Monday, February 23, 2015

German GPW Military Titanium Automatic Watch (by Arctos Elite) - Tough, Accurate, Simple and Cheap, A Review

My interest in military watches was ignited when I happened to see this particular model from Arctos Elite under their GPW Infantry line. While searching online about this company, I found out a few very interesting facts that is worth mentioning.

On 1 April 1923, Philipp Weber founded the WEBER & AESCHBACH watch company in Pforzheim, Germany. Due to the devastation of Pforzheim in World War II which saw the destruction of the factory, the company was reborn on 21 October 1947 and renamed ARCTOS-UHRENFABRIK PHILIPP WEBER.

In 1982, based on the need for a watch of highest reliability, the German Department of Defence comissioned ARCTOS to produce and supply a chronograph for pilots and submarine commanders. ARCTOS watches became official standard equipment of NATO and the German Armed Forces under the NATO reference and supply number 6645-12-194-8642. Unfortunately, due to intense competition, ARCTOS went out of business in 1994.

However, which financial banking from Dorothea Bachmann, a retired business woman and passionate watch collector and Mr Hans IIg, in 2004, ARCTOS Präzisionsuhren e.K. was re-established in Aarbergen, a small town close to Pforzheim. The rest is history.

The watch that caught my eye was the GPW Infantry automatic titanium watch. Saw that it was available on Amazon and I put in an order. It was priced at USD249.95 (retail price was USD425.00) and courier charges was an addition USD49.95. Total cost in Ringgit was RM1,109.24

It didn’t take long for the package to arrive. After opening the parcel, I found the watch box plus two documents, a manual and the international guarantee certificate.

For the price that you pay, don’t expect a significant looking watch box. In fact, what you get is a simple box in black that looks like an oversized jewelry box and kept inside a similarly shaped cardboard box. Both these boxes have “GPW Military” printed on top of the boxed in silver.

Opening the box you will find the watch in its pillow. There is nothing else in the box.

This is the GPW German military watch made out of titanium. Powered by an automatic engine, it has a date complication. The glass on the dial is sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on the inside. It comes with a bund leather strap. This watch is based on watches made for the infantryman of the future and the German KRK (Crisis Reaction Forces) soldier.

This watch has a water rating of 200 meters. Both the crown as well as the case-back is screwed down to protect from water entry. The crown is located at the traditional 3 o’clock position and protected by protruding titanium shoulders from the watch casing. There are three analogue hands where the boarders of the minutes and seconds hands are coloured red.

There are round and rectangle hour markers around the dial. For the 12 o’clock position, there are two rectangle markers. Meanwhile, the date complication is located in a small window at the 3 o’clock position that takes half the marker for that position. By using a white background for the date window, it is not that obvious that the marker is truncated.

The hands as well as the markers are fully painted with luminous paint.

The only texts on the dial are the “GPW” brand and “EINSATZUHR” or squad in German.

This watch comes with a unidirectional bezel made out of titanium and painted black. It rotates with increments of 120-clicks. Although the movement appears smooth, in my particular example, the bezel does have some play to a degree of 1-click in certain positions. I suspect the ratcheting mechanism is not finely tune to the bezel.

In many reviews, the bezel was identified to be plastic. I suspect it is not true by the way it looks and feel but unfortunately there wasn’t any official statement to confirm the true material of the bezel. Instead, I wrote to GPW requesting clarification and I got a reply (see here). The bezel is made out of titanium.

The main casing is also in titanium but more grayish. This gives it a nice tone to the watch.

The dimensions of the watch are approximately 42.5 mm across (excluding the crown) and 11.7 mm thick. The lug width is 22 mm and the lug-to-lug length is approximately 50 mm. A nice size. Not too big and not too small.

Since this is the first time that I owned a bund strap I was quite intrigue how it would wear on my wrist. Honestly, my wrist is not that sensitive and I didn’t feel anything different. Theoretically, one should feel a difference since the cold metal surface is no longer resting on the skin. Nevertheless, the black leather bund strap is tough.

There is no shame in using a Japanese automatic movement in the watch. If by using it allows Arctos to price a titanium watch with sapphire crystal to be below USD250, than I am all for it. The NH35A Japanese automatic movement with 24 jewels, second hand stop and sweeping second hand is from the Seiko Group. Mind you, it is a relatively accurate movement. Operating at 21,600 beats per hour, it is hand-windable and has a main-spring with 41 hours of power reserve.

The traditional tang buckle is not titanium though but stainless steel. It has a nice small engraving of the brand that is not that revealing.

This watch has only one major function and that is to tell time. It does not pretend to be over-confident nor does it pretend to be something other than a simple basic watch. The relatively sterile dial reinforces the fact that this watch is a pure tool watch. It is light, easily camouflage due to the colour tone of the watch casing, accurate and can be used for diving, if required. More importantly, it is very cheap to make and own. For a service watch (military), this factor alone makes it very desirable in the eyes of the procurement departments in any government.


  1. Dear Bro,

    I tried to buy from the Amazon link but it says it does not ship to Malaysia.

    How did you manage to ship it in?

    Thanks to advise

    1. Hi sir,
      I'm surprised as well. Just checked and confirm they no longer ship to Malaysia. Not sure why.
      Try eBay perhaps?


  2. you're sure to find one you'll love and wear for years to come. Watch Collector

  3. I’m still learning from you, but I’m trying to achieve my goals. I certainly love reading everything that is posted on your website.Keep the stories coming. I liked it!
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  4. I checked it out yesterday. Saw that the price has shot up to usd339...a bummer. Is the titanium scratch magnet?

    1. At the moment not gotten any scratches on the titanium surface. Since there is no protective coating on the titanium, I suspect it would be easy to scratch.


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