Military Watches and Clocks of the German Forces
by Konrad Knirim (Germany) 'NAWCC Bulletin' Aug. 1997

The Soviet Zone and the GDR in East Germany

With the end of the war in 1945, the still-existing stocks of timepieces at Glashuette, together with part of the production lines and the testing equipment of Gesundbrunnen near Dresden, were sent to the Soviet Union as 'repair' payments. Tutima pilot chronographs, e.g., were brought in transport boxes to the Soviet headquarters in Dresden. Until August 8, 1945, all production lines of the UFAG and the UROFA (initials of manufacturing companies in Glashuette) movements were dismounted and on the way to Moscow. Recently, I saw a Tutima chronograph in bad condition, which was marked on the dial with the cyrillic letters 'First Moscow Watch Factory Kirowa'.

The Russian ships chronometers, 'Kirowa' or 'Poljot', are copies of the 'Lange' chronometer of Glashuette. In Glashfuette the navigation watches cal. 48 were still produced until 1977 in the pocket version, partly with the dial and central second hand of the navigation wristwatch of the air force. The ship chronometers were further developed to the cal. 100 by the 'Glashuetter Uhren-Betriebe' (GUB), which became a 'peoples owned company'. The GUB cal. 100 was used by the 'Nationale Volks-Marine' and in the Warsaw pact navies. The movement of the Tutima chronograph was redesigned in a smaller size, otherwise they had to import parts from Switzerland.

The "Kasernierte Volks-Polizei" (KVP), the predecessor of the Nationale Volks Armee (NVA) or the National Peoples Army of East Germany, before 1955, used Glashuette wristwatches or donated them as a gift of honor to their people. I found a GUB wristwatch cal. 60 with the signature on the back: 'Fuer gute Leistungen Chef der KVP' (For good performance, the chief of the KVP).

Under the Russian military government most private companies were taken from their owners and made into 'peoples owned organizations'. So all famous horological manufacturing companies of the little town of Glashuette, such as Lange, Kurtz, Assmann, Muehle, UFAG, UROFA and many other small workshops were forced to join the 'Glashuetter Uhren-Betriebe VEB'. (VEB is Volkseigener Betrieb.) Most of the owners went to Western Germany and some founded new factories like Kurtz or Tutima or Lange. Today some famous names have made a new beginning or are still in business as Lange & Soehne (owned today by VDO parent company of International Watch Company, hereafter IWC, and Jaeger LeCoultre as part of the Mannesmann Corporation, a large West German steel and machinery company), Nomos, and GUB. Tutima near Bremen is still supplying the Bundes-Luftwaffe, or Federal Air Force, with pilot chronographs.

There were two Hanhart chronographs of World War II that were used by the KVP (Mdl) and later the NVA. The second was used for spare parts and is not yet complete. I got them from the officer of the NVA who used them on duty. There was no policy in the NVA for the supply of watches for official use. They gave some orders to the industry, e.g., the ship chronometer cal. 100 and the navigation pocket watch cal. 48 but these constructions are of pre-war origin. These and some new developments were solely delivered to the forces and not sold to the private sector. On the other hand, the military staff did buy civilian watches on demand, but these did not have a military look like the redesigned chronograph, which mostly was gold-plated and also likely to be decorated. These would not have been suited for the battlefield; they were likely to be black and with a non-shiny finish.

The NVA and Navy mostly used the GUB as a supplier. The later-developed automatic wristwatch cal. 75 was used for gifts in the military and in political circles. GUB developed and produced the ship wall clock cal. 404 in the shape of a cap, first in metal, later in Bakelite, which the Soviets used in their reproduction. The clock had different dials; e.g., one had the segments for the message station.

In Ruhla, Thuringia, was a subsidiary of the GUB (Kombinat Mikro-Elektronik), which developed simple mechanical wristwatches and later precision quartz movements for divers watches and for pocket watches. A friend of mine found a Ruhla wristwatch with the inscription: '30 Jahre NVA', (30th anniversary) with an armored car on the dial. It was ordered by the NVA office nr. 508 in Erfurt, for special gift-giving.

In Glashuette, after the political change in 1989/90, I heard that many owners of watches with political or military engravings on the back made changes to the back, destroying some in the process. This destruction made the pieces similar. At the end of World War II many backs of navigation watches with the eagle and swastika were thrown away, so the outer back was missing on many items.

At the end of the 1950s, VEB Glashuette developed about 1500 nice, high grade aircraft clocks cal. 71 for the Defence Air Force of the NVA. This clock was like that used in the projected civilian passenger aircraft of the Elbe Flugzeugwerke in Dresden. The first plane crashed in the first test, allegedly sabotaged by Soviet interests. The project was canceled but the clocks were used in Russian planes like the Iljushin 14 and the MIG 17 of the NVA. But most Russian aircraft kept their heavier Russian instrument clocks such as the Molnia of the Tjeljabinsk Watch Factory. The electro-mechanical cabin clock of Ruhla was first used for the B-152 passenger plane.

The search for such horological items often led me into the homes of former military personnel in Eastern Germany. There were former top officers of the NVA who sold me their personal graduation watches. A highly decorated pilot major had two CUB 71 aircraft clocks for sale, which were used in the hangars for warming up the jets. In terms of the human and historical aspects of the war, these were interesting conversations. In most of these cases, I bought World War II aircraft clocks which had been taken from planes that had crashed and heard the stories told by the elderly men who had participated in the war.

For the artillery and other metering purposes, stop watches of Glashuette cal. 65 were used. The cal. 65 was a pre-war construction of Lange. Later, only Russian items, pocket watches and chronographs from Slava, Achat and Poljot, were available. The radio center cars of the NVA mostly used the instrument clock with the chronograph of the Tscheljabinsk Watch Factory. This factory was founded in 1942, when the German troops were near Moscow. The Soviets relocated a lot of industry to Siberia, so the first Moscow watch factory Kirowa was moved to Slatousk near Tjeljabinsk just behind the Ural Mountains. Mter the war both watch factory sites existed but made different products.

A portion of my information on eastern military timepieces came from the Military Historic Museum of Dresden. There is on display, for example, a dummy combat swimmer with the big Russian divers watch and the underwater wrist compass and depth gauge. There are armored vehicles with Molnia clocks as well as a "briefcase" of an artillery officer.

Watches seem not to matter much to the common soldier. The recruits have their private quartz wristwatch, but they little realize that the torpedo boat commander, the air craft pilot or the artillery officer have special watches. The artillery officer has the previously mentioned briefcase with a lineal (ruler), an arithmetic instrument, as well as a stopwatch.

I heard the story that as the NVA was dismantled, the drill sergeants could buy the watches for little cash. They were so angry at that time that they refused to pay for equipment they had used personally over some years. So these watches were mostly destroyed.

The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany)

Bundesmarine (The Federal Navy)
After the formation of the 'Bundeswehr 1955' many watches of the former Wehrmacht were still in the possession of the West German state. Many of the real marvelous navigation watches of the Kriegsmarine (war-time navy) in silver cases existed in private hands, often without the outer back. Some state-owned navigation watches were still in stock and had the eagle with swastika. Steffen Ro~hner says that many of these watches were neutralized by melting the engravings with silver. This denazification is also described in Frencharmed forces publications. The Navy did use the existing material, and new watches from IWC and from Cortebert were bought. They got NATO parts numbers, starting with 6645. In the house magazine of IWC is an interesting article on IWC pocket watch cal. 972, used on submarines of the Navy.

The Navy also had ships chronometers. I saw only one in Koblenz in the WTS museum. When American ships were taken, they got Hamilton Mod 21 chronometers as well. The ones they ordered themselves were Wempe of Hamburg. Several types of Swiss anchor chronometers and navigation watches in nice mahogany boxes, gimbaled or pocket style, were used (e.g., Ulysse Nardin with electric second contact).

The ships wall clocks of Wempe, Junghans and Buerk with the red and green radio segments are still ordered and used but in chromed steel, not solid brass. Many ships and boat clocks were ordered from Chronometer Werke, Wempe, Hamburg.

Watches for Combat Swimmers
There are two versions of watches in titan and watertight to 2000 meters (IWC Ocean 2000) reserved for the Federal Navy: With quartz movement (cal. 2250Q) for combat swimmers and with mechanical movement for mine divers with different antimagnetic specifications (375M, 375R, 375R5, 375M5, 375AM5, 37SAMAG). The latter civil version is different from the genuine military version. The civil version does not have the flat sapphire glass, nor the black bezel.

In former times before the brand Blancpain of the Rayville SA in Villeret, Switzerland, vanished and later was brought back by Jean Claude Biver, combat swimmer watches - "Fifty Fathoms" -were produced in different variants. The dial has a circle mark at the "6" with a lakmus wetness indicator to control water resistance. The first and smartest model of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms (Bundeswehr order no: 6645-12-129-8664) has matt nickeled steel with a broad bezel and black plastic inlet and 5-minute marks, screwed back (but the handle is not screwed) and has a very nice finished movement from Anton Schild in Grenchen (AS 1712) with date indication. The case is like that of the very rare pilot's chronograph sister model, Blancpain Air Command. This watch is used as well by the U.S. Navy's underwater demolition teams. Martin Whitney shows in his book, Military Time Pieces, an example without date but with the wetness indicator with the marks Mil-W-22176A(3), Type Class, Tornak-Rayville, 4220-00900-9629. This watch was used by the French at Toulon. Nowadays you can find at auctions some remakes of this watch with new movements.

The second type of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms of the Federal Navy (6645-12-149-5012) with a more simple movement, cal. AS 1700, without date and without screwed handle, was used by the French and by Jacques-Yves Cousteau for his nautical research. The model shown here has the wetness indicator. The third Blanc-pain combat divers watch that I know of (6645-12-171-4162) has the asymmetric and screwed handle at the 4, as does the IWC. The movement is a 24jewd, cal. CD 2873 of ETA, with date indication. Some characteristics like the JWC Ocean 2000: the handle position, the black bezel with one single fluorescent mark and the red minute hand. In comparison to the JWC, the bezel does not turn clockwise. The watch has (as does the IWC and the pilots wrist chronographs of the Federal Air Force) the red mark for radioactivity, 3H in a red circle, that indicates the tritium layer of fluorescent digits and hands.

Even Rolex was a supplier of the Federal Forces. They furnished the Explorer (cal. 1160), automatic with 26 jewels, with steel bracelet, used for astronavigation in strategic aircrafts. The British forces used the Submariner in a special military version: Other triangular hands, solid strap pins and a "T" for tritium on the dial.

Bundesluftwaffe (The Federal Air Force)
Obviously, airplanes and helicopters of American origin, the German Army, and especially the Air Force, used the American instrument clocks like Elgin, Waltham, Wakman, Longines, Hamilton, Benrus, Waltham, Gal-let, Witnauer, etc. In this case "American" does not mean American-made as they used mostly Swiss movements or they came from Swiss-based companies.

In European aircraft, like Transall, Noratlas, Tornado, Alfa Jet and the helicopter (Bol05.), they used clocks from German Swiss or French factories: Jung-hans (J3OBZ, BoUki), Thommen, Sinn (NaBo 16 and 17), as well as Breguet and Dodane Type 11 (movements Lemania or Valjoux). During the time of the Third Reich, Junghans was the supplier of aircraft chronographs (J30BZ) and later BoUkX with Valjoux movements. Schlenker-Grusen (Isgus) of Schwenningen produced aircraft clocks in wartime but presently makes electrical wall clocks.

It was at the end of the 1960s that Helmut Sinn of Frankfurt began receiving orders instead of Junghans. He used movements of Valjoux from the SMH corporation. The model 17 has central hands for the hour and minute and the chronograph second as well as two additional dials for the permanent second and the chronograph minute. The model 16 has, as does the Junghans, no permanent second hand. It is remarkable that some features are similar to that of the Third Reich's Air Force, such as the BOUki.

The pilots are furthermore equipped with hand-worn mechanical chronographs: Junghans (cal. 88) with chromed case and turning bezel. There were two different types, the early one with rimmed bezel (Type 110 n. 6645-12-120-9351) and the latter with the twelve corner bezel (type 111).

Hanhart (cal. 15) had two different variations: Type 417E5 in stainless steel (-120-5208) and type 417 (-121-5208) in a chromed brass case. This watch has push buttons and a handle smaller than the models of the Third Reich's Air Force, but equal to those for the French Army, the Vixa. Other examples: Leonidas (cal. Valjoux 22) in relatively rare items and accordingly interesting for the collector. Heuer and Sinn (cal. Heuer 1550 equal to Vx 23) in the same steel case like the Leonidas but with a somewhat different movement. The models of Heuer and Sinn are identical. The reason is that Sinn was the German supplier for Heuer of Switzerland. The chronograph of Heuer was supplied in a very interesting variation together with a theodolit for astro navigation, but regulated in sidereal time (cal. 1551 SGSZ).

All hand-worn models had the flyback function similar to those of the Third Reich Air Force and to those of the French Air Force, which allowed the chronograph to be pushed back to zero while running, with the capability of immediate restart.

Automatics (still produced today): Tutima (of Ganderkesee) with hidden push buttons, Aratos (of Pforzheim) and Orfina (Porsche Design of Grenchen), all with the same movement of Lemania 5100 with screwed handle, date and day indication and additional 24-hour hand. The indication of the movement shows seven hands and two windows, no flyback. Of this type of pilot's chronograph Helmut Sinn has two (142B and 156B). The Tutima is also supplied to US Forces.

The former general secretary of the NATO forces, Manfred Wo~rner, always wore his Orfina Bundeswehr chronograph (I noted this on press photos). Pilots, especially, seem to favor the mechanical movement. I don't know if it is sentiment or the fear of nuclear blackout or other interference with electronic watches. But no rule without exception, Heuer has furnished some quartz chronographs (6645-12-172-8030).

Bundesheer (The Federal Army)
Wolfgang Koll reported a very early wristwatch, the Stowa (cal. AS 1130), similar to the soldier's wristwatch of the Wehrmacht d.H.). The back case is marked "Bundes-Eigentum Nr.44." These watches of Walter Storz of Pforzheim (in the former French occupied zone) were supplied after the war in some greater portions to the French forces for the war in Indochina.

The Army has table clocks, alarm clocks, and message center clocks for the radio station offices in the same design like the Wehrmacht. The supplier is Beuerle of St. Georgen in the Black Forest. Later the wooden outer case was changed to plastic. Many types of stop watches with electromechanical trigger (Jaquet) were used for measurement purposes in workshops and by the artillery. All weapon systems, like trucks, tanks, anti-aircraft systems, radar stands, boats, pontons, workshops and measuring units need clocks and watches. Here the short time meters of Hanhart have a good portion of these types. You can see some of the mentioned military watches and clocks in the Wehrtechnische Studien-Sammlung, a military museum in Koblenz near Bonn.

About the Author
Dr. Konrad Knirim was born in 1942 in Berlin. He has been collecting military watches and clocks of various countries since 1985, and is now concentrating on the collection and documentation of the complete range of timepieces of all the German forces from ca. 1900 to the present day. He has written other articles on military timepieces for the magazine Klassik Uhren. Dr. Knirim is a mechanical engineer, a computer consultant, and in his spare time restores motorcycles. He resides in Dusseldorf.

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