If James Bond did not prefer to wear an Omega, Rolex or even the ticker tape Seiko below, he might like using a Swiss Army Night Vision for the sheer gadgetry of it. “Q” would approve of its design.

This spy gadget from Moonraker Seiko watch had a built-in labeler. Nifty!

This spy gadget from Moonraker Seiko watch had a built-in labeler. Nifty!

The Night Vision series of watches combined the usefulness of a flashlight with the availability of a watch, meaning that you could light up the dark corners of your life at a moment’s notice. These watches are a cat burglar’s dream.

Victorinox Swiss Army Night Vision Flashlight watches. Generation 1 and 2.

Victorinox Swiss Army Night Vision Flashlight watches. Generation 1 and 2.

I suppose that I should put this product in historical context. Back in the ancient days of the 1990s before widespread smartphone proliferation, people actually used different tools to accomplish different tasks. A hammer was a hammer and a screwdriver was a screwdriver. Imagine that! Combining a watch with a flashlight must have seemed like a novel idea.

Fast forward to the modern day where almost everyone has a gadget-rich smart phone that has a flashlight built in. A light seems to be standard operating equipment today and probably we have all used it to look in a dark cabinet or held them up instead of a lighter during rock concerts.

Phone flashlights at a concert. Photo: Shutterstock

Phone flashlights at a concert. Photo: Shutterstock

Swiss Army’s Night Vision watches are a bit of a novelty design seemingly made for spies, superheroes and crime solving detectives on TV. The flashlight snoot is very prominent drawing attention to the capability this watch had.

Promotional images of Night Vision 1 by Victorinox Swiss Army

Promotional images of Night Vision 1 by Victorinox Swiss Army

The first model (24070) seems inspired by Battlestar Galactic with its swooping lines and glowing eye. It is easy to imagine this watch as standard issue wrist wear for a robotic Centurion.

The first Night Vision seems similar to this robot. Photo by Revell

The first Night Vision seems similar to this robot. Photo by Revell

The streamlined watch pod is encapsulated in a one-piece rubber watch band. Think of it as a single strip of rubber with a hole where the case is inserted.

The first generation Night Vision had a unique 1-piece rubber watch band

The first generation Night Vision had a unique 1-piece rubber watch band

There is a single multifunction button at 8 o’clock that controls a UV-rich purple light to illuminate the dial and a powerful white LED light that was used as a flash light. The way that the wearer hit the button determined which light would activate. A short push turned on the dial light, and a double tap activated the flash light.

A UV light illuminates the dial and charges the lume on the hands and hour markers on the first generation Night Vision watch

A UV light illuminates the dial and charges the lume on the hands and hour markers on the first generation Night Vision watch

The coolest thing about using UV light for the dial is that it also charges the lume indices. Ultraviolet light is what makes luminescent paint glow, not necessarily white light. I do not know of any other watch that uses this clever dual purpose UV dial light. There is also a pulsing red LED strobe at 6 o’clock that blinks every 10 seconds. One could always find the watch, even in the darkest cave with this feature. I always thought it looked like a distant plane’s strobe in a night sky.

The watch has two batteries. It uses a 1.5v battery to power the watch movement and a separate 3v battery to power the lights. This is great because the watch will still keep time even if you fall asleep reading Game of Thrones by “watch light”.

The upper 3V battery runs all of the lights

The upper 3V battery runs all of the lights

The hidden 1.5V battery for the watch movement keeps time

The hidden 1.5V battery for the watch movement keeps time

The second generation of the Night Vision (241131) below, stepped away from the quirky design language of the first model. Instead, Swiss Army designers chose alternative styling that included a slab sided case with a thick black bezel and a 2-piece watch band inserted into flush lugs. It is a simple and well proportioned with 12 and 224-hour time scales.

The second generation Night Vision is a great looking watch with a no-nonsense dial layout

The second generation Night Vision is a great looking watch with a no-nonsense dial layout

The flashlight was made stealthier and the button functions were reversed from the first generation watch. The dial is clean and readable in any lighting situation… even when there is no light at all.

On the second generation Night Vision, the previous model's UV dial light was changed to a blue light. I don't think the lume is charged as much by this light

On the second generation Night Vision, the previous model’s UV dial light was changed to a blue light. I don’t think the lume is charged as much by this light

Later models refined the design language even more, practically hiding the fact that a flashlight was inside of the watch. They became more of a daily sports watch that just happened to have a light built in. The Night Vision watches by Victorinox Swiss Army continue to evolve and are still the ultimate gadget watch.

The latest versions of Swiss Army Night Vision watch. Photo: Victorinox Swiss Army

The latest versions of Swiss Army Night Vision watch. Photo: Victorinox Swiss Army

The flash light and strobe light are seen here. Photo: Victorinox Swiss Army

The flash light and strobe light are seen here. Photo: Victorinox Swiss Army

Andrew Hughes

Author Andrew Hughes

A graphic designer and photographer in Atlanta, Georgia who came down with a serious obsession for things that wind up, tick and tell time.

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