Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 3H Bund, c1975
The ‘Fifty Fathoms’ name goes back well over 50 years when Blancpain developed divers watches for combat use. I won’t go into the various models since that time, as I’m no BP expert. If you wanted to read up on the history of the Fifty Fathoms & Blancpain, there is a superb write-up here:
Fast forward to 1975, the German Military required a watch for it’s Navy Combat Divers, or to be more precise, the West German Bundeswehr Kampfschwimmers. They commissioned Blancpain to produce a special edition of the ‘Fifty Fathoms’ – and this was the result – the 3H Fifty Fathoms. As most of you know, the 3H is a military reference to tritium indexes and hands. This model was never available for civilian use, and only ever Military issued.
The Bundeswehr Kampfschwimmers specialised in missions requiring them to be under water for seriously long periods of time, using specialist re-breather scuba equipment, so didn’t require minute markings on the bezel. Hours were measured; hence the blank – or ‘sterile’ bezel as it is commonly referred to.
The bezel insert is acrylic and due to expansion & contraction, many examples have the tell-tale split down the centre of the lume triangle – a good sign of original lume. The bezel is also bi-directional, and has a smooth action with no ratcheting clicks. I understand that there is still a hole in the case (at 12 position) under the bezel where normally a spring wire would be seated, resulting it the usual ratcheting bezel, but this spring was ‘deleted’ for the Kampfschwimmers.
The 42mm Von Buren case (Squale), very similar to Squale’s current 1521 case, but is much thicker at 15mm and I’m certain the crystal is the thicker tough top-hat type – which is probably over-engineered for a 200m diver – I’ve a Heuer diver has a very similar Von Buren case and top-hat crystal, but is rated to 1000m.
It’s powered by a Rayville Cal. 2873 auto movement. It’s not a particularly impressive movement, but seems to have been chosen for its no-nonsense ruggedness.
For further reading and more detailed info on the watch and the Kampfschwimmers unit, there is a great write-up on Mil Spec Time:
Heuer Night Diver 980.032L Full Lume Dial, c1984, 200m, 42mm.
Regular readers might know that I’ve blogged about this model before, but given the extraordinary condition of this one, I couldn’t resist posting about it.
My Heuer collecting started with the quartz divers, and very early on I picked up one of these, they were pretty cheap back then. It wasn’t perfect, but I loved it. As I moved onto the chronographs, the divers took a back seat and I eventually sold it. I’m sure I did pick another up, but again, it was sold in favour of funding a chrono.
Over the last year or so, I’ve reduced the collection, and come full circle back to some of the divers – funny how collectors minds work! Only problem is that they are a bit more expensive these days.. but still, compared to most of the chronos, they are bargains.
I picked this one up from a US seller around a year ago. The dial and handset were in remarkable condition. These dials are highly susceptible to picking up stains & blemishes, so I was pretty damn lucky to bag this one. However, the case and bezel were showing signs of use, but I still loved it. Then another stroke of luck – I got the opportunity to get my hands on a near NOS case & bezel.. (thanks Steve). So off it went to my trusty watch guy (thanks James) and along with a new crystal it now looks near factory fresh. One thing I did have fitted was a black glass gasket. The original gaskets are a semi-transparent white colour. I have to say, it really has made a big difference, it ties in with the dial markers perfectly.
For those interested in the technical specs.. the watch is classed as a 42mm case, however with the crown, it’s around 44mm. Being the ‘L’ model, it is thinner than the earlier 980.032, and the bezel is slightly recessed in the case. It’s slim for a dive watch and I actually prefer it to the non ‘L’ model – it sits perfectly on the wrist. I do like chunky dive watches, but it’s rare to get a slim watch these days. Other differences are a signed crown, and signed caseback, oh and ‘1000’ on the dial. The movement is slimmer too – hence Heuers move to a slimmer case.
The dial is a wonder.. indoors it is pale yellow, but out in daylight is when it comes alive, it glows a yellowy-lime green.. and when ‘charged’ at night it still lumes bright green. I’d take a lume shot, but I’m terrible at them, and my camera is a basic model. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m very much a ‘black dial’ person, but this makes a nice change and despite its ‘Night Diver’ origins, it’s a wonderful ‘daylight’ watch!
Squale ‘1521’ 50 Atmos Marina Militare
First off, I’m not entirely sure if this is technically a Ref. 1521, it’s certainly very similar to the current models bearing that reference. I’m not sure when that reference number came into use at Squale.
I’ve always liked Von Buren/Squale cased watches, and have owned a few Heuers and a modern Squale 1521 with those case shapes.
I won’t pretend to be any expert in military and/or issued watches, but the research I have done points to this example being from circa 1980 to early ‘90’s.
This particular watch was owned by a profuse collector of Marina Militare/COMSUBIN watches. He is a former military recon diver, and posted a very good account of his collection, with their history here:
This collector sold it on, and I ended up buying it from another diving enthusiast based in France.
This Squale has a rare Bakelite bezel, which features illuminscent minute numerals, which amazingly still glow – but it’s very faint. It’s presumed that this bezel was specified by COMSUBIN – the name given to the of the Comando Subacqueo Incursori , based in La Spezia, North Eastern Italy.
The watch also came with a straight lugged Squale signed oyster-esk bracelet. I’m not sure if this is original to the watch, but it’s a nice extra to have. Unfortunetly it’s way to tight for me, but I’ve bought an almost identical aftermarket version, which does the job nicely.
The watch itself is pretty beaten up, and the bezel looks like salt water and sun has caused for fatigue.. but that’s what is so charming about it, it has been used as a tool, and shows it.
If anyone has any other info on this model, please comment!
Fortis Stratoliner 571.10.142 Lemania 5100 movement, c1988
I’ve had this Stratoliner for over 2 years, but I’ve only just got around to getting a replacement handset fitted. Fortis experts will know that this model came out the factory with ‘paddle’ shaped hour & min hands (see last photo below). They weren’t to my taste, so I sourced some more ‘traditional’ L5100 hands from a Sinn L5100.
The sub-dial hands have been left OEM.
I don’t know a great deal about this model. I believe it’s from circa 1988 and was the predecessor to the well known Cosmonaut. This model was also used as a base for a Merceded Benz limited edition, which featured the Benz ‘Star’ on one of the hands. There is also an identical CYMA badged model to this.
It does have some nice touches, like the number-less hour plots, a domed crystal and drilled lugs, and of course that L5100 workhorse of an engine. It is a very good do-all tool watch, and works very well on a NATO strap. The case is 39mm and 15.5mm thick with 100m WR.
Below shown with the OEM handset..
Tudor Submariner 7016/0 ‘Snowflake’ 1968
I picked up this little gem some 10 months ago, but only just realized that I hadn’t added it to the blog. I’m a real sucker for these old Tudor Subs, whether they be a Snowflake variant or not.
Not being a vintage Tudor expert, I wasn’t confident to hunt one down from unknown private sellers, so I jumped on this one when I saw my friends over at HQMilton listing it, especially as it was freshly serviced and running to COSC specs.
Having rescued many Heuers over the years that have needed a little TLC, I decided to go for this one and get this old-timer back to it’s former glory. Not that it needed a lot of work.. the only thing that was ‘wrong’ with it was that the lume on the dial had been partially cleaned away. Presumably it had badly flaking hour lume plots, and a well meaning watchmaker cleaned it away. Sadly this is not that uncommon, and the hour plots didn’t match the original untouched creamy lume of the hands. Thankfully the rest of the dial is is stunning condition.
So I decided to get the hour plots tidied up and relumed, and a big thanks goes to James Hyman, who is one of the finest master vintage relumers. I’ve used James many times over the years, but he knocked this one out of the park. The colour match with the hands is spot on, even the texture is perfectly matched. More astonishing is that he matched the now non-existent glow of the hands.
I know some collectors prefer no relume work, but I honestly think it was a good decision, and I enjoy the watch far more now.
I won’t attempt to do a write up on the history of this model, as my knowledge is severely lacking. You are far better off following the links below to some great articles written by some real Tudor experts.
Heuer Regatta 134.601 ‘Flyback’ Lemania Cal. 1345, c1983
I’ve been into Heuers for a fair few years now, and although I’ve been aware of the Regatta ‘600’ series, I didn’t really care too much about it.. it wasn’t on my radar. I bought this one as a bit of a punt, and it turns out that it’s really grown on me, to the point that I wear it a lot.
It needed a little TLC, in the form of a fresh service and replacing the heavily scratched glass, apart from that it’s untouched. It has a real heft and solid feeling to it, which makes for a great daily wearer, especially when paired with an Isofrane. The design has dated well too, and has a very current look to it. I’m a huge fan of the last Autavias, with that wonderful 11063 case… this is essentially the same case, just with one less pusher, and the crown on the right.
When the countdown timer isn’t in use, the big ‘space shuttle’ orange & black chrono hand sweeps continuously, a feature which I love. Those wonderful cut-out countdown discs remain black and rather menacing looking, kinda ‘Dark Knight’-esk. It definitely has a military-tool feel about it. The lack of date and hour batons add to it’s stealthy look. The PVD has worn on the usual exposed edges, but to a dark titanium-ish colour, which is really appealing.
When the chrono pusher is activated, the big orange hand flies back to the 12 position, and the blank black discs come alive with a vibrant blue. This is T minus 10 mins, as each minute passes, the blue discs rotate clockwise to reveal orange discs. When all are orange, it’s T minus 5 mins.. then minute by minute they turn black again. This is all for the benefit of a sail-boats Skipper. One glance at his watch, and he can see how long before the start of the Regatta… Essentially, it’s a 10 minute countdown to the start of a sail-boat race.. A cannon sounds a 10 minute warning, in that time, the Skipper has to tack his yacht so that when the cannon sounds the start of the race, the yacht is just about to cross the start line at full sail. A T-10 min cannon is sounded, then a T-5 min cannon, then the ‘Start’ cannon. Below are photos of the timer running through the countdown.
For more reading on the history of the Regatta and other Yachting chronos from Heuer, check out http://www.regatta-yachttimers.com/brands/heuer/
Hodinkee did a little write-up too, here: http://hodinkee.squarespace.com/blog/2009/10/20/vintage-heuer-regatta-in-pvd-the-ultimate-urban-yachtsmans-t.html
See the three ‘600’ series models in the 1983 catalogue… http://onthedash.com/Guide/_Catalogs/1983_Chronograph_Catalog/?show=83TFAA17A.jpg
..and the countdown explanation from the same catalogue… http://onthedash.com/Guide/_Catalogs/1983_Chronograph_Catalog/?show=83TFAA17B.jpg
Below is a series of photos showing the countdown timer in progress…
10 minute countdown begins, the discs switch to blue and the orange chrono hand flies back to zero…
5 minutes left…
20 seconds to go…
Hamilton Pilots Chrono Military Issued / Royal Navy 1972, Val. 7733
This is a pilots chrono issued by the British Royal Navy in 1972. The caseback markings are 0552, signifying Royal Navy. If you find one marked marked 6BB, it means Royal Air Force issued, and 6645-99 if Royal Australian Navy issued. It features the classic 39-40mm asymmetric case with fixed bars, and robust manual wind Valjoux 7733 movement.
I’m no military watch expert, and if you wish to read up on these watches, there is no better place than a superb article on Worn and Wound.. here is an excerpt from the article..
“In the early 1970s, while the United States maintained and grew its military in response to the conflict in Southeast Asia and its cold war with the Soviet Union, the British government was in the process of reducing its armed forces in both size and cost. As a very small part of these austerity measures, the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) revised the Defense Standard (DEF-STAN) that prescribed the design characteristics of military pilots’ watches to allow for cheaper, commercially available movements to be used. This change allowed manufactures to begin using one of the classic workhorse chronograph movements of the 1970s: the Valjoux 7733. This movement and the unique case design of these watches combined to become THE British military pilot’s watch throughout the ‘70s and into the early ‘80s.”
Click here for the full article – it’s well worth a read..