Internet Horology Club 185
RFC Aircraft Watches - Mark V Letter Codes

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May 25, 2019, 14:34
John Willis
RFC Aircraft Watches - Mark V Letter Codes
Hi Jim: Thank you for your input, I value your opinion. I would say I am in agreement with what you say about the color of the second hand. What made me ask that I previously had a Mark V and it had a black second hand like this watch and I have seen pictures of watches with black second hands as well. It seemed like too much of a coincidence that on the few I have seen they have black hand. Although to me it made no sense what so ever.
Also re. the STH question. Have you any knowledge of any other watches with this stamp being found outside of UK? John
May 26, 2019, 11:20
Jim Hester
I have also seen some with red second hands which would make more sense than a black second hand. Also, an additional point against black second hands was that the pilots back then were wearing goggles that were not exactly crystal clear as their early rotary engines were throwing off castor oil and dirt that would get smeared on their lenses. High visibility and clarity was important. As these watches were made by many different makers (as shown in the posts in this long thread) I suppose it is possible that some may have used red and some white though being a pilot myself I would strongly prefer white.

Yes, I have seen Sth marked Mark V watches outside of the UK, but I do agree that it seems that the great majority of the ones I have seen are currently in the UK. With the world's international economy and movement of people all about I would not be surprised that if these are repurposed and marked Mark Vs by the Southern Railway company that more than one or two examples would wind in other places than the UK. One additional argument in favor of the Southern Railway hypothesis is that it was created in 1923 which was the general timeframe that so much Great War surplus was being sold off at very low prices. A start-up railway company could have found that buying a large number of these surplus good quality watches for a song to supply to their employees who needed to keep the trains on time was a good way to get up and running. Again, this is just my supposing - what I hope to find someday is someone who has some official documentation from that era that can prove one way to the other whether these were Southern Railway.
May 26, 2019, 19:39
John Willis
Many thanks Jim, I appreciate the input. John
June 01, 2019, 14:10
Jim Hester
One other thing to keep in mind - these watches are over 100 years old now. When they were originally in use during the war, they were intended to be reused as often as possible and there were watchmakers in the military whose jobs were to keep repairing them as needed. Even after the war, so long as they were in military hands they were repaired and kept in use until they were sold off for surplus, where people or companies that bought them tended to keep them repaired as well. I do not know when collectors started wanting timepieces to be 100 percent original, but for the most part of the lives of these watches there was not much concern to keep hands and everything else original rather than simply make whatever repairs were needed with whatever parts fit. I doubt that the color of a second hand or even whether the correct shape was a top priority for most watch repair guys during most of the life of these timepieces so long as whatever they may had had in their spare parts bins fit and did the job. It is a little like finding one of these with its original undrilled winding stem. I do not know the percentage but my impression is that something between 70 and 90 percent of these had their winding stems drilled at some point in time to attach a bow to make it more useful as a pocket watch. When these were made they were not intended to be used as pocket watches but rather were meant to be put into mounts on an aircraft instrument panel. Finding one without the drilled winding stem can be a challenge at times.
June 02, 2019, 10:35
John Willis
Hi Jim. Thanks for your latest input. I am agreement with what you say., however I am a little confused as this watch has the Sth and is not drilled. This seems to be a little inconsistant for use on a RR. I suppose not every railroad watch had to be carried and may have has a different purpose or someone changed the back at some time. I am sure we will never know.
June 03, 2019, 10:58
Jim Hester
I suppose that it is possible that some of these could have been used in locomotives and mounted on an instrument panel type situation as well as some being issued to and carried by conductors or other crew on the train? This is just a wild guess though. Or maybe mounted on a desk of a railway official in a station somewhere where they needed to keep track of the time, or ???
Anything is possible until some kind of actual period documents or photos or something is found that shows exactly how Sth marked watches were used and by whom.
December 02, 2020, 13:45
Robert Skinner
Hello Jim, I used to be in touch with Craig Pearce and Ben Roberts on matters of mutual interest namely the RAF MK I aircraft clock. I noticed your name mentioned in one of the discussions and wondered if Ben and Craig are still members of IHC 185. I am a new member. Best Regards Robert in England.
December 03, 2020, 07:38
Dr. Debbie Irvine

Hello Robert,

Sorry to inform you but it has been several years since either Craig or Ben have posted on our Discussion Site.


January 04, 2021, 13:33
Jim Hester
Hi Robert.

I do not have contact information for Ben and Craig and as Debbie kindly mentions, they do not seem to be around this forum anymore.

I am not an expert on your Mark I aircraft timepieces other than knowing what you have already mentioned as to their likely use. As a suggestion on how you might learn more, have you had the pleasure of communicating with Konrad Knirim? He has made in depth studies on British military timepieces in addition to his studies on German military timepieces.
Here is a link to his website where you would be able to contact him.
January 05, 2021, 14:30
Greg Crockett
I'm going to miss Ben Roberts. Ben was a very knowledgeable collector of RAF clocks. In fact he was a WWII veteran having served in the RAF. I stopped in to see him a few times when I was visiting relatives Ottawa, Canada. Konrad Knirim used some of Ben's collection and expertise in the course of writing his British Military timepieces book.

I'm sad to report that Ben Roberts passed away last year. His family and many friends must miss him very much.