closing tag is in template navbar
timefactors watches



TZ-UK Fundraiser
Results 1 to 22 of 22

Thread: Early waterproof Helvetia pocket watch

  1. #1
    Master
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    London
    Posts
    4,986

    Early waterproof Helvetia pocket watch

    This arrived yesterday, interesting to me not only because it is my earliest Helvetia at around 1912, but also because it is waterproof to a design patented in 1883.

    The watch has a steel case with a solid back. It only opens from the front by unscrewing the bezel, using the milled edge. With the crown pulled out the movement then hinges out of the case. The movement has some design similarities with the Helvetia 32A which was used in the WWII GSTP watch.

    This hinged case design solves two problems, stopping the movement from rotating in the case and ensuring it is accurately located so that the bezel can screw down tightly.

    The crown and stem I think are made to this Alcide Droz design.

    Basically it is an early type of screw down crown. The operation, and a comparison to other designs of that era, is explained by the incomparable David Boettcher on his website http://www.vintagewatchstraps.com/waterproof.php . If you have any interest in waterproof watches this is worth a read.

    The screw down crown is not working on my watch. I have to investigate further but I think it is broken, as there is some damage apparent looking closely at where the crown meets the tube.


    The serial number dates the watch to around 1912, thanks to Carl (enfield on the forum) who has researched Helvetia serial numbers for his brilliant site https://www.helvetiahistory.co.uk.

    The first recorded waterproof watch dates to 1851, and the first patents to the 1870s and 1880s. Itís nice to have something that was made using that early technology, which in essence is very similar to the Oyster and other waterproof wristwatches that followed.

    Incidentally, Alcide Droz went on to set up the West End Watch company. Helvetia, set up as a sister company to Omega, is probably best known for their 1928 pattern pilots watches, which share some design cues with this one (but definitely not waterproof). They soldiered on through the quartz crisis, probably into the 1980s.

    Iíd welcome any further information and corrections, or indeed pictures of other waterproof pocket watches.
    Last edited by alfat33; 4th May 2019 at 07:46.

  2. #2
    Many thanks for posting this. Another fascinating Helvetia

    It always amazes me seeing the ingenuity companies (and individuals) went through to solve the practical issues of the day, and it gives a great insight into the evolution of what we are all too ready to accept as "standard" today.

    Some lovely engineering too, and nice to see the Geneva stripe adaptation on the rear of the movement.

    Is there any kind of gasket at all, or does it rely solely on the pressure between the metal of the bezel and the case for the degree of water proofing?

  3. #3
    Master
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    London
    Posts
    4,986
    No bezel gasket WG, but made to a pretty fine tolerance. Iíd image a tiny smear of grease would ensure it is watertight, but maybe not needed.

    The crown tube gasket would be more important but is missing.

  4. #4
    Master animalone's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    Edinburgh
    Posts
    1,527
    Very interesting, thank you for sharing

  5. #5
    Grand Master Griswold's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Yorkshire, England
    Posts
    16,138
    A very interesting piece, especially to see practical approaches to basic problems way back then. Nice looking piece too, thanks for sharing.
    Best Regards - Peter

    I hate being bipolar, its brilliant.

  6. #6
    Master bobbee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    Cossethay, England
    Posts
    6,263
    Blog Entries
    3
    Such a rare find, you must be thrilled to have found this lovely watch mate.
    You deserve each other!

  7. #7
    Master
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    London
    Posts
    4,986
    Quote Originally Posted by bobbee View Post
    Such a rare find, you must be thrilled to have found this lovely watch mate.
    You deserve each other!
    Cheers Bob, I am pretty chuffed.

    Thanks all for the nice comments.

  8. #8
    Grand Master Carlton-Browne's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Berlin, London and sometimes Dublin
    Posts
    12,111
    Thatís a very interesting watch; thanks for posting. I picked up another couple of GSTPs last week but Iím ashamed to say that I havenít got either of the Helvetias yet.

    It would be interesting to know if Helvetia had any specific application in mind when they designed this one.
    Die Zeit verwandelt uns nicht, sie entfaltet uns nur.

  9. #9
    Master
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    London
    Posts
    4,986
    Quote Originally Posted by Carlton-Browne View Post
    Thatís a very interesting watch; thanks for posting. I picked up another couple of GSTPs last week but Iím ashamed to say that I havenít got either of the Helvetias yet.

    It would be interesting to know if Helvetia had any specific application in mind when they designed this one.
    Wasnít one of the GSTPs a JLC? Iíd say that trumps a Helvetia anyday. I keep prevaricating over buying one of the German Helvetia ones with the screw case backs and shock protection.

    I hadnít thought about what use this one was designed for. It would be interesting if anyone knows of any examples.

  10. #10
    Grand Master Carlton-Browne's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Berlin, London and sometimes Dublin
    Posts
    12,111
    The JLC GSTPs are a curiosity inasmuch as they command the highest prices and are generally of the lowest quality/condition. Your Helvetia GSTP is of much higher quality than either of my JLCs but obviously Helvetia lacks the brand ďvalueĒ.
    Die Zeit verwandelt uns nicht, sie entfaltet uns nur.

  11. #11
    Master
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    London
    Posts
    4,986
    Quote Originally Posted by Carlton-Browne View Post
    The JLC GSTPs are a curiosity inasmuch as they command the highest prices and are generally of the lowest quality/condition. Your Helvetia GSTP is of much higher quality than either of my JLCs but obviously Helvetia lacks the brand ďvalueĒ.
    I never realised that, you learn something every day. Well I do anyway. After John Senior worked his magic on it it runs at +6spd hanging up so maybe there is something in the quality.

    I read just now that Borgel cased waterproof pocket watches were popular with officers in the trenches. Also the grails of waterproof pocket watches seem to be the Royal Geographic Society Travellers/Explorers watches. So maybe Helvetia just made mine for general field and rugged use. Iíd be amazed if it was intended to be used underwater.

  12. #12
    Journeyman
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Ramsgate
    Posts
    59
    Nice watch Simon.

    Interesting to see the earlier version of the 32A movement. I am looking into the Admiralty Pattern 301 wristwatches supplied by Helvetia that use the 32A. It is a later variant, the same as used in the GSTP watches. Which means, I'm pretty sure, that the Helvetia Pattern 301 wristwatches are actually 1930s, not earlier as most people think. The 2 serial numbers I've managed to find support this but I can't be 100% sure that they are actually Helvetia serial numbers, though they are in the 3 and 4 million so unlikely to be Admiralty numbers.

    I'd be interested to hear from anyone who knows a bit about Helvetia pocket watches so I can tie down the start date of the later movement type, I think it's about 1930 or so.

    Thanks. Carl.


  13. #13
    Master
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    London
    Posts
    4,986
    Quote Originally Posted by enfield View Post
    Nice watch Simon.

    Interesting to see the earlier version of the 32A movement.
    Cheers Carl. I can take a few more detailed pictures of the movement at the weekend if it helps, maybe take some measurements. The balance and regulator mechanism look different for a start compared to the GSTP 32A. I can try to show them side by side - maybe you might be able to tie some features to other watches that you can date.

    Iím tempted to try a partly submerged shot as well :).

  14. #14
    Journeyman
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Ramsgate
    Posts
    59
    Quote Originally Posted by alfat33 View Post
    Cheers Carl. I can take a few more detailed pictures of the movement at the weekend if it helps, maybe take some measurements. The balance and regulator mechanism look different for a start compared to the GSTP 32A. I can try to show them side by side - maybe you might be able to tie some features to other watches that you can date.

    Iím tempted to try a partly submerged shot as well :).
    I wouldn't!

    As you say "waterproof" here is more about rain and mud etc than swimming I think!

    If you could get some pictures that would be good. And some of a GSTP if you have one. The movement seems to have the same features in the 301 as the GSTP and these are 1930s at the earliest, the click is distinctive. The 301 pictured above dates to 1940 if the serial number is Helvetia which matches with the movement I think.

    And while we are at it here's another interesting one, retailed by Huber in Munich about 1942.


  15. #15
    Master
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    London
    Posts
    4,986
    Iím not carrying my GSTP but here is a picture of the movement. I donít know what you will make of the movement serial number as it begins with a 1! Itís the usual white dial/cathedral hands version.



    Iíll get some better ones at the weekend.

  16. #16
    Master
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    London
    Posts
    4,986

    Early waterproof Helvetia pocket watch

    Quote Originally Posted by enfield View Post
    If you could get some pictures that would be good. And some of a GSTP if you have one.
    Iíve taken some comparison shots; the 1912 waterproof one is the first image in each case. Itís been a while since I looked at the GSTP movement. Iíd forgotten how beautifully made and finished it is.

    Love that Huber by the way.











    Last edited by alfat33; 11th May 2019 at 08:03.

  17. #17
    Grand Master gray's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    New Brighton
    Posts
    11,544
    "If you want to happy in life, solve problems"

    Simple design, well executed, that hopes to solves several problems in one go.

    I cant get over the feeling that the crown arrangement, coupled with the hinged locking mechanism and screw down bezel are more robust than the case itself. If they'd beefed that up a bit I feel it would have been a more successful solution.

    Thanks for posting
    Gray

  18. #18
    Journeyman
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Ramsgate
    Posts
    59
    Thanks very much for that Simon.

    Looking at your pictures I think I can say that apart from the obvious difference in alignment due to the 301 being a Savonette configuration for wearing on the wrist the 301 and GSTP movements are exactly the same even down to the engraving. I've attached a, not very good, picture of a 301 movement below. Certain elements such as the type of click weren't brought in until about 1930 I don't think. They are both very different to the earlier 32A of your waterproof watch.



    I think this shows that the Helvetia Pattern 301 watches date from the 1930s at the earliest and if that is the case then the two serial numbers I have seen which date the watches to 1939 and 1940 are probably right despite the earlier look of the watch. It would make sense as this is the period when Helvetia were supplying GSTP watches to the army.

    I have read about a Helvetia pattern 301 being found in post WW2 surplus stock and having a long strap attached for wearing over a sleeve so there was probably a reason due to the job these watches were needed for that they maintained the large pocket watch on a strap style right through to WW2 when other wristwatches had shrunk right down to 30mm or less by then.

    Thanks again for your help Simon. I might post something on MWR to see what others think but there is so little information on these Pattern 301 watches I don't know if anyone will be able to help.

  19. #19
    Master
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    London
    Posts
    4,986
    Quote Originally Posted by enfield View Post
    Thanks very much for that Simon.
    ...I might post something on MWR to see what others think
    Carl, feel free to link to my pictures on MWR, the Tapatalk image links do still work on MWR.

  20. #20
    Master bobbee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    Cossethay, England
    Posts
    6,263
    Blog Entries
    3
    Quote Originally Posted by enfield View Post
    Thanks very much for that Simon.

    Looking at your pictures I think I can say that apart from the obvious difference in alignment due to the 301 being a Savonette configuration for wearing on the wrist the 301 and GSTP movements are exactly the same even down to the engraving. I've attached a, not very good, picture of a 301 movement below. Certain elements such as the type of click weren't brought in until about 1930 I don't think. They are both very different to the earlier 32A of your waterproof watch.



    I think this shows that the Helvetia Pattern 301 watches date from the 1930s at the earliest and if that is the case then the two serial numbers I have seen which date the watches to 1939 and 1940 are probably right despite the earlier look of the watch. It would make sense as this is the period when Helvetia were supplying GSTP watches to the army.

    I have read about a Helvetia pattern 301 being found in post WW2 surplus stock and having a long strap attached for wearing over a sleeve so there was probably a reason due to the job these watches were needed for that they maintained the large pocket watch on a strap style right through to WW2 when other wristwatches had shrunk right down to 30mm or less by then.

    Thanks again for your help Simon. I might post something on MWR to see what others think but there is so little information on these Pattern 301 watches I don't know if anyone will be able to help.


    I thought this 1927 image of Lt. Commander Phillip VanHorn Weems might pique your interest lads and lasses.
    He is seen using a large wrist watch over his sleeve.




  21. #21
    Master
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    London
    Posts
    4,986
    Quote Originally Posted by bobbee View Post
    I thought this 1927 image of Lt. Commander Phillip VanHorn Weems might pique your interest lads and lasses.
    He is seen using a large wrist watch over his sleeve.
    Interesting; it must have been quite reliably accurate if used with a sextant. Also very definitely described as a Ďwrist watchí.

  22. #22
    Journeyman
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Ramsgate
    Posts
    59
    Quote Originally Posted by bobbee View Post
    I thought this 1927 image of Lt. Commander Phillip VanHorn Weems might pique your interest lads and lasses.
    He is seen using a large wrist watch over his sleeve.



    Thanks Bob.

    Interesting that this is USN but from the evidence I've seen this seems to be exactly the way the watches were designed to be used in the RN as well. 1927 also would be well after "normal" wristwatches had moved on from this design.

    Knowing that the pattern 301 also comes in pocket watch form I would guess that they asked for a wristwatch version, which would obviously would be easier if juggling a sextant or similar at the same time, and they were provided with literally that - a wristwatch version of the 301 pocket watch. I can see that when wearing waterproofs or several layers of clothing a large easily readable watch worn over clothing would be much easier than either a standard pocket watch or wristwatch.

    This requirement would obviously still exist in WW2 and would explain why they were being supplied by Helvetia in 1939/40.

    It just means that people who acquire one of these have to be aware when they think they have on of the first wristwatches from the early years of the 20th century that this may not be the case.

    Thanks for your help.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •