Collectible Models

IWC

Without a doubt the rarest and most desirable of all the watches supplied to the British forces during WW II was the IWC MK X. The IWC cal 83 WWW was supplied to soldiers in the British Army during WWII, it was NOT a pilot’s watch.



IWC MK X


The nonclemature “WWW” stands for “Wrist Watch, Waterproof” and the IWC is unique in having a snap back where all the others have a screw back to provide the necessary impermeability. However the snap back on the IWC fits so tightly that it probably is as waterproof as most of the watches of the time which frankly is such that I would not trust it near water in light of its value.

For a MK X (above) or MK XI (below) expect to pay around US$4000/$5500 - £2650/£3600 - €3600/€4900 with the price varying varying depending on the condition of the watch.

The most famous IWC of all was the Stainless steel RAF Issue IWC Mk XI, originally issued in 1952. The IWC Mark XI is probably one of the most sought after and collectable of virtually all military watches. I think this is for a number of reasons one is that it was technically very advanced for its time, and heralded a few firsts in the watch making industry, it has hacking seconds ( which means when the winding button is pulled out to set the time it stops the second hand of the watch enabling it to be set exactly, the Mark XI also has an inner soft iron case which protects the movement from magnetic fields. The Mark XI was also tested to chronometer standard by the Ministry of Defence. Amazingly the Mk XI has lost none of its mystique over the years. In fact the mystique has been added to by IWC who have "mined" the legend and reputation of this watch to produce several recent watches that call heavily upon its design. The first was the "Fliegerchronograph", then the even more derivative Mk XII and Mk XV were produced. All of these watches have dials which are very reminiscent of the Mk XI, this in fact is quite ironic as IWC did not design the dial. It was produced by them to a British Air Ministry design and this self same design can also be seen on the Jaeger Pilot's watch produced to the same specification.



IWC MK XI



Both of these watches (and the Omega which followed them) can make a claim to be the first wristwatches in the world designed from scratch to be anti magnetic. They all feature a very thick dial, which is cup shaped and so covers the side of the movement; the movement cover is similarly shaped and rises to meet the dial sides. This means that the movement is completely encased in a non magnetic "Faraday cage", thereby providing a high degree of anti magnetic shielding.

The movement itself was IWC's famed calibre 89, with Breguet hairspring, incabloc shock absorbtion, 17 jewels and indirect centre seconds mechanism. The movement is rhodium plated and decorated with Geneva stripes.

If you don't want to pay the price for MK X or MK XI  a potential compromise is the MK XII below which can frequently be found for around half the price of the other two and is a very desirable watch in its own right.



IWC MK XII

For anyone looking for a classic military watch keep in mind IWC very recently made a very desirable watch in the spirit of the original which is pictured below. This watch is the MK XVI which can be found for around $3000 (I saw one at $2500 but they are normally more costly) so it is certainly not cheap; very nice though! And most importantly its up to modern standards for water resistance etc so well worth considering and having owned one myself for some years I can attest to the reliability. The watch which replaced MK XVI is the MK XVII which frankly I don't find desirable at all and seems to in some ways have moved away from the spirit of these watches which have always been very clearly evolutions of their predecessors.



IWC MK XVI

    Mechanical movement
-     Self-winding
-     42-hour power reserve when fully wound
-     Date display
-     Central hacking seconds
-     Soft-iron inner case for protection against magnetic fields
-     Convex sapphire glass, antireflective coating on both sides and secured against displacement by drop in air pressure

 

OMEGA

The British Army Omega was known colloquially as the "Thin Arrow"; these watches are now one of the most collectable of British Military watches. Although it was always overshadowed by its contemporaries the IWC & Jaeger le Coultre Mark XI's, the Omega is now recovering its rightful place. Compared to the Mk XIs, it is a much larger, more substantial watch and obviously more in tune with today when Panerai's are considered daily wear.



This was the last Military watch to use the classic Omega 30mm movement, by this time it was called cal 283 and had 17 jewels, incabloc shock protection and indirect sweep seconds drive. The movement is contained in a full soft iron cage with the dial forming the top and a substantial movement ring providing the sides, whilst a removable cap covers the back of the movement.

The dials were produced with radium figures and hands and in the early 1960s it was decided that all British Military watches must have tritium, the watches were withdrawn from service & the dial reprinted in the UK in a much more amateurish fashion than the originals. For this reason the value is much higher if you can find a rare original dial retaining the high gloss black finish with cream full Arabic numerals and large luminous bars at the quarter hour divisions and dots for the remainder, on most originals the 12 mark has 2 dots and a bar on the repainted watches this is usually missing.

These watches measure 37mm Diam, 48mm lug to lug and is 13mm high; it takes an 18mm strap and a new NATO strap is fitted to the watch.

Expect to pay around of US$3000 / £2000 / €2600



OMEGA WWII Pilots Watch

Of the many WWW watches made for use by the British armed forces during WWII, the Omegas are one of the nicest of the whole bunch.



OMEGA 1953 Pilots Watch

The movement is Omega’s classic 30mm cal 30T2, with 15 jewels.

The case has the broad arrow logo & WWW are stamped on both the inside & outside surfaces of the screwed case back; the outside is also marked with the broad arrow & the hand stamped number with the serial number.

The 30mm calibre was one of Omega's most famed calibres, introduced in the 1930s and used in all the WWII military watches supplied to the British armed forces. These watches played such a significant role that Field Marshal Montgomery visited Omega's Geneva offices after the war to thank the company.

The original black dial had full white Arabic numerals with luminous dots on the circumference and luminous spade hands. It had the largest subsidiary seconds dial that it is possible to fit on a watch face, and like all of the other printing on the dial it is in white.

The watch measures 35mm Diam, 45mm lug to lug and is 10mm high; it takes an 18mm strap.

Expect to pay around of US$3000 / £2000 / €2600


AFFORDABLE COLLECTABLE MILITARY WATCHES

Of all the watches made there are quite a few that are still very affordable and example is the GG-W-113 below which you can find for $300 / £200 / €260 in sound condition and these have an interesting history but be cautious because companies such as MWC make reproductions which I have seen at watch fairs being passed off by sellers as originals and in fairness they look pretty close because there are lots of GG-W-113 models but MWC pointed out when I spoke to Dieter Kessler that their current models are all automatic with the facility to be hand wound and the originals are handwind only so that is the way to determine for certain.



Original GG-W-113



MWC GG-W-113 Automatic 2015

There is lots of information regarding the GG-W-113 here

Hamilton W10

Although W10 specification watches are still manufactured by both CWC and MWC (the CWC was the immediate successor to the Hamilton) the most collectable variant is the Hamilton pictured below which is also the rarest of the models. I have two or three in my collection and they have doubled in price in the last two or three years with the current value averaging $575 / £375 / €525 which is quite good for watch that is still reasonably plentiful. One of the pluses of the Hamilton is that it's very easy to maintain because parts are freely available for the movement. As far as I can see the parts used in the CWC and the Hamilton are directly interchangeable but although the MWC looks the same it is in many ways significantly updated. The main difference between the MWC and the other two models is that MWC has a screw caseback and both of the Hamilton and CWC require removal of the crystal to carry out any servicing work.



1970's Hamilton W10

CWC G10

The most affordable military watch if you're looking for something of historic value but do not wish to spend great deal of money is probably a CWC G10 in one of the early cases which are thicker and heavier than the current production. I have an early 1980s model and it looks like it's been carved out of a piece of steel which obviously it has but it's really chunky by today's standards. These tend to command quite high prices. Regardless though the CWC G10 is eminently affordable and averages around £200/£300 for a clean 1980s example. There is a tendency for 1982 watches to command a higher price because it is the year of the Falklands War.

1980's CWC G10

Of course covering all of the various options as follows collectable military watches is well beyond the scope of this website but if you have an interest in starting a collection for buying a watch for your own use I recommend buying a copy of The Concise Guide to Military Timepieces although it only goes up to 1998 will certainly cover all of the models which are likely to be of interest.

Several other links which I highly recommend are those below which will be a great help in identifying any watch which you are proposing to buy. Even though I recognise many military watches on sight both myself and my colleagues feel that these links are highly recommended to establish with certainty what you're dealing with. It will also give you some ideas as to what you may want to look for.

I find this one quite interesting because Bob is a genuine enthusiast and this site covers a good cross-section.
http://broadarrow.net/gallery1.htm

This one is is excellent if you're interested in a standard American infantry watch and covers the vast range of models have been issued over the past 50 years http://home.earthlink.net/~brendo81/46374.html

The sites below potentially good to find a watch as well as getting an idea of pricing although eBay is good too if you are careful
http://www.chrono24.com/en/watches/military-watches--31.htm

http://watchestobuy.com/tag/military/

There are a lot of dealers and sellers out there but the two above I am aware are straightforward and hassle free to deal with. Of course there are lots of other good dealers as well but the three above tend to have a variety of items at all times so the links are well worth browsing.