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Wrist.Watch.Waterproof – Do you have a Dirty Dozen Vintage Military Watch?

Debbie Porter

Issued in 1945, the now famous WWW wristwatches were produced to the highest of standards and are highly sought after. Before wristwatches were issued to the military, personnel were issued with pocket watches like this Omega Steel pocket watch.

Whilst watches supplied to the British Army could be somewhat basic during World War II, those supplied to the Royal Air Force (RAF) were usually of a much higher grade. The now famous “WWW” watches were also known as the “Dirty Dozen” and were issued in 1945.

Military watches were made for all armed forces personnel with pocket watches being used in WW1 up until the start of WW2. It was at this point that technology had moved on and wristwatches were introduced as a more practical tool for soldiers.

An accurate watch was a vital tool for men in the forces, and most especially for an airman could mean life or death. They needed a much more accurate device for navigation and bombing purposes, where air strikes were performed with, what is a well-known coined phrase, ‘military precision’.

Watches were also used in the event of instrument failure in the cockpit and could be used to help the pilot determine how much fuel he had left on board. It would be safe to say that these high grade watches helped save many lives.

In 1945, the war was drawing to a close but it was at this point the WWW wristwatch was introduced.  WWW is an abbreviation of Wrist.Watch.Waterproof and these watches, also coined the Dirty Dozen were produced to specific military standards.

Swiss manufacturers made many of the watches that featured waterproof stainless steel cases and high quality hand wound jewelled movements.  What is not considered to be iconic, the look of all subsequent British military watches was also established with these WWII watches with their matte black dials, distinctive hands and white luminous numeral markers.

We have had the privilege of selling several of these kinds of watches at auction over the years and have a team of experts that can help you identify and estimate the value of your wartime wristwatch.

An Omega 1953 steel pilot’s watch that was auctioned at £900 (A1706, lot 1500)

Longines Greenlander 1957 steel Army watch that fetched £2700 at auction (A1903, lot 873)

On the left a 1941 Rolex military Oyster Junior that went for £420 (A1706 lot 1474) and on the right a Jaeger Le Coultre steel military watch that was auctioned for £1300 (A1903 lot 874)

This Omega pocket watch steel with original packaging raised £130 at auction (A1706,lot 1454)

Selling at Auction

If you have pocket watches you’re looking to sell, these pieces
consistently perform well at auction and our staff is well-placed to provide
valuations and advice on selling your items. Call 01782 638100 or to book a valuation appointment to attend
one of our Tuesday valuation days. We also provide valuations via WhatsApp,
simply send some clear photographs of your items via the app to 07864 667940.
Additionally, we can send you links to our catalogues via WhatsApp–message the
above number via the app and ask to receive our catalogues. Make sure you are
subscribed to our email newsletters, too!