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Military Time: Rolex and the Armed Forces

Paul Altieri

With Memorial Day right around the corner, we want to take the opportunity to examine the connection between Rolex watches and the military. Today, Rolex is universally celebrated as one of the world’s most famous luxury watch manufacturers, but the iconic Swiss watch manufacturer actually has a rich history of being used by members of the armed services. Find out why Rolex has such strong ties to the military, both at home and beyond.

Military Rolex Watches Submariner 1680 Yellow Gold

Rolex Military Watches

As fans of Rolex, many of us know about the watchmaker’s connections with military establishments around the world. There is, of course, the Milsub for the British Ministry of Defense (MOD), the Turn-O-Graph for the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbird aerobatic squadron, and the Daytona for the Peruvian Air Force, better known as Fuerza Aérea del Perú (FAP).

Additionally, there are the Rolex GMT-Master watches commissioned by the UAE Ministry of Defense, the Rolex Air-King watches for the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Defense, the Sea-Dweller watches commissioned by the Omani Sultan to gift to British Military SAS troops who had fought during the Dhofar rebellion, and a number of other fascinating Rolex watches with military connections.

For those who collect Rolex watches, particularly vintage ones, military editions are very much in demand, and they represent some of the rarest and most coveted vintage timepieces in existence.

Military Issued Rolex Watches MilSub Submariner 5517

Wearing Rolex Watches on Duty by Choice

However, aside from Rolex watches that were officially issued to (or gifted to) members of the military, there are plenty of military personnel who choose to wear Rolex watches – either on or off duty (or both). In fact, here at Bob’s Watches, we see plenty of Rolex watches that come through our doors that belong to current members of the armed services, along with many more that belong to decorated veterans.

As their everyday timekeeping companions, these Rolex watches have traveled the world with their owners while on active duty. Remember, while Rolex is now regarded as a luxury manufacturer, it originally built its reputation by producing durable and highly reliable wristwatches.

Up until the early 2000s, Rolex watches were available for sale at many US Military overseas exchanges, and the watches were often significantly less expensive than those at official Rolex boutiques. These prices, along with no sales tax, permitted a lot of people in the military to buy themselves a Rolex watch. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case and Rolex watches aren’t currently available at authorized retailers and boutiques, let alone military exchanges.

Military Rolex Watches Explorer 214270 Stainless Steel

Rolex Watches Popular with Military

It’s no surprise that Rolex Submariner and Rolex GMT-Master watches are particularly popular with US military personnel, as both models were born as robust tool watches that serve a purpose.

Unveiled in 1953, the Submariner is Rolex’s iconic diver’s watch that became indispensable for combat swimmers and scuba divers of the era. The GMT-Master centers around the need of professional pilots and was launched two years after the Submariner in 1955. Rolex developed the watch with Pan Am pilots to enable them to follow two different time zones for use on long transcontinental flights. Although the Rolex GMT-Master was originally conceived for commercial pilots, it quickly became desired in other circles too – particularly military pilots.

Perhaps not immediately evident, the Explorer is another Rolex model that’s prevalent throughout the military. Once you consider its subtle straightforward style, rugged stainless steel construction, highly legible dial, and bright lume, it’s easy to understand why both the classic time-only Rolex Explorer and the more feature-packed Explorer II are both favorites among military personnel.

Military Rolex Watches Stainless Steel Vintage GMT-Master 1675 -Pepsi

Thank You For Your Service!

The freedom that we enjoy in this country has been made possible by the brave and dedicated service of the members of the armed forces. With Memorial Day on the horizon, we’d like to take a moment to thank all of those who have served our country and for all the sacrifices that have been made.

On behalf of everyone here at Bob’s Watches, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts and wish everyone a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend!

Military Rolex Watch Vintage Submariner 1680 Black 18k Yellow Gold

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Paul Altieri