Elgin Trench Watch
Why We Love it
Why We Love it–
With the start of World War I in 1914, the face of warfare changed. Thousands of men were now being ferried to and from the front by trains, tanks, or armored car. With more men being mobilized than ever before, the personnel in charge of troop maneuvers needed watches that they could read at a glance, without having to fumble in their pockets for them.
Although Cartier had been the first company to popularize the “wristwatch,” the practice didn’t become widespread until the war made it a necessity.
Brands like Omega and Rolex produced watches for the European Allied powers, with Rolex in particular concentrating their efforts on this new “fad,” hoping that it would last the war. Meanwhile, in America, Hamilton did not let themselves be swept up in the wristwatch furor, and continued producing the pocket watches that had made their reputation. However, brands like Waltham and Elgin saw the potential for this new product.
Moreover, these two brands were ideally suited to meet the growing need for wristwatches after the U.S. Army issued standards in 1914 and 1916. In the waning years of the previous century, Waltham and Elgin had implemented an innovative system of manufacturing that has actually gone down in history as “the American system of watchmaking.” Rather than manufacture each individual part of a watch by hand, these companies mass-produced them with machines, precision-engineering them according to strict standards of quality control.
This allowed Elgin and Waltham to produce thousands of watches a year, when their Swiss competitors only made hundreds.
And the momentum was only carried throughout the war, with Elgin manufacturing over 1 million of these wristwatches a year, in accordance with U.S. Army standards.
The watches worn by soldiers and officers in the trenches became known as “trench watches,” and now occupy a coveted position in the collections of many enthusiasts who admire them for the important role they played in the history of wristwatch production.
Before the standards were issued, the looks of these watches were varied. But as the war progressed, the powers that be settled on a set standard that was then carried out by the various manufacturers. Generally, the watches would be 30-34mm, with enamel dials and sterling silver cases—sterling silver rather than gold or steel, given that sterling silver was judged to be the most affordable and durable material at the time.
This particular trench watch features a 32mm sterling silver case that has taken on a heavy patina. But the enamel dial is still crisp, boldly telling the time as it has for a century. With this year marking the centennial of the U.S. entering the war, its importance as a wearable artifact of that great and terrible conflict—and the bravery of the men who risked life and limb in aid of strangers a world away, whom they had never met—cannot go understated.
Analog:Shift stands behind the authenticity of our products in perpetuity.
Since our pieces are vintage or pre-owned, please expect wear & patina from usage and age. Please read each item description and examine all product images.
We back each Analog:Shift vintage timepiece with a one-year mechanical warranty from the date of purchase.
Please contact us prior to purchase for additional details on shipping and payment options.
Shipping & Returns
Shipping & Returns+
All of our watches include complementary insured shipping within the 50 states.
Most of our products are on hand and will ship directly from our headquarters in New York City. In some cases, watches will be shipped directly from one of our authorized partners.
We generally ship our products via FedEx, fully insured, within 5 business days of purchase. An adult signature is required for receipt of all packages for insurance purposes. Expedited shipping is available at an additional cost. We are also happy to hand deliver your purchase in Manhattan or you may pick it up at our showroom.
Returns must be sent overnight or by priority international delivery, fully insured and paid for by the customer. A restocking fee may apply. Watches must be returned in the same condition as initially shipped.
We welcome international buyers, please contact us prior to purchase for additional details on shipping and payment options.
Elgin Trench Watch