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Supplying Watches to the US Airforce during the Vietnam War

The Hamilton GG-W-113: The U.S. Military's Trusted Timepiece in the Vietnam War Era.

As the United States found itself embroiled in the escalating conflict in Vietnam during the 1960s, the U.S. military had a critical need for a reliable, durable timepiece that could withstand the rigors of combat. Enter the Hamilton GG-W-113 - a rugged, no-frills watch that would go on to become an icon of the Vietnam War era. Issued to U.S. Air Force pilots and navigators, the Hamilton GG-W-113 was part of a broader military specification (MIL-W-46374) that outlined the requirements for a precision instrument capable of performing flawlessly under the most extreme conditions.

Hamilton, with its long history of supplying watches to the U.S. armed forces, was well-positioned to meet this challenge. The GG-W-113 specification called for a mechanical movement with an accuracy of +/- 30 seconds per day, a hacking mechanism to allow for precise time synchronization, and a shock-resistant, waterproof case. Crucially, the watch also had to feature luminous hands and indices for legibility in low-light cockpit environments. Hamilton's response was a compact, 34mm stainless steel timepiece that embodied rugged functionality.

The matte black dial, with its bold Arabic numerals and matching "syringe" hands, provided exceptional clarity, while the 17-jewel manual-wind movement offered a reliable 36-hour power reserve. But the GG-W-113's most distinctive feature was its "hacking" capability - a mechanism that stopped the seconds hand when the crown was pulled out. This allowed Air Force pilots to synchronize their watches with ground control for coordinated manoeuvres and precision bombing runs, a critical advantage in the heat of battle.

Serving the Skies of Vietnam

As the conflict in Vietnam escalated through the 1960s, the Hamilton GG-W-113 became an indispensable tool for U.S. Air Force personnel. These watches accompanied pilots, navigators, and crew members on countless sorties, from high-altitude bombing missions to daring helicopter rescue operations.3 The compact size and lightweight construction of the GG-W-113 made it easy to wear and read, even while encumbered by bulky flight gear. Its matte finish and luminous markings ensured optimal legibility in the dark cockpits of Vietnam-era aircraft. And the hacking feature allowed airmen to synchronize their timepieces with ground control for maximum coordination and effectiveness.

Beyond their practical utility, the Hamilton GG-W-113 watches also became a symbol of the Air Force's unwavering commitment to the Vietnam War effort. Worn with pride by those who served, these timepieces served as a tangible connection to the home front and a reminder of the sacrifices being made in the skies over Southeast Asia.

A Lasting Legacy

As the Vietnam War drew to a close in the mid-1970s, the Hamilton GG-W-113 faded from active service. But the watch's legacy lived on, both in the memories of those who wore it and in the enduring reputation of the Hamilton brand.4 Today, vintage examples of the GG-W-113 are highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts, with serial numbers and condition helping to determine their value. These watches stand as a testament to Hamilton's engineering prowess and the company's unwavering dedication to supporting the U.S. military, even in its darkest hours. The story of the Hamilton GG-W-113 is a powerful reminder of the vital role that precision timekeeping has played in the annals of military history. As the company continues to innovate and evolve, the spirit of this iconic Vietnam War-era watch lives on in Hamilton's modern Khaki collection, inspiring a new generation of adventurers and explorers.

In a recent video review, watch enthusiast and YouTuber The Time Teller praised the GG-W-113's timeless design and robust construction, noting that "these watches were built to take a beating." He went on to highlight the watch's hacking feature and the unique patina that develops on the tritium-based luminous material, further cementing the GG-W-113's status as a true icon of military horology

Uncovering the Secrets of the GG-W-113

For those interested in learning more about the Hamilton GG-W-113, a wealth of information can be found online. Watch enthusiast forums like offer detailed guides on identifying authentic examples, while sites like and showcase rare and well-preserved specimens available on the secondary market. According to these sources, the GG-W-113 specification was issued by the U.S. Department of Defence in 1967, with Hamilton and Benrus serving as the primary manufacturers. While other companies like Waltham and Marathon produced watches to the same standard,

Hamilton's examples are considered the most sought-after by collectors. One key distinguishing feature of the Hamilton GG-W-113 is the placement of the "GG-W-113" text on the case back. On Hamilton models, this text is engraved in a single line, while Benrus examples have it written along the outer edge of the case back. Additionally, the Hamilton watches often feature the brand's name stamped on the movement, providing further confirmation of their provenance. Ultimately, the Hamilton GG-W-113 stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of military-inspired design and the unwavering commitment of American watchmakers to supporting the U.S. armed forces. As a symbol of the Vietnam War era and a highly collectible vintage timepiece, the GG-W-113 continues to captivate watch enthusiasts and history buffs alike.


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