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This Reimagined ’90s Military Watch Is Like a Tank for Your Wrist

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tornek rayville blakjak watch on a stone surface next to a handbookPhoto by Johnny Brayson

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We go hands-on with the Tornek-Rayville “Blakjak.”

The history between watches and the world’s military is inseparably intertwined. Not only has war driven innovation in watches that resulted in the creation of the first dive watches, pilot’s watches and field watches, but even the concept of the wristwatch itself first gained widespread adoption via soldiers on the battlefield in the late 19th century.

When we think of military watches, those of the mid-twentieth century tend to take up the bulk of our mental real estate. The “Dirty Dozen” field watches and Fliegers of WWII, Type XX chronographs from the 1950s, mil-spec divers by Blancpain, Rolex and Omega in the ’50s and ’60s … there’s a lot of legendary military watches that came from the period.

But the need for military-issued watches didn’t evaporate in the middle of the Vietnam War. Mil-spec watches continue to this day, even if actual government-issued timepieces are a modern rarity, and there are a number of forgotten military watches that came about during less romanticized periods.

One such watch was the MIL-W-46374F Type 6 SANDY 660. Made by Stocker and Yale and issued in the mid-1990s, the Type 6 was a rare example of a military-issued watch with a stainless steel case and bracelet. Very few were ever made, making the watch more of a curiosity than a legend.

But Tornek-Rayville founder Bill Yao felt the Type 6 was worthy of a better story and imagined what would have happened if the watch had seen heavy use during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq during the 2000s. With some help from Raven Watches founder Steve Laughlin, Tornek-Rayville created the Type 7B — codename “Blakjak” — as a modern, up-spec’d version of the Type 6.

I’ve spent the past few weeks wearing a Blakjak, and while I’m nowhere near a war zone, I have some thoughts.

Tornek-Rayville Type TR 7B “Blakjak”: What We Think

The Blakjak is for people who are into military watches and who like a watch they can beat up. It’s very rugged, well built and feels like it could hold up in a battle (and maybe even be used as a projectile in a pinch). It’s highly functional, and is one of the most readable watches I’ve used despite its busy dial.

However, I don’t believe the Blakjak is for everyone. It’s a big watch, 45mm across the case, and it’s heavy. It also has some sharp finishing on the crown, and when added up the watch ends up being a pretty uncomfortable wear on smaller wrists. But if you’ve got a seven-inch wrist or bigger and love military stuff, then I think you’ll enjoy the Blakjak.

watchTornek-Rayville

Tornek-Rayville Type 7B “Blakjak”

Tornek-Rayville’s reimagining of an obscure military-issue watch from the mid-’90s swaps the original’s quartz movement for an automatic, trades the tritium lume for Super-LumiNova and upgrades the mineral crystal to sapphire, but otherwise maintains its ancestor’s utilitarian design and bulletproof build.

Specs

Case Size 42.5mm
Movement Seiko NH36 automatic
Water Resistance 200m

Pros

  • Built like a tank
  • Easy to read with high-visibility; excellent AR coating on the crystal
  • Additional goodies — carrying case, extra straps, ‘zine — make the watch more fun

Cons

  • Wears uncomfortably large and heavy on small wrists
  • Bracelet clasp feels like an afterthought
  • Finishing on the crown is sharp and it digs into the wrist

The build quality is (mostly) impressive

Taking the Blakjak in my hand, it’s hard not to be impressed with its ruggedness. The phrase “built like a tank” gets thrown around a lot when it comes to consumer goods, but here it doesn’t feel like hyperbole. The watch is a beast. It’s big, and it’s heavy. I feel like it could easily be used as a weapon in a pinch.

But there’s some elegance to the build, too. The bezel, which has a DLC steel insert and two levels of deep knurling on the side, is one of the most crisp I’ve ever used. Every movement on it is loud and exact, and it’s a real joy to use. The crown action is also good. It has a satisfying pop, it doesn’t wiggle and it winds far smoother than you’d expect for a watch with a Seiko SII NH36 movement.

My only real qualms about the build quality come down to the bracelet and some of the finishing. The bracelet itself is quite good. All the links are solid, including the end links, and are held together with screws. There are quick-release spring bars on the bracelet to make strap changes easy, and drilled lugs on the case to make them extra easy. My issue is with the clasp. It’s a standard, friction-fit deployant with a safety clasp that never folds flush. It feels very off-the-shelf and cheap compared to the rest of the watch.

My other issue comes down to the finishing. Now, this is not a luxury watch and the finishing in general is fine for what it is. This thing was built for utility, not beauty. My problem is with the finishing on the crown and the base of the crown guards. Both are quite sharp, and they would dig into my wrist while wearing the watch, making it too uncomfortable to wear for long periods.

Legibility is king (but the dial is too crowded)

Great care was taken to ensure the Blakjak’s dial was as easy to read as possible. In typical field watch fashion, the dial displays both 12-hour standard time and 24-hour military time via printed white Arabic numerals. Both displays are located very deep in the center of the dial and are surrounded by a large, curved chapter ring with minute markers and cutouts containing lume plots every five minutes.

The unique curvature of the chapter ring was fashioned to minimize parallax error, and I’ll be damed if it doesn’t work like a dream. When combined with the flat sapphire crystal, which sits just below the bezel and is coated with some very effective anti-reflective coating, and the high-vis white handset, the watch is very easy to read from practically any angle.

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