and World War I
The name Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial Navy) was introduced with the political aim of enlarging the German Navy, an effort begun by Kaiser Wilhelm in 1878 as a part of the challenge to Great Britain. A curiosity in some respects is the little torpedo-boat chronometer by Lange & Soehne of Glashuette, gimbeled in a mahogany box for the Austrian Kriegsmarine. Sixty chronometers were made, of which 20 were offered for sale to the public.
I have in my private collection a very nice ships wall clock of A. Schuchmann Wilhelmshaven with the same design of the black enameled brass case like the later clocks of the Kriegsmarine of the Third Reich. The movement is by Gustav Becker of Silesia. This clock is signed on the dial with the insignia of the Emperor's Navy, the crown over the 'M' and numbered.
first Military Aircrafts and Airships
The first military airplanes had cockpit watches, which were like pocket watches, which hung on the instrument panel with the winding knob downward and the second hand at the 12. They were marked 'Eigentum der Fliegertruppen', which means 'property of the flying troops' and 'P.u.W.' with a propeller with wings on the back of the case. There is a story about the iron cases for watches: At the time of WWI, the German war industry needed gold and silver for military production purposes, so there was a campaign to exchange gold cases for iron cases. These were sometimes signed 'Gold gab ich fuer Eisen', which means, in a double sense, 'I gave gold for iron, i.e., weapons'. The aircraft watches had nickel or iron cases and are often not in good condition today. They were sold by the watch reseller W. Kreis in Berlin, as was indicated on the enameled dial. W. Kreis later became the owner of the famous manufacturer of regulators, Strasser and Rohde of Glashuette.
Weimar Republic 1919 to 1933
Reichswehr and Reichsmarine
For the Reichswehr even any airplane was allowed, so there were official motorless trainings and secret activities in Sweden and the Soviet Union. In the later 1930s, the Air Force gave watches like these to the pilots (e.g., Zenith). In the same design there were even wrist chronographs by Breitling (Cal. Venus 711 AL) and Heuer (Cal. Valjoux 22).
Second World War
Consequently and in a broad sense, watches and clocks for military purposes were specified and ordered by the Wehrmacht of the Nazi government:
This list is of great value for the collector who wishes to complete his or her collection. I think it is astonishing the number of timepieces of each kind which were budgeted for every type of ship. Many of the watches and clocks came from the little town of Glashuette in the mountainous area of the Erzgebirge near Dresden in Saxony. This is the home of the famous pocket watch and chronometer firm of Lange & Soehne, as well as other firms like Assmann. I have seen a navigation pocket watch by Assmann with the eagle of the Kriegsmarine.
The German Bureau of Ships in Hamburg tested chronometers in Gesundbrunnen near Glashuette, far away from the coast. Many timepieces for the Navy were manufactured on the coast, e.g., the best known is "Chronometerwerke Hamburg," later owned by Wempe. In some cases they used movements by Glashuette, like those of the "eGmbH," a.s.o. Later, during World War II, chronometer production was contracted to the "Einheits-Chronometer" and built as well by Wempe and by Lange & Soehne. As they could not produce a sufficient number of chronometer movements, they reconstructed the pocket watch caliber 48 in a gimbeled chronometer box, the well-known Lange-B-Chronometer.
Beside German-made items, there were many of Swiss origin, made like the very nice chronometer by Ulysse Nardin, or the navigation watches of IWC, Ulysse Nardin and Vacheron & Constantin. As well, there were German manufacturers, especially in the Black Forest, completing navigation watches with Swiss movements, such as Stowa (cal. Unitas). Lacher & Co. took the movement of Durowe (Deutsche Uhren-Rohwerke of Pforzheim) and Alpina had Minerva chronograph movements.
The Navy used some special watches for particular purposes, such as locating submarines with water bombs. The stopwatch used for this purpose has special scales to measure sea miles and depth of water.
For normal use, there were more simple wrist and pocket watches of German and Swiss origin, (Alpina, Berg, Zentra, Cortebert, Solvil...) marked "KM" on the dial. The Navy artillery used pocket chronographs with the "KM" for "Kriegsmarine" on the dial (Hanhart).
Watches for Combat Divers
The German intelligence service (Abwehr im Reichs-Sicherheits-Hauptamt) had close connections to the Italian services of the Reggia Marina since 1942. By this connection, the German combat group got equipment such as the Rolex Kampf-Schwimmer-watches, mostly unmarked, but engraved by the men themselves. German combat swimmers were active in the last days of the war, in rivers like the Rhine, destroying bridges occupied by the Allied Forces. An example is the bridge of Nymwegen. These activities were very secret with no official declaration.
'Imperial Air Force'
The navigation wristwatches from IWC, Lange & Soehne, Wempe, Walter Storz (Stowa) and Lacher & Co (Laco) were and are still horological specialties. They were regulated as navigation chronometers and tested, piece-by-piece, by the chronometer department in Gesundbrunnen near Glashuette. The aircraft navigators wore these watches with long leather straps above the sleeve.
At times, an extraordinary item of this kind of Lange navigation wristwatch will be seen at auctions. The dial is marked with 'W-SS" and the minutes are printed in mirror reverse characters. Herrman Goering is said to have had one of his own.
This may be the place to give some historical background information: Hitler distrusted the conservative officers corps of the Wehrmacht, but he knew that he needed them as professionals for his war plans. He ended the influence of the SA, the organization of about 1 million paramilitary members, by killing their chief officers in 1934. On the other hand, he supported his longtime party comrade Goring in building up the Air Force with a separate ministry, not connected to the traditional military staff.
Similar to the Navy, the Air Force had a manual for the description, the use and the maintenance of their watches and clocks: L.Dv.253 of 1939:
Within the category of aircraft clocks, there were two types of board clocks: 1) 8-day movement, turning bezel, and 2) the blindflight clocks-chronographs for short-time measuring (second and 15- or 30-minute dial). Both types had the 4-hole screw mounting plate. But there were as well 3-hole, bayonet and screw-in mounts for the instrument panel. The 8-day clocks were mostly for bombing or long distance planes or transportation planes like the JU 52, JU 88 or HE 111. The chronographs were used in hunters like the ME 109/110.
The well-known wrist chronographs of 'Tutima Glashuette' and the 'Hanhart' are not mentioned, though they were officially constructed and ordered for the pilots of hunters and especially the 'Stuka', which meant air-surface combat fighters. I never found an example with an 'Fl'. But I saw a picture of one with the Navy eagle. This chronograph had the flyback function, which means that the chronograph could be readjusted to zero in operation, and was, for a long time, the standard of the Bundesluftwaffe and the French Air Force.
I become enthusiastic each time I see a Tutima chronograph with its construction of the movement (Breguet coil). There are early pieces with gold-plated movements; later, these were silvered and shock resistant. From Hanhart of Schwenningen in the Black Forest, there are different types of chronographs: one or two push buttons each, with and without turnmg bezel. The movement with one button is the same as in the pocket chronograph of the Naval artillery. The cases are nickeled brass. The steel cases came later in the 1950s. I found two examples in Eastern Germany, which were used first by the Air Force, later by the Kasernierte Volks-Polizei of the ministry of internal affairs (Mdl) of the Soviet Occupied Zone and later by the NVA of the GDR. Those pieces are very rare because they were destroyed after extensive use. I got them from an officer of the NVA who used them himself in the observation stand.
The manufacturers of the timepieces for the Air Force, such as navigation wristwatches, chronographs, instrument clocks and message-center clocks were situated in Glashuette (Lange, Tutima) and in the Black Forest (Hanhart, Kienzle, Junghans, Laco, Stowa), as well as in Switzerland. The German producers had factories and suppliers in other parts of the country and even in occupied Bohemia.
Lange & Soehne could not deliver the necessary amount of watches that were needed, so they brought the raw movements and cases to other watchmakers for mounting and regulating: Huber in Munich, Felsing in Berlin, Schiron in Stuttgart, Schaetzle und Tschudin in Pforzheim or Wempe in Hamburg. Wempe and Storz did buy movements for their navigation wrist and pocket watches in Switzerland (Thommen and Unitas).
After the war, the Black Forest was part of the French Occupation Zone, so Hanhart in Schwenningen continued to produce the chronographs under the brand Vixa for the French forces.
Heer 'German Army'
The Army and Navy artillery used pocket chronographs and stopwatches for measuring the distance of enemy cannons by measuring the time between the 'lightening', the light from the firing (velocity of light) and the 'thunder' (velocity of sound). In addition to these watches, the Army used message center clocks (Stationsuhren) from the manufacturer Kienzle. These clocks were mounted in wooden cases. I have two Army-type items in good condition in unpainted wood, used, as the seller told me, in the '0KW' (the main military headquarters), and the other in the Army Officers School in Dresden. During the war, the wooden case was painted in the general grey army colors.
The information above is a good representation of my experiences when I was looking for items through newspaper ads, especially from Eastern Germany. I was privileged to go to the homes of some older citizens and hear their personal stories of the war years. I am happy that these people trusted me to talk to them and to show me their war-time clocks and watches.
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 Glashu~ette 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.
Federal Republic of Germany (West)
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
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.
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 (BolOS.), 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 VaUoux). During the time of the Third Reich, Junghans was the supplier of aircraft chronographs (J3OBZ) 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 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).
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.