Military watches tick the right boxes

A collection of rare military watches has sold for £129,000 at auction in Glasgow.

Collectors from 12 countries competed via telephone, online and in person at McTear’s Auctioneers to secure almost 200 lots of rare timepieces from the past 100 years. McTear's - military watches sell for £129k at auction - Amy Cameron - 1Commenting on the sale, Sarah Cotter, McTear’s Head of Jewellery, Watches & Coins said: “We had a huge amount of interest prior to the auction so we knew it was going to be a very interesting sale.  On the day, the bidding was intense with collectors from as far afield as Australia, USA, Germany and Hong Kong looking to secure the timepieces.

“Although all the lots sold well, the IWC watches were in huge demand with many selling for several thousand pounds above their estimates.”

Twelve manufacturers of watches were commissioned by the British Ministry of Defence during the Second World War specifically for military use. These Swiss companies are known as the ‘Dirty Dozen’ and consist of Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, Jaeger Le Coultre, Lemania, Longines, IWC, Omega, Record, Timor and Vertex.

The majority of the watches in the private collection had serial numbers to identify the wearer and symbols to show them to be government property. Many of the watches on sale were engraved with W.W.W which stands for ‘Watch, Wrist, Waterproof’.

Highlights of the Military Watches Auction  included a Gentleman’s Omega military issue stainless steel manual wind wrist watch, which secured £4,200 – well above its estimate of £1,200 – and a rare Grana stainless steel manual wind wrist watch with round black dial and Arabic numerals in white, which was bought for £4,000 – double its original estimate.

Specialists at the auction house were hoping the unique sale would encourage others to learn how to identify rare military watches they might have at home.

Sarah Cotter continued: “Rare military watches are hugely collectable but because many of the most important pieces are stainless steel with no glitzy or standout features, it is very easy to mistake them for much cheaper items.  Although these timepieces may have been passed from generation to generation, as the years have gone by their significance may have dimmed with the watches ending up in the back of a drawer or cupboard.

“As this and other recent watch auctions have proved, it is definitely worth having a look in those old boxes.   It’s also worth remembering that it’s not just fully working timepieces that are in demand.  Watches are hugely complex pieces of engineering and we are seeing more and more watch movements coming to auction, with collectors prepared to pay high prices to secure the most sought after parts.”

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