The Worn Wound Podcast Ep. 61: From Switzerland to New Zealand

On this week’s episode of The Worn & Wound Podcast, Ilya is joined by Worn & Wound contributor Allen Farmelo to discuss Baselworld 2018, Allen’s trip to New Zealand with the Oris Big Crown ProPilot Worldtimer, and a whole lot more.

This week’s episode of The Worn & Wound Podcast is brought to you by Hamilton Watch.

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Show Notes

Allen with the Bell & Ross BR123 GMT 24H.
Ilya with the Nomos Club.

Below, you can find some of the watches we discuss in today’s episode:

Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight

Tudor 1926 Collection

Longines Military Watch

Oris Divers Sixty-Five Bronze Bezel

For more, check out our Baselworld 2018 coverage here.

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Worldtimer

Review: 6B MKIII Scramble Chronograph

Late last year, long-time Worn & Wound reader James Smith (you Instagram fanatics may better know him as thejames80) reviewed his fantastic Seiko ref. SPB053 in a guest post for the site. Today, he’s taking a close look at another watch from his collection; it’s a unique, limited piece, and it’s from a brand you likely have never heard of—the MKIII Scramble from 6B.


Spend enough time in the watch world and you are sure to come across the custom strap maker GasGasBones, aka Carl Evans. If the look of these unique and fully customizable straps do not stick with you, the name surely will (I know both lingered with me when I discovered the brand years ago). While the straps are deserving of a full review in their own right, I am here to take a look at the MKIII Scramble offered by Carl’s lesser-known brand, 6B.

Like GasGasBones, 6B is a one-man operation run by Carl himself. The name 6B is derived from the Ministry of Defense (MOD) historical code for the Royal Air Force (RAF), from which Carl retired after a 25-year career. The 6B code (sometimes 6BB or 6A or 6E) was stamped into the case backs of military issued watches. For more information on these specific military watches, check out Time Spec: 1970s British Military Asymmetrical Chronographs and Time Spec: A Primer on Military Watches.

The MKIII Scramble is the third offering from 6B. Like the prior two, this is a limited edition release and it comes with incredible custom packaging (more on that later). There are quite a few things that set this watch apart from other similar military-styled chronographs, so let’s jump right to the review.

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Review: 6B MKIII Scramble Chronograph

CaseStainless steelMovementValjoux 7750DialMatte BlackLumeC1-GL Super-LumiNovaLensSapphire with double ARStrapTwo nylon mil-strapsWater Resistance50 metersDimensions38mm x 45mmThickness13.5mmLug Width18mmCrownPush/pullWarrantyYes—1 yearPrice$2250

In military aviation, scrambling is the act of quickly getting military aircraft airborne to react to an immediate threat, usually to intercept hostile aircraft.

Case

The case measures 38 millimeters in diameter with a lug-to-lug dimension of 45 millimeters, and the drilled lugs are 18 millimeters wide. The thickness is 13.5 millimeters, which makes this one of the thinner Valjoux 7750-based chronographs that I have come across.

The mid-case is fully polished and has a relatively simple, classic case shape with slab sides. The standout feature of the case is the bezel. The fixed bezel is finely brushed with a sunburst finish. The top and bottom edges of this brushed band are bordered by narrow, polished strips, and this mix of polished and brushed surfaces plays with the light in pleasant way. Also, the bezel area slopes up from the mid-case to the slightly domed crystal and makes for a snag-free case. The sapphire crystal features anti-reflective coating applied to both sides, and it’s effective in keeping away reflections while having a slight purple hue to it in certain lighting.The crown (measuring 6 millimeters by 3 millimeters) is unsigned and does not screw down, which seems appropriate for a pilot’s watch with 50 meters of water resistance. Signing the crown with the 6B arrow symbol would have been a nice (and somewhat expected) touch, but this crown is sterile.

Flipping the watch over is a display case back, which shows the undecorated Valjoux 7750 (also a small point of contention, as some decoration would have been welcome here). Previously available, but now sold out, some Scramble watches had a solid case back with an inscription that read, “DON’T COME AND TELL – RING THIS LIKE HELL!” with “SCRAMBLE” over an image of a scramble bell.

Carl describes the inspiration on his website:

“While looking at some old Pathe war time footage of the Battle of Britain, I came across a clip of a chap frantically ringing a scramble bell like crazy and all the aircrew running for their aircraft.”

This case back version plays nicely into the watch’s name, as the term “scramble” was first used during the Battle of Britain. The display case back on the watch reviewed here contains minimal branding and shows the dates of the Battle of Britain, which spanned July 10, 1940 to October 31, 1940.

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Dial

One of my favorite aspects of the MKIII Scramble is the matte black dial with stark white hands and dial markings. The dial has printed lume-dots for the hours (absent at 3, 6, and 9) and unlumed minute marks around the perimeter. At the very edge of the dial, a perimeter line rings the dial and runs through the minute marks. Lines run from the hour indices toward the center of the dial and connect to an inner circle. This inner circle is only interrupted by the chronograph’s sub-dials, and it’s similar to a dual function gauge found within aircraft instrument panels. Overall, it’s a pleasing aesthetic and it kind of reminds me of something celestial, like a constellation.

All the sub-dials have a circular machined finish, which creates some depth to the dial. The running seconds sub-dial has only hash marks at the 5-second marks, while the chronograph sub-dials have Arabic numbers to distinguish them and to aid in reading the elapsed time.

The pilot’s hands are lumed and legible. Both the primary minute hand and the chronograph second hand are angled toward the dial, and at their ends they curve down. I imagine that this slanting helps the hands fit under the domed crystal while also keeping the overall case thickness to a minimum. Plus, it’s a nice, vintage-inspired touch.

C1 Super-LumiNova paint is applied to both the dial and hands. While C1 is not particularly strong here (or in general), the stark-white daytime color is what gives the dial its signature, high-contrast look.

Movement

Inside the watch, the Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph movement ticks away at 28,000 bph, and my particular example has been keeping excellent time while on the wrist. This 25-jeweled, integrated caliber hacks and can be manually-wound, and it boasts a 44-hour power reserve. The pushers activate and reset with a nice click that is typical of the 7750. For more information on this movement and its history, see Chronography 5: The Valjoux 7750.

Straps and Packaging

The MKIII Scramble ships in a custom wooden “ammo” box, and this packaging is just over the top! Removing the lid off the box and you are greeted with a Spitfire aircraft instrument panel cluster with the dial of the Scramble showing through a cut out in the panel. The underside of the lid contains time setting instructions, a warranty date, and a sketch of the Spitfire, which was a commonly used RAF fighter aircraft from WWII. Also included in the packaging is a key with a custom message on the key holder. The key is inserted into the instrument panel and is used to lift the panel from over the lower packaging area. The lower packaging area contains the Scramble watch head, two nylon straps, a spring bar tool, and a single slot leather wallet.

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Of the provided straps, one is a MOD-standard grey Phoenix G10 strap. The second strap is a custom mil-style strap from GasGasBones and comes in an olive color. It has a combination of a metal lower keeper and a fabric upper keeper. The fabric is soft and flexible straight out the box. This strap also has “MKIII” laser-etched on the buckle, which is a nice touch.

The wallet is an uncommon item to receive with a watch, but it’s a nice addition to the packaging. One side of the wallet depicts the firing order of the Rolls Royce V12 Merlin aero engine which powered the Spitfire aircraft. The other side has the 6B logo and additional engravings can be customized on this side by request. The custom spring bar tool also doubles as the container for the spring bars—just unscrew the spring tip from the base and shake out the provided spring bars. The far side of the spring bar tool is signed with the 6B arrow symbol.

Conclusion

On the wrist, the Scramble is a well-fitting and comfortable, smaller-sized chronograph. I particularly like the dial design (date free!) and unique bezel style. To me, this is a modern execution of a pilot’s watch with some historic design cues, but overall the watch doesn’t feel derivative. Given the design and the history poured into the packaging, I can imagine the watch being worn by a present-day pilot (preparing to scramble a fighter jet, no doubt) on one of the provided nylon bands.During my short time of ownership, I have fitted several leather straps onto the watch, including some simple leather two-piece bands and a Di-Modell Chronomisso strap. As you would expect, the vibe changes with the strap you put on the watch.

The pricing seems in line for a limited production modern chronograph with great finishing and unique packaging. As of this writing, of the 50 MKIII Scrambles producesd the number of watches remaining is down to the single digits. In speaking with Carl, these are produced in small batches and the final watches are currently being assembled. So if this one catches your interest, you might want to act fast. 6B

Photography by James Smith

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Review: Bell Ross BR V2-92 Aeronavale

The Aeronavale is the aviation branch of the French Navy. Breguet famously equipped the Aeronavale with the battle-ready Type-20 pilot chronographs, which have been, and still are, ceaselessly coveted, collected, and copied. However, with the new Aeronavale 41-millimeter, Bell & Ross has created a watch suited not to battle garb but to the French Navy’s beautiful gold and blue full dress uniforms.

The Aeronavale is not a “real” military watch. In fact, the French Navy had nothing to do with it. Rather, Bell & Ross simply dreamed it up. Bell & Ross can get pretty conceptual this way, with recent examples including their copper-dialed Bellytanker (designed for an imaginary vintage land-speed-record scenario) and their sporty Racing Bird (meant to accompany a computer-generated high-speed plane).On the surface Bell & Ross’ concepts can seem lofty, but I’ve found that the concepts help bring these watches down-to-earth by eliminating the pretense that a mechanical watch is, today, a real tool. When you consider that a life-long American civilian like me regularly wears a watch that Bell & Ross dreamed up to complement the French Navy Air Division’s full dress uniform, the whole enterprise takes on an air of delightfully absurd costuming. But, somehow, overtly acknowledging that we’re all playing dress-up seems to temper the absurdity.

But why would I—or anyone for that matter—fall for a watch like the Aeronavale? Typically there’s some personal connection that sets the heart aflame, and I’m sure others who enjoy the Aeronavale will have their own story. For me, it goes back to childhood.

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Review: Bell & Ross BR V2-92 Aeronavale

CasePolished Stainless SteelMovementBR-CAL.302 (Base Sellita SW301-1)DialRadially Brushed BlueLumeSuper-LumiNovaLensBox SapphireStrapPatent Leather with Deployant ClaspWater Resistance100mDimensions41 x 47mmThickness11mmLug Width22mmCrownScrew Down, SignedWarrantyYesPrice$2990

One summer when I was around 12, the US Navy’s sailing team borrowed my Dad’s sailboat for a tet-a-tet against a crew of scrappy yahoos from the Buffalo Yacht Club. Predictably, the Navy’s clean-cut sailors breezily command victory. Later that night the Navy Band played the most badass funk—all of them in full dress uniforms like some strange spin-off of The Village People; the horn section lock-stepping to “Ladies’ Night” by Kool & The Gang; the dangerously handsome lead singer flirting with everyone’s wives and daughters. Utterly gobsmacked, Navy-cool has enchanted ever since.

Funny, though, that I didn’t fall in love with the Aeronavale’s predecessor, the 42-millimeter BR123 in the same colorway that Bell & Ross released in 2016. That watch has a significantly larger dial, and I felt like a poseur sporting such a huge blue and gold billboard. Thankfully, Bell & Ross has been following the trend toward smaller watches, and this new 41-millimeter 92-V2 Aeronavale is one of the best fitting, most elegant, and properly proportioned watches I own. It delivers just enough Navy-cool.

All of the B&R 92-V2 watches run on the BR-CAL.302, an adaptation of the increasingly ubiquitous Sellita SW300-1, which itself is a near-clone of ETA’s 2892. The “-1” indicates that this movement has beefed-up teeth on the gear train, which Sellita claims reduces inaccuracies introduced by shock. Bell & Ross doesn’t disclose whether they’ve made any mechanical upgrades, and the only visible modification is the engraved logo and other subtle touches on the rotor. As with all SW330s, its a-magnetic Nivaflex hairspring oscillates 28,800 times an hour, it includes an Incabloc anti-shock system, and it can store up to 42 hours of power. The movement is visible through a sapphire crystal mounted in the handsome screwed-in case back.

The BR-CAL.302 features very light decoration.

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Being vintage-inspired, the entire case is polished to perfection, its shape traditional and elegant, its connections seamless and sharp. This is high-quality metalwork, as impressive under a loupe as it is at arms length. Like all of Bell & Ross’s vintage-inspired pieces, the lugs are long and leave a sizable gap between the strap and the case, which affords a clear view of the excellent connection where the bezel, case, and lugs meet. This can be a contentious detail, but I adore it.

The BR-CAL.302 and the handsome mid-case.

The crown threads in and out like it’s dipped in butter, and the robust crown guards—which match the case so well that they look like a third pair of lugs—are visually and ergonomically unobtrusive. The crown is signed with the iconic “&” that’s come to stand for Bell & Ross, and even the minute details of that signature exhibit flawless brushing and polishing.

The bezel has a polished coin-edge which slightly overhangs the case, thus providing ample grip and a classic look. The bezel clicks 120 times per rotation, and, because the Aeronavale is a flight-oriented watch, the bezel is bi-directional. Though it moves into position with perfect alignment, like most bi-directional bezels there is a bit of play when stationary. The blue anodized aluminum of the bezel insert matches the dial to a tee, and the gold 60-minute markers similarly match the gilt markers on the dial.

Case finishing is exceptional. An excellent sapphire imitation of an acrylic crystal. Tasteful, vintage-inspired lugs holding onto a mil-strap for casual occasions.

The curved, anti-reflective sapphire crystal is a thing of true beauty, almost indistinguishable from acrylic other than the deadened sound it produces when I drum on it with my fingernail (acrylic is more resonant than sapphire). The crystal’s curves produce creamy, dreamy visual distortions, and, although neither the edge of the dial nor the tip of the hands curve downward—as so many vintage dials and hands do—at certain viewing angles the crystal’s distortions create the illusion of curvature toward the polished steel rehaut. All told, the Aeronavale’s crystal is among the most convincing sapphire imitations of acrylic I’ve seen.

I know I’m supposed to join the chorus lamenting the ills of date apertures placed at 4:30, but I’ve grown to love these discrete, circular date windows. And thank you, Bell & Ross, for not interrupting any of the Aeronavale’s gloriously legible gold numerals and markers with the date aperture (a big pet peeve of mine). On the Aeronavale, the date wheel is rendered in the same radiant blue as the dial, and the numerals are in white paint that matches the minute track, logo, and three lines of spec text on the dial.

The Aeronavale is rated to 100-meters of water resistance, so I will SCUBA dive in it, though I can’t recommend doing so to anyone else because watch brands claim that you need a better rating in order to dive deep. The WR rating has me questioning what qualifies as a Dressy Tool Watch, or DTW, a category that Ilya and I, in true Bell & Ross fashion, simply dreamed up. We disqualified rotating bezels as too “tooly,” but because the Aeronavale is dressy enough for full dress military uniforms—arguably the dressiest outfit a person can wear—I am tempted to make an exception and declare the Aeronavale a full-on DTW.

The Aeronavale can be dapper and dressy.

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Attributes that make the Aeronavale so dressy include the fully polished case, the radially brushed blue dial, the vertically-brushed gilt numerals and markers, the dual-tone beveled hands, and the unique “ice-blue” calfskin strap. Tally that all up, and you’ve got quite a fancy presentation. The whole package looks like something you’d wear to meet a dignitary.

The dual-tone hands deserve a closer look, as they are brushed on one half and polished on the other. This treatment—which is found on a few watches including some of Mido’s offerings—creates the illusion of a much more deeply beveled hand while also shortening the stack of hands on the central arbor. The visual trick is quite convincing—so convincing that I missed it entirely until Ilya pointed it out. Bell & Ross has skeletonized those hands and filled them with Super-LumiNova, though, as with many of their watches, the small quantity of lume makes it seem like an afterthought. The upshot is that the Bell & Ross made no concessions to lume as they loaded the dial with those vertically brushed gilt numerals and markers. Lastly, the relative lack of lume reinforces the notion that the Aeronavale is more costume than tool.

Lume is a bit of an afterthrought. The alternately brushed and polished hands give one the impressions of faceted hands.

If you’ve still got doubts about its dress watch status, check out the Aeronavale’s “ice blue” patent leather strap. It fades from deep dark blue at the edges to a muted mid-blue at the center, and the white stitching picks up the white paint on the dial and date disc. I adore this strap, though its something I’d never have leaned toward outside of this context. The signed deployant clasp is mirror-polished like the case, features snail engraving inside the buckle, and it is a cinch to open and close. Deployant clasps on leather are often a bit bulky on the backside of the wrist, and this one is no exception. That bulk doesn’t bother me, however, and it’ll be a personal choice between the steel bracelet (which I’ve only handled in a boutique for a moment), a standard pin-buckle on the leather strap (which is easy enough to convert), or a third-party strap that suits your fancy (which is half the fun).

The patent leather strap is quite formal. The Aeronavale dresses down easily on a mil-strap (shown here on one of our ADPT straps).

The highly finished deployant clasp.

Though I’ve made a strong case for its dressiness, I was delighted to find that the Areonavale dresses down just fine on a mil-strap. During the past couple of sweltering months I’ve had the Aeronavale on navy blue nylon and paired it with everything from shabby old work shirts and tattered khakis for Saturday schluffing to swim trunks and a rash-guard while paddle boarding. The Aeronavale’s versatility keeps this watch on my wrist far more than I had anticipated, and despite owning it for only a couple months, it is already my most worn watch this year.

The Bell & Ross Aeronavale retails for $2,990 on the leather with deployant clasp and $3,300 on the steel bracelet. Bell & Ross

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Bell Ross Adds New Replica Watches to their Vintage Collection, Including a Limited Edition Bronze Chronograph

Bell & Ross as a brand is perhaps best known for their square shaped watches that strongly resemble aircraft instrument panels. While those watches have a definite cult following, the brand also produces watches in a far more traditional style, often with a focus on military watch designs of the past. When it comes to “new vintage” watches, Bell & Ross, as a brand, is something of a sleeper hit. Having been created in the early 90s, the brand doesn’t have a back catalog of timepieces to reintroduce to the public. While some might see vintage inspired watches coming from a new brand as opportunistic, one could also choose to see it as an opportunity to really refine a style of design. Over the years, Bell & Ross has gradually become increasingly adept at something few brands can manage: creating watches that have the appearance of something historic, but are actually, in their own way, fresh and modern. Their three newest releases are case in point, so let’s jump in.


Bell & Ross BR V2-93 GMT Blue

  • Case Material: Stainless steel 
  • Dial: Blue
  • Dimensions: 41mm 
  • Crystal: Sapphire    
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Crown: Screw down        
  • Movement: BR-CAL.303
  • Strap/bracelet: Stainless steel bracelet, elastic canvas strap
  • Price: $3,200 – $,3500
  • Reference Number: BRV293-BLU-ST
  • Expected Release: February 2020

Bell & Ross BR V2-92 Military Green

  • Case Material: Stainless steel 
  • Dial: Green
  • Dimensions: 41mm 
  • Crystal: Sapphire    
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Crown: Screw down        
  • Movement: BR-CAL.302
  • Strap/bracelet: Stainless steel bracelet, elastic canvas strap
  • Price: $2,990 – $3,300
  • Reference Number: BRV-292-MKA-ST
  • Expected Release: March 2020

Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Aéronavale Bronze

  • Case Material: Bronze
  • Dial: Blue
  • Dimensions: 41mm 
  • Crystal: Sapphire    
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Crown: Screw down        
  • Movement: BR-CAL.301
  • Strap/bracelet: Elastic canvas strap
  • Price: $5,200
  • Reference Number: BRV294-BLU-BR/SF
  • Expected Release: April 2020

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First up is the BR V2-93 GMT Blue, a new take on a GMT the brand first launched in 2018. This version has a bold blue dial, and its rotating 24 hour bezel makes it a compelling choice for professional aviators who need to track as many as three time zones simultaneously as it does for leisure travelers, who just need a good solid watch that lets them keep up with their home time. The GMT’s styling is sleek and sporty, with sword hands and a bezel insert in anodized aluminum providing nice vintage touches. 

The BR V2-92 Military Green is derived from Bell & Ross’s “LUM” collection, and is the brand’s version of an all purpose tool watch. The drab green dial has heavy military vibes, evoking both khaki camouflage and wide open spaces that field watches were made for. Small details abound, my favorite being the color matched date disk at 4:30. The green tone of the dial is this watch’s strongest asset, and to break that up with a white or black date window would have really thrown off the design. 

Lastly, the BR V2-94 Aéronavale Bronze is at once a departure from the other newly introduced watches in this lineup, but also very much in the same vein. This new Aéronavale chronograph, part of a series of watches inspired by the aviation branch of the French navy (but not actually sanctioned by them in any way), maintains a traditional case shape with very clear vintage inspired lines and proportions, but has been styled with an iridescent blue dial and a warm, bronze case. At a glance, of course, the yet-to-patina bronze makes you think of precious metals, giving the BR V2-94 Aéronavale Bronze an heir of something fairly formal and refined. While this watch can certainly be dressed up, in terms of specs it’s every bit as robust as the other watches in this series, with a sapphire crystal, modern Swiss movement, and 100 meters of water resistance.

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The two register chronograph layout keeps busyness on the dial to a minimum, allowing the blue and contrasting bronze elements to be the star of the show. While the BR V2-93 GMT in blue and the BR V2-92 in green are permanent addtions to the Bell & Ross catalog, this BR V2-94 Aéronavale in bronze is limited to 999 pieces. 

Also of note with the two non-limited watches in this collection is that they can each be purchased on either a stainless steel bracelet. or canvas strap that Bell & Ross tells us has an elastic quality (the Aéronavale is only available on a strap). While the conventional wisdom is that one should always opt for the bracelet option to keep potential future accessory costs down, the straps appear to be nicely matched to each watch, and offer a great casual look that really complements the vibe Bell & Ross is going for here.

There’s something almost whimsical about Bell & Ross’s new-vintage creations. As with any watch, you’ll dig the design or you won’t, but for watch fans who are after something that is clearly indebted to designs of the past but still offers something new, Bell & Ross is worth looking at. These are not painstakingly reproduced replicas of watches from a generation ago, but simply impressions of what those watches looked and felt like. Bell & Ross

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Baselworld 2019: First Look at the Bell Ross BR V1-92 Blue Steel

Building on one of their 2018 releases, Bell & Ross has introduced a new color way of the BR V1-92. This clean, vintage military-inspired timepiece sports a new blue sunburst dial for 2019. As a fan of blue dials. the pop of color in the new version is a welcomed addition to an otherwise straightforward watch. When a watch is relatively straightforward (like this one), it’s the little details that matter more than ever.


Bell & Ross BR V1-92 Blue Steel

Movement: Calibre BR-CAL.302 automatic (Sellita SW300-1)
Dial: Blue sunray
Case: 38.5mm
Crystal: Domed sapphire with AR
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Brown calfskin leather
Price: $2,300

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The circular steel case measures in at a conservative 38.5mm, which is spot-on for a field watch. Large enough to be quickly read, while small enough so that it doesn’t get in the way of activity. Curving downwards on either side of the watch are the lugs, which feature radial brushing on top. What stands out to me most is Bell & Ross’ choice of font for the numerals.

The rounded typeface is somewhat of a signature for the brand, and it carries over to the 3, 6, 9, and 12 indices as well as the ever-so-slightly rounded hashmarks for each hour and minute. On the dial, you’ll find the name of the brand with their signature ampersand front and center, and the word “AUTOMATIC” at the 6 o’clock position. Their integration of a date is tasteful and unobtrusive – there’s a circular window at the 4:30 position that has a wheel matching the blue of the dial. Another standout detail is the seconds hand — the end of it looks almost like the back of a jet fighter from the top down.

More color choices are always a welcomed addition, especially when it’s something as pleasing as the blue sunburst seen on the BR V1-92. Those looking for an elevated example of the military/field/pilot watch will appreciate this updated offering from Bel l& Ross. The Blue Steel ships on a brown calfskin leather strap for $2,300. Bell & Ross

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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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A Guide to Storing Your Replica Watches

There will come a time when you will need to keep a watch in storage. It may be a watch you rarely wear, a speculative purchase waiting to be flipped, or one that you’re simply saving to pass on to the next generation. My eight-year-old son will get my full-size Omega Seamaster Professional when he comes of age, but until then it’s stored away, safe and sound. Having recently packed that watch away, I thought it would be informative to go over the do’s and don’ts of long-term watch storage.

There are several ways to go about storing your precious watches, from putting them in a bank deposit box or keeping them in a safe at home, to packing them away in a box in the garage. However you decide to store your watches, the following suggestions apply.

Dealing with Moisture

Watch Storage - 19Ideally, watches should be stored in a temperature controlled setting like a safe deposit box or in a secure home safe. But regardless of where they end up, moisture will be a natural enemy of your watches. This is especially true in a cold safe, where moisture and condensation can damage a watch as oils coagulate and lose their lubricating properties. For quartz watches, condensation can be especially damaging to the IC circuits.

To combat the effects of moisture, I recommend storing watches with silica gel, a tip passed on to me by gun owners over the years. It is advice I’ve religiously followed for two decades.

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Watch Storage - 15You can buy silica gel in bulk or recycle the packets that come with practically all electronic gear. My personal recommendation is to get the desiccant gel packets that change color as they soak up moisture. Often, they come in blue. As the moisture builds up the colors change to white or pink, indicating they need to be recharged or replaced.

Boxes and Paperwork

Watch Storage - 13Boxes, accessories and paperwork are rather easy to store, and worth keeping around for when you decide to sell your watch (“box and papers” can add considerable value to a sale). You should consider storing them in separate locations as boxes can take up considerable space. With paperwork, however, I keep the warranty cards, authenticity certificates and proofs of purchase along with other important documents in the safe. You should separate everything in their own dedicated zip-lock or protective bags.

Moisture can also cause damage to warranty cards and other accessories. Below is an example of two Omega leatherette warranty card holders. Over a 20-year period, the one on the left deteriorated and transferred paint onto the accompanying documents. A separate zip-lock bag, as well as some silica gel, would have preserved the dealer calendar cards and manual.

Advertisement A damaged warranty leather holder with paint transfer on the documents I left inside. Zip-locked hangtags, bracelets, straps, accessories and extra links.

Appraisal and Insurance

Some homeowners and rental insurance policies offer blanket coverage up to a certain amount. If this applies to you, definitely take advantage of your coverage. In some scenarios, you may opt to have dedicated coverage. Either way, it is strongly recommended you appraise your watches, especially the vintage ones. For current watches, you should keep track of market pricing as insurance companies will offer a replacement according to market value. When insuring my watches, I take photographs of everything–boxes, documents, and the watch itself at various angles to indicate condition. In scenarios where I’ve purchased watches from other collectors or through non-traditional channels, I provided scanned magazine reviews, catalogs and price lists to support the stated value. In the 1990s, for example, my Sinn 156 Military was unavailable through official US retail channels, so I used a Bell & Ross (B&R sold co-branded Sinn watches early in their life) price list and scanned copies of reviews from Watch Time to secure my coverage value.

Appraisal for my Sinn 156 using a Watch Time review and a B&R price list from 2001. Sample appraisal from a third-party jeweler.

Boxes

Watch Storage - 8As I noted above, boxes take up a lot of space, but keeping them is paramount in maintaining value. Finding a replacement box on eBay isn’t difficult for brands like Rolex and Omega, but they can cost you $100-300 a pop so holding on to the original is worth it from a monetary standpoint alone. For smaller brands, finding a readily available replacement may not be so easy, so it is important to keep track of what boxes go with what watch (and era, as manufacturers often alter their presentation boxes). As a buyer, you should do your due diligence and research beforehand to make sure that you’re getting the appropriate boxes with your watch.

Maintenance and Inherent Risk

Idle watches over the long term can be problematic. Quartz watches risk the hazard of battery corrosion and leakage. With these, you should always remove the batteries. I recently put away a Bulova Moon Watch and a rare Omega LCD Speedmaster for long-term storage. The batteries were removed from each watch to ensure they not get damaged.Watch Storage - 1Mechanical watches have their own set of hazards. As oils dry, a movement can freeze. That is why it is often recommended that mechanical watches are wound and worn periodically. However, there is no escaping the fact that oils will need to be replaced. Even unworn watches will need to be sent in for eventual service. If you have a speculative watch you plan to flip in 10 or 20 years, you may forgo service and inform future buyers of the situation, as some would prefer NOS (New Old Stock) status.

Watch Storage - 7
Omega Cal. 565 movement frozen with dry oils.

Since the late ’90s, many companies have heavily invested in lubrication R&D. Rolex and Seiko especially have been pioneers in this regard. My dad used to tell me, “change the oil in your car every 3,000 miles and service your watch every three years.” This no longer applies. Just like with cars, there are now synthetic oils that significantly increase maintenance intervals. When Rolex first announced their new oils, there was speculation with regard to how long watches could go without service. Now in 2016, the recommended interval for watches manufactured after 2015 is a whopping 10 years.

For mechanical watches, I recommend getting a tool like a timegrapher. In addition to measuring accuracy, timegraphers offer a snapshot of the health of your watch (a low amplitude or high beat rate can be a sign of mechanical failure). For example, with most modern ETAs, anything under 250 amplitude means your watch should be taken in for service. With some watches, catching this early could mean saving hundreds of dollars in overhaul fees.  Watch Storage - 12

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Conclusion

There are many approaches you can take toward storing your watches and this write-up provides a good primer. There is no one absolute way to store your watches,  but whatever you do, keep in mind the key points I wrote about above regarding temperature and moisture, general maintenance, and diligent record keeping. You may not plan to store a watch for 10 to 20 years, but my recommendations are practical even for short term storage.

Watch Storage - 16

From Bell Ross to Timex: The Heritage Military Replica Watch

There have been a slew of vintage military style watches hitting the market recently, featuring a black face, beige symbols and a tan or brown leather band.  It’s a compelling look that harkens to a timeless 1940’s military aesthetic, and it seems like everyone’s getting in on the action.  Here’s a roundup of a few of these watches at various price points that you can pick up (or just admire from afar) today.

Bell & Ross was one of the first, if not the first company to introduce the vintage military look into their lineup with the BR Heritage series.  Originally introduced in Spring 2009 with the BR 01-92 Heritage, the line now features several wathes, including the most recently released BR 123 and 126 Heritage.  These watches are obviously well outside of the price range for watches that we usually discuss on worn&wound (from approximately $3,000 to over $4,500), but with the Haritage line, Bell & Ross really set the trend for the vintage military look we’re seeing everywhere.  Each features a matte PVD black case, Swiss automatic movement, the ever so popular, black and beige color scheme.

Next up is the considerably more affordable, and equally (if not more) attractive new Nav-B Chrono II Black DLC by Steinhart.  Taking their outstanding Nav B. Chrono II design and adding a bit of vintage flavor, this new piece from Steinhart nails the vintage or heritage military aesthetic.  It features a simple and elegant chrono layout, black DLC, or diamond-like carbon finish and a Valjoux 7750 movement with day and date function.   As with so many of Sreinhart’s pieces, this watch offers outstanding style and quality at the affordable price of just $1,000.

Lüm-Tec is a watch company we’ve discussed several times on worn&wound, and they have recently released the M47, a military heritage take on their M Chronograph line.  Zach reviewed the M33 a few months back, so for a more in depth on how this watch functions and wears, you can check that out.  Like the M33, the M47 features a Miyota OS20 Quartz Chronograph with date and 24hr dial and Lüm-Tec’s MDV (Maximum Darkness Visibility) luminescent technology.  This vintage take on Lüm-Tec’s very contemporary watch line is available from their website for $515.

A watch we recently reviewed on worn&wound and which also follows the military heritage aesthetic is the Christopher Ward C8 Pilot Mk II – Vintage Edition.  I’m a huge fan of this watch.  It offers superb build quality, refined design and an incredibly comfortable feel.  Its a slight departure from the rest of the watches on this list as it features a matte stainless steel case, rather than black PVD or ion coating.  This gives it a slightly more versatile, less sporty look.  The C8 is powered by a Sellita SW200 automatic movement and features a large sweeping second hand and date function.  It can be yours fur $500 now from Christopher Ward’s website.

Lastly, there is Timex’s take on the heritage military look, the T2N700DH Intelligent Quartz T Series.   This is by far the most affordable option on our short list, but don’t let the $165 price tag fool you, it may also be the most unique.  The T2N700DH features Timex’s fly-back quartz chronograph movement, which utilizes two large second hands, one active and one for the chrono, and two retrograde sub-dials, one 10-minute and one 24-hour.   It’s a lot to try to visualize, so here’s a brief video by Timex with an animated explanation.  The T2N700DH has the same great black and tan color combination of the other watches on our list, and is available from Amazon.com for $165.

It’s my guess that we’ll be seeing a few other watch companies come out with their own take on the heritage military look.  Are there any brands that you’d like to see take a stab at it?  If so, leave a comment below.  While you’re at it, feel free to let me know if there are any watches that were left off my list.