On this page I will discuss my research and findings on military watches, including my opinions on current debates. I am open to debate or discussion so feel free to email me with anything you will like to add or talk about.

waltham waterproof trench watch &

the "black paint" Theory

There has been many theories on the black finish on trench watches during WWI. The military specification at the time required a black or dull finish on the watch cases. Some believe the cases were deliberately oxidized and then coated with lacquer, others believe it was actual paint. So here is the deal in Stan Czubernat's Book Waltham Trench Watches of the Great War he explains how the NAWCC conducted a lab test on the one displayed in their museum. Elements such as Carbon and Barium were found and this negates the theory of it being oxidation as described by Depollier, and possibly paint. However, it is indeed "japanning" which is an old form of coating metal and wood surfaces which began in the 1600s. It was like modern day powder coating. Anyone have old tools that look like they had black paint baked onto them? Well, thats japanning. The recipe used is usually a combination of a natural oil like boiled linseed oil, and pigment agent such as asphalt, and usually but not limited to a curing agent like acetone. It was laid on very thick then baked for a few hours at about 200 degrees. There are 100s of different recipes for japanning but every one will always have a natural oil/resin. Pigment ingredients varied but after 1870 asphaltum powder was mainly used for pigmentation. When you look at the chemical compounds of these agents then you add heat into the equation, barium and especially carbon are apparent. Now I believe each case manufacturer had their own recipe but all yielded the same result. Some cases were oxidized but I believe that this was done by a jeweler or a jobber and not done by the manufacturer.


This watch is incredibly rare. There is now only 11 documentedt. Thanks to Jerry Treiman we have a record of these. There has are 5 silver cases and 6 14kt solid gold cases known to exist. The BIG question is who made them? I personally believe that all the evidence points to J. Depollier. Once again like the engine turned cases they all seem to point to Depollier/Fitch style design. This crown guard design was 100% Fitch Patent #1085857 and very possible Depollier manufactured the cases just like I believe he manufactured the engine turned cases. The 1915 date lines up with Fitch's partnership with Depollier in 1915. Look at the 1920s when Depollier split with Waltham and went to Switzerland. He came out with his modified version of the field and marine case in 1926 using a similar crown guard. That watch looks like the field and marine watch and this watch had a baby. Stan has the only known example documented of this watch. The style of the lugs is exactly the same. Judge for yourself.


2 Images to righ courtesy of Stan Czubernat LRF Antique Watches


There has been no conclusive evidence as to who manufactured the Waltham engine turned cases, but we do know Ezra Fitch the president of the Waltham Watch Co. designed the case. However after very close evaluation of several of these cases and Depollier cases, I strongly believe that Charles L. Depollier and the Dubois Watch Case Co. manufactured this watch. Now lets look at the theory. Ezra Fitch and Charles Depollier formed a partnership in 1915. Together they made an impeccable team. With Fitch's and Depollier's Case and crown designs they made by far the most advanced watch case design in 1918, the watch above (The Depollier waterproof and dust proof watch) Now with that being said lets take a closer look. Engine turned and khaki cases were sold directly to Waltham and there has been no evidence that Depollier supplied any other American watch company with cases at the time. The crowns between the engine turned and khaki cases are extremely similar to one another. The khaki watch for an example had two distinct crowns (the wide slim version from 1916 found on khaki cases without the double clinched bezel, and then the wide fat version with Khaki signature on cases manufactured in 1917 with the double clinched bezel.) Now keep that in your head when I speak about the engine turned cases. You can see from the photos below they are very similar to one another. And unlike popular belief these cases were manufactured in 1916 as well. YES I know the patent was filed in 1917 but cases were always manufactured at least a year prior when they were initially applied for and while patents were pending. Once again, the early versions (1916) had wide slim crowns and later versions (1917) had the wide fat crowns. The slim version looks to be the same one depicted in Depollier's design for a locking crown patented in Jan. 28th 1919. And the fat version looks similar to the one in Charles Dunham's screw down crown also patented Jan. 28th 1919. Both Patents were applied for on the same date: March. 18th 1918. Dunhams design was ultimately adopted for the waterproof Depollier watch, but again the waterproof cases were also manufactured a year prior in 1918. The design for the waterproof watch was in the works well before 1918, I would like to say late 1917. The waterproof case was ultimately designed by Depollier, the crown was Dunham's design, and gold heat disk idea came from Fitch (aka engine turned 14kt backs) but the heat disk design was also patented by Depollier which added asbestos insulation. With that being said it seems very odd that both crown designs were patented on the same exact date. So there was definitely a collaboration on the waterproof Depollier watch between Dunham, Fitch, and Depollier himself. So what does this mean? Well obviously Fitch and Depollier had a good thing going and it seems to me that Depollier's waterproof watch was designed with a combination of features from the khaki watch once again, designed by himself, and the engine turned cases designed by Fitch. So they met in 1915. Since then there has been no record of Depollier selling watches to any other American watch company, which is why all engine turned, khaki, and waterproof watches are only seen with Waltham movements. And the only other Case manufacturer that sold to Waltham exclusively between 1915-1919 was the American Watch Case Co. located in Canada (Which is why you see a lot of A.W.C. Co cases being sold from Canada) And that case was a simple round case design, which had dials modified with a red cross, and advertised as Doctor/Nurse watches (SEE BELOW) This case and all A.W.C. co cases for that matter have nothing in common with the cases discussed.






ELGIN 539 in a xxx.c buships case

Well here we go. Lets start with the problem. Why is there so many 539 movements in Elgin Buships cases? Well some believe that these were modern and possible early swaps, due to the fact that in the 80s a pile of NOS XXX.C cases flooded the market and since 647 E movements were scarce it was easier to use 539s. It also said that XXX.C cases were the later version cases. Ok so lets start.....The USN BUSHIPS cases were assembled at the Elgin factory and YES the correct movement was the 647 E. But where did the XXX.C cases come from and why do 95% of them have WWII era 539 movements. Well comes down to 2 things: 1. Military specification 18W8(INT) 1944 + 18W8(SHIPS) 1947 and 2. the military doing what it could to not waste and limit their budget. After WWII there were still many 539 movements left over and they have been known to have been re-cased just as much as the 554 military grade. This is common even during and after WWI. I believe the XXX.C cases were the earlier versions because I am sure the military wanted to exhaust whatever A-11s they had left in stock so they ordered a little over 3000 of these cases from the Star Watch Case Co. to re-case the left over 539s. In 1947 The 647 did not even exist. Now I believe the XXX.C order had to have been placed between 1945/46-1947 for 2 reasons. #1. 18W8(INT) 1944 required a water tight case which was achieved by the Hamilton BuShips watch during the war because note; the case was made from base metal like all other WWII cases at the time due to war time shortage of steel. The Elgin Star cases were made of stainless steel so they could not have been produced prior to the end of WWII. So sorry folks Elgin canteens were not used in WWII battle. But they served as a higher quality case which was standard post WWII as seen in the A-17s #2. In 1947 18W8(INT) was revised as 18W8(SHIPS) which required USN BUSHIPS to be marked on the case. I believe this change was solely due to the XXX.C cases because the Hamiltons were already marked USN BUSHIPS on the case and dial. So once all 539s were exhausted the military then made a contract with the Elgin Watch Co. for the 647 E BUSHIP marked cases prob in '49. Also the Elgin Canteen database shows a patterned sequence between the XXX.C numbers, case numbers (inside back), and movement serial numbers. I myself added 2 XXX.C canteens to the database which had been right between a bunch of others that were very close in case number and when comparing serials on movements, they were all produced in 1944 within a range of a few months. Both Canteens I am referring two are in the picture. Both Elgins and the Hamilton were purchased from a WWII submariner's estate and they both came with badly rusted 539 movements, dials, and hands. Dont think someone would put a rusted 539 and rust coated buships dial in a NOS XXX.C case.


This dial is incredibly rare! Stan barely touches upon this in his book and seems to only show an example of a 1916 ad from a Canadian Magazine. Its the only ad known to exist and there is no details on case grades, movements, or sizes. Stan mentions they came in 0 size and were only cased in A.W.C. Co. cases. (makes sense since the manufacturer was Canada based as well as the magazine) he also states he has only seen two examples and quite frankly after extensive research I have also only been able to find 2 examples myself other than the 2 that I own. So far in the last 5 years I have located 2 dials. One of them is clearly a 0 size the other is a  3/0 size. So I will make an educated guess that the 0s was the doctor's watch and the 3/0s was the nurse's watch. HOWEVER THE MYSTERY HERE IS ............the 0s version has the red 5 min interval markings. Both examples I have seen other than these seemed to only be the 3/0s like the one on the bottom, and that version is the only one pictured in the 1916 ad. There is no red interval numbers on any example thats out there including the ad. So the question is how rare is the 0s dial? I am guessing that they made the 0s doctor's version in a pocket watch. As you can see in the ad the doctor is holding a pocket watch and the nurse has the wrist watch. Remember at the time of 1916 wrist watches were considered to be feminine and most men would not wear a wrist watch. It was the great war that popularized the wrist watch for men. But till this day I have never seen a pocket watch version.

the forgotten sweep seconds

This watch is very rare in its own right and most collectors don't seem to realize it. There is also an Elgin version but I never obtained one. This watch was the first sweep seconds watch made by Waltham. There has not been any documented research on this watch but I intend to learn more. So far I know it is a 3/0s movement and comes with 7 jewels only, I have not seen a 15 jewel surface. It was produced in the early 30s up until Waltham stopped producing 3/0s movements in 1936. I have only seen two of these as complete watches in the last 5 years and maybe a handful being sold as movements only. I feel these examples do not get the respect or the attention that they deserve.