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|IHC Member 1955|
A couple of days ago I met an impressive gentleman named Bob, in his 80s, who was a pilot in WW II. He and his wife are preparing to move into assisted living, and so they were having an estate sale. I purchased a very nice LeCoultre 60's era automatic wrist watch from him, which needs repair, along with a Seiko automatic from around the same era with one of those neat beveled-glass crystals.
Bob also has this very interesting Bulova wrist watch that he said he acquired during the war. (Pictures below). As a Navy veteran myself, I offered him $100, and was prepared to offer more, but he wasn't immediately willing to sell it. I think he wants to see if his children have any interest in it first.
Anyway, I told him I'd try to gather some information about the watch. The case back reads "ORD. DEPT. U.S.A. OF 558402 BULOVA WATCH CO."
I'd appreciate hearing from anyone who knows anything about the history of this watch.
Here's the dial:
|IHC Member 1955|
And here's the case:
This is a basic Army wrist watch. The two letters in front of the serial number provide information on which variety of Ordinance Department issued watch this is. OF means that it is a 15 jewel movement, 10 1/2 lignes size, in a steel waterproof case. It would not have been issued to a pilot, rather it is the basic watch pretty much anyone in the regular army would have been issued and this is just for the OF models. Pilots and air crew were issued either the type A-11 or the Ordinance Dept. Type OFA. The watch you show has an incorrect watch strap on it. It should have an olive drab or khaki canvas strap with metal fittings. The serial number on this example seems quite high so perhaps it was either late war or post war production, but the way to tell would be to look at the movement and see if it has a date code marking.
Has this one been serviced recently? If not, and because of the missing wrist strap your offer of $100 seems to be more than generous. You can buy "found in the wild unserviced in decades or more" examples of these on Ebay all day long as they are quite common - consider the serial number on this one for example as to how many of them were made and issued. Ones that have been professionally serviced, with the correct original strap in near perfect condition can be had in the $175 to $200 range. If you are not able to professionally service one of these, factor the cost of a professional servicing into the cost one might pay for an unserviced one, then add another $20 to $30 for an old original strap and you get an idea of what an unserviced one without its original strap might be valued.
If you are interested in Ordinance Department wrist watches they make a fun collecting area to try to get an example of every kind. Some are harder to find, of course. The one that I think is the best one to find is the model OE which is the 21 jewel railroad grade one.
|IHC Member 1955|
Thanks for the great information, Jim! Would this watch also have been issued to sailors/marines as well as Army soldiers? Bob told me he was a Navy flier, and he had a recollection that he obtained the watch during the war, but he didn't specifically say that it was directly issued to him by the military. Perhaps he got the watch from someone else toward the end of or after the war.
May I ask another couple of questions? My grandfather served in the Army as an enlisted soldier during the Spanish American war at the turn of the century. Was the Army issuing timepieces to soldiers that early on? If so, I assume it would have been a pocket watch of some variety. Also, my father was an enlisted sailor in WWII who served both ashore and at sea. What type of military-issue watch might he have received? I'd be interested in collecting an example of each to add to my vintage watch collection.
I myself served on active duty in the Navy as an enlisted man from 1983-1987. Unfortunately, I have no recollection that the Navy ever treated me to a personal timekeeper. But I got a substantial part of a college education out of the deal, so I guess everything worked out OK.
Anyway, thanks for taking the time to respond to my post. I'll pass the info along to Bob.
Hi Michael. I am not much of an expert on Navy watches - there are a number of guys here who are so I will let them provide some response.
What I do know is the ships and shore stations had quite a few clocks around, and they were kept in correct time by a guy who used a master chronometer or comparing watch. Unlike guys in the Army I would imagine there was much less need for Navy folks to have wristwatches.
I would imagine your friend obtained his Ordinance Department watch in the way so many men in all branches of the armed forces did back then - by gambling, or trading for things, or just plain "unofficial procurement". That still goes on today, but I think it was far more common back during the war. I cannot imagine why a Navy pilot would be issued this general purpose Army watch. If anything he might have been unofficially issued an Army Air Force Navigation wrist watch which is the Type A-11. That is what the AAF pilots were issued and would have been more useful for a Navy pilot.
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