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Tornek-Rayville TR-900 stainless steel dive watch, $60,000 (£46,150) at Skinner.

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The TR-900 was produced in two batches in late 1964 and in mid-1966 for the US Navy’s Experimental Diving Unit.

Due to the 1933 ‘Buy American Act’ that remained in force, the navy could not directly purchase the Swiss Blancpain watches it had tested and approved.

Instead, a New York importer for Blancpain, Allen V Tornek Co, won a bid to be the American supplier of the rebranded watches.

The name Rayville refers to the official name used by Blancpain since 1932 when the last member of the Blancpain family to run the company, Frédéric-Emile Blancpain, forced a legal name change.

According to scholarship, most of the TR-900s were destroyed by the US government because of the use of radium to the dials. However, somewhere between 30-50 examples are thought to have survived – and Skinner has sold more than half a dozen of them, including one for a record $100,000 in 2017.

If found, return

The two examples that sold on October 27 were both being offered at auction for the first time.

The first, estimated at $70,000-90,000, was given to the consignor in the early 1980s by his father, a 22-year veteran who had seen duty in the Second World War, Korea and Vietnam.

One element of the two-part screw-back is engraved with typical military markings MIL-W-22176 and the words If Found Return To The Nearest Military Facility. However, the absence of the issue or serial number suggests it did not see service.

It sold just below estimate at $60,000 (£46,150).

The second, estimated at $40,000-60,000, was consigned by a retired US Navy explosive ordnance disposal technician and diver. With the serial number 0160, it was given to him by a fellow technician to whom the piece was issued.

However, minus the lettering Tornek-Rayville US to the dial, this example failed to sell.