setting.
The dial is classic 1940s military, made from a piece of machined naval brass finished in black with white indices. It features an outer minute track with 1/5th second increments and a sub-seconds register above 6’oclock, as well as sword hands machined from black oxide-treated steel with Super-Luminova paint. The Weiss logo features semi-prominently beneath 12 o’clock and there is a small “Los Angeles, CA” signature below 6 o’clock.
Personally I think this dial is beautiful and I have no qualms with it whatsoever with the exception of the lume on the hands, which is very, very faint, and the fact the Arabic numerals aren’t finished in luminescent paint – I took the SIFW into a pitch-black room and I couldn’t effectively read the time without holding it inches from my face. I brought this up with Cameron Weiss and he mentioned that in the production models, they’ve managed to pack in brighter, longer-lasting lume, which I’m happy to hear.
The casework on the SIFW is quite nice, and it’s worth noting here that each case front and back is hand-finished by an individual craftsman in a labor-intensive process – this is very much not an “assembly line” methodology, and I believe this is reflected in the price point of the watch. The bezel on the watch is polished, while the case sides are brushed. Because the case back (which is held in place with four small hex screws) is brushed steel with a polished edge, the effect, when looking at a side profile of the watch, is a “sandwich” of alternating polished and brushed surfaces – quite a nice, subtle touch if you ask me. The case thickness is 9.7mm and also features a domed sapphire crystal.
As I mentioned earlier, the crown on the SIFW is of the non-screw down variety, but Cameron explained his reasoning for this to me: “Our design is still water resistant to 100m/ 330ft without adding a screw down crown, so it’s kind of unnecessary. It can sometimes cause problems because you risk damaging the threads every time you wind the watch, unlike an automatic that doesn’t need regular winding.” While I myself prefer a screw-down crown on anything other than a dress watch, I do certainly wear plenty of watches without screw-down crowns that were originally intended for use in the field – though I simply don’t use these watches for their original intended purpose.
The SIFW uses the Caliber 1005 movement, which is an ETA 7001 ebauche that Weiss decorates with Geneva stripes, blued screws, polished chamfering, and soliel on the ratchet and crown wheels, so what you’re getting here, while not an American-made movement, is a workhorse caliber that Cameron Weiss has customized and improved upon himself (many of these improvements are aesthetic and lend the movement a beautiful look through the sapphire case back). The Caliber 1005 is manually-wound, beats at 21,600 per hour, features a 42 hour-power reserve and Incabloc shock protection.
The band that ships with the watch is a 20mm olive green, waterproof, leather-lined Cordura canvas strap, very comfortable, and entirely appropriate to the aesthetic of a field watch (American-issued field watches of the 1940s often came with green canvas straps, some 1-piece, some 2-piece). The strap is stiff yet comfortable out of the box, and I’m sure the leather backing goes a long way toward making it more comfortable than it would be otherwise. The SIFW also looks just as at home on a leather 2-piece or Nato as it does on the canvas strap, meaning that you can dress it up or down, which is an added plus.
I showed the SIFW around the office a bit and at least one person remarked to me something along the lines of, “Cool little watch!” What struck me here what that this remark seems indicative of the general direction the industry has (until recently) taken regarding watch diameters; up until the past, say, 18 months, “larger” has been equated with “better,” and the fact that a 38mm watch is still seen by some as small is telling (the A-11 issued during WWII and worn by American GIs was about 31mm in diameter). While Weiss’s American Issue Field Watches are beautiful, at 42mm I personally find them too large, and the 38mm case on the SIFW feels just right. Moreover, while many 37-38mm vintage watches featured 18mm lug widths, proportionally I think that the AIF watch works with its 20mm lug width.
Verdict: At $950, the SIFW is a full $1000 less expensive than most of Weiss’s other offerings, rendering it much more attainable to many folks out there who are perhaps looking to get into their first mechanical or automatic watch, or for someone who’s looking for a watch designed or partially-made/assembled in America. This is a very well-made piece for the money from a watchmaker who honed his skills at two very serious, storied companies, and I would have no qualms whatsoever about recommending one to somebody as an everyday watch to be worn to the office or around the city. While I believe there are contenders more suited to the outdoors as far as field watches go by virtue of non-reflective surfaces, brighter lume, screw-down crowns and automatic winding, this doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t take the SIFW outdoors – I might simply be a bit more precious with it than I would be with certain other field watches.
Features: time-only with sub-seconds
Movement: Caliber 1005 (ETA 7001 ebauche) modified by Weiss
Case Diameter: 38mm
Case Thickness: 9.7mm
Water Resistance: 330 ft/100m
Lug Width: 20mm
Strap Type: 20mm leather-lined, 2-piece Cordura canvas