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Declassifying MICROMILSPEC, a Norwegian Company of True Military-Issued Watches

A custom watchmaking company literally working under the radar, now gives full disclosure.

| By Robin Nooy | 4 min read |

MIL-SPEC probably needs little explaining to most people, as it is quite a common term used to indicate something that is made to the specifications of a Department of Defense. This can be indicative of all sorts of things. Cars and trucks, equipment like flashlights or tents, and of course: watches! There are plenty of famous MIL-SPEC watches around, just think of the Dirty Dozen that was issued by the Royal Air Force or the Type 20 issued watches by the French Naval Airforce (Aeronavale). Yet Norwegian watch manufacturer MICROMILSPEC has built quite an impressive portfolio of modern, robust, military issued watches. And today, we are declassifying the brand to you for the very first time.

MICROMILSPEC as a company has been around for just a couple of years and is based in Oslo, Norway. The company is founded by Henrik Rye, who previously worked in the watch industry for over a decade. He’s joined by Anders Drage, the Lead Executive Designer, and the third member of the outfit, an active member of the Norwegian Army with several combat tours under his belt (the name is classified I’m afraid).

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The name MICROMILSPEC is an abbreviation that quite literally indicates small volume watches made with military inspiration in mind. But where 99% of the watch manufacturers publicly sell their watches, MICROMILSPEC does not. And how odd that may be to us enthusiasts and collectors, it also sounds very intriguing, right? So what’s this all about really, and how does it all work? Let’s investigate.

The company is born from the idea of trying to have a bespoke watch made specifically for a military unit, and not being able to find a company that could do what was envisioned. Most companies in this segment of the industry put together watches with off-the-shelf components taken from a catalogue, but that wasn’t the idea. When discussing this issue with Henrik, a list of requirements was quickly penned down, kickstarting the concept that lead to MICROMILSPEC.

What followed was a search for companies that could provide the three men with what was needed, or at least find suppliers to partner with in order to produce the desired watch. Gradually an idea turned into a unique concept, and a company specializing in custom series of watches produced specifically under the commission of, and jointly designed with military units worldwide with one very strict limitation: the watches were only to be sold to members of the commissioning military unit, and not to anyone else.

Now, three years after launch, MICROMILSPEC has successfully completed more than 25 of these projects, with army regiments, emergency response teams, naval flight squadrons, combat units and more. Even the His Majesty The King’s National Guard, the Royal Guards Batallion of the Norwegian Army has commissioned a project. The list of clients features some of the most elite forces in the world, one of which we’ll be disclosing in full in the near future.

All that is fine and dandy of course, but what about the actual watchmaking side of the business? Well, MICROMILSPEC does not mess about and offers proper mechanical, Swiss Made watches yet all specifically made to the requirements as listed in each project. This results in a personal timepiece, a rugged platform to begin with most of the time, but other options are possible as well. The entire process of the first request for a finalized product consists of four phases: Brief, Design, Launch & Delivery. Pretty straightforward, right?

Yet, when dealing with military units it’s obvious they might have some unusual demands or requirements. This is tackled in the Brief phase, where all the ideas are gathered before even putting a pen to paper in designing a watch. When this is completed, MICROMILSPEC goes to the drawing board and, based upon their expertise and base designs, and creates a fully bespoke model. And this goes beyond printing a logo on a dial. The material can be selected (titanium, steel, carbon), a custom bezel and bezel insert can be made, a unique set of hands, a custom date wheel, unique straps or bracelets, you name it. In terms of movements, MICROMILSPEC only uses Swiss Made mechanical movements from ETA, Sellita, Vaucher or La-Joux Perret.

The story of MICROMILSPEC and its dedication to creating bespoke watches for servicemen and -women only is fascinating and unique in the industry. Breaking cover in the way the brand is doing now might shed new light on otherwise overlooked segments within this great passion of ours.

In a future story, we will be discussing one of these unique projects, made with the Telemark Battalion of the Norwegian Army, a mechanized infantry battalion. We have been given the green light to talk to a (former) commanding officer directly involved in the project and will be going through the details of the watch itself.

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4 responses

  1. What is it about telling me I can’t have one makes me desire something I never would have otherwise? Very cool watches and article.

  2. Why does this obvious paid ad even exist? You can’t buy any watches on their website. These are cookie-cutter limited runs only, escapes me why this company is paying to advertise. And who would even buy this? Whatever…

  3. I’d refrain from calling these “true military issue watches.” Modern armies don’t use such pieces in combat. If at all, possibly they order them as retirement memorabilia or a decoration to wear. Especially not serving special forces soldiers, they usually stay well away from anything that could identify them, wearing something like this would be tantamount to having a death wish. Legend has it that any of them would want a watch with unit name and insignia when getting captured on an operation behind the lines. That’s why the MACV-SOG in Vietnam wore the Seikos made to look as bland and uninteresting as possible, with no issue markings. The milwatches of today are beaters like G-Shock or Suunto – proverbially “bulletproof,” and cheap to replace if they break down. I especially remember a story from my friend, a former officer. Some guys bought Hamiltons as a nod to the Vietnam era for a tour of duty in Afghanistan. One got a Rolex. The dust made short work of Hamiltons, wrecking the gaskets and getting the movement – in Vietnam-era lingo – FUBAR. The Rolex gave up a week or two later. The era of battle-worthy mechanical milwatches is gone.

  4. Agree with Mike. My nephew SF and neither he, nor any guys he works with, wear mechanical watches or watches that aren’t cheap/easy to replace. He has a few g-shocks and an older Garmin Fenix that he’s uses.

    Not going to lie, sort of feels like an ad piece for a company that’s looking to begin selling to the general public in the near future.


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