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Information requested on USA BU, Swiss Wach "Click" to Login or Register 
IHC Life Member
Certified Watchmaker
Picture of Chris Abell
posted
Hi,

Can anyone tell me more about this Chronograph, marked Agasiz Swiss in a Swiss Silver hallmarked case, Stamped on the rear BU AERO 9-30 USN 88-W-600

 
Posts: 2614 | Location: Northeast Texas in the USA | Registered: November 20, 2003
IHC Life Member
Certified Watchmaker
Picture of Chris Abell
posted
 
Posts: 2614 | Location: Northeast Texas in the USA | Registered: November 20, 2003
IHC Life Member
Certified Watchmaker
Picture of Chris Abell
posted
 
Posts: 2614 | Location: Northeast Texas in the USA | Registered: November 20, 2003
Life Achievement
Military Expert
Picture of Greg Crockett
posted
A high quality watch, which was rather expensive in it's day. The Agassiz watch Co. was founded in 1832 and it was well known for high grade timepieces. The same Mr. Agassiz was a founder of the Swiss Horological school system.

The U.S. Navy first started using Agassiz timers in the 1890's, and many of these continued in service through WWII.

From the 30 min. register hand, the watch could be of circa 1930 or after, although the movement and dial appear to be of the earlier type. It may be possible to pin-point the age of the watch from the serial number.

The markings on the back give me the impression that the watch was placed in service in the years prior to the start of WWII, 1920 - 1939. Some of the digits stamped into the back suggest a month and year of issue (September,1930).

If memory serves me, the US Navy air arm was known as the Bur. of Aironautics from WWI right through WWII. Maybe some of our contributors could clear that up.

Thanks for posting your watch with us.

Best regards,

Greg
 
Posts: 1878 | Location: East Lansing, Michigan USA | Registered: November 24, 2002
IHC Life Member
Certified Watchmaker
Picture of Chris Abell
posted
Hi Greg,

Thanks for your response, The serial number is 334033. I didn’t realise there was a date list for these. I don’t know how the forces are divided. What is the link between the Navy and aero.
It seems strange also that the US forces where buying Swiss chronographs when Elgin and Hamilton (model 23) made these also, or where they made to meet this demand?.

Thanks again


PS Being silver the case has cleaned up beautifully.
 
Posts: 2614 | Location: Northeast Texas in the USA | Registered: November 20, 2003
Life Achievement
Military Expert
Picture of Greg Crockett
posted
From the start, the US Navy had it's own aircraft as did the Army. Your watch was made for Navy aircraft.

There is no Agassiz master serial number list that I am aware of. However, in Whitney's book, MILITARY TIMEPIECES, ther is a short list of nine Agassiz deck watch serial numbers along with the names of the torpedo boats they were issued to in 1917. My goal was to see how close your aviation watch number might be to those. The highest number of that list is 250190. Thus, your watch has a higher serial number and it may be of latter producton. But, I am generalizing from a short list. We don't know how many of these watches the Navy bought, when they bought them and how long they remained in service.

The U.S. Military appears to have purchased various lots of Swiss watches, such as for Navigation. While in France, the Army bought the first issued wristwatches from Swiss makers, not American. I'm not sure why this was done, other than convenience.

Best regards,

Greg
 
Posts: 1878 | Location: East Lansing, Michigan USA | Registered: November 24, 2002
IHC Life Member
Certified Watchmaker
Picture of Chris Abell
posted
Hi Greg,

Thanks again for the information, I didn’t realize each force had there own aircraft section. I was also told by another member that there was no USA stop watch/chrono on the market until the start of the WW II and Hamilton 23 hence Swiss where the only viable option.
 
Posts: 2614 | Location: Northeast Texas in the USA | Registered: November 20, 2003
Life Achievement
Military Expert
Picture of Greg Crockett
posted
Yes, now that you mention it, no comparable chronographs were made in the USA at that time. The closest thing I can think of which was made in the USA back then was the 18 size New York Standard chronograph. But the NYS was not high grade and it did not have a min. counter.
 
Posts: 1878 | Location: East Lansing, Michigan USA | Registered: November 24, 2002
posted
The U.S. Navy has had aviation sections since before WW I. In 1921 all of the aviation parts of the Navy were reorganized into one unit called the Bureau of Aeronautics. Bu Aero as it is commonly seen was the name until 1959 when it was combined with the Bureau for Ordinance (Bu Ord)into one larger unit called the Bureau of Naval Weapons which in 1966 was renamed the Naval Air Systems Command.

Since your watch is marked with the Bu Aero marking, that places it sometime between 1921 and 1959 - at least in terms of that marking. Greg's opinion as to it likely being from the 1930s or so seems about right to me based on its style and patina.

During the 1920s and 1930s the Navy was flying many different kinds of aircraft from trainers to transports to cargo haulers observation planes to fighters (both land based and aircraft carrier based) to seaplanes and flying boats to airships. They also had their own Navy owned and operated factories that designed, built and tested some of these types. Your watch could have been used by some flying crew in any of these kinds of aircraft or equally possibly it could have been used on the ground for some ground purpose, for example in one of Naval Aircraft Factories for running tests.

I think it is a really nice looking watch and you are lucky to have run across it and acquired it for your collection. I don't imagine there are too many of them around these days. Thanks for sharing the photos!
 
Posts: 863 | Location: Baltimore, Maryland USA | Registered: September 20, 2004
IHC Life Member
Certified Watchmaker
Picture of Chris Abell
posted
Thanks Greg, Jim
For all the information, as you say a very interesting watch, I will have to search for another one to compare to, unless some of our member also has one of these, Wouldn’t there have been 1000s ordered for military, if so where are the all?

Chris

 
Posts: 2614 | Location: Northeast Texas in the USA | Registered: November 20, 2003
IHC Life Member
Certified Watchmaker
Picture of Chris Abell
posted
 
Posts: 2614 | Location: Northeast Texas in the USA | Registered: November 20, 2003
posted
You are correct that the Navy, like the Army, usually ordered timepieces in large numbers (thousands or tens of thousands) rather than ones and twos. As to how many of this particular model were ordered I would think may be a very difficult fact to find but you never know. The Navy records are less likely to exist after all of these years than the watchmaker's records.

The Navy, like the Army, used to have their own watch and clock repair operations and they trained some of their men to become skilled watchmakers to keep their timepieces in service for a great many years.

As to where are all of the old Navy watches that are the sisters to yours plus all of the other kinds -- some were thrown away when they became too worn out or damaged through use or were lost during battles but the vast majority were either sold off as surplus or "liberated" by sticky fingered people in the service. Today the ones that still exist are mostly sitting in the backs of sock drawers or at the bottom of storage boxes in attics and basements and the like. Slowly they are dribbling into the market through places like Ebay and yard sales and the like and making their way into the hands of dealers and collectors.
 
Posts: 863 | Location: Baltimore, Maryland USA | Registered: September 20, 2004
IHC Life Member
Certified Watchmaker
Picture of Chris Abell
posted
Jim
Have been looking around on the net for other examples and found this one with a black dial varient, shame we cant see the rear cover, this was sold also!


http://bogoff.com/sold/pocket-watches/5393.html
Agassiz Swiss sterling chronograph with register circa 1900. Plain polish case. Black metal dial with white markings and white hands. Nicely finished 17 jewel nickel movement with precision regulator.

#5393 Condition:
$1,175 Case Excellent
Diameter 53mm Dial Excellent
Circa 1900 Movement Excellent

 
Posts: 2614 | Location: Northeast Texas in the USA | Registered: November 20, 2003
IHC Life Member
Certified Watchmaker
Picture of Chris Abell
posted
 
Posts: 2614 | Location: Northeast Texas in the USA | Registered: November 20, 2003
posted
I have a watch like yours from the same batch, serial number 334161. It runs but the crono section is in need of new springs do to rust. My goal is to restore it. If anyone has spare springs I could use them or else I will need to make them
 
Posts: 1 | Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota USA | Registered: June 24, 2006
posted
Hi Chris. Thanks for adding the reference and photo of that other Agassiz watch. It looks alike Agassiz was making that basic style for the public several decades before they started selling it to the Navy. I wonder when they first started making it? I also wonder if the movement changed any from that 1900 civilian model to when your military version was made around the early 1930s and whether they might have beefed it up in any way to meet Navy requirements.

Hi Darold. Sorry but I don't have any springs to help you out but hopefully someone else might. Can you post photos of your Agassiz Navy watch for comparison Chris's? Thanks!
 
Posts: 863 | Location: Baltimore, Maryland USA | Registered: September 20, 2004
IHC Life Member
Certified Watchmaker
Picture of Chris Abell
posted
Hi Jim Dorold,

Do you have any pictures of yours, Dorald. I will keep my eye out for any more examples of these and post them up. I may put my up for sale on CH185 as there are a few other things I wish to buy at the moment
 
Posts: 2614 | Location: Northeast Texas in the USA | Registered: November 20, 2003
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