Some watches are just plain cool. The Smiths W10 is one of those watches.
When it comes to the history of exploration, basically three sets of watches played a part: space watches, deep ocean watches, and Everest watches. For the last category, it's the Rolex Explorer that gets all the attention. And, yes, Edmund Hilary did have one with him as he made his way toward the summit for the first time in 1953, but he also had a Smiths watch with him. The truth has been lost to history, but by some accounts it was this Smiths that was on his wrist when he made the historic summit.
Smiths is a relatively unknown name in nonwatch nerd circles. The British brand made mechanical watches in England and Wales from the end of World War II through the early 1980s. The watches were mostly low-key dress and field watches with such names as the Admiral and Empire, though they made dash gauges and clocks for midcentury British cars, too. There are still watches being made under the Smiths name by a company called Timefactors, which now owns the trademark. However, they use Swiss movements inside and are not the same as the originals.
The most famous Smiths is the W10 military watch we have here. These watches were issued to British soldiers during the 1960s and 70s, and this one has the markings on the caseback to prove it. The W10 is about as basic as a military watch can get. It's 35 mm across, has a black dial with white Arabic numerals, and luminous markings at the hours and on the stick-shaped hands. The bright white seconds hand is what passes for fancy decoration here. The "Made in England" down at the bottom of the dial is a small detail that really sets this watch apart.
The inside mechanics are the Caliber 60466E, a basic, manually wound workhorse movement. An antimagnetic dust cover is between the caseback and the movement to protect it in the field. While some small, high-end watchmakers are still creating unique pieces in Britain, the Caliber 60466E is the last movement to have been serially produced there.
This watch is just flat-out fun. There's a little bit of history, it's easy to wear with almost anything (though you have to stick to straps that can be threaded through the fixed bars), and it was meant to take a beating, so you don't have to be too precious about it. The W10 is also a relatively affordable way to get into the otherwise-expensive world of collecting military watches.
This Smiths W10 is available from Analog/Shift and is priced at $1,650.
(Corrects in the third paragraph with current trademark ownership.)