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Marathon ‘GPM’ General Purpose Mechanical Watch Review

Marathon 'GPM' General Purpose Mechanical Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

As the last remaining official supplier of wristwatches to the U.S., Canadian, and some other military forces, Canada-based Marathon sells many of its military watches directly to consumers. One of them is the recently upgraded General Purpose Mechanical, or rather “GPM” watch that you see here. As a watch collector, it is actually quite easy for me to dismiss this relatively inexpensive, seemingly petite 34mm-wide wristwatch. But in person, and on the wrist, the GPM is an excellent tool watch with a unique personality that I’ve not experienced with other timepiece products. Let’s take a closer look.

Recall that this is meant to be a soldier’s watch, so it is all about function, durability, and, to a degree economy. One common (and legitimate) question people ask is, “Why does the military want mechanical versus quartz watches?” While mechanical watches are more popular with enthusiasts, quartz watches are generally cheaper and more accurate on a day-to-day basis. Indeed a lot of military watches are quartz. That said, mechanical watches offer two important qualities that quartz does not.

Marathon 'GPM' General Purpose Mechanical Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Marathon 'GPM' General Purpose Mechanical Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

First is the fact that mechanical watches have a very long “shelf-life.” As they do not require a battery, a mechanical watch can, theoretically, be sitting in a box for a decade, picked up and wound, and then serve necessary timekeeping needs for a soldier. The second and equally important reason why an army would want a mechanical versus electronic watch is due to fear of EMPs (or rather electromagnetic pulses). Weaponized EMPs can affect electronics over a large area, rendering all sorts of equipment utterly useless. Soldiers in “all-analog” mode at the very least need to coordinate their ability to track time in order to operate as an army. So for that reason, mechanical watches are still preferred in a lot of military settings — especially when it comes to infantry.

Inside the Marathon GPM is Japanese Seiko Instrument automatic caliber NH35. This simple 3Hz, 41-hour power-reserve movement is durable and relatively reliable, making for a decent workhorse in a soldier’s watch. Marathon refers to the movement as “dual-wind,” which means it can be wound either automatically or via the crown. Even though the movement is Japanese, each Marathon GPM watch is assembled in La Chaux-de-Fonds at Marathon’s wholly-owned production facility. So in a lot of ways, this is a Swiss-made watch that doesn’t actually say “Swiss Made”.

Marathon 'GPM' General Purpose Mechanical Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Marathon 'GPM' General Purpose Mechanical Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The GPM is extremely legible with its clear and straightforward military-style dial. While it isn’t going for looks, the elegant symmetry and focus on purpose make for a rather handsome look. The deep dial features tritium gas tubes for darkness illumination in the hands and hour markers and can be ordered with or without the “U.S. Government” label on the dial.


Over the dial on this version of the GPM is a flat 3mm-thick sapphire crystal, which is uncommon at these price points. The case has a metal core and a “high-impact fiber shell” in black (other colors are available). The watch is water resistant to 30 meters, which isn’t that much, but Marathon does make more water-resistant models — 30 meters seems to satisfy mil-spec requirements.

Marathon 'GPM' General Purpose Mechanical Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The case design is its own form of beautiful, and I like that it is unique. Marathon is actually not credited for the attractiveness and distinctiveness of many of its case designs, with the GPM being only one of various models with cases that are worth taking a good look at. The 34mm-wide case wears larger than it is due to the tonneau shape of the case and its roughly 12mm thickness. Attached to the case is a nylon NATO-style strap, which is always very comfortable. A close inspection of the strap reveals very high-quality matte-finished metal hardware, as well as a special touch meant for wearing ergonomics. What I am referring to is the slightly “taller” metal loop near the buckle that is higher so that the excess strap can be neatly tucked in without the wearer having to shove very hard. I really appreciate these kinds of details in any watch, and it is great to see such a focus on wearability and utility from Marathon in even simple watches like the General Purpose Mechanical.

Marathon 'GPM' General Purpose Mechanical Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Marathon 'GPM' General Purpose Mechanical Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

There are a lot of watch-lovers I think would find enjoyment in the GPM outside the typical military, tactical, weekend-warrior crowd that Marathon timepieces frequently appeal to. It isn’t just that it is a low-cost and effective tool watch, but rather that its combination of design refinement and functional appeal go to the heart of why many of us appreciate timepieces, to begin with. Price for the Marathon General Purpose Mechanical watch reference WW194003BK-NGM as reviewed here is $360 USD. Learn more at the Marathon Website here.

Necessary Data
>Brand: Marathon
>Model: General Purpose Mechanical with Tritium (GPM) reference WW194003BK-NGM as tested.
>Price: $360 USD
>Size: 34mm-wide, ~12mm-thick
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a petite tool/beater watch that is as useful as it is unpretentious.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Newer watch collector looking for value, interested in understanding what a good tool watch is. Also excellent for military watch collectors seeking a smaller, yet still masculine, design.
>Best characteristic of watch: Great value for the money in terms of components, build quality, and overall design. Excellent legibility and comfort.
>Worst characteristic of watch: 30 meters of water resistance is likely sufficient for most needs but tool watch collectors often like a bit more. Would likely have customers for a version with a Swiss Made movement, even if it would increase the price.

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  • Alex A

    Looks too small on the wrist.

  • Mikita

    Japan-movt Swiss-assembled Canadian watch for USA. Lol. Internationality at its best.

    • SuperStrapper

      This is why we have NATO.

      Just kidding! They’ve never been this useful.

  • SuperStrapper

    Japanese powered, Canadian owned, Swiss made. A military force to be reckoned with!

    • Independent_George

      Efficient, polite and passive aggressive. Also describes the ex-wife.

      • DanW94


        • Independent_George

          Thank you! I’ll be here through the Thanksgiving weekend. Don’t forget to tip your waiter!

      • Ugo

        now i’m wondering which country is the passive-aggressive…

        • 200F

          I believe it’s in order.

      • Mikita

        Are you talking about “polite people with the rifles”?

  • Matt Rowe

    I have a stainless steel GPM hand winding with a eta 2801. Well built and appealing the same way this one is, but costs nearly twice as much. I’m not sure there’s much benefit to using a Swiss movement in a watch like this one.

  • Chad Valentine

    The link to the watch on Marathon’s site is non-existent.

  • dr3

    Are they sure ‘US Government’ written on anything is a selling point in 2019…?

    • Garrett Hu

      I think so, although this may change in the near future as all super powers eventually fall but for now the USA, (not Trump but the USA) still has the strongest military. So yeah, I think it’s cool. This watch would appeal to a small demographic.

  • spice

    Agree that Tritium tubes work well and while they have a published finite life (and need replacing) even lume fades with (around the same) time time and need retouch. I am a little surprised not to have seen any of the main Japanese watchmakers using T-tubes?

    • Mikita
      • spice

        Thx Mikita, I was referring to the big three; Casio, Citizen & Seiko. l realise that there are smaller companies (eg, Nite – non-Japanese) that use them but not Kentex.

        • Mikita

          Yes, all big four players (Casio, Seiko, Citizen, and Orient) never used tritium as far as I’m aware. Kentex is more a small niche brand compared to those – so they are much easier at experimenting. Those big behemoths are very inert – and tritium application is more tricky. Very easy to get mismatched tritium tubes or slightly rotated. This will increase costs for QC. Even slight bezel misalignment causes much noise, what will happen if they misalign the tubes. Kentex are producing 1000 times less watches per year, so they can do it.

      • egznyc

        Wow: not only tritium
        Tubes but a Genta-like case!

  • Berndt Norten

    Is it safe to assume you were a marathon man?

    • Playboy Johnny – Team Mariu$

      So, “it is not safe” for RW to consume peanuts……… per Dr. Szell?

  • Joe

    +1 for the Hamilton (or any number of Seikos)

  • 200F

    Bought one of these and returned it. I could handle the case size—it was the 16mm lug width that just made it look silly.

  • Esteban

    So, a GPM™ watch is just a regular watch that tells time. Got it.

  • TheChuphta

    Thank you for your service.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    I can’t eat them either.

  • Berndt Norten

    Um, don’t you mean ground nuts? (You are a Scot, after all, and not some guy in a basement in New Jersey!)

  • Berndt Norten

    That’s a great little $80 watch. I own two of them.

  • Luke Malloy

    I’m a minimalist and have been happy with my GPM. My only complaint is after 3 years the crown is a little though to pull out. It is accuracy is less than a 10 second deviation in 24 hours. My strap is devoid of metal bands, a feature I prefer. This is a watch I can wear all day and night. It has seen temperature extremes, dirtbike rides, endless tug of war games with a Doberman, thousands of pistol and rifle recoil events. It has lived a hard life and never skipped a beat. The tritium illumination is perfect. Even though the dial is small it’s very legible to a pair of aging eyes.

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