The MIL-W-46374F Specification

A Marathon Event

Click watch for more images
Click watch for more images
Copyright © 2002-2005 E C Frederick
All rights reserved. No images or text may be used without written consent .
Marathon W-46374F Type 2
SandY P650 W-46374F Type 6

On 14 October 1991 MIL-W-46374F was published. Both SandY and Marathon had been making various types of Field Watches for the General Purpose categories of the MIL-W-46374E spec (Types 1 through 5). They simply modified the inscriptions on the case back to read MIL-W-46374F. That's how similar the E and F specifications were for Types 1 through 5.

The big news from the F revision was the creation of the Type 6 Navigator watch. The new MIL-W-46374F-6 specification (which superseded Air Force PD-496B of 26 Feb 1985) led to the creation of the Stocker & Yale P650, P660 and the Marathon 211 Navigators watches (plastic case). The Type 6's are fundamentally better-quality, hacking, Quartz watches with rotating GMT-style bezels. On top of these basic requirements for Navigation, the Type 6 parts of the spec also noted some special requirements: resistance to high altitude (low pressure) damage (35,000 feet for minimum of 60 minutes); greater magnetic protection (125±1 gauss magnetic field [compared with 14.5 to 15.5 gauss protection for the Type 1 - 5 watches]); and protection from "salt fog" and from Human perspiration.

Luminescent green Tritium vials were specified for the hands and hour marks for all types in the initial spec.

But Amendment 2 published 10 June 1994 allowed for the use of a different, "orange or red" color vial at the 12 o'clock position. This is important and useful, because it provides a quick way to gauge the date of a watch from just examining the dial. If it has an orange vial at 12 o'clock, it is likely a MIL-W-46374F watch assembled after June of 1994.

Inscriptions

The case back markings on the MIL-W-46374F watches followed the specified 11 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 Type 1 watches use the date of acceptance by the DoD. All other types use date of manufacture, if the date is required. Serial numbers are required only on the Type 1 watches. It seems that date and serial number requirements were not strictly enforced by the DoD from the "E" revision on. Few issue watches from that era have these "required" markings.

Caseback Markings US-Issue MIL-W-46374F Type 3 SandY 590

Line 1 & 2: Description
WATCH, WRIST: GENERAL PURPOSE
Line 3: Specification MIL-W-46374F-TYPE 3
Line 4: Maker and CAGE code STOCKER & YALE-90640 CODE
Line 5:Radiation spec & source MILLICURIES UNDER 25 - 3H
Line 6: NSN NSN 6645-01-252-6705
Line 7: Model SandY 590
Line 8: NRC ID info. US NRC MFR ID NO 20-16532-02E
Line 9: NRC ID No. ID NO 20-16532-02E
Line 10: COUNTRY SWISS MADE
click watch for more images
click watch for more images
click watch for more images
SandY 590 W-46374F Type 3
Marathon W-46374F Type 1
SandY 490 W-46374F Type 1

Value and Variety

A wide spectrum of watches have been made under the MIL-W-46374F specification. I have seen documentation for ten different models from SandY and Marathon made under the MIL-W-46374F specification. (from SandY, the P650, P660, P550Q, P550M, 590 and 490; and from Marathon, the 211, 359, 350A, and 348A). Two of those models, however, may never have been seen - the SandY P550Q (Quartz) and the SandY P550M (Mechanical) . If these watches were, in fact, ever purchased by the goverment, they would be among the rarest of the rare. They appear on several DoD QPL's (Qualified Products List), but they do not appear to ever have been ordered. This is one case where I would love to be wrong - as long as it means that I would get a SandY P550M for admitting my error.

SandY 490's and Marathon Type 1 mechanical watches are highly prized and sell for around $100, but the kings of the MIL-W-46374F spec are the Type 6 watches. The SandY P650 and the Marathon Model 211 Navigators (Plastic version) are among the most desirable Mil watches being collected and worn. I would guess that every Mil Watch collector has at least one Type 6 in his or her collection, or they are scheming to add one as soon as possible.

SandY P650's command over $300 used and New in Box examples have sold recently for over $500. The SandY P660, a stainless steel version of the 650 often sells for $400 used and can command $600 in NIB condition. The Marathon Model 211 plastic version of the Navigator sells for much less - typically between $125 and $150 in NIB condition.

Several people have asked if the so-called Marathon Stainless Steel (a Navigator watch similar to the Marathon 211 Navigator) is a MIL-W-46374F Type 6 issue. My best guess is no. I think that the Marathon SS was made under the Air Force specification PD-496B - which was superseded by the Type 6 portion of MIL-W-46374F in October of 1991. Most of the original Marathon SS's were made before then and could not have been made under the F revision.

Click watch for more images
image compliments of Hyunsuk Seung
Click watch for more images
Marathon Navigators MIL-W-46374F Type 6
SandY P660 MIL-W-46374F Type 6

Marathon Navigators

Day-Date Variant

This variation on the standard Marathon Navigators watch was provided by Canadian collector Tom Body. It has a day date window with the day of the week in both English and Spanish. The inscriptions on the back are consistent with other issues, suggesting this might have been for a special order for NATO (Spanish) allies. The addition of Day Date also makes you think officer. Although I have no proof this was the case, these kinds of embelishments to a basic watch like this often are associated with special editions for high-ranking officers.

Respected experts on US Military specification watches have confirmed that Marathon Watch Co., makers of this model, deny making any Day and Date versions of the Marathon Nav. They suggest that this is a personally modified watch. This undercuts the legitimacy of this watch as an authetic issued variant. On the other hand I know that it can be difficult to recall every order, especially a small volume order in the midst of orders for tens of thousands. Only a thorough search of Marathon records can give absolute certainly. For now I am treating this as suspect, but the emergence of other similar watches might make us take another look.

Final Thoughts on this Popular Specification:

It’s difficult to come up with exact figures, but I estimate that more than 2 million watches have been ordered using the MIL-W-46374 specification and its various amendments and revisions. More than 22 identifiable models from at least five different watch manufacturers have been made under these specifications from 1965 through the present time. It was, and is, one of the most frequently cited specifications in the world of military watches.

In 1999 the Department of Defense (DoD) noticeably reduced their ordering of watches for issue to military personnel. Although the days are long gone when the DoD would order 30,000 or 40,000 watches or more with a single award, the DoD continues to order watches and to issue them to certain personnel. A few watches, made by the Marathon Watch, Co are still are still being produced and supplied under MIL-W-46374F. These appear to be ordered for special purposes or for MOS’s that require wrist watches with certain functional properties.

Public (albeit hard to find) records show that between May 1999 and January 2002 the DoD has ordered and presumably issued some 14,595 watches made under MIL-W-46374F. This is a lot of watches in my world, but it looks like peanuts compared with the good olde days of watch procurement, when the DoD, for example, ordered 67,000 watches on just one day, 1 December 1990.

The latest version of the spec, MIL-PRF-46374G, was published on 12 November 1999. I have had contact with the DoD department in charge of maintaining the MIL-PRF-46374G specification and I was informed that they have no plans to revise this specification. In mid-2003 we saw the first watches poping up in the military with this newest specification marked on the case back. They are basically minor improvements on the watches issued IAW MIL-W-46374F. My fear is that the government's new restricted buying habits will limit or possible eliminate any incentive for watch manufacturers to develop and make really new mil watches under the MIL-PRF-46374G spec, or any other MIL spec. One can only hope that this long tradition of innovation and functional design inspiration will continue on into the future.

Back to the Main MIL-W-46374 Page