The design they followed was one invented five years earlier by the US naval officer and navigation pioneer Philip van Horn Weems. He came up with the idea of the ‘second setting watch’ with a rotating bezel which could be locked in place. In those old war movies, when an officer instructs “synchronise your watches”, the pilots are probably turning their Weems bezels. The watch gained recent exposure in the 2017 film Dunkirk when the Omega Weems was worn by actor Tom Hardy.
The watch is one of best-known created for the RAF. But, with just 2000 units made, also among the scarcest. Relatively few have come to auction but one did surface at Tennants of Leyburn on July 13. It sold at £3200.
Immediately after the Second World War the Ministry of Defence procured watches for service from a range of different Swiss manufacturers. The Navigator’s Mark II wristwatch (reference 6B/346) was made for the RAF and later the RAAF by both Jaeger-LeCoultre and International Watch Company in the post war years.
Examples had sold in the spring for £5100 (Lockdales) and £4700 (Chorley’s) and another appeared for sale at Fellows (23/15% buyer’s premium) on June 18. In good original condition, it improved on a £650-850 estimate to bring £5200.
The ‘Dirty Dozen’
More commonly encountered are the thousands of MOD general service watches made by 12 different makers – Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, International Watch Co, Jaeger-Le-Coultre, Lemania, Longines, Omega, Record, Timor and Vertex – known affectionately as the ‘Dirty Dozen’.
The Grana, manufactured by Kurth Freres to MOD specifications, is considered the scarcest of the dozen with perhaps 1500 units made. They can sell for north of £5000. The watch made by Longines is also a rarity. The example offered at Halls of Shrewsbury on June 19 sold at £3200.
At the summer Olympia fair, Timewise Vintage Watches reported the sale of a Glashutte beobachtungsuhren or observation clock that once belonged to a Luftwaffe pilot. Like many in British hands, it was acquired by an officer who was part of the occupancy forces in Germany. It sold to a private collector for around £10,000.