With the publication of MIL-PRF-46374G on 12 November 1999 military watch standards entered a new era. As part of a larger trend in Department of Defense standardization the transition to PRF (PRF = "performance") specifications puts more trust in manufacturers and removes the DoD from the business of design and ultra-detailed engineering. Instead the DoD relies on the expertise of watch manufacturers to make watches that meet certain criteria and pass test procedures laid out by the DoD.
The biggest news from the G revision is requirement for manufacturers to clean up the dials by eliminating the manufacturers name, logo, or other text, such as the "U. S. Government" found on some Marathon watches.This makes for a much more legible and, in my opinion, more attractive dial design.
The case back markings on the MIL-PRF-46374G watches follow the specified 8 line pattern shown below. In the info page for the W46374B revision, we described what several of these inscriptions mean in detail. As with previous specs the DATE indicates date of manufacture (assembly), if the date is required. CAGE codes are used by the DoD to identify suppliers. This CAGE code indicates Marathon is the supplier.
Caseback Markings US-Issue MIL-PRF-46374G Type III Class 1
Value and Variety
Scarcity makes the new Marathon "NAV G" plastic version of the Navigator sell for a premium over the old style Marathon Composite Navigator. The new G version is also more substantial and a sturdier feeling watch. So few have been sold as of this writing it is hard to know what the value is, but it will be somewhere north of $150 until supplies become more plentiful.
Quartz field watches from Marathon have also been issued. They are very similar to the Quartz Type 3 Marathon's issued under MIL-W-46374F except they do not have the US Government or Marathon designations on the dial and, of course, the caseback is marked MIL-PRF-46374G. These Type 1 Class 1 MIL-PRF-46374G watches are also quite rare as we approach the end of 2003, but, despite this scarcity, they are selling for about $85 - a decent price for a genuine mil watch in Quartz.
Procurement Trends & Procedures
The Department of Defense is buying many fewer watches than at anytime in the last 50 years, but they are still ordering substantial numbers of watches. The only watches on the DoD's Qualified Products List (QPL) are supplied by Marathon. To give you a peek under the tent at the procurement process, I have included some examples of documents used in the DoD watch buying process. Click on the highlighted links to look at these samples documents. When you are finished you can return to this page by using your browser's back button.
The MIL-PRF-46374G specification. This document details what the DoD expects manufacturers to provide in the watches they must submit for testing and inclusion on the QPL. Also outlined in the PRF spec are the tests tha the watches will be subjected to and the minimum standards they are expected to meet.
Once the manufacturer's submitted watch model passes the required testing, it is placed on the QPL. This tells the various departments within the government that might potentially purchase watches that these models are made I/A/W (in accordance with) MIL-PRF-46374G and can be purchased as such.
The Contract Award is similar to a purchase order in the business world. It is in effect an order for a specific number of watches at a price agreed upon before the contract is awarded. The Contract Award included here is the actual award used to buy the Marathon NAV G watch shown on this page. Compare the award number on the watch back with the number of the award.
Some readers may be shocked to see that the price the DoD paid for these watches was substantially less than what these watches sell for in the free market (when you can find them!). However these prices seem to me to be similar to the wholesale discounts demanded by a large volume customer like the DoD who might be expected to order more than 10,000 watches under a single series of contract awards.
Over the next year I think we will see other models, in addition to the Marathon Nav G emerge from the military supply chain. Other models have been approved for purchase by the DoD (see QPL for the models that are in the pipeline now) and reports are that they are starting to show up at the unit level. A new improved version of the Marathon Nav G is also in the works. So, the opportunities that we collectors crave, to own new and different authentic military field watches will continue.