There are thought to be a handful of collections of the complete set of "The Dirty Dozen" W.W.W .watches, which is not surprising since the current cost of putting together a collection of these watches is likely to exceed $40,000.
Seeing one of the W.W.W. watches on an A.F.0210. strap is also rare, as there are only a couple of hands full of the original A.F.0210. straps available.
Below is an example of an IWC W.W.W. watch on an A.F.0210. strap.
IWC W.W.W. on an AF0210 strap.
This AF0210 strap appears to be dated 1945. Images courtesy MWR forum user : baldhead
The strap is self sealing, and the positioning holes rarely can be seen after use, as can be seen above.
To see all 12 WWW watches on A.F.0210. straps is unheard of.
We have now been able to do this for the reader to visualise what a particular W.W.W. watch might look like on an A.F.0210. strap below.
The feature image and images used below are attributed to ebay seller : stanley2012. He has granted permission for his original image to be the basis of the W.W.W. watch images in this article.
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.
W.W.W. watches have been covered in the article linked below in theSpringbar, and most comprehensively in Reference 1.
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, mostly with 18mm lug width. It was not shockproof.
The NATO strap is a consequence of this fixed bar military standard, a product of the evolution of the pass through strap. These watches were originally issued with either pigskin or A.F.0210. canvas webbing straps.
In 1945, during World War II, Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) needed watches to issue to army personnel, and Britain did not have the capacity to manufacture them. They invited any Swiss manufacturer who could build a watch to the specified standard, to do so.
Due to the demands of military service, very strict specifications were set, for Watches, Wristlet, Waterproof, or what was shortened to W.W.W. watches.
The dial needed to be black, with Arabic numerals and sub seconds in order to maximise legibility. The watches had to have 15-jewel movements and also had to have luminous hour and minute hands, luminous hour markers, a railroad minute track, a shatterproof crystal, and a stainless-steel case, and fixed bars between lugs.
The case-back had to include the W.W.W designation and a pheon marking, with the dial also displaying the pheon. Two serial numbers were required, one being the manufacturer’s number, and the other (with the letter) being the military store number.
Twelve companies were commissioned and produced watches in various quantities: Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Lemania, Longines, IWC, Omega, Record, Timor, and Vertex. Enicar was a thirteenth, but did not produce watches. Each manufacturer was assigned a specific store number with Enicar designated VB 10025, yet there are no known examples.
The full list of W.W.W. suppliers is provided below.
Image courtesy : Konrad Krinim
For some watches which were kept in service for a long period of time, a (retrospective) NATO Stock Number (NSN) was allocated, as listed above.
For example, the NATO dialled IWC watch on an A.F.0210. strap is shown below.
Each manufacturer delivered as many watches as their production capabilities would allow. Only IWC, JLC, and Omega kept a strict record of their order: respectively 6,000, 10,000, and 25,000. It is thought approximately 150,000 W.W.W. watches were produced.
Image courtesy : Konrad Krinim
These were generally all delivered in 1945 and accompanied by a pigskin or canvas strap. As the W.W.W. watches arrived in MoD stores towards the end of the war, they were mostly "decommissioned" and sold to the public.
Büren watches are hard to find in good condition, in particular the condition of the hands, but the hands do complement the watch.
Production was about 11,000 watches.
Eterna’s case is beautifully finished and measures 36mm across The movement is the in-house Calibre 520 H movement, which carried on for many years as the 520 S with centre-seconds hand. The watch has syringe hands which somehow look much better on a Breguet.
The Eterna W.W.W.s have never been inexpensive, and not just because they carry the Eterna name and movement: their production numbers are among the lowest for the Dirty Dozen, at around 5,000.
RecordAbout 25,000 Record W.W.W.’s were constructed. They were a bit bigger than some of the Dozen at 36.5 mm instead of 35mm. The Record had a screw case back and a chrome top construction in its case. The 15 jewel Calibre 022-K movement used a Breguet-curved hairspring, a screwed alloy balance (rather than steel), and the bridge supporting the wheel train was split into three elegant cogs, making this the most elaborate and probably the finest movement Record ever manufactured.
Close to the Timor in numbers, Vertex produced around 15,000 W.W.W.s. Its Calibre 59 movement was made for the company by Thommen, before being encased in a 35mm steel case. The Vertex features pencil hands, and the seconds sub-dial uses a non-railtrack chapter ring with full 60-second gradation, rather than the minimalist style on the Vertex NATO re-dials.
A number of dial variants exist, the name is generally printed with the bulging mid-section, but some feature the crown logo above the name. The hands on extant models are either pencil-straight or sword-like as with the Omega. The sub-dial has been found with or without the railtrack chapter ring, and it may
or may not feature the letter “P” in a circle in the sub-dial, like the Grana.
Common to all is the 36.5mm diameter case with a coin edge bezel and stepped case housing the Tissot-sourced Calibre 27A gilt movement.
GranaNone of the Dozen is more desirable than the Grana, simply because it is by far the most difficult to find. According to Konrad Knirim’s book British Military Timepieces, less than 5,000, and perhaps even only 1,000, were made for the MoD, making it the rarest of the lot.
IWC MK X
The production count came to some 6,000 IWC’s. They were 35mm without the crown and had 18mm lugs. They were equipped with the great Calibre 83 movement which was produced from 1935 until 1947. The IWC is unique in having a snap back as all the others have a screw back to provide the necessary impermeability. IWC used a lead seal between the case and the case back to prevent water ingress.
Mk Xs can confuse collectors because a number of dials do exist with differences: with or without railtrack chapter ring on the sub-dial, and models where the “5” and “7” are whole, while others have them cut into by the subdial.
The Cyma W.W.W. possesses the most robust case, if not one of the largest, at 37mm – closest to it in this respect is the Longines.
The watch uses the Cyma Calibre 234.
Cyma’s W.W.W. has a stainless-steel coin edge step case without the chrome top, and is visibly more rugged than other Dirty Dozen examples thanks to a wider bezel. Production is believed to be around 20,000, making it the third most common version after the Omega and the Record.
The dial is JLC with the long signature. Its movement is the rather fine Calibre 479, gilt-finished although that was not necessary for a military watch, and the 35mm case is the only one to have 17mm lugs instead of 18mm.
The JLC model features distinctive cathedral hands like the Longines – all of the rest having straight hands or slightly sword-shaped ones like the Omega.
Many point to the Longines as their favorite W.W.W. watch.
The Longines W.W.W. has a few characteristics which distinguish it from other W.W.W. watches. Firstly, the movement is the only one fitted with a shock absorber, and this anti-shock protection makes it more suitable for daily wear. Secondly, at 38mm, the watch has a more modern appealing size compared to its smaller Dirty Dozen siblings which are around the 35mmm range. Thirdly, it has a stepped case, and characteristic Cathedral hands.
The model number 23088 was used for these W.W.W. watches, so there were at least 4335 of made from May to December 1945.
The Longines stepped case is synonymous with vintage and iconic Longines watches of the era (e.g. the reference 5681 or the reference 2010).
The name "Greenlander" has sparked some debate. The name implies that the watch was used by the British North Greenland Expedition in 1952-54. It seems "Greenlander" came about because the W.W.W. Longines was wrongly referred to in an Italian military watch book as having been used in the Greenland expeditions.
Pictures exist of a Tudor 7809 which belonged to J. P Masterton who was the doctor for the British North Greenland expedition 1952/1954, engraved "J.P.M. , B.N.G.E. , 1952-1954". This watch is one of the thirty used by the expedition, none of which were W.W.W. Longines.
The Longines is one of the rarest W.W.W. watches. Estimates for its actual production are about 5,000.
The mechanical manual winding Longines Caliber 12.68Z movement is gilt brass. It is constructed with 15 jewels, an anti-shock system and a straight-line lever escapement. It includes an anti-magnetic monometallic balance, a self-compensating Breguet balance spring, and a micrometer regulator.
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.