In short, a canteen watch made the jobs of divers easier.
The watch, which earned its name because of its shape and design (it looks like an over-sized cap linked to the case by a chain), filled a need for navy divers in the 1940’s.
At that time, divers needed water-resistant watches, but most of the reliable watches and technology was still several years away at that time.
Canteen watches were made for the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Ships by Elgin, Bulova and Hamilton and came with “USN BuShips” inscribed on the watch, which led canteen and BuShips being used interchangeably.
Canteen watches were produced in limited numbers for a short time and were not common or technologically groundbreaking.
However, they stand out for their story and their strange look.
Some modern companies which have a similar designs to the canteen include TW Steel, Italian U Boat and modern Hamilton’s own Khaki Navy Frogman.
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