Past Manufacturers

IWC

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

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.


The most famous IWC 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.

Expect to pay upwards of US$4250 / £2500 / €3050 as a point of interest one of these watches was recently sold at Bonhams for £3360 see this link so clearly prices are still rising although I saw a nice one in Vienna for €2995 hence my estimate above although it could be a bit low.
 
For anyone looking for a classic military watch keep in mind IWC recently made a very desirable watch in the spirit of the original which is pictured below. This watch is the MKXVI which runs out at an average of £3000 / $5080 secondhand  so it is certainly not cheap; very nice though!




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 XIs, 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.

                          
                             
  
WWII OMEGA Pilots Watch With Subsidiary Second Hand       A later 1950s OMEGA with Sweep Second Hand
 
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.


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 and an example is pictured above.

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$3800 / £2250 / €2750