Watches Issued to British Armed Forces 1870-1970
A. Taylerson, 'Horological Journal' Sept./Oct. 1995 (British Horological Institute)
A. Taylerson searches voluminous Military archives to list timepieces issued to The British Armed Forces.
This article describes only mechanical instruments. It is based upon a study of various original lists and Vocabularies of Equipment. They can only be accepted as a general guide to the dating of any watches referred to in them since, clearly, many were in issue before their formal adoption or approval was recorded.
I have not yet found the various specifications to govern manufacture and inspection for the watches mentioned. Some are in American and Canadian records not directly available to me, but the information would not be appropriate in this article.
The first watch issued to the British armed forces was approved on November 26th 1870 and published as Paragraph 2151 of the List of Changes, e.g.:
- 2151 Watch
Watch in German silver case with strap and key, for telegrapher's and signallers of the Royal Engineers. Submitted by Royal Engineer Committee.
I have found no example of this pocket watch and would be pleased to hear from any reader who knows of one. I expect that both case and movement will bear a Broad Arrow (or other government property mark) and be numbered. Speculation upon its manufacturer or features is not worthwhile here.
Next came List of Changes, Paragraph 4400 recording approval (on June 21st and August 15th 1883) of a
- Strap, leather, watch for signalling and telegraph services and of a Watch, (Mark II), with metal protecting case for signalling and telegraph services.
The paragraph holds my only information and this one, too, stated no source for the watch. In fact, it simply read that:
- the cases of the watch are of German silver. It is keyless and has a removable outer case. The face of the watch itself and that of the case, each bear the ordinary Roman numerals indicating the hours, and also is an inner circle, the corresponding letters of the telegraph time code. The face of the case has a circular aperture in the centre, through which the hands and the circle of letters of the telegraph code on the face of the watch are visible. The strap is of brown bag-hide leather, and measures 56 inches long (sic) by 5/15 inch wide, It is provided with a small tab to enable it to be attached to a button on the carrier's clothing. (The last sentence was deleted from the Paragraph in June 1884.)
With so many gaps in the record, rather than simply citing the watches sequentially as they appeared in the records, I prefer to deal with the remaining instruments alphabetically by reference to their titles; official where practicable, but descriptive where not.
This item was listed in the General Index of a late 1945 RAF Air Publication and I have not yet seen any detailed description of it. Conceivably, the Watch, 30 hour Non-Luminous Mark V was meant.
Watches, Camera, Aircraft
Listed in the same document as Watches, Aircraft, the only example I have seen was by Smiths and looked rather like an expensive pocket cigarette lighter with integral (10 1/2'"?) wristwatch movement and dial. As far as I could follow the explanations of its enthusiastic owner, it appears that this watch was used to record the time at which a camera system in an aircraft took a picture. An image of the watch face was projected on to the film by a system of mirrors or lenses.
For my purposes here a 'chronograph' is a watch of pocket size that tells time-of-day and can also, at will, record chosen intervals of time. It is to be distinguished here from Watches, Stop that do not tell time-of-day, and from Watches, Wrist, Chronograph, which will be mentioned later.
The accurate measurement of elapsed time was, at least theoretically, available for British naval or military service in Adolph Nicole's British Patent No.1461/1862, and subsequent development of tachometer (speed-calculating) and telemeter (distance-calculating) dials and mechanisms must have interested doctors, gunners and navigators almost as soon as each became available. Such instruments were often frail and always relatively expensive (when compared with a stopwatch or timer) and pre-WW2 military or naval examples known today seem usually to be panel mounted rather than pocket-sized.
By October 1941, however, an RAF Air Publication did list a black-dial Chronograph Watch, Mark II, for use in navigation. This was a 19"' thirty-six hour keyless instrument with pin handset in its case band. The centre second hand and a smaller hand in a subsidiary dial at the 12 o'clock position made, respectively, one revolution in one minute and one revolution in thirty minutes. Chronograph timing was controlled by pressure repeated on the winding button and was to 1/5th of a second and up to thirty minutes. There was also a conventional running second hand with a 60-second dial at the usual six o'clock position.
Although both the Royal Navy and the Army issued some telemeter chronographs, I have not yet seen an example of either. The Army certainly appears to have had some split-second survey pocket chronographs, in the decade after that period of concern here, but I have not yet located either a sample, a specification, or an issue date.
Such detailed references as I encountered were in RAF documentation of 1941 and 1945. These 22"' 30-hour instruments were brass-mounted (with screwed bezel) in a wood case similar to that later mentioned in relation to Watches, Rated. Clearly, these watches were never carried in either pocket or aircraft but were station-based as the standard for setting coarser instruments. In regard to the other services, I could find nothing of detail, but it was clear that during and after WW2 the Royal Navy issued a chronometer watch (as well as large 2-day Marine and Survey chronometers) boxed like these RAF instruments. The Army seems not to have issued them, generally, but the Royal Engineer detachment with the North American Boundary Commission (1872-1875) may have had them, along with the original Watch, and there must have been other such demands. Presumably, these instruments could (subject to availability) be secured from the Chronometer Section, Royal Greenwich Observatory, at need, but the channel of supply is unknown to me. Incidentally, it was nowhere clear in the records I studied if the term chronometer meant any watch meeting the tests of chronometer accuracy i.e. regardless of the type of escapement.
Again, this was a Royal Navy item and the only examples I have seen were substantial Swiss jewelled lever panel movements, signed for H. Golay & Son Ltd. of London, with centre seconds. The 62mm diameter watch had a rotatable bezel (marked in white Arabic numerals in degrees) that could be locked by a nut on the side of the case which was nickel-plated and held in an outer rubber-lined Bakelite container (with screw bezel) mounted on a white Perspex base that was held in a dovetailed dashboard fitting by a spring clip. Motor torpedo-boat use seemed indicated.
Röhner dates his example in 1950, but I have seen dates of 1940 and 1944 suggested in dealer catalogues.
At some time in the 1940s, apparently, the Royal Navy began to grade and mark its watches by reference to standards of the Hydrographic Service. On that scale, if one chooses so to regard the 'HS' system, a 2-day boxed Marine or Survey chronometer (which met the appropriate standard) would be graded 'HS 1', a Watch, Chronometer would be 'HS 2', and so on to 'HS 7' for a naval Watch, Stop.
A Watch, Deck was designated 'HS 3' and most of my readers will have seen various American and Swiss pocket watches (both boxed and unboxed) that date from WW2 and have this mark, usually with a second serial number, engraved on their screwed case back. Examples by Zenith, usually silver cased, may have the coloured hands and three-scale dial patented by L. B. Ferguson, American 'HS 3' examples by Elgin, Hamilton, or Waltham have 21- or 22-jewel 'Railroad Grade' lever movements that were also saw US armed forces issue as master navigation, deck, or comparing watches.
I don't know when the Royal Navy formally designated its comparison watches as Watches, Deck, but we had the following notice routinely posted in the Horological Journal more than a century ago:
Trial of Deck Watches of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, in 1890
Chronometer makers who may care to send watches to the trial must first obtain permission from the Hydrographer, Admiralty, Whitehall, S.W., To whom all requests for such permission must be sent not later than October 6.
The watches are to be deposited here between the hours of 10 and 1 on any day (excepting Sunday),. during the week ending with October 20th, after which no watch can under any circumstances be received.
The rating this year commences on Saturday, October 25 and will be as follows:
Watch horizontal, dial up, in room for 6 weeks
Watch horizontal, dial up, in oven for 1 week
Watch vertical, pendant up, in oven for 4 days
Watch vertical, pendant right, in oven for 3 days
Watch vertical, pendant left, in oven for 3 days
Watch vertical, pendant up, in oven for 4 days
Watch horizontal, dial up, in oven for 1 week
Watch horizontal, dial up, in room for 6 weeks
The mean temperature in the oven will be from 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit.
The watches are to be in silver cases with crystal glass, and each must bear a distinguishing No. engraved on the plate of the movement, Preference will be given to keyless watches.
Each watch is to be labelled with its price, which is to include a mahogany box with ivory label, cleaning after trial and engraving the Government mark on the dial and plate of the movement, and the name of the maker, the No. of the watch, the letters D.W., and the Government mark on the ivory label of the box.
Royal Observatory, Greenwich.
The remains of a jewelled lever keyless Series 1906 movement by Ehrhardt of Birmingham (No. 395309), 1, has had the Broad Arrow property mark and 'D 7849' engraved upon its top plate.
The key-wound pocket Watch of 1870 earlier mentioned was superseded by a keyless Watch (Mark II), and the latter was supplemented during 1903 by Paragraph 11845 providing that future manufacture of it would no longer rigidly adhere to Paragraph 4400 and "... watches of ordinary trade patterns..." would be provided as necessary.
Through financial years 1905/06-1912/13 the 'Director of Army Contracts' recorded overseas purchases of clocks, watches and parts at only an average of about £ 60 a year. It seems safe to assume that supplies of both 'pattern' and 'trade pattern' watches came from the British watch trade. It is clear, however, that not many were issued with this Watch (Mark II). An Expeditionary Force Infantry Battalion of 1914 numbered 1000 men, but received only eight watches. One to the Signalling Sergeant and the others to be shared among 16 RE Signallers. Even if every commissioned officer wore his own watch, as required, one is forced to wonder how matters were actually arranged in that first hectic summer on active service. As the war progressed, of course, that situation altered and various patterns of available pocket watch had to be pressed into general service with British armed forces.
In February 1918, therefore, Paragraph 20175, which is set out below in relation to the Watches, RA., promulgated a preferred pattern of Watch, G.S. An example of this is shown. It has a seven-jewel Model 1910 Williamson 'Astral' lever movement and the Denison screw-on plated case-back is unusual in being stamped 'G.S.'. Most of these case-backs carry just a Broad Arrow and the inventory number used for an old Watch, (Mark II). The Armistice saw a great many Watches, G.S. in hand but, nevertheless, that pattern was declared obsolescent in July 1929 when Paragraph A4728 introduced Watches, G.S. Mk II and designated the older watch Mk L Röhner illustrates a Mk I case containing a Rolex movement, but a non-luminous dial and hands spoils it for me.
Both Mk I and MK II Watches, G.S. were formally described as: "Keyless, with leather thong: strong lever, 3/4 or full plate type, in metal case, with strong crystal glass, fully luminous", but the G.S., Mk II instrument specifically had a "15 jewelled movement...." and £1978 was expended overseas for some of them, in the Financial Year l935-6. This because "British movements (were) unobtainable". What I believe to be an example from that purchase, 3, has a Swiss Fleurier jewelled lever movement, Another such was a Rlex (fully luminous) similarly engraved 'G.S. Mk II'.
The Watches, G.S. Mk I and Mk II were both specifically omitted (as 'obsolete'), when Paragraph 7422 promulgated a 1956 edition of the Vocabulary.
Watches G.S.T.P. Or G.S./T.P.
Any collector of British issue watches will have several 19'" jewelled lever pocket instruments with their plated snap-on case-back engraved G.S.T.P. or G.S./T.P. Not uncommonly (and in a different style) some have also been later engraved with the name of one of the High Street jewellers. 'Bravingtons London', 4. I believe that practice to date from 1946-48, when the of Ministry of Supply sold off various surplus watches and clocks to a value exceeding £ 2.000.000. Opinions differ as to the meaning of 'T.P.' Röhner prefers 'Temporary Pattern'. My own preference is for Mr. W. P. Roseman's 'Trade Pattern'.
As carlier mentioned, the door had opened in 1903 to issue of watches "... of ordinary Trade Patterns...", but specific reference to Watches, G.S.T.P. Or G.S./T.P, was very uncommon in the literature I studied. Indeed, I remain uncertain as to which of the Swiss factories should be listed as suppliers of the movements. In supposing that the £ 3.664 spent overseas in Financial Year l936-37 was for G.S.T.P. Or G.S./T.P., the relevant report is not helpful. The entry reads: "Watches....Swiss. British supplies in excess of preference limits or unobtainable".
About all it seems safe to state here is, that Watches, G.S.T.P., 4, were collectively deleted from the 1954 List at February 3rd 1957, when Watches, G.S./T.P. branded Omega, Record, Cortebert, Lemania, Thommen, Recta, Buren, Doxa, Unitas and F.E.F. Were individually struck out, also.
However, bearing in mind that apparent discrepancies may be no more than the result of someone re-casing a movement, it seems worthwhile to mention that I have also encountered G.S.T.P, and GS/T.P. watches branded Damas (Beguelin), Cymy (Tavannes), Enicar (Fontainemelon), Helvetia (General Watch), Jaeger le Coultre, Montilier, Revue (Thommen) and Tissot (S.S.I.H.). In addition, of course there are also some American Waltham and Elgin pocket watches requiring explanation, whose only case-marking is a Broad Arrow, accompanied either by the movement number, or by a smaller secondary number, or by both. Movement numbers suggest a production in 1943 and 1944, but I have so far failed to trace any mention of them in my sources.
Watches, Non-Magnetic, W.T.
This instrument appears to have been promulgated by Paragraph 23829 amongst a small 1920/21 cluster of Paragraphs launching the Marconi Pattern 'W.T. Sets, motor pack'. Priced at £ l.3s.Od. In the 1940 Vocabulary, this pocket watch seems unlikely to have been of quality and its antimagnetic feature may have lain solely in a plated iron case. It was declared obsolescent during 1926 or 1927 by Paragraph A232l. The reasons for its reintroduction for "...all W.T. and Wireless complete stations..." by Paragraph A8531 (during March 1934), therefore, are as obscure as the watch's make-up, but just may have been economic. At all events, it was still in the List at 1954, and only deleted by a 1957 amendment of the Vocabulary.
Watches, Non-Luminous Mark IVA (8-day)
Priced at £2.l0s.6d., by 1921, these eight-day pocket watches, 5, survive in surprising numbers. Although I did not manage to find a List of Changes Paragraph either promulgating original approval, or accounting for the 'Non-Luminous Mark IVA' dial legend almost invariably present, I did locate 'Watches: 8 day' in one Priced Vocabulary as late as December 1945. These instruments are encountered either with long pendant (enabling the watch to be held in a leather wristlet strap and in hard rubber mounts screwed onto dashboards, instrument panels, telephone switchboards, etc.) or with a short pendant. The case-back may be hinged or Snap-On, there may be a hinged dust cover under it (or there may not), and it may, or may not, carry the Broad Arrow property mark. When the Broad Arrow is present, it may be accompanied by the letters WD or by a capital A, but is sometimes alone. The dial may be black or white; and painted or enamelled. The legend on it is usually 'No. ... Ag Moisse (or Moisse) Dreyfus Mark IVA', but dials acknowledging instead S. Alexander & Son; 5, Elliot Brothers, S. Smith & Son (M.A.) Ltd, H. Williamson Ltd., or even no source, are to be seen. In each instance the dial carried either a number or a 'No ..' space for the insertion of one. Occasionally, the appropriate service was included in the dial legend (e.g. Admiralty) or subsequently applied by transfer (e.g. RAF) to the dial. Commonly the eight-day divided ¾ plate jewelled lever movement was that commercially available here (in the years immediately preceding WWI) under the brand name Octava Watch Co. and protected by Frantisek Hartmann's and Josef Oliak's patents of 1905/1906.
Readers holding the Maxwell reprint of a 1910 (?) watch-and-clock catalogue issued by Hirst Brothers & Co. of Manchester, can find a useful representation of the top-plate layout on p.75. However, variants can be found amongst these Octava watches (as by substituting a conventional Snap-On cannon pinion for the tiny friction spring drive of the patent, or changing sides with the hand-setting parts) and one Williamson-dialled movement turned out to be entirely unrelated to Hartmann's and Oliak's patents. Rohner illustrates one of the Octava Watch Co. eight-day movements having an '8 Day Non-Luminous Mark V' dial. I can only suggest a factory mix-up with one of the Watches, 30 hour, Nonluminous, Mark V (see later).
This is another Royal Navy stores-classification that I have only seen in post-1970 documents. Until examples turn up, with an appropriate stores reference engraved on the case-back, I am inclined to propose that these were American 16 size Egin, Hamilton, or Waltham hack watches of a quality which the U.S. Navy received from 1942 onwards (and called a 'comparing watch') to be used about a vessel after being set to the second against a fixed-site ship's boxed chronometer.
Since one can, instead, argue that these were merely leftover Watches G.S. Or G.S.T.P. Or G.S./T.P. Instruments, 4, from a time when such were 'Common' to all three services, there is no point in dwelling upon them here until a correct identification emerges.
This pattern was introduced in February 1918 by Paragraph 20175:
(Section No, 8D)
20175 Watch, R.A. keyless, with leather thong; strong lever, 3/4 or full plate- type, in metal case, with strong crystal glass, fully luminous.
Watch, G.S. keyless, with leather thong; strong lever, 3/4 or full-plate type, in metal case, with strong glass, fully luminous.
I. A pattern of the above-mentioned watch has been approved to govern manufacture. It is similar to the 'Watch G.G.' but is specially rated and engraved 'R. A.' on the back. As implied by the nomenclature, its use is restricted to 'R.A.',.
2. Consequent on the introduction of 'Watches. RA', the nomenclature of watches for use other than by L.A. units will be as shown above. All future supplies will be fully luminous.
The Royal Artillery Historical Trust told me that the Watch, RA could be distinguished from the other by its hack feature permitting the second hand to be started and stopped at will. One or two of these watches were issued to each battery, for use at the Battery Observation Post (OP), during the Great War. When an observer saw the flash of an enemy gun, he started the second hand of his Watch RA When he heard the sound of the gun firing, he stopped the second hand. This gave him a measure of the range (OP to enemy gun) as the number of seconds multiplied by the speed of sound in yards per second. The Trust also said that by World War 2 (l939-45), flashless explosives were used by all the combatants and so Watches RA were dropped from the Vocabulary of Stores. These watches were in fact declared obsolescent in 1926 by Paragraph A2313 and were to be replaced by Watches, G.S., 1, when existing stocks were used up. On that basis, they were still listed in 1937.
Before leaving these instruments, it may be useful to mention some pricing anomalies which suggest that (like the Watch, G.S.) more than one pattern of Watch, RA must have circulated under the broad Paragraph 20175 description. Considering the inventory difficulties that would arise in respect of spare parts, this is difficult to accept. The 1920 price for a Watch RA£2.16s.9d. against £2.0s.0d. for a Watch, G.S., yet the appropriate Emergency Pattern Stores price for the same year, were £4.1s.2d. And£1.15s.0d, respectively.
These were introduced, by Paragraph 22477, at October 1st. 1919.
22477. Watches, Rated. First class lever, 3/4 or full plate. 21 jewels. Timed in one position it high and low temperature, and to a variation from mean daily rate of not more than five seconds. Cases. Cuban mahogany, about 6 3/5" by 3 5/8", with lock and key with card affixed giving the actual variation of the particular watch contained therein.
1 and 2. Introduction
Patterns of the above have been approved to govern manufacture. The watches will be issued to Royal Engineer Signal companies.
A year later, the Watch, Rated was priced at £3.05.0d and the case at 7s.8d. I had a friendly response to my inquiries, from both the Royal Engineers' Museum and the Royal Signals' Museum, but neither had any information to add.
The RAF's general description of this watch was pithy.
The sidereal time watch is ... an ordinary watch which is speeded up by adjustment of the mechanism in order that it will indicate 24 hours of sidereal time for every 23 hours 56 minutes approximately of solar time... it is intended for use by a navigator (and) is used for timing stellar observations, in the way as the G.M.T. watch is used for solar observations.
To me, it appeared simply as a pocket watch of conventional size (lacking a bow), but with two scales around the dial - the inner, graduated for reading longitude from 0° to 180°, and the outer divided into 60 minutes sidereal time. There was a sub-dial of twelve divisions. This RAF watch is to be distinguished from a Royal Navy Watch, Stop, Sidereal, side slide in issue after 1970.
The first of these was approved for service at December 14th 1900 and promulgated, by Paragraph 10469, as the Watch, stop, 1/5 second (Mark I).
A pattern of the above-mentioned stop watch has been sealed to govern future supplies to Inspecting Ordnance Officers. gunnery schools and practice camps.
In the two latter cases issues will only be made under War Office authority. The stop watch is known as the 'Benson' pattern, and reads to 1/5 of a second. Previous supplies of 'Instruments, time of flight', have been made, but the instruments have not been to any approved pattern. The use of such instruments (whether clocks or watches) will be continued until they become unserviceable.
The use of this 'Benson pattern' stop watch was subsequently extended to both the Royal Navy and the Royal Garrison Artillery, by Paragraphs 10681 and 10758 of 1901 respectively, and then a Watch, stop 1/5 second (Mark II) was approved on March 6th 1903, and promulgated by Paragraph 11803. Almost immediately Paragraph 11991 of the same year made this watch also 'Common' to the Royal Navy for which (until at least WW2) the instrument became a 'Magazine Store'.
Pictorially speaking, however, my first glimpse of this 1/5 second watch (and its predecessor) was in the 1914 'Handbook of Artillery Instruments'. The Mark I stop watch was keyless (as already stated) with a start-stop-flyback mechanism operated through the winding button; the Mark II stopwatch had a stop/go-on movement, actuated by a case-slide at the 11 o'clock position, and a flyback release via its winding button. The slightly smaller Mark I instrument was silver-cased (against the Mark II's nickel) and could be converted to Mark II. If that was done, however, the watch still had to be accounted for as Mark I by reason of the difference in value. In 1921, for example, the Mark I stop watch was priced at £7.2s.6d., but the Mark II at only £2.1 5s.6d.
Subsequently, Paragraph 159821 approved in March 4th 1912 a Watch, stop 1/10 second (Mark I) operated like the Watch, Stop 1/5 second (Mark I), but in an oxidised case. This 1/10 second stop watch was to be issued for use by each inspecting Ordnance Officer and although it had become 'Common' to Land and Sea service by 1917, I have traced nothing more about it than that it became obsolescent when Paragraph A7929 introduced a Watch, stop, 1/10 second (Mark II), with nickel-plated case during 1933.
As with other service watches, WW 1 injected a sufficient variety of Emergency Pattern stop watches into the armed forces to make any categorising difficult today, but it does appear (from the watch cases dated 1917) that a true Watch, stop 1/5 second (Mark II) then had a Zenith movement whilst an equivalent 'Trade Pattern' watch used a movement from Moise Dreyfus. By 1920, that technological injection had brought in a 1/100 second 'Trade Pattern' stop watch, too, which was expensive (priced at £16.2s.6d. Against£l.14s.3d. For the 1/5 and 1/10 second 'Trade Pattern' stop watches), but all were weeded out by 1934 when the Royal Navy and the Army each had Mark II 1/5 second stop-and-go-on instruments, and the Army also had 1/10 second start-stop-and-fly-back watches. I don't know the source of these watches.
Similarly, I have no information concerning Stop watches issued for air service, in WWI, and can only suggest that the RAC and the RNAS had whatever Watches, stop their respective parent service issued, and that birth of the RAF (at April 1st, 1918) came too close to the Armistice to have had much effect upon existing arrangements.
Rearmament and the outbreak of the Second World War generated some demands, as fire-control instruments for the Army's rather primitive antiaircraft defences, for Watches, stop. Supply in the UK rested with the Goldsmiths & Silversmiths Company Ltd., 6, with Robert Pringle & Sons (London) Ltd, and with S. Smiths & Sons (London) Ltd. Even today, it is not uncommon to find one of their circular ink-stamps inside the case of a service stopwatch from that period and, between them 41,600 of such instruments were supplied during WW2. These, presumably, included those American 16 size Model 11609 Waltham Watch Company 1/5 second Trade Pattern watches, 7, but responsibility for these is unclear.
Amongst the services now to be supplied, of course, was the RAF. Here the conventional Stop-Watch, Mark III, was in general issue by 1941 (a similar Mark IV was with the medical branch) and Stop-Watches, Mark VA and VB were also issued for maintenance and navigational purposes. The Marks III and IV watches had an eight-hour Swiss keyless winding movement (Landeron, 6, Calibre 17 or 19 and Venus Calibre 122, 9, were noted) with their startstop-flyback mechanism controlled by pressure on the winding button and which measured up to thirty minutes in 1/5 of a second intervals. The Mark VA and VB watches, on the other hand, were each split seconds instruments of the eight-hour keyless type and with running seconds. They also beat to 1/5 of a second, but here by two centre-second hands rated to one revolution per minute. They differed from each other only in the scale-markings on their dials (the Mark VB having a 360° direction-finding scale) and were generally controlled by pressures on the winding button like a Mark 'V. However, a side button held or released one of the sweep seconds hands to permit either measuring a single interval of time not starting from zero, or a series of consecutive intervals of an integral period.
The Royal Navy's equivalent to the RAF's Mark VA stop watch, during WW2, appears to have been an Admiralty Pattern no. 3 instrument. This has a Lemania 'Standard' 18"' jewelled lever movement that lacks running seconds and uses a side-slide (instead of an extra button) to control the sweep seconds. Whether there was any naval equivalent to the RAF's Mark VB stop watch, I do not know. In a parallel case, I do not know if there were Army or RAF equivalents to the big 26"' Admiralty Pattern No. 6 'Yards/Seconds' torpedo or ASDIC timers. Either way, it appears clear that the Army's Watches, Stop Mark II of the immediate post-WW2 period included both that Lemania 'Standard' 18"' Swiss movement noticed above, and the British Smiths 600 Gs jewelled lever movement with the direction-finding dial. It appears to have been 1957 before another Army stop watch was introduced, as the Watch, stop 1/5 second Mark 2/1 which I have not yet examined.
As a result of these necessarily piecemeal additions to the services inventories, there were about twenty Watches, Stop in issue by the 1980s, and it is a relief to me (as it must be to any reader) that they fall outside the period of concern here!
Watches, 30-hour, Non-Luminous, Mark V
These 19"' pocket-size keyless-wind aircraft watches can be mistaken for a Watch, Non-Luminous Mark 'VA (8 day), on casual inspection, but run only 30 hours and have their full title on the dial. A fifteen-jewel lever movement of decent quality is always present, but a number of different calibres were in issue and will be found branded as Doxa, Electa (sic), Invicta, Omega, and Zenith.
The Royal Air Force Museum has kindly confirmed that they hold nine of these various Mark V watches both as reference sources ... and as a stock for any future World War 1 or just after aircraft rebuilds ... In most of the examples I have seen there was a non-luminous dial, but dials luminised after issue are seen. The dial normally has a number printed on it with a two-letter prefix, eg 'BK 1952' on an Electa, and 'BD 4436' on a Doxa. Some watches have the long pendant (without a bow) made to fit a receptor screwed to a panel. A Broad Arrow under a capital 'A' appears on the back of most of the plated cases seen, but not invariably, and the open-face case may have a hinged or snap back.
Watches, Wrist and Watches, Wristlet
As earlier stated, an infantry officer of the 1914 British Expeditionary Force was required to carry a watch. Specifically, it was required to be worn ... in wrist strap... and I have found no British armed forces requirement earlier in date for the wearing of a watch on the wrist. However, although the war-years following 1914 saw increasing use on active service of purpose-built wrist watches, as innumerable photographs testify, I have yet to locate documents of formal introduction into service issue during WW1.
A variety of 'trench' wristwatches has survived, often with protective lids or grilles covering the crystal. Some have hall-marked silver cases dating them, but few carry any serial-number and Broad Arrow or acceptance mark. The nickel-plated 17 1/2"' wristwatch (with cylinder movement), which has a Broad Arrow engraved on the case-back, together with '64329/L', and the date '1917' is therefore an exception. The leather strap and dial-protector also carry the Broad Arrow with 'Patent No.9007'.
In 1920, Hands, hour (luminous), minute (luminous) and second were listed as Emergency Pattern stores for Land Service, or as 'Common' to Land and Naval Service (along with mainsprings and straps for them), but the manufacturer and calibre remain obstinately unstated and I have found nothing suggesting the inclusion of wrist watches among those 1935/36 or 1936/37 overseas purchases noticed above in relation to Watches, G.S..
It was with the RAF that issue service wrist watches formally surfaced for me. Presumably, too many of those pocket-size Watches, 30-hour, non-luminous Mark V, mentioned earlier, had been used up in service. At any rate, in February l941 Wrist Watches, Mk VIIA and VIIB were listed for aircraft navigators. Both were Longines instruments.
There was an Omega version of the Mk VIIA RAF wrist watch, and another by Movado, both of these types had a 36-hour keyless movement and Mk VIIA watches had the Longines Weems 'Hour-Angle' rotatable bezel. When not fitted with that bezel, those watches were designated Mk VIIA*.
The Mark VIIB RAF wrist watch instead had Longines's 'half-chronograph work', which is to say that its running centre-second hand could be returned to the 12 o'clock position by button in the case-band, and released to time some event of less than sixty seconds duration.
By October 1941 another 36-hour wrist watch had become an RAF store as the Chronograph Wrist Watch, ... for use by Medical Officers on the ground and for any other purpose for which a choreographic watch of this type is suitable. This was a 13"' Pierce calibre with subsidiary seconds and 60-minute and telemeter and tachometer dials.
In May 1942 another RAF aircraft navigation wrist instrument was in issue as the Wrist Watch Mk VIII, Navigators, namely an American 1942 model Waltham watch (US 6/0 size) with centre seconds but lacking other Mark VII refinements. A 1940-dated watch-case, once held a Mark VIIA watch, but the case-back Stores Reference has been amended to that for a Mark VIII instrument. I have also seen that Stores Reference on the case-back of an American Bulova Type A11 wrist watch originally engraved for the USAAF, and, since wrist watches additional to the Waltham were to be enumerated as Mark VIII when they became available, I am reasonably confident that the 10 1/2" A. Schild SA Calibre 1238 movement now in the case, is correct.
As World War 2 progressed, of course, Swiss resources became more readily available to the UK and some very beautiful International Watch Co. and similar wrist watches were issued to navigators by the RAF during and after 1944. However, the General Index only listed these collectively as Watches, Wrist and Watches Wrist, chronograph.
As to the Royal Navy, I have no information about any wrist watches selected solely for naval issue (either in the late 1940s or early 1950s), but Joint Service Cataloguing of stores was current by 1954 and it seems reasonable to assume that, until then, the senior service had simply gone its own way - as it has always done.
In the Army's case, it is a matter of record that by 1954 there were already in issue Watches, Wristlet, A.T.P. listed under brand names Buren, Cortebert, Cyma, Ebel, Enicar, Eterna, FHF, Grana, Lemania, Limi, Moeris, Montillier, Omega, Reconvillier, Record, Rotary, Timor, and Unitas, as well as Watches, Wristlet, Special Purpose; Watches, Wristlet, waterproof 'Enicar'; and Watches, Wristlet, Mk 8.
All of these instruments were deleted from the List, by an Amendment of February 3rd 1957, very shortly after the relevant Section W10 had been re-promulgated to introduce Watches, Wrist, Waterproof (by Buren, Cyma, Eterna, International, Kurth, Le Coultre, Lemania, Longines, Omega, Record, Thommen and Timor) as Army Ordnance Stores that saw out the remainder of the period considered here.
Clearly, there were a few additional specific watches also circulating during this time. An International Watch Co. Mark XI navigator's watch of 1948 in the RAF and a Blancpain diving supervisors' watch in the Army, come to mind, but the dating and scale of issue are obscure. Only Watches, Wrist, General Service, approved for the Royal Navy, the Army, and the RAF, during the late 1960s appear attributable in real quantity to my chosen period. A Smiths instrument, was their 12"' jewelled lever waterproof Model 427, and the Swiss SSIH Group (under its acquired Hamilton name) supplied an equivalent in a calibre that I have not yet identified.
I am most grateful for the kindness and professional skills of the Custodian and the Librarian of the MoD Pattern Room Collection and Library at Nottingham for access to references.
Reproduced here with kind permission of the British Horological Institute.
© British Horological Institute
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