The IWC 3705 was one model in a line of aviation chronograph (fliegerchronograph) wristwatches manufactured by Swiss watchmaker International Watch Company (IWC). Nicknamed the “black flieger,” the IWC 3705 was the first ceramic chronograph ever produced.
HISTORY OF IWC 3705
The IWC 3705 was part of IWC’s pilots watch collection, a collection that goes all the way back to the iconic Mark XI model, which also helped IWC become a household name in luxury pilots watches.
The IWC 3705, also known as the “Black Flieger” (images by DWC user: aikiman44)
The 3705 was manufactured during the early days of what is known as the Swiss resurgence in watchmaking. During that time, IWC was one of the first luxury watchmakers to experiment with new materials in their efforts to manufacture durable watch cases. In manufacturing the 3705, the watchmaker went for a type of ceramic made from zirconium oxide, known to be durable but a notoriously difficult and expensive material to work with at the time.
The 3705 line was introduced in 1994. However, it was only available in the market for a short time as it was discontinued in 1997, three years after its debut. Some speculations have been raised as to why the 3705 line only had a short run in the market. One speculation is that IWC found it too difficult and expensive to continue utilizing zirconium oxide to manufacture the watch cases. The fact that it was the first time a manufacturer attempted to mass-produce a watch case made of this material also compounded matters for the manufacturer. Another speculation is that IWC was disappointed with the market reaction to the 3705 as it was perceived to be cheap-looking, a product of an aversion of the public at the time to black watches, as most of the black watches in the market then were made of cheap quartz plastic. Despite being a ceramic wristwatch, the black coating of the 3705 made it a target of an adverse public reaction to black watches in general.
A catalog scan for the 3705 (left), and an ad featuring the similar 3713 (right)
Despite its short history, the IWC 3705 has achieved cult status, as it attracted a number of admirers, not to mention countless imitations as well. One admirer is J.J. Redick, a professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Clippers team of the NBA. Redick, himself an avid collector of fine watches, is noted in an article to have a blacked-out IWC 3705 which has a luminous display of the radioactive tritium on its dial.
Fewer than 2000 examples of the IWC 3705 were made during its short production run; all were designed, assembled, and regulated in IWC’s facilities in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. It adopted the Valjoux 7750 calibre as its base movement and had two variations that were manufactured based on different calibres of this movement: cal 7902 (manufactured from 1994 to 1997) and cal 7912. (manufactured in 1997).
In addition, IWC also manufactured a stainless steel version of the 3705, the IWC 3706. Other than the material used, the rest of the technical and design specifications of the 3706 are similar to that of the 3705.
Due to its short history, IWC 3705 watches are now very rare to find.
The watch bears the design conceptualized by Lothar Schmidt, an engineer and watch entrepreneur who worked with IWC at the time. During his stint in IWC, he developed an innovative case and bracelet production and helped solve problems which dealt with the difficulty to process materials such as titanium, platinum, and ceramics.
IWC’s Annual Edition (published circa 1993) noted that the IWC 3705 seemed destined to cause quite a stir among lovers of unusual timepieces. The report raved about the use of ceramic in creating a watch which was reminiscent of state-of-the-art stealth and space travel technology.
The watch has a matte black surround, the precision of which can be seen in the luminescent white hands and numerals, while the high-tech ceramic technology used in the watch would reportedly allow for stealth technology. With regards to day-to-day use, the watch is noted to be the most durable that can withstand everyday wear without significant risk of damage thanks to its super-durable ceramic case.
DETAILS AND SPECIFICATIONS
|MANUFACTURER||INTERNATIONAL WATCH COMPANY|
|Caliber||Caliber 7902, Caliber 7912 (Both with base caliber Valjoux 7750)|
|Water Resistance||60 M|
|Dimensions||39mm Round Case|
|Number of Jewels||25 Jewel|
|Beats per hour||28,800 bph|
|Movement height and diameter||30mm, height of 8.9mm|
|Finish||Matte black ceramic (zirconium oxide)|
|Markings||Dial with tritium markings|
|Complications||date, chronograph, small second hand|
|Production Number||Approximately 2000|
Valjoux 7750, the base movement for the IWC 3705, was developed by Valjoux, a notable producer of chronograph movements, especially mechanical chronograph movements that have been used in a number of watches, such as those manufactured by Enicar, Breitling, Tag Heuer, Longines, and IWC.
|Casing Diameter||30 mm||30 mm|
|Maximum Height||7.90 mm||7.90 mm|
|No. of Functional Jewels||25 artificial jewels||25 artificial jewels|
|Vibrations per hour||28, 800 vph||28, 800 vph|
|Impulse Angle||52 degrees||52 degrees|
|Oscillating Frequency||4.00 Hertz||4.00 Hertz|
|Adjustment System||Classic Fine Adjustment||ETA Chron|
|Surfaces||gold plated||gold plated|
|Rotor-segment-material||heavy metal||heavy metal|
|Balance-spring- type||flat balance-spring||flat balance-spring|
|Power Reserve of the Fully-wound Movement||44 hours||44 hours|
IWC calibre 7902 (left), IWC calibre 7912 (right)
The 3705 dial is of luminous material that was made from tritium, with black coating and featured pump pushers and a traditional pilot’s Chrono dial. Later versions, however, replaced tritium with Luminova.
The layout consists of luminous hands and markers (light patina), Day and Date at 3:00, and 3 registers: 30 Minute Register at 12:00, 12 Hour Register at 6:00, and Subsidiary Seconds at 9:00. The numbers are marked in Arabic numerals. 
This dial configuration is known as the “black pilot,” particularly the models of the 3705 manufactured in 1994.
As noted earlier, aside from the matte black ceramic case used in IWC 3705, a stainless steel variant was made for the IWC 3706, which is essentially the stainless steel version of the 3705. The caseback is a screw back type and is made of stainless steel, the same material used for the crown and the pushers as well.
The IWC 3705 uses sapphire crystal as material for the watch crystal.
A sapphire crystal protects the face of the IWC 3705
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON THE IWC 3705
During the time it was on production, the IWC 3705 commanded an original premium of 50% at list price. At that time, it had a price tag of about $6000.
Image by: Francis Chang (minutedreamer on flickr)
Currently, a 3705 in good condition would fetch somewhere between US$4000 and US$7000 in auctions and from second hand retailers.
Given its short production history, the IWC 3705 is rare to find at present. At the same time, its place as an important timepiece in the history of watchmaking makes it a high-end watch and a collector’s item itself.
During the time it was on production, the IWC 3705 commanded an original premium of 50% at list price, with a price tag of about $6000. Today, a unit can command a price range from US$4000 to as high as US$7000 in auctions and online marketplaces.
There are no known variations of the 3705, given the limited time, it was on the market, save for its sibling, the aforementioned IWC 3706 which is the stainless steel version of the ceramic cased 3705. The 3706 has a lower premium as it is being sold anywhere between $2500 to $3500.
One important thing to remember in purchasing a 3705 is that there may be a lack of available replacement cases should damage occur at the ceramic case. In the event of such damage, you may be advised that it could be replaced with a stainless steel case, which would turn the watch into a 3706.
From The Spring Bar Store:
- goldstein, IWC Fliegeruhr Chronograph 3705, Movement archive 2009
- hodinkee, History Lesson: Comparing The IWC Top Gun Miramar Chronograph vs. IWC’s Very First Ceramic Chronograph, The 3705, Article 2012
- reddit user zanonymous, —- /r/Watches Official Buying Guide US$5000-$10000 —-, Post 2012
- Peter Flax, L.A. CLIPPERS STAR J.J. REDICK REVEALS HIS NOT-SO-SECRET “OBSESSION”: WATCHES, Article 2014
- thedivewatchconnection user aikiman44, The Flieger Chrono, Forum post 2012
- watchprosite user shing, small review of the history of IWC ceramic pilots…, Forum post 2013
- watchwiki, Schmidt, Lothar, Watch Wiki 2015
- Alexander Linz, CHARLIE-ECHO-ROMEO-ALFA-MIKE-INDIA-CHARLIE, Article 2012
- bernardwatch, About ETA Valjoux 7750 Watches, Article
- tz-uk user feilersen, IWC 3705 Ceramic Flieger, Forum post 2011
- timezone user DC_Timekeeper, FS: IWC 3705 Ceramic Fliegerchronograph Full Set, Forum post 2014
- thewatchquote, PILOT’S WATCH EDITION TOP GUN, Article 2007
- iwc forum user SPORTMICHAEL, I HOPE IWC CAN ADDRESS MY PROBLEM WITH A 3705 SERVICE/REPAIR.., Forum post 2014
- DC_Timekeeper, mywatchmart listing, FS: IWC 3705 Ceramic Fliegerchronograph Full Set, Aug 26, 2014 listing
HISTORY INTRODUCTION OF NATO WATCH STRAP
Some would argue that the NATO watch strap history did not exist in WWI, but in fact, their grandfather straps were in existence prior to, and after, WWI. The DNA for NATO wrist straps was well developed by the end of WWI.
The development and history of NATO watch strap are part of the evolution of the military watch. Watches were a critical requirement for military manoeuvres and the wristwatch was essentially spawned, and became prevalent, in WWI.
We take the availability of the correct time for granted, but in 1914 things were very different. A 1000 man battalion of the British Expeditionary Force in WWI would have had only eight GS (General Service) pocket watches issued. One to the Signalling Sergeant and the others to be shared among 16 Signallers. Officers were not equipped with pocket watches by the Army but were required to provide these themselves, and often they chose watches with wristlets. Coordinating operations in these circumstances would have been difficult.
The H. Williamson watch below was one GS issue. These watches were retrospectively designated GS watches in July 1929 when the GS MkII watch was introduced, and they were declared obsolete. Few, if any, were engraved GS; rather they carried the pheon and an inventory number.
Because of the lack of what proved to be an essential item in the trenches, contemporary advertisements urged family and friends at home to send a watch or wristlet watch to the front, as in the advertisement below for Waltham wristlets in silver cases, which says “So send me the very best you can buy…”
The first consistent use of the word wristwatch in newspapers was in 1915, and prior to that the word wristlet was more commonly used to distinguish wristlets from pocket watches and to describe leather pocket watch straps.
In the 1916 book entitled “Knowledge for War,” the recommended Officer’s Kit commenced with a luminous wrist watch with unbreakable glass.
This article traces the roots of the military development of the NATO watch strap history from the leather wristlet.
Below is a 1901 advertisement for wristlets “For the Tourist, the Bicyclist, the Soldier”. The use of wristlets had developed in the late 1880’s, and these and bracelets were more common for ladies watches, but to tell the time on a bicycle with a pocket watch would have been difficult. This led to the use of wristlets for pocket watches, to be used by men and women when on a bicycle.
The 1893 advertisement from Henry Wood and Co in London shows that the habit of clipping a pocket watch to the bicycle was fraught with danger. Cycle racing required accurate stop watches.
Image courtesy MWR forum user: bobbee
The 1890’s development of the bicycle into a safe form of transport led to a bicycle craze in America which peaked in 1896 and was then exported to Europe. In this era before motor vehicles, the New York Tribune in 1895 asserted that the bicycle was “of more importance to mankind than all the victories and defeats of Napoleon, with the First and Second Punic Wars . . . thrown in.”
Wristlets could be bought in a variety of leather types, as in the 1901 advertisement above. The pocket watch strap above is a Garstin type strap.
The Elfina advertisement from 1896 below shows a ladies bicycling watch in a looped pouch, in effect a leather lugged watch. For extra security, this style of strap only required one lug at the base of the pocket watch.
An Omega advertisement from 1911 shows a wire lugged watch with a leather pull-through strap. Some of the early bracelet watches had the crown at 9 o’clock as shown in the advertisement. Outdoor activities and the army were targets of the advertisement.
A 1910 Omega with the crown at 9 o’clock, marked depose 9846 is shown below the advertisement. Dimier Frères & Cie patented watches with handles on 29 July 1903. It was deposed (patent number) CH9846. The patent showed a strap identical to that in the advertisement.
The advertisement below shows a leather pull-through strap on a watch with lugs.
THE GARSTIN AND OTHER WRISTLETS
The wristlet shown in the 1901 advertisement history above is similar to the current NATO watch strap. However, a further refinement by Garstin increased the likeness.
The leather goods retailer Arthur Garstin registered the design below with the British Board of Trade. The date of registration of this wristlet design RD 217622 was 2 September 1893, but the wristlet would have been in production prior to this. The strap B passed through the eyelet A to hold the pocket watch in place by lifting up the backing strap.
Whether the design stemmed from the development of the safety bicycle, or from use by the British Empire forces in India or on the Northwest Frontier between 1885 and 1887 is unclear.
The new tennis scorer was also registered 20058 on 2 October 1893, but obviously proved unpopular, and has disappeared without a trace.
The ladies wristlet, RD 70068 bottom left in the advertisement above, is shown below. In this design, the strap has a pouch which holds the watch to a backing strap.
Below is an 1893 advertisement for the “Skirmisher” by Mappin Brothers. It features a Garstin type wristlet with a wider strap. The backing leather extends from where the pouch is sewn on, to the buckle. After the first Boer War, the watch was no longer necessary for officers to time troop movements, so it could be used for hunting, yachting, and cycling,……
The second Boer war (1899-1902) contributed to pocket watches being used in a leather pouch worn on the wrist.
The 1901 Mappin and Webb’s advertisement for the ‘Campaign’ watch followed on from the Skirmisher advertisement. Mounted in a Garstin type wristlet, the advertisement below urged family and friends at home to send a solid leather wristlet watch to the front. It read “Delivered at the front duty and postage free for an additional 1 s. (shilling) each.”
1901 Mappin and Webb’s advertisement in the “Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News” 7 September 1901. “Reliable timekeeper under the roughest conditions”.
Below is an Omega advertisement for a military safety watch with a leather strap which will “hold and protect the watch during the roughest riding and most violent exercise.” The watch was in a pouch held by a press stud so that the watch could be removed from the wrist without removing the strap. Omega used the term wrist watch, but this did not fall into common use. The “6” size wristlet was for men, and the “O” size wristlet was for ladies.
Following on from the Boer War, leading into WWI other manufacturers also produced leather wristlets.
Nurses and automobiling were additional to cycling and general use as wristlet targets.
Image courtesy of Watchuseek user : AbslomRob
Above is an advertisement by the Canadian department store Eaton from 1908. At the turn of the century they often used Waltham watch movements as their in house brand. The wristlet was aimed at “nurses, automobiling, cycling and general use”, not the military. The design was an adaption of the Garstin design with a wider strap passing through a slot, holding down the pouch, and the buckle at 6 o’clock. Wristlets were available in hide for 25 cents, pig skin 35 cents, seal or morocco leather 50 cents, or alligator or walrus for 75 cents.
THE DIMIER STRAP
There has been much debate and controversy about the date and make of the first wrist watch. Certainly in 1890 in Switzerland wrist watches were themselves causing debate. The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade Division, wrote to the authorities for assay of articles of gold and silver concerning wrist watches:
“Berne, January 10, 1890.
The question we were asked was whether and on what conditions wrist-watches may be subject to hallmarking; this question requires detailed study due to the fact that objects of this kind are at different times categorised as objects of jewellery and as objects of watchmaking, and that these two categories of objects are, regarding hallmarking, subject to different requirements.
We have the matter under review; at such time as it is completed we will let you know the decisions we have taken to address the issue. In the meantime, we have asked the control authorities to cease hallmarking (this applies to both at the present time):
a. watch cases destined to be mounted in bracelets;
b. bracelets which it would be possible to attach to watch cases after their passage through control.”
However, whether hallmarked or not, it is certain that a wristwatch design with wire lugs was patented by Dimier Frères & Cie (called watches with handles) on 29 July 1903. It was deposed (patent number) CH9846. At the same time, they illustrated a leather strap with a circular midsection to fit behind the watch. The crown of the watch in the illustration is at 12 o’clock.
This design required the buckle to be sewn into the strap after fitting to the watch. To avoid this, a special buckle, which they later registered in 1907, had to be fitted to the strap after it was threaded in each direction through the wire lugs of the watch.
Below is a depose 9846 enamel dial wire lug watch, hallmarked history dated to 1905, with the movement marked DF&C (Dimier Freres et Cie), with the crown at 9 o’clock and an open-ended leather NATO watch strap.
The Elgin wrist watch (heading) or strap watch (text) advertisement from 1913 shows a Dimier strap and buckle on an Elgin watch, designed for active men.
In this 1917 Omega advertisement, the widening of the Dimier strap behind the watch can be seen. The watches are encased in a hermetic box (still labelled depose 9846) for protection and feature a radium option for an extra 12 to 15 francs.
Below is the watch in the advertisement above, case stamped depose 9846.
By the time of WWI, there were patents for both wristlets, and wire lugs (watches with handles), and the history of the seed had been sown for the future NATO watch strap, but the use of watches on the wrist, although popularised by the 1990’s bicycle craze was not common, especially among men.
Below is an extract from the Swiss Federation Horlogere bulletin No. 103 of 31 December 1924 which shows that in the first 11 months of 1913, the year before WWI, 11.27 million pocket watches were exported from Switzerland, and in addition 210,404 wrist watches (montres bracelets) were exported. Watches with wrist bands were only 1.6% of the Swiss export production.
This small percentage of the finished watch market ignores the fact that another 2.18 million watch cases were also exported, for other manufacturers to add movements.
WWI led to the more prevalent use of watches on the wrist.
WWI ERA POCKET WATCH STRAPS
At the time of WWI, wrist watches were de rigueur street wear in London if the Macy’s wristlet watch advertisement of 1912 is to be believed. They were soon to be required in great numbers for a monumental outdoor activity, but in truth, virtually only pocket watches existed at the time of WWI.
THE LEATHER WRISTLET
Below is a Garstin pouch, which was typical of the way in which pocket watches were used in WWI. The 579D specification below is virtually identical.
Some pocket watches were issued to troops, and in recognition of the need for these to be worn on the wrist, in 1916 a military specification was developed based on the Garstin strap, for what became history by the end of the war as a watch strap. Made of pig skin 11 inches long and 1/2 inch wide, tan in colour, with a hinged brass circular holder 1 and a half inches diameter, with sheepskin inside, and pigskin glued on the outside, with a black oxidised brass buckle. The buckle was at 6 o’clock.
The Official Specification for Movements, Cases and Straps, General Specification 579D, of 24 October 1916 read :
“6 Wristlet – A wristlet shall be furnished with each watch. This wristlet shall be made of single-ply genuine pigskin and shall be of the dimensions and made up as shown upon drawing.”
The first version in the history of the NATO watch strap had been specified by the US military.
Image credit MWR forum user: bobbee
Below is a pouch strap which had a shrapnel guard to protect the watch face, and a leather pouch to help hold the watch and guard in place. The pouch is removable, and together with its contents is effectively a leather lugged pocket watch, as seen in the 1896 cycling advertisement above.
Image courtesy Vintage Watch Forums user: Findingtime
Above is a leather lugged pocket watch converter made by the Western Leather Manufacturing Co. of San Francisco.
The Daptabel, patent 22449/10 by John Smith for an “expanding watch wristlet”, was a conversion device to allow pocket watches to be worn on the wrist. While various concertina type devices existed prior to the patent in 1910, this was a simple two-part strap which allowed 2 metal hooks to slide and grip a pocket watch as the strap was buckled up. The strap was 21cm long, and the buckle was at 6 o’clock. Daptabel was stamped on the cross member in either capitals or script, and patent 22449/10 was stamped on the tongue.
Below is a similar sprung conversion device, perhaps a variant of the Daptabel.
Charles Allen on 18 September 1918 patented a watch holder for pocket watches. The watch strap is shown schematically in the history patent below.
The Rosenthal watch wristlet clip was a later US patent, from 6 November 1917, similar to the Daptabel clip. As wrist watches developed, this patent was not too late to be of commercial value, for as can be seen from the table at the start of this article, even in 1924, the Swiss export statistics for finished watches, showed wrist watches had only climbed to 37% of the market.
In 1909 Blacklock registered a bakelite converter which fitted over a pocket watch. A similar metal converter is shown below, allowing a strap to be passed through the lugs.
Other unknown brand converters existed, a spring loaded clamp being shown below.
THE WIRE LUG WATCH
Dimier Frères & Cie patented watches with handles on 29 July 1903 in depose (patent number) CH9846. The subsequent Omega wire lugged watch with the crown at 9 o’clock (in section “Pre WWI” above), and the Waltham advertisement below which shows a wire lug watch with a two-part webbing strap riveted into place, and the crown of the watch at 3 o’clock, indicating that wire lugs were not a design afterthought by about 1910.
Ingersoll had the capacity to manufacture large numbers of wrist watches and advertised these from 1909 onwards. Their name wrist watch did not catch on immediately. The advertisement below in 1913 is targeted for “outdoor folks” and “husky sportsmen”. Also, they state “Uncle Sam endorses and recommends the wrist watch for his army and navy.”
A typical officer’s pocket watch was the Mappin and Webb’s Campaign watch as seen already above. Now, in 1914, it was a trench watch, which was essentially a pocket watch with wire lugs, but with the crown at 3 o’clock, and was still sold to the public with delivery to the front available for an extra shilling. The dial is signed MAPPIN and “CAMPAIGN”.
WWI ONE PIECE STRAPS
THE PERSHING STRAP
The Pershing strap was the simplest design. It was a 9/16 inch wide olive drab waterproof webbing pull-through strap which had a crimped metal tip and a patented buckle. This buckle made the strap infinitely adjustable, without the need for eyelets in the webbing.
THE STEVEL WRISTLET
THE KITCHENER STRAP
The Kitchener strap provided a wide backing to the 12mm pull-through strap, and this was a very popular solution to prevent both sliding and twisting and to provide some isolation for the watch. Below is a Hirsch advertisement which shows the styles.
Below is an Illinois Kitchener watch advertisement from 1917.
Leather Kitchener (and Bund) style watches were common throughout WWI, continuing to the present, and could be easily produced by any saddler.
Although not the subject of this article, this style was also the grandfather of the NATO Bund strap NSN 6645-12-145-6415.
ONE PIECE INFINITELY ADJUSTABLE STRAPS
In America, WWI led to a number of patented one-piece straps for wire lug watches. The strap was looped over one wire lug, passed through the other lug, and then tightened and clipped into place. This allowed an infinite range of adjustment. The “D-D” No Fuss Strap is discussed first, as it is the most widely advertised model.
THE ‘NO FUSS’ STRAP
Depollier produced a “D-D” Khaki Watch, with a Waltham movement, and a “No Fuss” Ordinance Department webbing strap in mid-1917. D-D stood for C.L. Depollier and E. C. Duncuff. The watch strap could be adjusted to any size as it had a patented clamp (July 25, 1916). The clamp was removable and could be engraved as shown in the advertisement below. In history by 1918, the NATO watch strap width had increased to 3/4 inch, which both reduced twisting, and also allowed more room for engraving on a wider clasp.
The perceived benefits of the “No Fuss” strap are explained below. These would apply to any similar looped strap. (The B-Uhr watch issued in WWII had a looped leather strap to prevent accidentally dropping the watch).
The “No Fuss” clasp is shown above. It was removable as seen in the top advertisement, and fitted into the loop of a replacement strap. The strap was Cravenette treated (a waterproof process invented by the Bradford Dyers Association) webbing and cost 35 cents to replace, the same price as a leather strap.
THE SIMPLEX STRAP
The Simplex strap was quite simple, an S-shaped clasp made it the only military strap with a one-piece buckle. Pulled tight and clipped on, it allowed the strap to fit any wrist.
THE LIBERTY STRAP
The Liberty Khaki quick action strap came on Gruen military watches. The thin slider could be passed through the wire lugs and once the webbing strap was looped on one wire lug, it could be pulled tight and used to make any watch fit tightly.
THE J.F. STURDY STRAP
The US fastener by J.F. Sturdy and Sons is shown below left, probably having survived the war because of the gold plating. This watch strap could be fitted to any watch, and the US tab fitted into the horns of the slider, providing infinite adjustment.
Left-hand Image courtesy Vintage Watch Forum user: Literustyfan, Right-hand image courtesy : Stricklandvintagewatches.com
Below is a 1918 Patria watch in a Fahys shrapnel case, with a J.F. Sturdy and Sons strap.
Images courtesy: Stricklandvintagewatches.com
THE VICTOR SENCE STRAP
Patent 8 October 1918 no US1280877 for a wrist watch fastening by Victor Simon Sence states :
My invention relates to fastening means for the loops or bands used to secure wrist watches upon the person of the wearer and presents a simple, readily detachable and adjustable device for holding the free end of the band which is usually looped around the wearers-wrist, passed through an ear upon the watch case and then doubled back for attachment to an intermediate portion of said band.
A device of this character must be easily and quickly attachable and detachable by the free hand of the wearer, and easily-adjustable to wrists of different sizes. It should also be simple and free from moving parts which would be apt to break or get out of adjustment under conditions existing on a battle front. My present invention attains these objects and certain, advantages hereinafter to be set out.
This had a cam like action to clamp the strap end to the slider, to provide infinite adjustment.
THE STRONGHOLD STRAP
The Stronghold strap, a July 16 1918 patent, was able to be attached instantly without fuss or bother, as the clasp had 2 hooks for attaching it to the watch strap, and is another variation of the press-fit strap.
The press fit clasp is shown below and presses onto 2 horns mounted on a slider.
Image courtesy Stan Czubernat: LRFAntiqueWatches.com
THE WALTHAM BRACELET
The Waltham bracelet is shown below on a Waltham Cadet watch which had punched stainless lugs.
This NATO watch strap could be looped through one lug, and the clasp hooked onto a slider. The advertisement dates to 1922, so this bracelet may never have featured in WWI. Again, it is but a slight variation on the J.F. Sturdy strap.
Image courtesy Watchuseek user: Literustyfan
THE PERSON STRAP
A. Person patented a buckle on 20 November 1917 for a hinged clasp on a sliding strap.
Image courtesy: Stricklandvintagewatches.com
A Waltham with a shrapnel protector on a Person buckle strap.
A SLIDING CLIP
This clip slid over two horns locking it into place.
Another sliding clip is shown below on a woven strap fitted to an early watch with handles, still with the crown at 12 o’clock.
THE CLIMAX/VICTOR STRAP
E.J. Pearson and Sons became the largest strap maker in England. The registered design number 529337 with the British Board of Trade on 27 August 1908. The design is below. A range of names in history, Simplex, Climax, Victor, and Premier were used for various versions of the NATO watch strap.
At the end of WWI, the term wristwatch was in common use, but the wrist watch, particularly in America was not commonly used by men, even by returning servicemen.
It was only in the late 1920s that wrist watches gained popularity in America.
THE SPRING BAR IN WWI
In the search for a workable strap for wire lug watches, C.L. Depollier and E. C. Duncuff, had earlier in 1916 patented history the “No Fuss” NATO watch strap and clasp. However, the market still was focussed on pocket watches. They sought to dispense with the wire lug on a pocket watch and patented fold-away lugs for a pocket watch (Figure 4) and the spring bar as shown below in Figure 8, on 15 August 1916.
The patent showed fold away fingers or lugs on a pocket watch.
The patent read:
The fingers f are adapted to receive between them and to engage a bar to which the ribbon, either sautoir or wrist, or, it may be, a chain or bracelet, is connected. Preferably such bar g is made as a compression bar, comprising two telescoping members g1 and g2 with an interposed spring g3 tending to extend the bar and with a pin and slot connection g4 to limit such movement. Each outer end of the bar is provided with a projecting pin g5 to enter a corresponding recess f3 formed in the inner face of the corresponding finger f, as clearly shown in Fig. 4. The ribbon c may be connected to the bar by looping and stitching in an ordinary manner, as indicated in Figs. 1, 2 and 3, or the bar may be provided with a loop or eye g6, as shown in Figs. 6 and 7, for engagement with a snap ring or hook.
It will be obvious that when the watch is to be worn as a wrist-watch, on a ribbon, the opposite pairs of opposed fingers are extended and engaged with the wrist ribbon.
Still convinced of the popularity of the pocket watch, Depollier also patented detachable lugs for pocket watches in 1917. This allowed a thinner case than the prior patent, with hinged adapters Fig 5 and 7, which fitted over small lugs c. One adapter was a looped lug, and the other a hinged spring bar (Fig. 6)
By the time of the end of WWII watches with lugs were common, and spring bars were patented, but pocket watches were still worn by men. As the Swiss export table in the earlier section shows, even in 1924, the swiss watch industry was exporting nearly 2 pocket watches or movement cases, to every wrist watch. But in 1930 the Swiss pocket watch and wrist watch export numbers were 6.2 million each.
HISTORY CONCLUSION OF NATO WATCH STRAP
By the end of WWI, the future use of spring bars had just been patented, but not implemented. Watch straps were still focussed on fixed lugs and wristlets on pocket watches.
Forebears of the NATO “Straps, Wrist, Instrument” category, both the NATO Bund strap NSN 6645-12-145-6415, and the NATO nylon strap NSN 6645-99-124-2986 had been inactive military use.
The Tulsa World proclaimed on April 23, 1919 that the wrist-watch was here to stay.
“The war has made the world safe for men who wear wrist-watches. A red-blooded masculine person today can appear on the streets, wearing a wrist-watch without the danger of incurring a sneer or a brick. Before the war, the wrist-watch was a badge of effeminacy. The man who affected one was looked on as a fop, a simp or a sissy.”
The only question now was, what strap to wear it on.
The Spring bar articles include a grail watch at the end. This article is on WWI era NATO strap history, and so the grail strap has to be the E.J.Pearson and Sons Victor, the granddaddy of the NATO strap.
The Victor Reg. No. 529336 provides all the necessary DNA to the NATO Nylon strap NSN 6645-99-124-2986.
The grail strap, a NOS Victor model 529336 below is 205cm long and 9mm wide.
Here it is on a silver watch with shrapnel guard.
Image courtesy: Auckland War Memorial Museum
Credit for the featured image is HOROLOGIST007. He and two other users of Watchuseek, bobbee and Literustyfan have a wealth of knowledge on this subject which I have tried to draw together from the history and perspective of the NATO watch strap. David Boettcher of Vintage Watch Straps also has considerable expertise. If I have failed to give them specific credit for their images which are in the public domain, I apologise, but I could not have written this article as quickly without their enthusiasm for the watches of the period, if not the straps.
An earlier article introduced the WWI era sources of DNA for the NATO watch strap history, as part of the evolution of the military watch. Another such grandfather strap is shown above. Watches were even more of a critical requirement for military manoeuvres and marine and aircraft navigation in WWII than in WWI and were issued much more commonly, according to military purpose.
At the end of WWI, the term wrist watch was in common use, but the wrist watch, particularly in America was not commonly used by men, even by returning service men.
It was only in the late 1920s that wrist watches gained popularity in America. By the time of WWII, watches with lugs and spring bars were common, but pocket watches were not discarded and were still carried by men.
With the Tommy and the Doughboy and his privately supplied wristlet removed from the inhumane conditions of trench warfare, and the advent of specification, provisioning and servicing of watches by the military, there was little need for watch strap innovation in WWII. In the hard times between WWI and WWII the width between lugs on wrist watches widened, spring bars filled the gap, and open-ended two-piece straps became common, so leather straps often prevailed on wrist watches. The US military watch specifications led to the more widespread use of canvas or cotton straps than in Europe.
Nevertheless, just as the Victory strap was developed in WWI, other NATO predecessors appeared in WWII.
WWII WATCHES AND THEIR STRAPS
The wide variety of straps used on wristlets and wrist watches in WWI was in part due to the unforeseen need for military personnel to provide their own watches. In the interval between WWI and WWII, the watch became standard issued military equipment, and defence departments issued specifications to procure watches.
Thus the strap was a consequence of the watch which was specified and issued.
THE GSTP WATCH
(SPEC : GENERAL SERVICE TRADE PATTERN)
The British Army GS pocket watch of WWI was replaced with the GS Mk II in July 1929. Despite the common use of wristlets in WWI to convert pocket watches to wrist watches to free up both hands for the task at hand, the provision of pocket watches to military personnel continued, often when accurate timing was necessary. GS Mk I watches did not exist as a designation, so only GS Mk II watches post-1929 are so engraved, as illustrated below. There is no known specification for GS Mk II watches, but they specifically had a 15 jewelled movement, a black dial, and came on a leather thong.
As the approach of WWII was anticipated the GSTP (General Service Trade Pattern) pocket watch was obtained for the British Army. The GSTP was essentially a commercially available pocket watch with the pheon and GSTP or GS/TP together with an issue number engraved on the back.
GSTP and GS/TP watches are generally branded Damas, Cyma, Enicar, Helvetia, Jaeger le Coultre, Buren, Montilier, Revue and Tissot. They often have white dials due to their civilian provenance.
The drawbacks associated with pocket watches sometimes led to soldering on of wire lugs to GSTP watches and fitting Kitchener type wrist straps as happened in WWI as shown below.
The position of the soldered lugs above allowed the crown to be easily accessed.
THE A-7 WATCH
(MIL SPEC : 27748 : AVIGATION TYPE A-7 HACK WATCH)
The US Army Air Corps (1926-1941), predecessor of the US Army Air Forces (1941-1947), and later on renamed US Air Force (1947 – present) adopted Type designations for many of their issued equipment watches such as the “Type A” specification. The type A-11 watch is much more famous and is discussed below.
On October 10, 1934, a US Army Air Corps seven-page dossier described in detail the design and functions of ‘Military Specification No. 27748’ was released. These watches were to be designated ‘Avigation’ watches, a portmanteau of ‘Aerial Navigation’. Type A-7 ‘Avigation’ watches, in compliance to the military specification number 27748, were produced by Longines, Gallet (white dial) and Meylan and for a short period of time were also sold to the civilian market. Chrome-plated metal cases were produced for military use, while for civilian use the cases were made in stainless steel.
The US Army Air Corps Avigation Type A-7 Hack Watch was essentially a pocket watch chronograph adapted for a wristwatch, similar to the GSTP adaption above, making it a large accoutrement – perfect for navigation.
Type A-7 watches are immediately recognizable thanks to their unusual and unique, off-center dials, offset by 40 degrees from the vertical, a co-axial monopusher in the diamond-shaped crown, as well as large Arabic numerals, 30-minute register at 12 o’clock and constant running seconds subdial at 6 o’clock. The single button-pusher incorporated into the crown allowed the pilot to easily start, stop and reset the chronograph to zero. With massive cases measuring 51 mm in diameter, they are true trophies for collectors of military timepieces. The watches were used from 1935 to November 1943 when they were replaced by the smaller A-11 Hack watch.
The watches had fixed bars and were mostly fitted with 2 piece straps which were sewn in place.
THE ATP WATCH
(SPEC : WATCHES, WRISTLET, A.T.P)
Leading into WWII the Army Trade Pattern (ATP) watch was issued to soldiers and was supplied to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) by 17 Swiss suppliers.
Most had the following characteristics:
15 jewelled movement with a round waterproof case in stainless steel or nickel chrome, silvered dial with luminous spots and broad lumed baton hands and a subsidiary seconds register. They all had fixed bars between lugs, as shown on the ATP Enicar below.
The watches were supplied to the MoD without straps. They were then fitted by the MoD with open-ended leather straps with folded metal clips as seen on this Grana ATP below.
The engraving on the case back was the pheon, together with A.T.P. and an issue number.
Below is a NOS Lemania central seconds ATP watch on the original pigskin strap.
Leather straps often perished in tropical conditions and canvas straps were used, particularly in Asia and the Pacific. The AF pattern webbing is thought to be issued for tropical conditions. Below is a Revue 59 ATP watch on a WWII period AF0210 canvas strap. ATP watches on AF0210 straps have recently sold on ebay with an approximate strap value of over $200. The history date of the introduction of the AF0210 NATO watch strap is unknown, but it is probably about 1944/5. The strap had no pre-punched eyelets, and the tongue of the buckle pushed through the canvas allowing it to fit any wrist. The Nato watch strap fitted quickly and easily under the fixed bars of the watch.
The inside of the AF0210 strap was almost always stamped A.F.0210. as shown below, but some straps were not stamped. Often the pheon was stamped as well.
By 1954 there were records of issue of Watches, Wristlet, A.T.P. under brand names Buren, Cortebert, Cyma, Ebel, Enicar, Eterna, Font, Grana, Lemania, Leonidas, Moeris, Reconvillier, Record, Revue, Rotary, Timor, and Unitas.
While there is some debate about the above manufacturer list, the purpose of the article is to demonstrate that when A.T.P. watches were issued they had fixed bars, and utilised either pigskin or fabric straps.
(SPEC : RAF PILOTS WATCH)
The RAF also purchased pilots watches from 1940 onward, and engraved its own part number 6B/159 at this time. Open ended leather straps were also fitted prior to issue. This watch was known as the Mk. VIIA. Early watches had a Weems rotating bezel, but later models dispensed with this.
The Weems rotating bezel was patented in 1935, Weems having applied for a method of and apparatus for navigator’s time keeping in July 1929.
Weems worked with Longines originally, but later the patent was used by Omega.
Below is a Weems bezel 6B/159 from 1940 on VB Hygienique NATO type strap.
Some 2500 Weems 6B/159 watches were ordered by the RAF. The original January 5, 1940 order note for 2000 Omega Weems CK 2129 watches, 6B/159 is shown below. Longines, Jager-LeCoultre, Zenith and Movado also provided Weems watches to the RAF.
Later in 1940 non-Weems watches by Ebel (cal 99), Longines (cal 10.68N), and Waltham (cal 870) were issued. The non-Weems style continued with a 1942 issue of Cyma (cal 377), Ebel (cal 101, steel case), Smiths and Movado watches. But by the war’s end, the 1942 issue Cyma, Ebel and Movado watches had often been remarked as a 6B/234, a category requiring less precision.
Then, in the period 1942-45 LeCoultre (redialled later to JLC by MoD), Longines, and Omega CK2292 (cal 30T2 SC) watches were issued. A.M. is Air Ministry.
In 1956 any 6B/159 watches still in service were recased, and had black or white dials fitted. Using RAF part numbers, the 6B/159 was issued on a 6B/169 leather strap, or a fabric strap 6B/321.
Below is a NOS 6B/169 pigskin strap, with the pheon next to the embossing. This was sewn onto the watch.
One of the most famous users of an ATP (not a 6B/159) was Sir Douglas Bader. His Timor Watch Company ATP 68012 was sold at Sotheby’s in 1999 together with his dog tag stamped 26151 RAF Bader D.R.S. It had the original open-ended leather straps.
Group Captain and Squadron Leader Sir Douglas Bader was an iconic RAF fighter ace and during the WWII was credited with numerous aerial victories despite being a double leg amputee.
The above manual from July 1966 indicates the 1956 Omega white dial 6B/159 was issued on a 6B/169 strap sewn to the watch. An alternative fabric NATO watch strap 6B/321 was also available, but the AF0210 strap was often used in its history.
THE B-1 WATCH
(SPEC : WATCH, WRIST, SEVEN-JEWEL)
The Elgin Pershing wire lug watch of WWI continued as a seven jewel military issue into WWII. It had been covered by specification 55-1A of 7 October 1926, a revision of specification 55-1 of 26 July 1923.
Below is a collection of history WWII Pershings with wire lugs on a variety of NATO watch reproduction strap.
On 13 September 1940, the U.S. Army released specification number 55-1B: Watch, Wrist, Seven-jewel, for a watch designated as the B-1. This specification superseded specification number 55-1A Watch, Wrist, Seven-jewel of 7 October 1926.
The Army specified a manual wound movement of no less than seven jewels, a dial with luminescent hands and markers, a sub-seconds register, a stainless steel case, olive drab strap, and a 90-day warranty.
The watches were to be accurate within +/- 30 seconds per day and to be “reasonably shock resistant and waterproof.”
Bulova, Elgin, Hamilton and Waltham produced the B-1 watch.
The watches are engraved ORD DEPT for Ordinance Department, USA, followed by a code representing the number of jewels, and a serial number. They are generally known as ORD DEPT watches, and many were produced and suffered in the field during use.
The Cal. 987a Hamilton sub-second watch is shown below. It came with a black (Navy or BuShips, to a slightly different specification) or white dial (Army), and is signed Hamilton in black on the dial.
The olive drab straps are NOS.
Below is an Elgin sub seconds watch, on an NOS pull-through strap. This strap could be fitted to one springbar, or used as a pull through.
Military issue straps were olive drab green or tan cloth. Waltham models originally came with two-part straps. Elgin models often had a one-part strap with an Elgin marked buckle, see below.
Some NOS straps are still available. Original straps are shown below on all watches, both (ORD DEPT) and A-11, although not on the original watch as issued.
THE B-UHR WATCH
(SPEC : BEOBACHTUNGSUHR)
The B-Uhr watch was issued progressively from 1940. The specification for these watches was defined by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) or Imperial Air Ministry.
The German term Beobachtungsuhr, shortened to B-uhr means an observation or navigation watch.
These B-Uhr watches were made for the German Luftwaffe by 5 manufacturers :
A. Lange & Sohne
Laco (Lacher & Co)
Stowa (Walter Storz)
Wempe (Chronometerwerke Hamburg)
The B-Uhr specification drawing is shown above, with the long leather looped strap to be worn over flying suits.
All B-Uhr watches had the following features :
A case diameter of 55 mm
Engraved on the back with FL 23883 (FL = flight, 23 = navigation)
Large crowns in order to be used with gloves
Hacking movement (the second hand stops when pulling out the crown to allow precise time setting)
Breguet balance spring
Regulated and tested as chronometers
A long leather looped strap (to be worn on the sleeve of a flight jacket).
Above is a Laco B-Uhr watch. The bars were fixed between lugs, and the straps were riveted into place with 2 rivets per lug.
These straps were not unique to the B-Uhr, and below is a 1930’s Minerva bomb timer on a similar strap.
Due to the popularity of these watches, many homage watches have appeared, and replica long, and shorter more practical straps are available with rivets for replacement.
THE A-11 WATCH AND DERIVATIVES
(SPECS : WATCH, NAVIGATION, TYPE A-11 (HACK) (USA) AND, WATCH WRIST, MK.VIII, NAVIGATOR’S (UK))
The type A-11 was standardised by the United States Army Air Forces in May 1940. It was a navigation ‘hack’ wristwatch with a minimum of fifteen jewels and a sweep second hand. Early 1940-1941 type A-11 watches had white dials, and some had Weems bezels, while the later (1942 onwards) more common type A-11 had black dials. Type A-11 wristwatches were manufactured in accordance with military specification 94-27834, published in 1940.
It developed an enviable record in WWII. This was the watch that kept the US Army Air Forces, as well as the US Navy and Marine Corps, flying, and – to a lesser extent – the RAF (under the 6B/234 designation), the RAAF, the RCAF and even the Soviet Air Force.
For the RAF 6B/234 designation, Ministry of Supply Specification No. G.633 stated :
A strong leather strap furnished with a substantial buckle shall be securely sewn on to each Mk. VIII watch.”
The A-11 military specification watches were provided by three of the largest watchmaking companies in the United States at the time: Waltham Watch Company, Bulova, and Elgin National Watch Company.
Clause E14 of the specification 94-27834 stated :
“The watch shall be of the wrist strap type. Provisions shall be made where by the wrist straps are easily removed from the watch for replacement. The straps shall be of the sewed type and shall be made of leather or any approved waterproof material.”
Essentially the type A-11 was to be provided with springbars, but a pull through strap would also meet Clause E14. The lug width was 16mm.
The images of the watches below are taken from the Maintenance Manual, TM9-1575.
Top to bottom the watches are Waltham, Bulova, and Elgin.
The watches had either 2 part straps or a one-piece strap with sewn-on pockets for spring-bars as on the Elgin above, part number (F36-) 7198840.
The image below is from the Waltham A-11 manual and shows a two-part webbing strap with metal keepers and 9 metal eyelets.
The components of the Bulova strap are shown below.
The keeper for the Bulova strap was a double loop metal stamping.
The case back of the A-11 watches featured quite detailed specification, a growing trend in military coding and identification.
Above is an A-11 Bulova with an open-ended sewn pigskin strap, and fold over metal tabs.
The RAF 6B/234 case markings, as shown above, are much less detailed than the Type A-11 above. Also shown are the metal fold over tabs on the pigskin open-ended strap.
Below is a 6B/234 Waltham without the AM engraving as above, and Waltham 16 jewel 6/0 ’42 movement.
Some 6B/234 cases are overprinting of the A-11 case, demonstrating the heritage. The watch below is on a sewn 2 piece strap.
An unissued A-11 Waltham, still in the delivery box, also on a one-piece cotton strap with sewn-on spring-bar pockets.
Above is another mint Bulova A-11 watch. This on a replacement NOS pull through olive drab strap, with one end held by the spring bar (lug bar).
The instructions say “Slip lug bar through loop”, “Slip end of strap under 2nd bar”, “Strap is now ready to wear”.
Watch bands were a separate item of issue for replacement. Typically a one piece olive drab cotton band, “Strap, Wrist Watch” Stock No. F36-7198840, was used to replace the band issued with the watch.
The US Navy and Marine Corps had a similar specification to the military specification 94-27834B. This was specification Bureau of Aeronautics 88-W-800. Watches were essentially Type A-11 watches, except 88-W-800 required a luminous handset and dial. These watches used the 987s movement and had R88-W-800 on the case back. The watch had cathedral hands. A Hamilton version is shown below.
Below is a USN Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAero) Waltham AERO 88-W-800, Model 10616, size 6/0, ’42, 16 jewel, in a Keystone waterproof case, together with a NOS R88-C-890 wrist compass.
The history specification also required that the NATO watch strap be constructed so that the watch could be supported with only one link pin (springbar) in place as shown above. This may have arisen from earlier experience with two-part straps on springbars in active service.
The Navy also had sub-second watches and the US Marine Corps also had watches made and issued to this specification.
Below is a Hamilton 987s, sweep second hand, issued to the US Marine Corps, and a contemporary 1943 advertisement. The NATO watch strap is continuous with sewn on eyelets for the springbars, and this strap allows for one springbar to be lost, and the strap still retaining the watch.
Above is the complete set of watches made in WWII by Hamilton-based on the 987a movement and its derivatives, with a variety of NOS straps. The BUSHIPS or canteen watch is 5th from the left.
The Navy watches are black dialled except for the watch lying horizontally which is a 980 “Bomb Timer” for the Fairchild Gun Camera.
The history wartime advertisement by Hamilton above shows the Hack Watch on a one-piece NATO watch strap, but the other issues Fire Control, Navigation and Service on two-piece straps.
THE W.W.W. WATCH
(SPEC. WATCHES, WRISTLET, WATERPROOF)
From 1945 the British War Office Specification No. R.S./Prov/4373A “Watches, Wristlet, Waterproof” (W.W.W.) for Service wristwatches, replaced the Army Trade Pattern (ATP) specification wristwatch. These remained on issue until about 1985.
This was the first watch specification designed for military use, rather than the military using watches being adapted from an available civilian design. The W.W.W. watch had a black dial, subsidiary seconds and luminous paint for the numerals and hands. It also had fixed bars. It was not shockproof.
The NATO watch strap is a consequence of this fixed bar military standard, a product of the history evolution of the pass through strap. These watches were originally issued with either pigskin or AF0210 canvas straps.
About 150,000 W.W.W watches were delivered to the British military by all 12 manufacturers delivered from May 1945 until December 1945, including some 6,000 IWC watches.
Unlike the more collectable post war Mk. XI’s, these watches were produced for the Army and not for the RAF, and many refer to them as Mk. X’s. They were 35mm without the crown and had 18mm lugs. They were equipped with the 83 calibre IWC movement.
Interestingly, watches to this standard arrived towards the end of the war, and were mostly “decommissioned” and sold to the public.
The W.W.W watches were issued with an open end pig skin NATO watch strap with flexible metal strips to attach the strap to the fixed lug bars or leather pull through straps. Alternatively, and more rarely, towards the end of the war they were equipped (or retrofitted) with the 44 pattern webbing A6/AF2010 pull through canvas strap as shown below on a IWC (Ref 1).
The AF0210 strap was part of the 1944 pattern, or 44 pattern webbing, and was promulgated in the VAOS of 1945, Section A6 : Jungle Warfare Equipment.
Above is the 1948 edition of the VAOS, Section A6: Jungle Warfare Equipment which superseded the VAOS of 1945.
Designed for jungle and tropical climates 44 pattern webbing was introduced in 1945 for the Pacific theatre just as WWII ended, and was still in use in one form or another until it was replaced by Personal Load Carrying Equipment (PLCE) 90 pattern webbing. It was mainly tropical theatre issue only. It was used in campaigns in Palestine in 1946, the Korean war, Malaysia and Borneo 1963-1966 (following the Malayan emergency), in Kenya against the Mau-Mau, far East campaigns and in the Suez Campaign. Australian troops serving with British forces in Malaya during the 1950s were issued with it.
Above is a soldier history shot in Malaysia, with a watch on AF0210 webbing NATO watch strap, cooking in an AF0225 mess tin, (store reference A6/AF0225 Tins, mess, rectangular, aluminium), with the indispensable A6/AF0100 machete or parang in the foreground (machete marked M.S. Ltd 1945 AF0100 with pheon). The machete scabbard was store reference A6/AF0101. Other issued machetes were of the Malaysian Golok style manufactured by Martindale, marked KE8277 (for the Kenya campaign?).
The AF0210 strap was not part of the individual 44 webbing set issued to personnel. It is a fine weave soft two-ply strap, about 250mm long, folded over at the tail end, and sewn all around. Hence the tail end is square. There are no prepositioned eyelet holes, and the tongue of the buckle can be positioned anywhere. The strap is self-sealing, and the positioning holes rarely can be seen after use, as can be seen above.
The full list of W.W.W. suppliers is provided below.
The suppliers were Swiss as UK manufacturers did not have the capacity to produce the watches, and the watches were allocated a UK Stores number and for some a (retrospective) NATO Stock Number (NSN) as listed above. These watches are known as the “Dirty Dozen” by military enthusiasts (Enicar did not produce any) and are covered extensively elsewhere.
The grail of W.W.W. watch collectors is to have a good to an excellent example of each of the “Dirty Dozen”.
BUSHIPS CANTEEN WATCH
(SPEC : WATCHES , WRIST, WATERTIGHT)
During WWII the British Navy commissioned about 50 special watches for their divers to wear. These were specially cased made by Albert Thomas Oliver with Longines Cal 268N movements, and an Omega 30T2SC. They had a screw-on cap that prevented the winding crown area from water penetration and had wire lugs. This meant that they used hand stitched pigskin straps. They were issued with Hydrographic Survey markings, HS with the pheon, as shown below.
When the US Navy needed divers watches approaching D-day, specification 18W8(INT) of 1 December 1944 covered the production of a Hamilton diver’s watch which had a similar design concept, and also had a screw-on cap that prevented the winding crown area from water penetration. These BuShips watches were thus nicknamed “Canteen” watches.
The US Navy Bureau of Ships (BuShips) was established 20 June 1940, and was responsible for shipping, shipyards, maintenance and salvage. Hamilton USN BuShips canteen watches had a 987s movement were issued to members of the Naval Combat Demolition Unit (NCDU) underwater demolition teams (UDT), who were responsible for clearing harbours and obstructions during the war.
The above specification was replaced by Specification 18W8(SHIPS) on 15 January 1947.
The straps were either two pieces, or one piece, moulded nylon. The strap above reads “USN” and “Ranger-Tennere “.
The one-piece NATO watch strap is Part Number 7646909, and has a chevron marked tail. The outside of the one-piece strap strap reads Ordnance Dept USA, Part No 7646909.
This NATO watch strap is history similar to the one-piece cotton strap with sewn-on spring bar holders used for the A-11, and was later incorporated into MIL-S-3035 of 8 September 1949.
By the end of WWII pigskin or cotton and canvas straps were in widespread use, the latter perhaps more in the tropical conditions of the Pacific theatre, apart from the moulded nylon strap above, and some metal straps discussed below.
WWII CANVAS OR COTTON STRAPS
A variety of original straps are shown below, with the 2 straps with metal eyelets 4th and 7th from the top being reproduction straps, rather than those having sewn eyelets.
The history B-1 watch specification for an olive drab strap led to the replacement NATO watch strap which was listed above for the A-11.
Typically a one-piece olive drab cotton band, “Strap, Wrist Watch” Stock No. F36-7198840, was used to replace the band issued with the watch.
The Bulova 2nd from the bottom in the above picture is history thought to be on an original one piece NATO watch strap with sewn on spring-bar pockets. This is very similar to the Elgin strap shown in Figure 142 of the Maintenance Manual, TM9-1575.
The pull through Brite strap below could also be used. It had a pocket into which a spring bar could be fitted to help retain the watch.
Manufacturers such as Brite, Guss and the American Strap company provided a range of canvas or water repellant two piece poplin straps.
The American Strap Company of New York NOS strap is shown below.
A NATO type strap numbered 6032 was also sold as a replacement cotton strap.
VB Hygienique also supplied bands and by the end of WWII the VB Hygienique canvas band had evolved from a straight canvas history strap to a NATO watch prototype.
Credit for top and right images MWR user : Revo
The WWII US Army VB Hygienique band is shown above. The buckle according to history has a central bar and can be moved along the NATO watch strap to change the position of the keeper for the watch.
The VB Hygienique band above drew heavily on the Victor strap, and foreshadowed the NATO strap.
STAINLESS STEEL STRAPS
Stainless steel clip straps were developed during WWII. A Berkely lifetime bracelet (left), and a Don Juan clip are shown below.
These did not prove popular, but they were easy to improvise and individualise as on this A-11.
Stainless clasp watches also existed. This reads: The Captain, GEMEX CO, Chrome Steel, USA Pat. Pending near the buckle.
FLEXIBLE STAINLESS STEEL STRAPS.
A variety of stainless steel or “Staybrite” straps were available at the commencement of WWII.
W. M. Krementz in 1929 filed to patent a ladder-type bracelet which was infinitely adjustable. A two-tone example is shown in the middle and a stainless (Kremaloy) example on the right with an Ernest Borel Incastar watch.
The patent number 1779068 was granted on 21st October 1930.
Soon after Krementz’s application in USA, the nearly identical Bonklip strap was patented in UK.
D. R. Howlitt filed a British Patent application on April 6, 1930, for an almost identical invention which was UK patent number 349657. The early Bonklip models were patterned.
This NATO watch strap was in stainless steel, and was used during WWll history on a variety of watches. There are few, if any, examples of US military watches on Krementz straps. However, there are many examples of UK military watches dating from the 1940’s on Bonklip straps.
Below is an Enicar ATP on a Bonklip strap. The clasp reads ‘Made in England’ ‘B.H.B & S’ ‘Pat
Topps produced one-piece leather replacement straps which allowed the watch to stay on the wrist if one spring-bar was lost. But, the cotton straps remained the most popular item.
The British military continued with fixed bar watches in WWII and this led to many open-ended pigskin straps. However, the end of WWII saw two versions of the NATO strap, in cloth, and on canvas. Pull through cotton, and leather were the other straps of choice for fixed bar watches.
The VB Hygienique strap is sometimes available as NOS and currently fetches about $50. This cloth forerunner to the NATO watch strap is notable in history for its adjustable central bar buckle and cloth keepers. These are getting to be rare.
The keeper is the AF0210 canvas pull through, which dates from about 1944/5.
It is seen on both ATP and W.W.W. watches of this era, and is shown below on a Vertex W.W.W. While easily and cheaply replaced in WWII conditions, the canvas strap did not last forever, and few are seen these days. NOS straps are rarely available. A recent sale of a watch with an AF0210 strap indicated a strap value of about $200.
The grail would be a canvas NATO strap of the era. The exact date of issue is not known. It is shown in the W.W.W. section above on an Omega, next to an AF0210. Below is another image. The strap is essentially an AF0210 strap (but with a different chamfered corner buckle) with an extra canvas keeper loop attached. Expect to pay several hundred dollars for a good example of this NATO grandfather.
Ref 1 ‘On His Majesty’s Service 3’ – Third part of series on Watch, Wrist, Waterproof (W.W.W.) , Thomas Koenig and Adrian van der Meijden, Horological Journal October 2008. pp 441-443.
THE CLASSIC ZODIAC SEA WOLF
The first diver’s watch with a rotating bezel, the Zodiac Sea Wolf was announced at the Basel Fair together with the Fifty Fathoms from Blancpain in 1953. Both are credited with being the first commercially available diver’s watch. However, the Zodiac was rated at 10 atmospheres (339 feet) and was more highly rated than the Blancpain 50 fathoms (300 feet).
THE EARLY SEAWOLF – COUNT DOWN BEZEL
The earliest models had an external bidirectional steel bezel, and a pre-Sea Wolf prototype model is shown below. This is signed 10 Atm (339 feet) below the Zodiac logo, and name Zodiac, but has a plain screw-down case back.
The dial has numerals at 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 with fluted indices elsewhere. The numerals have been inked over. The bezel is elapsed time, with numerals at 45, 30 and 15. The hands are broad lumed Dauphine shape.
This pre Sea Wolf was model number 691 with the AS1361 movement.
An early signed Sea Wolf production model is shown below, now with a count down bezel. Sea Wolf in cursive replaces 10 Atm beneath Zodiac on the dial.
It is shown with the original box below, with the Zodiac Oyster style stretch link bracelet
The original “SWISS” signed white dial below has developed a pinkish-orange patina. The original radium (signified by “SWISS” on the dial) on both the hands and the dial is intact. Over time the Dauphine hands often lost their radium and became skeletons.
The bezel is coin-edged plated brass and has numerals at 15, 30 and 45, and often shows brass at the edges due to wear.
The model number for the early Sea Wolf is 699, found inside the back screw down case back.
The arabic numerals at 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 are interspersed with fluted steel baton indices, and the index at 12 is a double trapezium.
The 10 Atm designation on the prototype above is reflected on the screw down back reading ZODIAC SEAWOLF WATER TESTED 10 ATM ESPECIALLY, together with the Zodiac gun sight logo.
The screwdown back is shown above.
The model serial number is engraved between the lugs at 6 o’clock.
The serial numbers of metal bezel models generally run from 122xxxx to 192xxxx The case back is engraved “ZODIAC SEAWOLF WATER – TESTED 10 ATM ESPECIALLY” along with the Zodiac emblem.
The inside of the case back is stamped “Zodiac Ltd” followed by “Le Locle Swiss,””ACIER,””INOXYDABLE” and “699.”
The 17 jewel unadjusted Swiss “Zodiac Ltd.” stamped AS 1624 automatic movement is shown above. After winding the sharply threaded, Zodiac signed crown 39 full revolutions the movement had a power reserve of approximately 42 hours.
This watch measures approximately 34 mm excluding the crown, approximately 37 mm including the crown and approximately 17.5 mm between the lugs. Case thickness, measured from the bottom of the case back to the top of the bezel, is approximately 7 mm. Including the crystal case thickness, this measures approximately 9.5 mm.
Zodiac used A. Schild movements and the 17 jewel AS1624 was used by Zodiac and Ernest Borel. This AS1700 movement was also produced as 1580, 1641,1681 and 1709 and other model numbers are seen on Sea Wolf rotors.
A white dial version is shown above. This is a later model 699 and has the count down bezel but the dial now has triangular indices at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock with applied numerals inserted into the lume.
The early Zodiac movement (AS1624 without hacking) which predates the calibre 70-72 movement. The AS calibre 1624 was developed in the early 1950s, and runs at 18,000 bph with a running reserve of 42 hours. Zodiac, in conjunction with Doxa, Eberhard, Favre-Leuba, and Girard-Perregaux, later refined AS base calibres to produce the Zodiac calibre 70-72 used in subsequent model Zodiac Sea Wolf.
For reference, the Blancpain had an elapsed time bakelite bezel also marked at 15, 30 and 45. The initial advertising referred to the mil-spec model. <LINK>
SEA WOLF “NORMAL” BEZEL
Early count down bezel Sea Wolf watches are rare, and the replacement bezel from the mid to late 50’s is much more common. The bezel was still plated brass.
Advertisements showed that both men’s and lady’s Sea Wolf models existed with this revised bezel, but lady’s watches are rarely found intact.
The new bezel could be considered either elapsed time or count down, as only 30 was marked on the dial, this time facing outwards, not inwards as for the models above (both Zodiac and Blancpain) and 0 to 15 minutes were marked with dashes and triangles.
Below is the revised bezel. The watch retained the dial from the model shown above with broad lumed dauphine hands. The dial below still reads “SWISS” below 6 o’clock
The 699 model designation continued but the case back changed to a press fit rated initially at 10 atmospheres, later becoming 20 atmospheres.
This watch has the AS1624 movement.
Below is a black dial model with a gold plated bezel, again with broad dauphine hands. The triangle in the bezel is sometimes wider, and lume filled as above and below.
The ZODIAC name, logo plus “SEA WOLF” in cursive are on the top dial at 12 o’clock.
“AUTOMATIC” in cursive is at 6 o’clock and “SWISS T < 25 MC” is on the bottom of the dial.
This represents a change from “SWISS” with radium lumes, to a model emitting less radiation with tritium lumes. T < 25 MC represents an emission of less than 25 millicuries of radiation.
The advertisement above, shown with a black dial model explains the new press-fit case Silic seal, and other aspects of watertightness of the new model.
The diagram demonstrates how the round Silic sealing ring gasket is compressed into a triangular void between the case and the back. If the pressure increases on the back with depth, the compression of the Silic increases, together with the watertightness. However, the case back is consequently often very difficult to remove after use.
The glass is held in by a metal ring which compresses the glass against the case to provide a watertight seal.
The winding crown has a self-lubricating waterproof washer.
The model had black edged broad lumed dauphine hands.
The 10 ATM case back was engraved on the flat, while the 20 ATM casebook was engraved on the slope.
The watch above has the snap-shut type back. Engraved on the watch back is Zodiac Seawolf, (with the Zodiac cross-hair symbol), 10 ATM Especially Water-Tested.
10 ATM case backs are rare, and 20 ATM backs are common. Engraved on the slope of the 20 ATM watch back is : Zodiac Seawolf, (with the Zodiac cross-hair symbol), 20 ATM Especially Water-Tested
Zodiac later included a central back bone in the hands to assist in retaining the lume. This was not always successful.
At some point about 1961 the calibre 70-72 17 jewel movement was introduced and the inside back case was engraved 702-916.
“AUTOMATIC” in cursive is at 6 o’clock and “SWISS T < 25 MC” is on the bottom of the dial.
The signed 17 jewel Zodiac calibre 70-72 automatic movement was introduced in 1961, and has an AS1687/1688 calibre base, and runs at 21600 bph with a running reserve of 40 hours. The movement is hackset, and the calendar function is quickset (old style). This very successful AS calibre, later with 21 jewels was produced under the Communautee Horlogere de Precision, and was also used by Doxa, Girard Perregaux, Favre-Leuba, and Eberhard & Cie. for their men’s automatics during the 1960’s.
The AS1624 movement gave way to the 70-72 series and became model numbers 702-916 for the no date version and 722-916 Datomatic below.
The 70-72 movement family was based on the manual wind calibre AS 1687/1688.
The automatic mechanism was a joint development of Doxa, Eberhard, Favre-Leuba, Girard-Perregaux, and Zodiac.
Ranff specifies for the family:
61: manual wind
68: manual wind, date
72: automatic, date
74: automatic, calendar
75: automatic, 24h display, date
76: automatic, day, date
78: automatic, date
86: automatic, day, quickset date
88: automatic, quickset date
The first model the 702-916 had no date and had dauphine hands with broad lumes. The lume material was prone to falling out, and the hands were changed to have a central spine.
The hands now commonly had a backbone. This model has the wider lume filled triangle on the bezel. Model numbers progressed to 732-916.
SEA WOLF DATOGRAPHIC
In the early 1960s the Zodiac acquired a date complication, and the Sea Wolf Datographic was launched. The model number inside the back case was 722-916.
Datographic advertising in the June 1962 Playboy referred to the Adventurer’s Watch ….in and out of the water, with an 17 jewel automatic.
Early models still had the broad lume dauphine hands from the no date Sea Wolf but most had backbone dauphine hands. Broad lume triangle featured at 0 on the bezel.
Flexible expanding bracelet on original watch
Inside case back reads 722-916
The watch was popular with GIs serving in Vietnam, and was advertised in 1966 – 9 armed forces newspapers.
The advertisement below reads :
Most popular watch in 3/4 of the world
3/4 of the world is underwater. In that world, skindivers have made the self-winding Zodiac Sea Wolf their undisputed first choice. Big. luminous, easy-to-read dial. Tested and guaranteed for waterproofing and accuracy 660 feet underwater. Sweep second hand and movable bezel to tell your time under at a glance. Unbreakable lifetime mainspring and balance staff. There’s no better watch, no better value for active sportsmen. Men’s or ladies’; black or white dial; Model 1750 W, $110.
BAKELITE – WHITE OR LIGHT BLUE BEZEL
The models with a white or light blue bezel are 1750B and 1750W and the serial numbers of these bakelite bezel models generally run from 192xxxx
Usually, a 72B movement is used. The model number is 722-946.
The advertising pamphlet from the period is shown below.
The right hand side (front cover) advertises the Super Sea Wolf, no. 1796 for $150, also Datomatic models nos. 1763 (gold), 1750B (black), and 1750W (white). The left hand side (back cover) advertises nos. 1781B, 1781W, no date 3080B, 3080W, and also Ladies Sea Wolf, nos. 2062B and 2062W. The pamphlet also lists the Sea Wolf Features. Most watches are priced at $100 to $110.
Zodiac Sea Wolf two-tone yellow gold plated and stainless steel watch with original two tone jubilee style bracelet.
A white bakelite bezel, white dial model, with contrasting lume at 0 on the bezel.
The rarer no date version 3080W is below.
Below is the light blue bezel model.
Below is the black dial 1750B with white bezel.
Above is the no date 3080B model.
The 72B movement was used in the bakelite bezel model with date and 72 movement without date.
A famous example of a watch also using this movement is the very rare Girard-Perregaux Observatory Chronometer.
However, despite the pedigree, as explained in Steve Kings Blog the offset cannon pinion is a problem for this 72B movement. “To most of us, the term “offset cannon pinion” sounds like a jumble of seemingly unrelated words, but to a Zodiac collector it’s an all too familiar and dreaded part within their timepiece. It causes a thoroughly annoying problem, and worse than that, it is a long obsolete and out-of-production part. While decent Sea Wolfs can be purchased in the $200 to $300 range, an offset cannon pinion will run you about $80 on eBay, if its available.”
This leads to the unbelievably annoying problem that the mechanism works perfectly, but the minute and hour hands will not advance.
The 1750 models are shown at the top in the pamphlet above, but adjacent, using the same case numbering is the orange 1781B.
A very rare ladies Sea Wolf is shown on the bottom left of the pamphlet and below. Model 2062B. This is 30mm diameter, and has the Cal. 46-47 movement, case back model number is 472-346.
This next model also used the 72B movement, and carried 722-946 on the inside case back, which otherwise was identical to the 722-926.
This had an orange chapter ring, and came in black dial with rectangular indices, with no numerals. The date window was framed in orange. The hour hand is white with 2 lumes, and the minute hand is orange with one lume. The crown protruded from the case and was easily damaged.
The white dial version with a black hour hand and the original bracelet is shown below.
All Zodiac Seawolf models have the serial number engraved in the case between the lugs at 6 o’clock.
Rolex Watch forum: Frogman4me
ZODIAC 53 SKIN
Although Zodiac made other Sea wolf models, they deviated from the long-run classic style and are not covered in this article, and even the 1781W/B only really pays homage to the bezel and movement. Some can be seen in the advertisements above. The SST 36000 coffin or bullhead case model 862-952 with the hacking Cal. 86 movement is perhaps the most interesting.
Zodiac fell on hard times, but the brand is now part of the Fossil group stable, and in 2015 the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Skin was released as a heritage model. Curiously this does not say Sea Wolf on the dial, or the back case but otherwise has many design features of the early Sea Wolf Datomatic. The series is ZO92xx and is easily found on the internet.
The Sea Wolf has stayed true to its classic looks for a long period of time and has always been affordable. However good examples are becoming hard to find.
The keeper would be something like the NOS orange Sea Wolf shown below. While a deviation from the classic dial, the orange chapter ring makes this a very desirable watch, although difficult to maintain.
Expect to pay $1500+/- for a good example.
Image Vintage Zodiacs: Nalu
The grail would be first or second-generation model 699. Decidedly rare.
Generally, the no-date Sea Wolf is slightly more desirable and reliable than the later push-in quickset date Datographic version, and the early model with the Arabic numerals on the count down is very rare.
Expect to pay $2000 for a pristine version.
Alternatively, a NOS version might be found in the original box in a similar price range.
The aircrew who flew Helge Viking on the first commercial SAS Douglas DC-6B flight over the pole from Copenhagen to Los Angeles on November 15, 1954 were each presented with a commemorative Universal Geneve Polarouter watch in 1954 (Ref 1).
At the same time, the Leif Viking took off from Los Angeles and carried out the reverse journey, with the planes passing one another near the North Pole.
Commemorative letters were posted to celebrate the occasion, post marking the cities where the planes landed on the journey.
Also, at the same time, Carlsberg also produced a commemorative Polar Beer. The beer label is rare, and harder to find than the Universal GenevePolarouter watch, but one recently sold to a collector for USD 2. The watch is much more sought after, and more valuable.
SAS had been experimenting with a polar route since November 1952 and needed to develop reliable navigational aids capable of operating near the North Pole, including antimagnetic chronographs. Universal Geneve collaborated with SAS, and the Polarouter watch was developed in this period, some models of which were certified as chronometers.
This article deals with the initial calibre 138SS Polarouter, which was the forerunner of many models of Polerouter watches.
THE UNIVERSAL GENEVE POLAROUTER
The Universal Geneve Polarouter was partly designed by Gerald Genta at the age of 23. It is reminiscent of the Grand Seiko with double curved lugs, and the images in this article show the classic lines of the model.
It was powered by the caliber 138 SS movement.
The movement used in the early Polarouter and Polerouter models was the caliber 138 SS. It was introduced by Universal Genève in 1948, first as caliber 138 with a subsidiary second and then with a central second as caliber 138 SS. The caliber 138 SS measures 28.2 mm in diameter and 5.55 mm in thickness. Its balance makes 18,000 vibrations per hour. The self-winding weight oscillates 315 degrees between two springs acting as shock absorbers, the so-called bumpers. This mechanism only winds the mainspring during one motion, and this inefficiency meant the watch often needed hand winding. The caliber 138 SS has 17 jewels, a plain surface finish and is rhodium-plated. It is shock-proof and anti-magnetic. Despite the precision and reliability that was proven on duty for SAS, the movement was replaced by the Microtor movement after approximately one year of production, as this was a more efficient movement.
For an article on servicing the caliber 138SS see ref 2.
The name changed to Polerouter after a few months, and at the same time the screw in case back opening mechanism changed from 6 keys to a dodecagon.
The watch is 50m waterproof. The waterproof construction is achieved by a tension ring, and the tension ring variations are a feature of the many dial combinations.
The Polerouter was assembled in a case with a screw back, with the movement, the curved dial, the tension ring, and the crystal. There was plenty of opportunities to vary the combinations of dials and bezels. There were also three case types, stainless steel, 300 micron 18k gold cap, and 18k gold.
The dials came with or without cross hairs, and with or without chapter rings. The chapter rings were ticks, dots, or dots with lume at the 5-minute markers. The bezels had raised indexes at the 5-minute markers and were plain metal, fluted between the indexes, or with fluted indexes, or coloured with bakelite applied between the indexes. The hands were folded Dauphine, fluted Dauphine, Dauphine with triangular lumed inserts, or broad arrow.
Consequently, either during official production, or unofficial production, or in a watchmakers studio, the number of actual case, dial, hand and bezel combinations was huge.
The advertisement below shows some of the range of Polarouters.
The Stainless Steel cased Polarouters were the 20217 series, the 300-micron gold capped the 20214 series and the gold models the 10234 series, the 10234 models using different lugs on the case.
The first model was 20217-1, released in 1954.
The 20217 series were in stainless steel cases.
This dial is black, with cross hairs, and no chapter ring. The tension ring has raised broad index markers, with radial fluting between. The crown is either signed U or unsigned.
Original model Polarouter dial below.
The movement was the Caliber 138SS, the so-called bumper model. The bumper weight can be seen below between the two springs, and this can rotate about 315 degrees.
The case from the side with signed crown.
The advertisement for this model is below.
This model has a white dial with a radial fluted tension ring. The chapter ring has one tritium lume dot every 5 minutes. Fluted dauphine hands with central groove are fitted.
The model below is a Polarouter, with a 6 key case back.
The name then changed to Polerouter.
Now with dodecagon screwback case.
The model above has a chapter ring with minute tick marks, but no lume dots at the 5 minute markers.
Below is a unique dial with Polerouter above Automatic.
This model is all stainless, with a white dial and no chapter ring. Narrow indices are used at 1, 2, 4, 5 7, 8, 10 and 11 o’clock. Broader indices at 3, 6 and 9 and double index at 12 o’clock. Dial signed Polarouter.
The dial changed later to Polerouter, as below, with broader more uniform index markers.
Dials tropicalise and this model has a chapter ring with ticks.
Then with a revised chapter ring, with dots at the 5 minute markers, and ticks elsewhere. Some models had one dot at 12, and others 2 dots at 12 and dodecagon sided case back.
Below is a single dot model.
This had an engraved duodecadon back
A later model with 2 dots at 12 on the chapter ring.
Dodecagon case back, now without model and serial number, marked SWISS and with the Universal Geneve logo.
Radial fluting on tension ring, dial slightly tropicalised. Tritium dots at 5 minute markers on chapter ring, tick marks between. Polarouter model below with narrow indices away from the crosshairs. The advertisement above refers to black center, radium dots and grey marker ring.
This then changed to Polerouter, with thicker index markers on tension ring and open dots on the dial, and dodecagon screw back.
Now thicker index markers on tension ring and Polerouter on dial with closed dots.
Now with 2 dots at 12 on the chapter ring.
Triangular lumed hands, and dodecagon case back.
A unique black dialed SAS version numbered 20217-4 is shown below. This has no ticks on the dial, similar to the 20217-6 model, and reads UNIVERSAL GENEVE AUTOMATIC similar to the 10234-1 Deluxe model.
The 10234-1 Deluxe model had a range of unique dials.
A broad arrow version with radial fluting and rectangular tick marks on the chapter ring was also produced, case back numbered 20217-4
There was also a 20217-5 SAS version, without the cross hairs.
The watch below is on the original Universal Genève bracelet by Nevado
A 20217-5 model which had a Cal 138 SS bumper movement is shown below.
This is marked Automatic in cursive and does not have Polerouter on the dial.
UNIVERSAL GENEVE POLAROUTER 20217-6
As mentioned in the introduction, the SAS aircrew were excited to be given Universal Geneve Polarouter watches to commemorate their journey. This model again has a tension ring with narrow markings at 5 minutes, wider at 3, 6 , 9 and 12 o’clock. Dauphine hands. Domed crown, not marked.
Below is a gold Universal Geneve Polarouter Deluxe version with the SAS logo applied as discussed in the 10234-1 section below.
This model has a stainless steel dial, and tick marks on the chapter ring. Dodecagon case back.
The advertisement above reads polished steel center and marker ring.
POLAROUTER 20217-8 BROAD ARROW
Broad arrow hands with lume (Luminova? or nitebrite?) on hands and between indices on tension ring are a feature of this model. The chapter ring has just tick marks, and the dial has cross hairs.
Below is a later version with dodecagon back, and radial fluting rather than tritium lume on the tension ring. The lume was applied over the radial fluting.
The 20214 models are gold cap 300 micron stainless steel, selling originally for USD150. The grooves in the tension ring run uniquely in a circular pattern in the 20214-1 model. Folded Dauphine hands.
A 20214-2 model with a Universal Geneve Polarouter dial, also marked GOBBI MILANO. The tension ring is not grooved.
Another later case 20214-2 marked Polerouter with narrower indices and radial grooves in the tension ring. The advertisement above reads golden center and marker ring.
This model is in 300-micron gold cap and with a chapter ring with open dots at the 5-minute markers, and one dot at 12. Crossed dial. Radial grooves in tension ring, and thin indices. Dauphine hands with central spine. Below is an early Polarouter model, with a thick crown.
The case is marked with the Universal logo, WATERPROOF with a 6 key screw.
Below is a later Polerouter model with a narrow crown, and wider index markers.
Below is a yet later version with dodecagon case back and WATERPROOF and Universal Geneve logo only, no serial number or model number. 2 dots on chapter ring at 12.
Below is a silver faced pink gold model, 20214-4 with dodecadon case back. This has 2 dots at 12 on the chapter ring.
The gold capped version of 20217-5 with white face, solid lume dots and two dots at 12 on the chapter ring. This dial signed Polarouter, and also signed Chantilly Joyeros.
The gold-capped version of 20217-5 with argente dial, solid dots and 2 dots at 12 on the chapter ring.
14K yellow gold-filled case with steel screw-down back, champagne and bronze dial, yellow gold Dauphine hands and sweep second hand. Painted tension ring between indexes.
17 Jewel bumper automatic movement
POLEROUTER 20214-11 BROAD ARROW
POLEROUTER 20214-13 BROAD ARROW
A broad arrow version case number 20214-13, with lumed tension ring, and tick marks on dial.
Broad arrow hands with triangular lume, and radial fluted tension ring between indexes.
Lume missing from the broad arrow hands below.
The advertisement above reads golden center and nitelite marker ring.
This is an all-gold chronometre Polerouter.
Movement stamped 2106, and no marking “unadjusted” on movement.
Chapter ring has uniform dots.
POLAROUTER 10234-1 DE-LUXE
The 10234 series are all gold models with square, curved lugs. Radially fluted indices. 18k gold. A gold dial was featured in the 10234-1 model. This model did not have a chapter ring or indices on the dial, just having the indices on the tension ring.
The model above has no cross hairs, and the model below does not have Polerouter Deluxe imprinted on the dial.
The chronometre wristwatch below was made around 1955. This watch is very rare as a chronometer. The gold dial shows gold hands. Watch case and crown are made of 18K gold. The watch has an original, black leather strap with a gold plated pin buckle. The watch case number is B10234-1; the movement number is 2548.
Sometimes these were not marked Chronometre on the dial.
The 138SS movement for the chronometres was stamped with the chronometere number, and UNADJUSTED was not used.
The advertising referred to the chronometre certificate.
Above 3 images courtesy Omega Forums user: Bill Sohne
Below is model 10234 1TL, produced in 1958. This is a rare model with a gold bracelet in shape of a belt with buckle (special patent). This has a solid case, polished, screwed-down case back, and straight concave lugs. Two-tone pink gold in two parts (special patent) bearing the effigy of King Faysal of Saudi Arabia, with fluted indexes on a polished outer ring. Dauphine pink gold hands.
In April 1958, the Minister of Finance of Saudi Arabia, Mr Srurl El Sabban, visited the Universal Genève stand at the “Foire de Bâle” and subsequently ordered approximately 50 examples of this watch bearing the effigy of King Faysal. This model represents Universal Genève’s most advanced technology at the time, embodying 3 patented innovations.
The 10234-1 commemorative SAS version below is a Universal Geneve Polarouter and thought to be one of 3 in existence.
Enamel dial models 10234-1 were also produced, such as the Enamel Cloisonnè “Le Coq De France” dial.
And one featuring the Arabian Gulf.
A very similar watch with an engraved tension ring is shown below.
This is stamped 10232-1 as shown below, and predates the Polerouter as a 1952 model.
UNIVERSAL GENEVE POLAROUTER 10234-2 DE-LUXE
This model had an 18K gold case, and triangular index markers on the dial at 15, 30, 45 and 60 minutes.
It featured a 6 notch screw in case back with only model 10234-2 and the serial number.
It had a beige or white dial, with and without crosshairs. Early model with Universal Geneve Polarouter on dial below.
Below is a version with crosshairs. The tension ring had radially ribbed indices.
UNIVERSAL GENEVE POLAROUTER 10234-3 DE-LUXE
This was an 18K pink gold version, marked inside case. 6 notch screw in case back with only model 10234-3 and serial number. Black, now often tropicalised dial, but white dials perhaps existed.
Below is the gold version, 18k gold with the tropicalised dial. The dial has cross hairs, and triangular fluted indices at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock. There is no applied U logo. The lugs are square sided but curved. The tension ring has radially fluted indices.
A black dial in good condition below.
Below, a dial stamped FRECCERO, but other dual stamped dials existed, e.g. Joyeria Milos, Au Diademe Zurich and LE TRIANON HABANA.
POLEROUTER 10234-21 DE-LUXE
Black dial, with applied logo, but no markers at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock.
Personal engraving on 10234-21 screw in case back.
HPC UNIVERSAL GENEVE POLEROUTER
A rare gold cased HPC chronometer version is shown below. The lugs of this model are unique. The case is by A. Gerlach, three-body, solid, polished and brushed, concave lugs, screw-down case back. Model number 100105, usually fitted with a Cal 138C movement.
Although not a bumper model, the 27601-6 model is included below for interest. The design similarities to the models above are obvious. The watch is 21mm diameter with 9mm lug width.
A gold cap model was also produced. Both had radial fluting on the tension ring.
The view from the side.
Cal.2365 movement was used, with 25 Jewels.
The Universal Geneve Polerouter with the 138SS bumper movement was only produced for about 1 year. Hence the models are relatively rare, as about 2500 units only were produced. In addition to the relationship with SAS, some customised production for other clients was also carried out. Bearing this in mind we have the following recommendations.
Almost any of the Gerald Genta influenced watches are desirable, but perhaps something with the Universal Geneve Polarouter on the dial indicates the early intent of this watch. The early Polarouters often have narrow indices on the tension ring away from the cross hairs.
A broad arrow version would be the keeper. These are rare and currently, fetch several thousand dollars. Below is a later version with lume on the hands but radial fluting on the tension ring.
Although not a Gerald Genta influenced design, the grail would be the gold SAS Polarouter issued as a commemorative piece for the SAS commencement flight from Copenhagen to and from Los Angeles. This is close to a unique watch, and the price would be USD 10,000 plus.