Commemorating D-Day: Watchmakers Honor 80th Anniversary with Unique Timepieces

Today, June 6, marks the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the pivotal event during World War II when Allied forces launched their assault on the beaches of Normandy, France. This historic invasion set in motion the events that would eventually lead to the end of the war. D-Day remains significant not only in military history but also among watch enthusiasts, particularly those who treasure vintage timepieces from brands such as Longines, Omega, and Bulova—companies authorized to supply watches to troops during the conflict.

In honor of this landmark anniversary, watch designers from around the world, including Britain and Australia, have introduced commemorative timepieces. Don Cochrane, chairman of Vertex Watches, notes, "It’s a very competitive marketplace." Vertex has launched the M36, a 36-millimeter brushed steel watch with a Swiss automatic movement, priced at £2,250 (approximately $2,826). Preorders began on May 1 via the Vertex website and its boutique in London’s Mayfair district, with deliveries starting today.

The M36 is designed to remain "as faithful as possible" to the original 36-millimeter chrome-plated Cal 59 W.W.W. (Watch, Wrist, Waterproof). However, Cochrane admits that “the movement is slightly different, so everything is in slightly not quite the same spacing.” Modern updates include screw-in lugs, making it easier to change straps; each M36 will come with three strap options: dark brown vintage-style leather, woven cotton, and a steel bracelet.

Christophe Hoppé, founder of Bausele watches in Sydney, Australia, also commemorates D-Day with a personal touch. He believes the D-Day landing ultimately saved his grandfather’s life. Hoppé’s grandfather was rescued from a Russian prison camp three months after the war ended—an event unlikely without the invasion. To honor this, Bausele introduces the Langstone Field Watch, a 38-millimeter stainless steel piece priced at $700, featuring a Japanese automatic movement for affordability and sand from Normandy’s Sword Beach. Preorders for the 100-piece limited edition are available on the Bausele website, with distribution beginning this month.

Avi-8, an aviation-inspired brand owned by Solar Time of Hong Kong, has released a five-piece capsule collection featuring the 42-millimeter Spitfire D-Day 80 Royal British Legion 24 Hour Automatic Bronze Limited Edition — Normandy. Priced at $450, with $40 from each sale benefiting the Royal British Legion, this watch includes Avi-8’s first 24-hour dial display. This display is achieved by using the GMT hand as the primary hour-hand display. Limited to 250 pieces, the model is available on the Avi-8 website, with distribution starting today from warehouses in Hong Kong, Britain, and the United States.

Shipping delays due to current conflicts are affecting some anniversary editions. Ronald Steffen, co-founder of RSC Pilot’s Watches in Belgium, reported delays for the brand’s Mosquito 80th D-Day watch, a limited-edition Swiss quartz timepiece in stainless steel priced at $460. While some shipments risk attacks by the Houthi militia in the Red Sea, others, including Steffen’s, opt for the longer route around Africa, extending delivery times.

Despite these challenges, anniversary sales are promising. British brand Elliot Brown saw its new 40-millimeter Beachmaster Automatic: the D-Day 80th Limited Edition in satin-brushed stainless steel sell out within five weeks of preorders starting in October 2023. This success underscores the enduring allure of D-Day commemorative watches among collectors and enthusiasts alike.