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Thread: Finding a genuine WW1 trench watch

  1. #1
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    Finding a genuine WW1 trench watch

    Good morning all,
    My apologies if this has been covered, but i'd really like to find a WW1 timepiece, one that has been through arguably the most horrific battle imaginable, and yet somehow over a hundred years later wear it on my wrist. Does anyone know of any example makes and/or references, and ways of telling the likelihood of it being strapped to someone's wrist in a trench at Verdun, the Somme or Ypres? The history and stories contained in such a timepiece would be pretty much unparelled.
    I see plenty of 'trench watches' listed on C24, but seem to be from 20s/30s, so i guess are 'trench style', rather than 'seen WW1 trench action'.
    Can anyone direct me to what i should be searching for specifically ?
    Thank you vm.
    John
    Last edited by john_coburg; 22nd April 2019 at 11:53.

  2. #2
    I think finding one with actual history attached will be almost impossible, but dating a watch to the 1914-18 period should be easy enough via the silver hallmarks. The issue is has anything been changed or replaced or even worse a Frankenstein watch over the last century.

    Are there any specialist sellers, might be worth buying from someone who knows what they are doing rather than an e-bay listing for example.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wallasey Runner View Post
    I think finding one with actual history attached will be almost impossible, but dating a watch to the 1914-18 period should be easy enough via the silver hallmarks. The issue is has anything been changed or replaced or even worse a Frankenstein watch over the last century.

    Are there any specialist sellers, might be worth buying from someone who knows what they are doing rather than an e-bay listing for example.
    Thank you. Was silver the only game in town at that point? that's interesting. it's a beautiful metal, but i've never experienced a watch made of it.
    So what should i be searching for in C24? Do you know which brands were used in WW1?

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by john_coburg View Post
    Thank you. Was silver the only game in town at that point? that's interesting. it's a beautiful metal, but i've never experienced a watch made of it.
    So what should i be searching for in C24? Do you know which brands were used in WW1?
    I think it tends to be the cases rather than the watches.

    Found this, now sure how much you were looking to spend.

    https://www.vintagewatchcompany.com/mens-vintage-rolex

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wallasey Runner View Post
    I think it tends to be the cases rather than the watches.

    Found this, now sure how much you were looking to spend.

    https://www.vintagewatchcompany.com/mens-vintage-rolex
    Hmmm, not that much if i'm honest. I bought my first vintage Rolex from that lot, 12yrs ago. I learned from my first mistakes...!
    But there's certainly some nice examples there.

  6. #6
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    If You can find one with a genuine shrapnel guard fitted I would think is sure way to be the real deal.

  7. #7
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    Personally I would avoid Chrono24 for anything vintage. Prices for the few watches I know reasonably well seem stratospheric, but with the usual mixed bag of tat and quality. Personally I prefer eBay for vintage but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

    As mentioned previously I’d go for silver cased watches with the correct hallmarks if you want to be sure.

    Be very careful with crumbling lume as it is likely to contain radium. Even if it is not crumbling, store the watch somewhere with decent ventilation (suggest not in a box under your bed).

    You could also try joining the Military Watch Forum, a friendly and knowledgeable bunch.

  8. #8
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    The market is less than transparent. Getting a watch that is likely to have served is far harder than getting one from the right period. Pocket watches are easier. You are looking for something with a screw down front, back or both. The crown has to be sealed, usually with cork and that means either a long thick pendant or a large crown over a shorter pendant.

    The bottom line line is that you need to research the hell out of the period to stand a chance of not ending up disappointed.

    If you want a watch that has almost certainly served in blood and fire, look for Russian or Ukrainian sellers and once you have got past the big wedding watches, and endless Pobda scrape the barrel of small, battered unfashionable undistinguished German watches of the thirties. There are a lot out there and it’s fairly clear where they came from. No one buys them so they are cheap, but...

    Anything that looks exciting is fake. Aim low.
    Last edited by M4tt; 22nd April 2019 at 22:40.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by alfat33 View Post
    Personally I would avoid Chrono24 for anything vintage. Prices for the few watches I know reasonably well seem stratospheric, but with the usual mixed bag of tat and quality. Personally I prefer eBay for vintage but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

    As mentioned previously I’d go for silver cased watches with the correct hallmarks if you want to be sure.

    Be very careful with crumbling lume as it is likely to contain radium. Even if it is not crumbling, store the watch somewhere with decent ventilation (suggest not in a box under your bed).

    You could also try joining the Military Watch Forum, a friendly and knowledgeable bunch.
    Very happy with eBay for vintage actually...but i don't know what to search for! Any thoughts on brands/models? Point taken on the lume. I have a couple of WWWs from WW2, and they don't go anywhere near my bedside.

    Quote Originally Posted by M4tt View Post
    The market is less than transparent. Getting a watch that is likely to have served is far harder than getting one from the right period. Pocket watches are easier. You are looking for something with a screw down front, back or both. The crown has to be sealed, usually with cork and that means either a long thick pendant or a large crown over a shorter pendant.

    The bottom line line is that you need to research the hell out of the period to stand a chance of not ending up disappointed.

    If you want a watch that has almost certainly served in blood and fire, look for Russian or Ukrainian sellers and once you have got past the big wedding watches, and endless Pobda scrape the barrel of small, battered unfashionable undistinguished German watches of the thirties. There are a lot out there and it’s fairly clear where they came from. No one buys them so they are cheap, but...

    Anything that looks exciting is fake. Aim low.
    This sounds good advice... although i'd rather a timepiece from the Entente rather than the Central Powers! Point taken on researching...but where do i start? do we know of a line of timepieces actually ordered by the military to serve in this period? this would be a good start. and i take your point on pocket watches, but i want to wear this thing on my wrist, and think by 1918 they must have existed, no?

    Thank you both for the comments and advice.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by john_coburg View Post
    Very happy with eBay for vintage actually...but i don't know what to search for! Any thoughts on brands/models? Point taken on the lume. I have a couple of WWWs from WW2, and they don't go anywhere near my bedside.



    This sounds good advice... although i'd rather a timepiece from the Entente rather than the Central Powers! Point taken on researching...but where do i start? do we know of a line of timepieces actually ordered by the military to serve in this period? this would be a good start. and i take your point on pocket watches, but i want to wear this thing on my wrist, and think by 1918 they must have existed, no?

    Thank you both for the comments and advice.
    They existed a damned sight earlier than that. Here's 1915:


  11. #11
    Master animalone's Avatar
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    You may find some of this article interesting

    http://www.vintagewatchstraps.com/trenchwatches.php



    This one dates from 1915 but I have no way of knowing if it was ever in a trench


    The one I would desperately like to get my hands on is the Brook & Son Submarine. Created at the request of 2 submarine commanders, and waterproof (by the standards of the time) 10 years before the oyster.


    I remember reading somewhere that soldiers were expected to buy their own watches, I'm not sure if the UK ever officially supplied during the war (hopefully someone who knows can fill us in)
    I think the US did supply some to their soldiers late in the war possibly from Waltham and Elgin.
    Last edited by animalone; 23rd April 2019 at 16:12.

  12. #12
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    this is my "trench watch",has silver hallmark for 1916.was it ever in the trenches?.it has no dedication engraving and was a ebay non runner purchase so i will never know.its never been lumed so on balance i doubt it.my watch mender completley ovehauled it including making several new parts.he charged me well but i dont begrudge him a penny,i think most repairers would have thrown it back in horror once they had seen the tangled up balance spring and the worn out winding gears...i think to be sure off getting a real "it was there"trench watch it would have to bear an engraving to a traceble individual or have other indisputable provenance.that said i enjoy wearing mine on one of David's straps..

  13. #13
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    I found the site was quite interesting - although I'm sorry it won't help you much with a watch purchase http://www.vintagewatchstraps.com/index.php

  14. #14
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by KAS118 View Post
    I found the site was quite interesting - although I'm sorry it won't help you much with a watch purchase http://www.vintagewatchstraps.com/index.php
    Compiled by one of true experts in the field, he is always worth reading.

  15. #15
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    And congratulations...

    They are a bit moreish though


  16. #16
    There out there you just have to look harder.



    Found this at a antique fair. A Elgin Pershing dial wristlet. They were issued to the US Army in WW1 scratched on the back 29th div a US Army National Guard unit activated in WW1.


    Got this last year a Zenith off fleabay and cheap under the radar the deals I like issued to the US Army signal corps mite of been issued to pilots since the early US army air force was attached to the signal corps.



    Use to own this Depollier sold it like a fool. Mine was missing the gold disc on the back with USA and issue number but they were issued in WW1. This one I did not have to look for a dealer called me and said he had some thing of interest and he was right I bought it and sold it some years later regret the sell still own the other two.
    Last edited by River Rat; 25th April 2019 at 15:32.

  17. #17
    The US Signal Corps issued wristlets had about 7-8 makers like Omega and Zenith and others here is one on US fleabay the dial has some hair line cracks and will need a service the crown looks replaced but the price not bad. Like I said there out there you need to just look.
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Rare-WWI-CH....c100009.m1982

  18. #18
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    Here is the story of one of mine, I hope it makes you want one even more!

    https://forum.tz-uk.com/showthread.p...31-Dirty-Harry

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobbee View Post
    Here is the story of one of mine, I hope it makes you want one even more!

    https://forum.tz-uk.com/showthread.p...31-Dirty-Harry
    Wow - very interesting - thanks for sharing 👍

  20. #20
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    http://www.littlecogs.com/watmil01.html … often listed so my have others … and watchmakers on premises

    dunk
    "My friends, as I have discovered myself, there are no disasters, only opportunities. And, indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters ..." … Boris Johnson … After being sacked from the Tory front bench, 2004

  21. #21
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by sundial View Post
    http://www.littlecogs.com/watmil01.html … often listed so my have others … and watchmakers on premises

    dunk
    They are also lovely interesting people and Midhurst is a fine place to visit.

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