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RFC Aircraft Watches - Mark V Letter Codes "Click" to Login or Register 
posted
I found another one - B.G. 1122 on the dial of an 8-day non luminous Mark V with the movement marked Octavia in an unmarked replacement case. This is the second B.G. we now have. While this one is marked Octavia and the other is reported as Octava it sounds like both might be Octavias.

As of November 18, 2004, here is what we have:

A.A. ? Smith and Son - maybe ?

B.A. -
B.B. - 4282 (30 hour movement and luminous dial in incorrect non-military case) marked Omega
B.C. -
B.D. - 3033, 3823, 3828 all marked Invicta,
and 4436 marked Doxa
B.E. - 6540 unknown maker
B.F. -
B.G. - 1122 on non luminous dial with 8 day movement marked Octavia in unmarked replacement case, 1481 marked Octava
B.H. - 403 marked Record
B.I. -
B.J. -
B.K. - 1952, 6009, 6065 all marked Electa
B.L. - 1097 unknown maker

C.A. -
C.B. - 1643, 2181, 2262, 3959, 4181, 5660
all marked Zenith
C.C. - 798 unknown maker
 
Posts: 851 | Location: Baltimore, Maryland USA | Registered: September 20, 2004
Picture of Jim Rogers
posted
Guys,

I don’t own any RAF pieces , but I really like doing the research (probably brings out my Sherlock Homes hidden personality) so here are a few things I found “TALLY HO”

Found on a forum item can probably be added to the list.

Ques:
I have recently received a 1942 Longines Air Ministry RAF wrist watch, marked AM 6B/59 /957/ 42. It has an alloy case, stainless steel back

Answer:
There is no way to trace back the history that I am aware of, other than it was the 957th watch issued to the RAF in 1942.

Here is a hyperlink to something I found which is interesting, and the reference is A.Taylerson Horological Journal 9/10-1995. Entitled “Watches issued to the British Armed forces 1870-1970”

http://www.knirim.homepage.t-online.de/taylor.htm
 
Posts: 151 | Location: Atkinson, New Hampshire U.S.A. | Registered: October 17, 2004
Life Achievement
Military Expert
Picture of Greg Crockett
posted
Thank you Jim,I appriciate your research.

The article by Taylorson is quite good. It would be nice to post it here, if permissible. Taylorson used the official "LIST OF CHANGES" of British military equipment as a major part of his research in support of his findings.

Best regards,
Greg
 
Posts: 1861 | Location: East Lansing, Michigan USA | Registered: November 24, 2002
posted
In the past few weeks I have found two more to add to our list, an Omega and an Unmarked. Both of these are Mark V 30 hour, non-luminous varieties: The Omega is B.B. 3404 which fits the pattern of the one Omega we have in our list, and the Unmarked is a three digit number B.H. 823 which conflicts with the one B.H. we have (also a three digit watch) which has a Record marked movement. The three possibilities that come to mind are 1) that Record marked some of their movements but not others, or 2) that one watch or the other has a replaced movement, or 3) that Record may have purchased movements from another company to meet their production contract requirements. I think we will need to see more B.H. marked watches beyond just these two to see whether there is a pattern.

So, as of December 7, 2004, here is what we have:

A.A. ? Smith and Son - maybe ?

B.A. -
B.B. - 3404 (30 hour, non-luminous, movement marked Omega); and 4282 (30 hour and luminous dial in incorrect non-military case, movement marked Omega)
B.C. -
B.D. - 3033, 3823, 3828 all marked Invicta,
and 4436 marked Doxa
B.E. - 6540 unknown maker
B.F. -
B.G. - 1122 on non luminous dial with 8 day movement marked Octavia in unmarked replacement case, 1481 marked Octava
B.H. - 403 (movement marked Record); and 823 (30 hour, non-luminous, movement unmarked)
B.I. -
B.J. -
B.K. - 1952, 6009, 6065 all marked Electa
B.L. - 1097 unknown maker

C.A. -
C.B. - 1643, 2181, 2262, 3959, 4181, 5660
all marked Zenith
C.C. - 798 unknown maker
 
Posts: 851 | Location: Baltimore, Maryland USA | Registered: September 20, 2004
posted
1. Octava 8 day non lumi BG No 1389
2. Omega (5941257)30 hrs non lumi BB 4070
3. Electra (158263) 30 hrs non lumi BK 1397
(also hand engraved Sth 1754 any ideas on this?)
4. unmarked (m620230 c 639929) 30 hrs non lumi CC 773
5. Doxa (1222898) 30 hrs non lumi BE 179 (A arrow and AcrownM marked)
6. Omega (m5186080 c5936048) BB !no number, never had one! 30 hrs luminous (A arrow and AcrownM marked)
7. awol

*m=movement number c=case number perhaps dates play a role in this hence the numbers might be of importance
 
Posts: 132 | Location: London/London/England | Registered: December 13, 2004
posted
Some ideas questions:
1. Where the dials finished at the factory or at a contractor in the UK? I think it can be established that the letter codes depict the manufacturer and that given the fact that the unmarked ones have different letter codes I think it can be deductet that the recipient of the movements knew from which manufacturer they came. The Doxa BD 4436 might be a replacement dial.
2. Could B mean British and C Canadian? Speaking for this theory would be the fact that only (if the above is right) two manufacturers were engaged in the C's 1 unknown and Zenith both of which seem to not have delivered to B?!
3. The reason that there are no two digit codes can well be related to the size of the sample with the given codes (10) 10*99=990 watches and if we take the high numbers of our sample per manufacturer (10*4436-99)+(10*6065-99)+(10*3828-99)+(10*1481-99)+(10*4070-99)+(10*823-99)+(10*6540-99)+(10*1097-99)+(10*798-99)+(10*5660-99)= 346990 This means that only roughly every 350th watch should have a number below 100 and there may even be some 5 digit watches. Hence we need a lot more watches in our sample. (plus fewer of the lower numbers should have survived if they were issued earlier to be verified if movement and case numbers could be added to this list)
4.The manufacturer theory could be substantiated if Record BH 403 and unknown BH 823 had the same movements (hence both record manufactured). The low numbering on both watches increase the probability due to a possible low production run.
5.The fact that pilots were requested to salvage the watch could mean that they were assigned one either pre flight or per pilot. There should be paperwork/logs on this.
 
Posts: 132 | Location: London/London/England | Registered: December 13, 2004
posted
found the awol No. 7 it is an Invicta BD 3388 without movement or case numbers.
 
Posts: 132 | Location: London/London/England | Registered: December 13, 2004
posted
Many thanks for contributing Oliver! I have found another two as well. The first is a FIVE digit Doxa - B.E. 10576. This is the first five digit one I have come across which opens up a whole new dimension on the potential number of these, though since it is the only one so far and since it is only a bit above the four digit maximum I'm not ready to believe there are that many. The second is another C.B. Zenith, though in the photo I found the minute hand was covering the middle two digits so all I have is C.B. 7xx9.

Thanks also to Oliver for some good questions. I wish I had answers. A few of my initial thoughts are:
1) Yes, the B.D. 4436 might be a replacement dial, but it could also be a replacement movement instead.
2) The B for British and C for Canadian is an interesting hypothesis, but why would the Brits not also buy from such a prolific and high quality Swiss maker as Zenith or vice versa, why would the Canadians not buy from such prolific and high quality makers such as Omega and Doxa and the others. Also, since the Canadians received most of their aircraft from the U.K.'s Air Ministry why would they not also have obtained their instrumentation from them as well?
3) Excellent points
4) Excellent idea again. I am not enough of an expert on Swiss watch movements to do this myself but I know there are real experts out there who might be able to do this. Let's try to post some photos of unmarked movements on this website and see if anyone can identify the makers!
5) Another good idea, but again I'm not sure how to go about finding out such information. Perhaps this might be a question that could be posed on a WW I forum such as www.theaerodrome.com?

Here is our group list again, with Oliver's 7 new entries added plus the 2 I recently found:


A.A. ? Smith and Son - maybe ?

B.A. -
B.B. - 3404 (30 hour, non-luminous, movement marked Omega); 4070 30 hour, non-luminous; 4282 (30 hour and luminous dial in incorrect non-military case, movement)marked Omega; and ???? a 30 hour, luminous with the B.B. marking but no number after it and with the movement marked Omega.
B.C. -
B.D. - 3033; 3388; 3823; 3828 all marked Invicta; and 4436 marked Doxa
B.E. - 179 30 hour, non-luminous marked Doxa; 6540 unknown maker; and 10576 marked Doxa
B.F. -
B.G. - 1122 on non luminous dial with 8 day movement marked Octavia in unmarked replacement case; 1389 non-luminous marked Octava; and 1481 marked Octava
B.H. - 403 (movement marked Record); and 823 (30 hour, non-luminous, movement unmarked)
B.I. -
B.J. -
B.K. - 1397 30 hour, non-luminous; 1952; 6009; and 6065 all marked Electa
B.L. - 1097 unknown maker

C.A. -
C.B. - 1643; 2181; 2262; 3959; 4181; 5660; and 7xx9 (could not tell from the photo what the middle two numbers are) all marked Zenith
C.C. - 773 30 hour, non-luminous; and 798 unknown maker
 
Posts: 851 | Location: Baltimore, Maryland USA | Registered: September 20, 2004
posted
In wwii the german large beobachtungsuhren were always handed out to the pilots prior to the flight and had to be returned afterwards. It seems that they actually stored them in the original cardboard delivery boxes! as some of the examples I have seem to indicate (handwritten changes of the number).
 
Posts: 132 | Location: London/London/England | Registered: December 13, 2004
posted
.... if that would have been the case with the RFC watches the purchases would not have been linked to any aircraft deliveries as the watches would not have been assigned to the aircraft and I think the absence of personal markings on the watches by and large could also suggest that they were not with any single pilot for lengthier periods of time.
 
Posts: 132 | Location: London/London/England | Registered: December 13, 2004
Life Achievement
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Picture of Greg Crockett
posted
How easy/hard was it to remove the watch from the aircraft? Has anyone actually examined a WWI RFC watch holder? All I have are some old automobile and WWII vintage holders- all of them are easy to use, but I would rather not speculate as to the use of actual RFC holders which I have not examined.

Best regards,

Greg
 
Posts: 1861 | Location: East Lansing, Michigan USA | Registered: November 24, 2002
posted
There is one version displayed on the webside www.canvasfalcon.com which would be screw in but that does not go well with the contemporary reports of court martials for not removing the watch after a crash unless of course a screwdriver was part of the flight equipement ;o)
 
Posts: 132 | Location: London/London/England | Registered: December 13, 2004
posted
Below is an image of the one that Oliver refers to from the Canvas Falcon website. I would agree that this type would not be very removeable without a screw driver.

I have seen photos of a second kind of holder which is much simpler where the watch is simply pressed into a tight fitting receptacle that is screwed to the instrument panel and the watch is held there by nothing more than friction from the snug fit. It would be a simple thing to just press it in and pull it out every day.

Photos of semi-permanant holder...


 
Posts: 851 | Location: Baltimore, Maryland USA | Registered: September 20, 2004
Life Achievement
Military Expert
Picture of Greg Crockett
posted
At last - a look at one of these things! Thanks!

Given the vibration of the aircraft, I would imagine that the holder would have had to be rather stout to hold the watch steady. By the way, is that plug made of wood, or some sort of shock obsorbent substance like felt?

I think the holder used by the German airforce of WWI was also held in w/screws. That is, the screws had to be removed in order to take out the watch. At least that's what I gather from looking at a period cockpit image in Knirim's book.

Best regards,

Greg
 
Posts: 1861 | Location: East Lansing, Michigan USA | Registered: November 24, 2002
posted
Gentlemen,
My complements for an excellent idea. We will attempt to provide the numbers and manufacturers from our collection when I have a break from work this holiday upcoming.
The "plug" is made of horsehair felt. We restore and recreate WWI era aircraft and hence do a great deal of research via photographs, drawings, references etc... Sadly there is very little material available about either these watches or holders. In an attempt to be absolutely as accurate as we can we therefore choose to use info from period photos as examples of what made it to the field. The R.F.C. did not make or publish much info about these but the Germans did make great effort to study downed aircraft. I will attempt to attach an image taken by the Germans of the panel of a captured Camel. You will see that the watch holder is bent away from the dash with the horsehair vibration dampening pad still in situ. The two right side screws are missing. Clearly this was done in a rush so at least one pilot managed to remove the watch before capture. The captors carefully removed items from the aircraft so that they could be reverse-engineered. Our original holders are made from very soft unhardened aluminum. They were deep drawn using a press and die and not spun or machined. In fact, we bent one accidentally when applying mold latex to it with our fingers. The dash of a Sopwith Pup was made of 3/8ths basswood and the Camel was 1/2" basswood, neither were laminated. The small brass wood screws would easily pull out of non-laminated basswood. (It is actually rather difficult to not overtighten them and strip the wood out when installing them.) While I doubt that a screwdriver would be of any value all aircraft/pilots carried a Very flare-pistol which could easily be used to apply sufficient force to pry the two screws from the dash, it could also then be used to ignite the aircraft to prevent its capture. I've examined hundreds of original photographs in many museums and collections. The holder as pictured is the only one that I've ever seen installed in a period photograph of an R.F.C. craft. There are many "restored" aircraft in museums photos of which appear on the web. Sadly, most are a mishmash of incorrect instruments and mountings. Many of these show hinged and screw off holders from boats and autos used to mount the watch. I would be very interested to see evidence of one of these in a period aircraft. Pilots may well have added non-issue items to their aircraft but I have yet to see documentation of it.
Best regards,
William

 
Posts: 4 | Location: La Grande, Oregon U.S.A. | Registered: December 19, 2004
Life Achievement
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Picture of Greg Crockett
posted
Thanks for an excellent image.

By the way, the only size difference of the MKV 30 hour from the MKV 8 day timepieces was in the thickness of the cases. Thus, it would have been rather easy to use the same holder for either type by adjusting the thickness of the pad.

Best regards,
Greg
 
Posts: 1861 | Location: East Lansing, Michigan USA | Registered: November 24, 2002
posted
Hello Greg,
The same holder also fits the MKIV watches. We have a similar holder stamped from steel that came containing an FLZ watch. I would love to know if you or anyone else has ever seen one like this. We would be very pleased to identify it. It is shown below in comparison with the RFC holder and watches.
Best regards,
William

watch holders
 
Posts: 4 | Location: La Grande, Oregon U.S.A. | Registered: December 19, 2004
posted
Here is another view.

Impholder
 
Posts: 4 | Location: La Grande, Oregon U.S.A. | Registered: December 19, 2004
posted
Finally here is a side view. The felt pad was cut on a bias to support this angle.

Imp Side View
 
Posts: 4 | Location: La Grande, Oregon U.S.A. | Registered: December 19, 2004
Life Achievement
Military Expert
Picture of Greg Crockett
posted
The holder looks like one pictured in Konrad Knirim's book. It is identified as a WWI German aircraft watch holder.

Best Regards,

Greg
 
Posts: 1861 | Location: East Lansing, Michigan USA | Registered: November 24, 2002
posted
Hope the pics shows

 
Posts: 132 | Location: London/London/England | Registered: December 13, 2004
Life Achievement
Military Expert
Picture of Greg Crockett
posted
Spotted another one:
Movt marked ELECTA dial: BK 6864, 30 Hour Non Luminous MK V, the usual back of case marking.
 
Posts: 1861 | Location: East Lansing, Michigan USA | Registered: November 24, 2002
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