Military Replica Watches of the World: “The Dirty Dozen”

The attraction of the vintage tool watch for many is that these were timepieces built to do a specific job as accurately as possible, and, as such, form almost always followed its utilitarian function. Military wristwatches, of course, often took this idea to the extreme, with nothing extraneous added, and nothing essential left out of the design.

During World War II, the British imported Swiss wristwatches and issued them under the A.T.P. moniker (Army Trade Pattern); most of these were 29–33-millimeter chrome or steel-cased watches with white or silver dials, luminous pips or baton indices, running central or sub-seconds, and 15-jewel movements with snap or screw back cases. However, the MoD eventually decided that these watches, which were essentially civilian models with military dials and spec/issue numbers, weren’t cutting it in the field, and they drew up a specification for a new wristwatch designed to fit the particular needs of Her Majesty’s Government—an ideal military watch where, yes, form followed function.

No, not that The Dirty Dozen.

The new spec resulted in the W.W.W., the acronym for Wrist, Watch, Waterproof, but the watches themselves have become known colloquially as “The Dirty Dozen,” both as a reference to the famous 1967 war film, and because the timepieces were produced by a total of 12 Swiss firms. Because the watches weren’t delivered until between May and December of 1945, it is unlikely that any saw any wartime use in Europe during WWII (V-E Day was May 8, 1945), but the watches remained in circulation for some years afterward, and, as you will read below, some were even reissued to other militaries.

Because the 12 contracted firms each differed in size and production capabilities, each company simply delivered as many watches as it was capable of producing, with roughly 150,000 watches delivered in total.

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The new W.W.W. spec called for a watch between 35 and 38 millimeters in diameter (not including the crown); a black dial with luminous hour markers, hands and railroad minute track; a 15-jewel movement between 11.75 and 13 lignes in size; a shatterproof crystal; and a chrome or stainless steel case. The watches were to be waterproof, and movements were to be of chronometer grade. Case backs (all screw-back with the exception of the IWC, which had a snap-back) were engraved with the Broad Arrow (mark of HM Government’s property), “W.W.W,” and two numbers: one was the manufacturer’s unique identifying number, and the second, beginning with a letter, was the military store number.

A complete collection. Photo credit: user Siewming via Malaysia Watch Forum.

Because the 12 contracted firms each differed in size and production capabilities, each company simply delivered as many watches as it was capable of producing, with roughly 150,000 watches delivered in total. The 12 delivering companies were as follows: Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, IWC, Jaeger LeCoultre, Lemania, Longines, Omega, Record, Timor, and Vertex. Enicar may have originally been contracted to manufacture the watches as well, but as none have surfaced and record keeping from the time was poor, we may never know the details of this arrangement.

Case back on a Longines W.W.W.; image via A Collected Man.

The W.W.W. was designated a “general service” wristwatch, but in practice it seems to have been issued to what an American serviceman might pejoratively term a “pogue”: Persons Other than Grunts, or Person Of Greater Use Elsewhere—i.e. artillery officers, signals personnel, etc.—anyone but a standard infantryman. There are no firm records on who was issued the W.W.W. watch and why, and with WWII having just about drawn to a close by the time the watches came out of production, the point, in any case, seems moot.

. . . over the years many non-original parts found their way into these watches. . . . All of this, of course, makes for a highly interesting collector’s market.

However, despite the end of the War in Europe, armed men were very much still interested in killing one another in conflicts around the world after 1945, and some Dirty Dozen watches were later renumbered and sold to Commonwealth and other armies. The K.N.I.L. (Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger, or Royal Netherlands East Indies Army)—in conflict with the local Indonesian resistance movement which had just declared independence—eventually secured some of the W.W.W. watches from the British. Some of these then, in turn, ended up in the hands of their enemies, the A.D.R.I. (Army of the Republic of Indonesia), who crossed out the K.N.I.L. markings and added their own.

Note the roughly scratched off K.N.I.L. markings and the A.D.R.I. engraving at the bottom of the case back. Image vi A Collected Man.

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Servicing the W.W.W. watches was the purview of the R.E.M.E. (Royal Electric & Mechanical Engineers), whose responsibility was to ensure that watches were working and up to spec. What this meant in practice is that over the years many non-original parts found their way into these watches. Eventually, original radium dials were swapped for tritium or promethium variants, of which there are several varieties. Some of these updated dials were copies of the original with the manufacturer’s name and pheon (broad arrow), but lumed in promethium or radium. Some were MoD dials featuring the pheon and a five-digit number representing the individual manufacturer of the particular watch. Others were NATO dials featuring the pheon, circle “T” for tritium, and a NATO stock number and manufacturer code. And to complicate matters even further, occasionally certain other slight variations come to light that may well still constitute a legitimate W.W.W. dial variant. All of this, of course, makes for a highly interesting collector’s market.

Because of the disparity in production numbers from some of the smaller brands to some of the larger, it may come as a surprise to learn which of the twelve are the most valuable today. The Omega variant, for instance, features a 35-millimeter stainless steel case and the venerable 30T movement, but because roughly 25,000 were produced, one can be had for a relative bargain (at present, generally between $2,000 and $3,000, depending on condition).

Cyma W.W.W.

There’s nothing quite like wearing one on one’s wrist, and wondering where it’s been, and what it’s seen.

Cyma, a brand unknown to many modern enthusiasts, built a W.W.W. variant that features a modern 37-millimeter stainless steel case and a caliber 234 manufacture movement, making it a prime candidate for someone seeking out an issued military piece that is also highly wearable by today’s standards. Again, however, because production numbers were fairly high, at around 20,000 pieces, these can generally be had for between $1,000 and $2,000.

But the Grana model, on the other hand, is a completely different story. Only 1,000-5,000 of this variant were manufactured, making this 35-millimeter stainless steel watch with an in-house KF320 caliber worth about $15,000 on today’s market!

Grana; image via ssongwatches.

Today, there are numerous watchmaking firms producing modern interpretations of these great watches, or are producing watches that take design cues from this era and are reminiscent of the original (IWC, Longines, and Bell & Ross come to mind). Vertex has even been revived by the great-grandson of the original founder and is producing a modern version of their W.W.W. watch.

There is, however, something special about an original W.W.W., whether it was produced by a smaller firm like Vertex, or a larger one like Omega or I.W.C. These were precision-built instruments meant to do one thing—and to do it accurately under adverse conditions. There’s nothing quite like wearing one on one’s wrist and wondering where it’s been and what it’s seen.

Featured image photo credit: user Siewming via Malaysia Watch Forum.

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Saturation Diving, Helium Valves, and “Extreme” Dive Watches

In this installment in our series on the basics of divers’ watches, we explain why some dive watches have built-in helium-release valves and why others don’t. We also explain why each type is perfectly OK, depending on the type of diving you do.

Comparing “diving” as most people know it to “saturation diving” is a bit like comparing an amateur bicyclist to a professional construction worker. They might share the same environment and the same need to breathe, but other than that, they are in fact doing quite different things (this applies to most types of diving, by the way). Saturation diving (meaning the diver’s tissues have absorbed the maximum of gas possible) was practically explored at the end of the 1930s in order to (A.) reduce a diver’s risk of decompression sickness when (B.) working at great depth for (C.) long periods of time — in other words, to increase both effectiveness and safety.

At the end of the 1950s, the necessary scientific basis was provided to begin saturation diving in the military and, soon after, to use it on a commercial basis. In short: such a diver works under water and lives in a dry, pressurized environment for up to several weeks, and is decompressed to surface pressure only once, at the end of the mission.

Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea Helium Valve - submerged

And this is when some of the earlier, standard dive watches started to show problems — not with the outside pressure that they were successfully built to withstand but, rather unexpectedly, with pressure from the inside of the watch case: the breathing gas mixture used contains helium (and yes, those divers do in fact speak in high, funny voices because of this) that seeps into the watch case as well. As the pressure is slowly reduced, and the diver adjusts to normal atmospheric conditions, it was discovered that the internal pressure in the watch builds up due to its effective sealing, and the watch’s crystal would sometimes pop off.

The watch industry responded to this problem in three different ways:

  • Not at all. Some of the dive watches of the time, some already water-resistant to 1,000 meters, were obviously robust enough not to be affected by this problem. In 1968, for instance, Longines explicitly advertised its new dive watch, the Ref. 8221 with internal bezel (the one that’s being re-launched right now) as a watch featuring a “protection contre éclatement du verre (travail sous cloche d’élium)” which most likely meant the typical fixation of the crystal with an external dodecagonal ring.

Watches’ constantly increasing water-resistance, and the wide range of “Compressor” cases and later “Super Compressor” cases, also helped to provide many brands with ultra-robust watches for this type of diving. Also, many of them simply didn’t see a commercial reason to invest in such a relatively small target audience.

  • The helium release valve: Around 1967, Doxa and Rolex both started to work on solutions to improve their existing watch models for saturation divers, Rolex already had close relations to the French company COMEX (Compagnie maritime d’expertises). The invention of an integrated, automatic valve led to the launch of the Sub 200T “Conquistador” around 1968, and to the public release of the legendary Rolex Sea-Dweller, an evolution of the Rolex Submariner, around 1971 — probably one of the most successful partnerships between a watch manufacturer and a commercial dive company.

Omega, which was also involved with Comex at that time, developed a large “Super Comprex” prototype that featured a specially designed caseback that acted also as a pressure valve:

Omega Super Comprex Prototype

Omega, however, was convinced that it was time for something different:

  • The “extreme” dive watch: Starting from scratch, Omega introduced in 1970 a radical new approach to the dive watch that was intended for all types of diving, the Omega Seamaster 600 “Ploprof”. The watch was also put “through our helium test. Helium, having much smaller molecules, can penetrate where water can’t. So if a watch is proof against helium, it’s proof against just about everything else. This test showed that the 600 is one hundred times as air- and water-tight as the Apollo spacecraft.”

One year later, Omega launched the Omega Seamaster 1000 (using a sapphire crystal) in a more traditional-looking case.

In 1975, Seiko presented an even more single-focused approach to building a highly innovative dive watch specifically made for professional divers in a saturation environment: The equally iconic and sought-after Seiko “Tuna” (Ref. 6159-022). An updated, 1,000-meter version is still available today, as is a modern version of the Omega Ploprof, the 1200 – which, ironically, features an integrated helium release valve.

Seiko Professional 600

None of this has changed much, even today: There are dive watches intended for recreational divers, and there are dive watches intended for professional divers in a saturation environment. Sometimes it is the same watch, sometimes it has a helium-release valve (or even two, as on a model introduced by Girard-Perregaux in 2004), and sometimes the manufacturer felt no need for one at all: Seiko, for example still marks its professional watches with a “He-GAS” inscription and has proudly never used a valve (see picture below). Omega, surprisingly introduced a manual helium-release valve in 1993 on the not-so-extreme Seamaster 300 and an integrated valve on the Seamaster 1200 in 2009. Since 1984, IWC has produced watches water-resistant to 2,000 meters that should credibly work for a saturation diver as well, while Breitling’s 3000-meter-water-resistant model has included an integrated helium-release valve since 2002.

Seiko Marinemaster 300 - Caseback

After all this, you may ask: Does a professional dive watch need a helium release valve? It depends on the brand and model: the Rolex Sea-Dweller is probably the most iconic and respected high-end dive watch among professional divers, but probably not only because of its essential, integrated valve. It may be that it simply offers a more traditional and recognizable look than many of its more radical-looking competitors.

But more importantly: Do you need a helium-release valve? It is, of course, extremely tempting to answer that with a “no,” but on second thought, that may require you to question the “need” for many of the other features and complications on mechanical watches. So maybe a better answer is, “Why not?”

This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.

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Talking with Car-Mod Authority Jonathan Ward About His First Official Watch, the ICON Duesey

Above all, Jonathan Ward is a gearhead. His Los Angeles-based company, ICON4X4, produces what some believe are the highest caliber SUVs in the world. He tears vehicles apart and puts them back together in new and unexpected ways, elevating utilitarian machines into a purified expression of mechanical ability. Last year, the news broke that Ward was entering the watch business with the ICON Duesey, a timepiece inspired by classic Duesenberg automobiles from the early-20th century. Like the souped-up and customized Toyota Land Cruisers that emerge from his workshop, the ICON Duesey is not only an ode to mechanical creations of decades past, it’s a symbol of a man’s passion for creation and individuality.

Recently, I sat down with Ward in a crowded Manhattan coffee shop to chat about the ICON Duesey which is now available for purchase. Read on to learn about Ward’s creative tendencies that lean toward what he describes as “bespoke utility,” his experiments with VantaBlack, and a hint of what his next timepiece might look like.

Logan R. Baker: So what attracted you to watches in the first place?

Jonathan Ward: I was a goober as a kid, taking apart my piece-of-shit electric alarm clock. And geekin’ on the gears and seeing if I could put it back together and make it work again, which, was rarely the case. And my grandad, I remember, we’d get really bored, my sister and I, when we’d go visit my grandparents in remote Virginia. And one of our favorite habits, when we were really young, was to go up in the attic. It was one of those old school, very Americana, next to the church, white picket fence homes with a big-ass attic. So we used to go dig through there. And as a really young kid, I remember finding one of his rectangular Hamiltons. And just really getting fascinated by it. Years later, I ended up stealing it from him and having it restored. I just gave it back to him for their fiftieth anniversary.

LRB: I’m sure he loved that.

JW: I remember my dad having cool watches, so it’s kind of always been a thing for me. I was a mechanical geek. The continuity, the similarities, obviously, between vehicles, and watches is just immediate.

LRB: Why do you think there is so much crossover appeal between watch and car people?

JW: Just unnecessary, if it’s the right car, unnecessary attention to detail. The advancement of and use of finishes and materials and such. When I was eight I started sketching cars. And around the same time, I was starting to sketch watches. I just never thought about commercially pursuing it and followed automotive. Automotive is very interesting to me too because as a rampant hobbyist in various arts, automotive was this amazing perfect storm that was a really good extroverted platform that combines so many different arts that I dig, that that’s kind of what drew me there first. And then, I have an absurd photo file collection from going to collections and shows around the world and I’m never shooting, I’ve noticed, front 3/4 of a whole car, like hyper-rarely. Usually, it’s with a 100 mm and I’m geeking out on the cloisonne or the hinge or the clock or the watches, so just the gauges, clocks and gauges, I probably have four or five thousand photos.

LRB: Really?

JW: I’m very disorganized. Yeah, could be. So one of the very first times I saw one of the early Duesenbergs with that drum-style gauge if you’re familiar with it (Ed. note: see below pic) … I always loved jump hours, and it was immediately obvious that it needed to be a jump hour watch. No fucking brainer it was the way to go. So when I … you know for a while I was feeding the beast, and between kids and a small company with no partners, no partners, no nothing, I could dig watches and grab the occasional cheapie, and over the years I’ve allowed myself to get a bit more perverted, so I have a pretty intense collection.

The dash found in a vintage Duesenberg that inspired the scrolling minutes indication on the ICON Duesey.

LRB: So how long did the watch development take from concept to completion?

JW: Oh, it was supposed to be super-simple. It was in my head for decades, eventually, I was like fuck it, I have to make it, it has to get done. So I sit down Svend Andersen and a few other unique, one-off dudes … I brought my roughed-out sketches, and like, it’s kind of where I was going, like I’d really love to have one, but price points they were quoting me were outside of my reality. Then we partnered with my shop at Autodesk on some new CAD software, and I have proper engineers that know what the heck they’re doing, but usually, I can do Southpark CAD, enough as a communication tool for the client or my renderer or the engineers. But they volunteered to send a tutor down with the shop once a week. So I was like “Hmm.” Instead of doing automotive parts, because that can be knocked out in-house, I’m gonna pursue the watch. So for a year, I played with and educated myself with trial-and-error, just going for it and designing it, and 3D printing and machining shit, duct-taping 3D polymer and just kind of kept going. Then I talked my wife into being my partner and letting me do it. So I went for it, and it was a shitshow. Doing business in Switzerland as an independent American means showing up and saying “I want ten thousand watches.” It’s a total nightmare but it was cool peek behind the curtain because I’d met everything from dudes basically with trench-coats and watches to big corporate meeting rooms filled with twenty people. But something felt really wrong on both ends of the spectrum. The partner I really wanted, that I knew their track record and knew they had a great relationship with Dubois Depraz (Ed. note: Dubois Depraz built the jump hour module found in the Duesey), they were like, “Yeah, no, our minimum skew is five hundred units, and we like to do five skews per order,” and I was like “Nah.” So I was resigned that it wasn’t gonna happen, and as the meeting was ending the CEO came around kissing babies and handing out business cards in all the little meeting cubicles, he ducked into ours as we’re wrapping up; “Hi, nice to meet you.” As we’re walking to the elevator, he came back and goes “I know your brand. My friend has one of your trucks in Moscow. They’re amazing! What are you doing here?” And I told him, he was like “No, no, no, come back in. We’ll do it, I think we can scale to what you wanna do.”

LRB: Was there a single issue that really held up the process?

JW: VantaBlack. You know what that is?

LRB: Yeah, Anish Kapoor. Did you want to use that?

JW: Fuck yeah, I did. Would have been so cool. I got approval from the British government to export it because it’s technically a military material and you have to get approved where I’m using it in this segment, I’m not building fucking aerospace optics, or whatever. Then I got approval from the U.S. to import it. And then the Swiss Watch Federation shut me down. Because it’s a nano-particle and they blanket knee-jerk all nano-particle carcinogens.

LRB: There have been other watches that have used-

JW: Yeah, but they aren’t part of the Federation. And technically it’s a bit of a liability the more I researched, because down the road for service if it doesn’t go to a clean room with a respirator on the technician, it can be a health problem. Because it’s basically a forest of nano-particle trees, so if you touch it, it’s fucked.

The ICON Duesey on an original Duesenberg radiator cap.

LRB: Really? I didn’t know that.

JW: That’s why they only used it on the background sandwich layer of those watches. There’s a new VantaBlack though, not VantaBlack but the first competitor to VantaBlack, for which the application process is far more viable. So we went through fifteen different black things to figure out what worked on the dial. Of course, it wasn’t an enamel, it wasn’t paints and powders or DLCs. However, the onyx I ended up really digging. Actually, even more than VantaBlack, because the way the light plays is kind of cool.

LRB: Did designing and building your own watch influence how you perceive watches? How you collect them?

JW: No, not really. I mean, I think when designers don’t have constraints, their work generally … that’s their worst work. Even my, probably my favorite industrial designer, Raymond Loewy, when he did projects for himself … just no restraint because there was no constraint. In automotive we have it but not as tight. So with watches, the mandates and the limitations, the confines, I liked, as it creates a very clear focus of what we want to do, like legibility, geometry, ergonomics, sizing and packaging of movements. I really like all that. I mean, I want to screw it up a little bit but that’s why I did a jump hour. At least to last year, they were not in vogue and then, it’s just crazy how many came out this year. But that’s really what I mean. But no, as a collector, I’m not all over the place. I mean, I’ve got beat-to-shit, no name, ’40’s watches I paid 40-50 bucks for, up to stupid stuff. So I’ve always collected from purely a design. I don’t know reference numbers on my habits or … I really could give a shit. To me, it’s always about the craftsmanship and the design. The watch is totally irrelevant and we all know that.

LRB: You obviously work a lot with Toyota. And Toyota, from most people’s perspective, produces very utilitarian vehicles. But what you’re doing with ICON, you’re elevating that utilitarianism into something higher. Do you see that happening in the watch industry?

JW: Oh sure, I mean I … I think, in unison, the whole industry’ is doing that. From MB&F’s wacky shit to [Laurent] Ferrier’s simple elegance, to the new Glashütte line, I think with everyone that’s the thing. And, you know, there’s an ass for every seat, as Henry Ford said, so it’s interesting to see the spread and the styles and the genres and all that.

LRB: How has the feedback been among your long-time clients? 

JW: Well actually, what I really dig is how people don’t really know my brand, like they’re not into what we’re doing. They think of us for 4×4’s. They think of the Bronco or a Red Toyota. So it would have been if I was focusing on that customer base, which is our majority versus we do a lot of one-offs from Ferrari to power wagons, those are my favorite. If was doing this solely from a business perspective, I would have done a Bronco watch or a 4×4 watch, but I’m not that smart and I don’t want to. I’m more coming at all of those from the design of our utility vehicles, where the idea is bespoke utility. Evolve their capability, make them relevant for modern day and then make it so that geeks like me wanna touch it. Make all the materials and bring all the suppliers from aerospace, marine, and railcar and fuse them all together in a cohesive design, that’s what I really dig. So, the majority of the buyers are new to the brand and aren’t my automotive clients. Which is kind of cool.

The lizard that appears on the rotor and crown is a California Blue Belly and is a trademark of Jonathan Ward and ICON.

LRB: I mean that’s bringing a whole new audience into what you do.

JW: Yeah, totally. And feedback’s been kick ass. I’m tickled pink … one guy who is a client, we showed it to his dad, his dad put in on and never gave it back. His dad has a Duesenberg and he’s like, “Oh shit.” So then he called back and ordered another one. Another guy received it, and he said, “Way better than I thought. Like I was consigned to what I thought cause it’s pretty.” He had seen my prototype photos which were rough. In fact, here’s a valuable lesson I learned in the process. Keep your mouth shut. Find it on your own, bring it to market. Done, ready to rock inventory. I feel I wasted a lot of my gunpowder because I was so excited. So I came around and showed everybody the prototype. Stupid. And got all the love from the media but didn’t have product in stock.

LRB: So would you say that’s a big difference between the watch and the car industry? Because I know in the car world concept vehicles are a constant presence and a huge marketing tool.

JW: Yeah, in the car world, we do that all the time. Either that or it needs to be done smarter than I did. I don’t know. But next time, I’m just gonna self-finance everything. Not try and get presales. Not talk to anyone until it’s done and ready to rock.

LRB: What kind of other noticeable differences were there between the car industry and the watch industry that you didn’t expect?

JW: Well, in the automotive industry the supplier network, once you’re in the industry, is quite open and communicable and accessible. I could call someone at another manufacturer and say, “Dude, I really dig that such and such and who’s your supplier for that?” And he’s gonna tell me. Or they’ll reach out to me and do the same thing. Or, shit I gotta get this machined. Who’s the rock star in aluminum and I’ll send him to my guy. In the watch world? Eh—no one seems as open.

LRB: So, looking at the ICON Duesey, we see some Jaquet Droz in there, we see hints of Cartier, maybe some Bell & Ross. What kinds of watches helped form your design?

JW: I like French military watches for sure, World War I, World War II. I love Jaquet Droz. Those I’m such a nerd about. I spent so much time thinking about, really, all the details. In my head, the watch was purely based on the car and the design language of the ’30’s as well. I love Streamline Moderne, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, all that just chubs me right up.

LRB: So, will there will be another ICON watch?

JW: Hell yeah, hell yeah.

LRB: Are you trying to build out a whole collection?

JW: I don’t really know. But, I doubt in volume. I think I’ll continue to do runs of 50 or 100. Just look at my vehicles, I don’t have any dealers or reps. I don’t have salesmen. I have none of it. I enjoy that direct relationship, and the feedback it brings, and the tribal unity it brings. Also, I modeled [the Duesey] from anywhere from 39 mm to 44 mm. And, I ended up at 42 mm. But, the way the case body is, it’ll sit a little bit deeper and wear a little smaller. And, I think I might creep down to like 40 mm next time. But, it depends on which design I do.

LRB: What other watches do you have in your collection? How many watches do you own?

JW: Probably around 120. I’ve been on a run for a couple of years with trench watches. I really appreciate those. They’re heavily undervalued right now. I’m a sucker for a good story. So, if it’s a neat watch and it’s got a cool story, I’m in. I’m also really into world times too. That’s what I’m trying to decide for my next [ICON] watch because I’m floundering all over the place. I either want to do a GMT with a sub-dial, like a large second sub-dial at six. I haven’t even searched the complication yet, so I might get screwed and it may not exist. But, a 12 hour primary, with a 24 hour GMT subdial, it could be kind of cool. Or, if not a 24, maybe then just the dark, light chapter ring on the sub could help you understand night and day, in the alternate. Or, maybe a world time. I don’t know yet.

The ICON Duesey is priced at $11,500 and is limited to 50 total pieces. You can learn more about Jonathan Ward and ICON4X4 here.

A Monster Launch: Omega’s New Speedy Tuesday 42mm “Ultraman” Limited Edition Sells Out in Under Two Hours

If you weren’t one of the early risers who fired off an order for one on Omega’s Instagram page this morning, you’ve likely already missed out on the latest “Speedy Tuesday” model from the brand’s Speedmaster collection. Officially dubbed the Omega Speedmaster Limited Edition 42mm “Ultraman” and inspired by a historically significant model from 1967, the watch sold out its run of 2,012 pieces in just under two hours (one hour, 53.17 minutes, to be precise).

Omega Speedy Tuesday Ultraman - front
Omega Speedmaster 42mm Limited Edition “Ultraman”

In the event that one of those 2,012 pre-orders is eventually dropped (we’re told it does happen on occasion), and you’re still interested in obtaining one of these timepieces, read on for some detailed info. To start with the basics: “Speedy Tuesday” (or “#speedytuesday, if you will) refers to the series of articles on the iconic Omega Speedmaster model that have been a longtime fixture of online watch publication FratelloWatches.com, founded and headed up by watch journalist and Speedmaster enthusiast Robert-Jan Broer. The “Ultraman” in question refers to the titular character of a 1970s Japanese sci-fi series — regarded as a classic in the Japanese Kaiju genre — about a super-hero who battles giant monsters with the aid of a military-style Monster Attack Team. The new watch takes its design cues from an Omega Speedmaster “Moonwatch” of 1967 vintage that the show’s production team used to equip its heroic monster fighters, which made its memorable debut in the series’ fourth installment, “The Return of Ultraman.” Collectors prized that model for its telltale orange seconds hand, which matched with the orange jumpsuits worn by the team (the Monster Attack Team, of course, not the production team).

Omega Speedy Tuesday Ultraman - reclining
The orange seconds hand matches the one on the 1967 original.

The Speedy Tuesday “Ultraman” edition duplicates that emblematic seconds hand down to its exact dimensions and orange hue and expands the theme with a black tachymeter bezel in anodized aluminum with orange text, as well as with an orange racing stripe on the black NATO strap (an additional black leather strap, as seen in the photo below, is also included). Orange is also used for the “Speedmaster” script under the period-appropriate historical Omega logo, the tips of the hour indices.

Additionally, Omega has included some modern touches to drive home the model’s vintage-inspired provenance, including the first three-minute segment of the chronograph subdial at 3 o’clock in orange, which is an uber-nerdy reference to Ultraman’s ability to remain in super-hero mode for just three minutes before reverting back to human; and a hidden silhouette of the character’s distinctive (to fans, anyway) head profile in the small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock, which can be viewed by using a special tool included with the watch. Designed to resemble the Beta Capsule that Ultraman’s human host, Shin Hayata, used to transform into the giant hero, it features a UV lamp on one end that reveals the image when it shines on the dial.

Omega Speedy Tuesday Ultraman - soldier
Ultraman’s head silhouette appears in the subdial at 9 o’clock, visible under a UV light.

The Beta Capsule tool also doubles as a strap-changer, allowing the wearer to swap back and forth between the NATO and the leather strap, and thus “transform” his watch much like Ultraman changed from normal human to super-powered monster battler. The solid caseback bears engraved details including “#SpeedyTuesday,” the watch’s limited edition number, and the inscription “QUALIFIED BY NASA FOR ALL MANNED SPACE MISSIONS,” signifying it as a descendant of the watch that went to the moon and assuring us that, for all of its science fiction-inspired flourishes, Omega hasn’t forgotten or ignored this model’s impressive history in science fact.

Omega Speedy Tuesday Ultraman - caseback
The caseback features the engraved Moonwatch inscription, along with other details identifying the watch as a limited edition.

One final reference to the TV show’s mythology can be spotted in the packaging — a hexagonal box that references the contours of the futuristic table at the secret headquarters of Ultraman’s Monster Attack Team and includes, as previously mentioned, the Beta Capsule strap changing tool and additional leather strap. If you do manage to wrangle your way onto the list to purchase one, the Speedmaster Limited Edition 42mm “Ultraman” is listed at $7,100. If you can’t, and at one point are motivated enough to seek it out on the secondary market, we’re guessing it will be “ultra” expensive in comparison.

Omega Speedy Tuesday Ultraman - box
The hexagonal shape of the box is another reference to an element from the 1970s “Ultraman” TV series.

 

Borrowed Time: Anonimo Militare Alpini Camouflage Khaki Limited Edition

When I think of Anonimo, particularly its lineup of bronze-cased watches, I can’t help but be reminded of the old Barbara Mandrell song, “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool.” Because Anonimo was doing bronze long before it became the hot new case material in the horological world — before Tudor, before Hublot, before Montblanc, and notably before the brand to which it has been most often held up for comparison, Panerai (the latter, not totally unjustly: Anonimo was established in Panerai’s hometown of Florence in 1997 — after Panerai was acquired by the Vendôme Group and packed up for Switzerland — by a team that included Panerai CEO Dino Zei, and in its early days showcased designs very similar to Panerai’s).

Anonimo Militare Alpini - reclining
The Anonimo Militare Alpini continues the brand’s longstanding tradition of bronze-cased watches.

When new owners acquired Anonimo in 2013, the brand opted to pare down its portfolio, which had grown a bit unwieldy, to two major collections, Militare and Nautilo, (recently joined by a third, the thinner, elegant Epurato), retaining some, but not all, of the technical features and aesthetic keystones that defined its early models, as well as adding a few new ones. From the Militare collection comes the limited-edition, camouflage-dialed model that I review here, the Militare Alpini Camouflage Khaki Limited Edition, which provides a great showcase for many Anonimo stylistic hallmarks, old and new — not to mention being a really sharp-looking, undeniably masculine, sport-luxury chronograph.

Anonimo Militare Alpini - front
The cushion-cased bronze case with 12 o’clock crown is water-resistant to 120 meters.

Anonimo has always been known for large, thick, cushion-shaped cases, and this one is no exception, measuring 43.4 mm in diameter and 14.5 mm thick. All the major parts — including the raised coin-edge stationary bezel, the top-mounted, notched crown, and the pedal-like chronograph pushers with their grooved inserts — are made of a bronze alloy, with the exception of the caseback. Attached to the main casebody by six screws and decorated with a relief engraving of the Matterhorn (the Alpine mountain that straddles the border between Switzerland and Italy, thus lending this watch its “Alpini” surname), the back is made of solid, non-allergenic titanium, by now a fairly common choice for bronze watches, as bronze’s tendency to develop a patina — one of the traits that has endeared the material to today’s vintage-obsessed watch fans — would be less endearing were it to be permitted to turn one’s wrist green. (Patina is nice on metal, not so much on skin.)

Anonimo Militare Alpini - back
The caseback of the Alpini is titanium, with a relief engraving of the Matterhorn.

Also constructed from bronze are the watch’s slightly sloped lugs and the locking crown-protector device that clicks into place above the crown at 12 o’clock. The latter, patented by Anonimo and used on all its Militare models, hearkens back to some of the brand’s earlier watches, particularly those used for diving. It has been designed so that when it has been locked into place, it uses the pressure of the strap to secure the crown and prevent it from being inadvertently moved. The other side of the coin is that this protector needs to be unlocked and moved forward any time one wants to use the crown to wind the movement or re-set the hands, which does prove a bit of a hindrance at times. Even in its open position, the device’s presence makes it a bit difficult to get both thumb and forefinger on the crown, and I found I was better off simply using the surface of my index finger for winding.

Anonimo Militare Alpini Crown Protector
The patented locking device at 12 o’clock keeps the crown water-resistant.

The dial, whose dark khaki green tones are enhanced with a camouflage guilloché pattern, features another Anonimo-specific aesthetic hallmark, namely the unconventional placement of big, boxy Arabic hour numerals at 12, 4, and 8 o’clock — an arrangement that the company says is unique in the watch world. Another sign that today’s Anonimo is emphasizing its Swiss-made pedigree at least as much as its Florentine origins is that the brand now touts this triangular design as another visual reference to a mountain peak, as one would find in the Alps (which, to be fair, are in Italy as well as Switzerland). In any case, it does make for a very distinctive and very legible look. The numerals are applied and filled with Super-LumiNova. The intervening hours are marked by thin, applied white indices, while the minute track, also in white, is printed on the steeply angled flange. The triangle motif, which also can be read as a stylized letter “A” for Anonimo, is repeated above the logo below 12 o’clock.

Anonimo Militare Alpini - dial CU
The military green dial is notable for its camouflage guilloché finishing.

The hands — a slender pentagon for the minutes and a long triangle for the hours — are also filled with luminous substance. The central seconds hand, which counts off the chronograph seconds after a firm press of the top pusher, also uses a white triangle as its counterweight. The two subdials, slightly sunken below the dial’s main level and dotted with white printed numerals and indices, tally 30 elapsed chronograph minutes at 9 o’clock and display the running seconds at 3 o’clock, respectively. An attractive detail that can be seen under a loupe: the waves of the camo pattern are distinguished by alternating guilloché surface treatments, with horizontal, vertical and diagonal line patterns of various line thicknesses. The effect made me want to remove the slightly domed sapphire crystal over the dial and discover what that dial felt like to the touch.

Anonimo Militare Alpini - bezel CU
The groove-edged bezel frames a domed sapphire crystal over the dial.

Secured (and obviously, hidden) behind the relief-engraved titanium caseback is an automatic Swiss-made movement, the Sellita SW300, a workhorse caliber that is often used by manufacturers as an alternative to the ubiquitous ETA 2892, which powers the watch’s hours, minutes, central seconds and date. The chronograph capability comes from an added module developed exclusively for Anonimo by the chronograph specialists at Dubois Dépraz, called the Dubois Dépraz 2035M. (Here it should be noted that Anonimo did go the extra mile to create a top-notch chronograph despite not building its own module in-house; commissioning a module from this specialist Swiss firm allowed the company to take more of an active hand in its development when the easier — and perhaps, less expensive — option would have been to simply use the integrated Sellita SW500 chronograph movement, which is a popular stand-in for the ETA Valjoux 7750.) The modular movement offers a 28,800-vph frequency and a 42-hour power reserve.

The big bronze case is strapped to a tough, supple, olive-drab strap, made of calf leather and handcrafted in Italy. This type of no-nonsense strap, with the telltale white contrast stitching, is another longtime feature of Anonimo watches. It closes with a folding clasp, made of steel and finished with a shiny brass-colored treatment to harmonize with the bronze case. The Anonimo “A”/mountain peak triangle emblem completes the ensemble in raised relief on the buckle.

Anonimo Militare Alpini - buckle
The antic-brass-finished clasp has an Anonimo “A” logo on its top surface.

The inner surface of the strap is soft and smooth, making for great comfort on the wrist; the watch is heavy but not overly so, and the edges of the buckle can pinch a bit if you wear it too tight. Overall, the Anonimo Militare Alpini is a timepiece that makes its presence felt and seen in a positive way. It’s not ideal for every occasion — you’d stand out like a sore thumb wearing this watch’s military green and bronze combo with dark formal wear like a tux, for example, even though the camo pattern itself is relatively subtle — but it’s a perfect match for sportier, outdoorsy outfits, especially those in earth tones, khaki, or even, dare we suggest, military-style olive drab. Of course, you could always just throw sartorial caution to the winds and strap this on with a suit and tie anyway; as the soaring popularity of bronze as a luxury-watch case material reminds us, one never knows what might become a trend. One day you may be able to say you were “camo and cuff links” back when it wasn’t cool.

Anonimo Militare Alpini - wrist
The thick, khaki-colored calf leather strap is sturdy and comfortable on the wrist.

The Anonimo Militare Alpini Camouflage Khaki is limited to 97 pieces (presumably a number chosen to honor the year of the brand’s founding; one additional variation is available, with a brown camouflage dial and walnut brown strap) and priced at 5,250 Swiss francs, or about $5,300.

Wenger Attitude Heritage Automatique Replica Watch Hands-On

Wenger Attitude Heritage Automatique Replica Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The Wenger Attitude Heritage Automatique is an affordable, automatic mechanical timepiece from the Swiss pocket knife brand. Wenger and Victorinox Swiss Army were once rivals until the latter purchased the former. Wenger now exists as a slightly more affordable alternative to Victorinox Swiss Army products. Sure, there is some confusion, as they both produce replica watches and pocket knives – and in some instances their products might be confused for one another. At Baselworld 2018 Wenger debuted what I believe is their first modern mechanical timepiece with the Attitude Heritage Automatique priced around $400 USD. It also helps celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Wenger brand.

There is some important context to discuss in relation to showcasing this affordable “Swiss Made” mechanical timepiece. It exists entirely within the era of larger more established replica watch brands trying to compete with a host of relative newcomers offering a range of products directly to consumers, at prices which many of the traditional replica watchmakers have either neglected or entirely abandoned. Consumers have been trained that “luxury pricing” doesn’t always get you a good value proposition, so demands and expectations are changing. I would say that at least 30 brands I visited in the last year are focusing on pushing pretty decent products at prices historically low or unheard of at those brands. Of course, it depends on the company, but we are for the most part talking about well-made replica watches priced at about $3,000 and under.

Wenger Attitude Heritage Automatique Replica Watch Hands-On Hands-On

All images by Ariel Adams

Wenger Attitude Heritage Automatique Replica Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Victorinox Swiss Army has their share of nicely-priced mechanical replica watches but I don’t think any of them are priced quite as low as the Wenger “Attitude” (as I will call it for short). Even at a modest price this is still a very capable tool replica watch with a handsome conservative style. It is also one of the rare, very legible light-colored dial sport replica watches out there. It also happens to be part of a limited edition so there is some exclusivity built into it. If you are in the market for a daily wear “field-style” sports replica watch, then I recommend you taking a good look at this new offering from Wenger.

The Attitude Heritage Automatique has a stainless steel case, which is 42mm wide and given a nice contrast finishing with both polished and brushed surfaces. The case is water-resistant to 100m and is topped with a sapphire crystal (not common for Wenger replica watches). As you can see, Wenger offers the Attitude with either a brown leather strap or a matching five-link style steel bracelet. For the price the overall case finishing and quality is better than a lot of other products available at this segment.

Wenger Attitude Heritage Automatique Replica Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Wenger Attitude Heritage Automatique Replica Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Those who appreciate good legibility will appreciate the dial of the Attitude. In fact, even though I see good value in a sober-looking sports replica watch, I’m still trying to determine where all this “attitude” is that the brand keeps promising in the name. Perhaps “sober and practical” is the particular attitude that this Wenger replica watch is actually trying to evoke.


The off-white dial has a cream color to it and is marked by large black-colored Arabic hour numerals paired with green Super-LumiNova elements. The sloped flange ring has a minute marker track and helps keep the entire dial feeling both deeper and less cluttered. The hands are very effective as well as attractive, in my opinion, and the dial also has a window for the date at 3 o’clock. Wenger isn’t pushing into new design territory with the Attitude Heritage’s dial, but it is offering a very effective and conservative look that will serve the wearer well for years and in a variety of situations.

Wenger Attitude Heritage Automatique Replica Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Wenger Attitude Heritage Automatique Replica Watch Hands-On Hands-On

For the movement Wenger opted for an undecorated Swiss ETA 2824-2 automatic, which operates at 4Hz (28,800 bph) with about two days of power reserve. Most other automatic replica watches at this price point have non-Swiss movements, such as those from Japan. Nothing wrong with those, of course, but demand for Swiss movements continues to remain higher than Japanese movements. While Wenger isn’t alone in offering Swiss mechanical movements at this low price point, there isn’t a lot of competition with this assembly of parts. Smaller, newer brands simply don’t have the purchasing and manufacturing capabilities of a brand like Wenger/Victorinox Swiss Army. You can view the movement through the window on the rear of the replica watch.

Wenger will produce just 1,393 pieces in this limited edition collection of Attitude Heritage Automatique replica watches. It isn’t clear if that number is for both the references 01.1546.101 and 01.1546.102 or if the number is split between them. Price for these attractive and easy to own Wenger Attitude Heritage Automatique replica watches is $425 USD on the leather strap and $450 USD on the steel bracelet. wenger.ch