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Thread: When is a 'Frankenwatch' not a 'Frankenwatch'?

  1. #1
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    When is a 'Frankenwatch' not a 'Frankenwatch'?

    During my research on Helvetia German Army DH marked watches I was surprised that I didn’t find that many watches that appeared to have wrong parts or that had had DH numbers added to a civilian watch. There were some of course but not as many as I would have expected, most of the watches fitted nicely into the 3 or 4 slightly different variants I had already discovered.

    Then I found a DH marked watch that definitely looked wrong. The first thing that jumped out was that the DH number was engraved rather than stamped in the usual style on the case back. The hands and dial were correct for a Helvetia DH, the hands were the later slightly thicker version and the dial was also the later type with ‘Swiss Made’ and a slightly larger subdial however the case seemed to be a different case manufacturer than earlier DH versions and while being correctly marked ‘3190’ also had a ‘2’ added below the ‘3190’.



    Having studied Helvetia watches generally I knew that the additional 2 signified that the case was fitted with a movement holder for 11.5 Ligne centre second movements and not the 10.5 Ligne 82A that was fitted to Helvetia DH watches. On seeing a picture of the inside of the watch it was evident that this was the case, the movement holder was obviously too big for the movement. The final nail in the coffin was that the inner case back was marked with a standard Helvetia serial number, something that the DH watches never usually had.



    It seemed clear to me that a civilian Helvetia centre seconds watch had had the movement and dial swapped for a DH style one, resulting in a movement/holder mismatch, and had then had a DH number engraved to the back in order to turn a civilian Helvetia watch into a more desirable and valuable DH watch.
    Over the next few weeks however as I continued my research I came across another watch like this and then another. I eventually found four examples. This was starting to look like something other than a simple ‘Frankenwatch’. During this period I had also recorded several watches that were very similar to the Frankenwatches, the dials and hands were the same later type and the cases seemed to be from the same case manufacturer and had a standard Helvetia serial number inside the case back but they were not marked with the additional ‘2’ below the ‘3190’ and therefore had the correct 10.5 Ligne movement holder. The DH number was also stamped on these watches rather than engraved.







    What was interesting was that the DH number sequence of the Frankenwatches were in a group and seemed to lead directly on to these correctly marked watches. The Helvetia serial numbers that I had managed to record for them were also earlier than the stamped higher DH numbered watches. The final bit of information came when I was looking at Helvetia DH pocket watches and noticed that the style of engraving used on these was exactly the same as on the Frankenwatches.

    So now I have done a 180 degree turn on my thoughts about these watches originality. I believe that Helvetia needed to deliver a batch of DH watches and being short of the correct ‘3190’ cases used some ‘3190 2’ cases with the incorrect size movement holders and added the DH number in the same style that they used to add them to their DH pocket watches. The rest of the contract was made up with correctly marked cases straight from the manufactures.

    It shows I think that what we may consider as ‘wrong’ in a watch might well be how it actually left the factory even if non-standard, especially in times of shortages of parts and raw materials like the last years of the war.

    Thanks for reading. Carl.

  2. #2
    Journeyman
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    Interesting history and great research

    Quote Originally Posted by enfield View Post
    During my research on Helvetia German Army DH marked watches I was surprised that I didn’t find that many watches that appeared to have wrong parts or that had had DH numbers added to a civilian watch. There were some of course but not as many as I would have expected, most of the watches fitted nicely into the 3 or 4 slightly different variants I had already discovered.

    Then I found a DH marked watch that definitely looked wrong. The first thing that jumped out was that the DH number was engraved rather than stamped in the usual style on the case back. The hands and dial were correct for a Helvetia DH, the hands were the later slightly thicker version and the dial was also the later type with ‘Swiss Made’ and a slightly larger subdial however the case seemed to be a different case manufacturer than earlier DH versions and while being correctly marked ‘3190’ also had a ‘2’ added below the ‘3190’.



    Having studied Helvetia watches generally I knew that the additional 2 signified that the case was fitted with a movement holder for 11.5 Ligne centre second movements and not the 10.5 Ligne 82A that was fitted to Helvetia DH watches. On seeing a picture of the inside of the watch it was evident that this was the case, the movement holder was obviously too big for the movement. The final nail in the coffin was that the inner case back was marked with a standard Helvetia serial number, something that the DH watches never usually had.
    Great read and some very interesting history for sure. It is a really nice looking watch. I love the military watches from the WWII era and you have a fine example
    I hope you enjoy and thanks for sharing that story.


    It seemed clear to me that a civilian Helvetia centre seconds watch had had the movement and dial swapped for a DH style one, resulting in a movement/holder mismatch, and had then had a DH number engraved to the back in order to turn a civilian Helvetia watch into a more desirable and valuable DH watch.
    Over the next few weeks however as I continued my research I came across another watch like this and then another. I eventually found four examples. This was starting to look like something other than a simple ‘Frankenwatch’. During this period I had also recorded several watches that were very similar to the Frankenwatches, the dials and hands were the same later type and the cases seemed to be from the same case manufacturer and had a standard Helvetia serial number inside the case back but they were not marked with the additional ‘2’ below the ‘3190’ and therefore had the correct 10.5 Ligne movement holder. The DH number was also stamped on these watches rather than engraved.







    What was interesting was that the DH number sequence of the Frankenwatches were in a group and seemed to lead directly on to these correctly marked watches. The Helvetia serial numbers that I had managed to record for them were also earlier than the stamped higher DH numbered watches. The final bit of information came when I was looking at Helvetia DH pocket watches and noticed that the style of engraving used on these was exactly the same as on the Frankenwatches.

    So now I have done a 180 degree turn on my thoughts about these watches originality. I believe that Helvetia needed to deliver a batch of DH watches and being short of the correct ‘3190’ cases used some ‘3190 2’ cases with the incorrect size movement holders and added the DH number in the same style that they used to add them to their DH pocket watches. The rest of the contract was made up with correctly marked cases straight from the manufactures.

    It shows I think that what we may consider as ‘wrong’ in a watch might well be how it actually left the factory even if non-standard, especially in times of shortages of parts and raw materials like the last years of the war.

    Thanks for reading. Carl.

  3. #3
    Journeyman
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
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    Charlotte, United States
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    Quote Originally Posted by enfield View Post
    During my research on Helvetia German Army DH marked watches I was surprised that I didn’t find that many watches that appeared to have wrong parts or that had had DH numbers added to a civilian watch. There were some of course but not as many as I would have expected, most of the watches fitted nicely into the 3 or 4 slightly different variants I had already discovered.

    Then I found a DH marked watch that definitely looked wrong. The first thing that jumped out was that the DH number was engraved rather than stamped in the usual style on the case back. The hands and dial were correct for a Helvetia DH, the hands were the later slightly thicker version and the dial was also the later type with ‘Swiss Made’ and a slightly larger subdial however the case seemed to be a different case manufacturer than earlier DH versions and while being correctly marked ‘3190’ also had a ‘2’ added below the ‘3190’.



    Having studied Helvetia watches generally I knew that the additional 2 signified that the case was fitted with a movement holder for 11.5 Ligne centre second movements and not the 10.5 Ligne 82A that was fitted to Helvetia DH watches. On seeing a picture of the inside of the watch it was evident that this was the case, the movement holder was obviously too big for the movement. The final nail in the coffin was that the inner case back was marked with a standard Helvetia serial number, something that the DH watches never usually had.



    It seemed clear to me that a civilian Helvetia centre seconds watch had had the movement and dial swapped for a DH style one, resulting in a movement/holder mismatch, and had then had a DH number engraved to the back in order to turn a civilian Helvetia watch into a more desirable and valuable DH watch.
    Over the next few weeks however as I continued my research I came across another watch like this and then another. I eventually found four examples. This was starting to look like something other than a simple ‘Frankenwatch’. During this period I had also recorded several watches that were very similar to the Frankenwatches, the dials and hands were the same later type and the cases seemed to be from the same case manufacturer and had a standard Helvetia serial number inside the case back but they were not marked with the additional ‘2’ below the ‘3190’ and therefore had the correct 10.5 Ligne movement holder. The DH number was also stamped on these watches rather than engraved.







    What was interesting was that the DH number sequence of the Frankenwatches were in a group and seemed to lead directly on to these correctly marked watches. The Helvetia serial numbers that I had managed to record for them were also earlier than the stamped higher DH numbered watches. The final bit of information came when I was looking at Helvetia DH pocket watches and noticed that the style of engraving used on these was exactly the same as on the Frankenwatches.

    So now I have done a 180 degree turn on my thoughts about these watches originality. I believe that Helvetia needed to deliver a batch of DH watches and being short of the correct ‘3190’ cases used some ‘3190 2’ cases with the incorrect size movement holders and added the DH number in the same style that they used to add them to their DH pocket watches. The rest of the contract was made up with correctly marked cases straight from the manufactures.

    It shows I think that what we may consider as ‘wrong’ in a watch might well be how it actually left the factory even if non-standard, especially in times of shortages of parts and raw materials like the last years of the war.

    Thanks for reading. Carl.
    Great looking watch and thanks for sharing the history.

  4. #4
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    When it's a Prometheus.
    "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action."

  5. #5
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    If anyone is interested there is one of these on Ebay at the moment. It's only the 5th watch of this variant I've seen. Same hands and dial, same case marked '3190 2' with too big movement holder and DH number engraved instead of stamped in the correct range.

    (The shock protection has had a bodged repair by the way, it's not supposed to look like that!)

    https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Helvetia-...g/264544612320






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