Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Victoria Rail watch: Peerless SHOCKMASTER

Last week we talked about the little known Queensland Rail Omega Admiralty watch issued to rail workers in the early 1970’s. It was hardly a surprise that this short article generated a fair bit of interest. The most common comment: "Lucky QR employees!"
Which unfortunately cannot be said for their Victorian mates. In the mid-1960’s Victorian Rail opted for a very different watch for its officially issued Government timepiece: the Swiss-made Peerless.
Comparing Peerless with an Omega is much like comparing a Hyundai with a Mercedes. Peerless was probably the least exciting and least cool Swiss watch you could ever want and, quite frankly, its issue was an insult to Railway Horology, as much as to Victorian Rail workers themselves. Long gone were the days of mighty Longines, Omegas and Walthams!
Yet at the same time, the humble Peerless turned out to be an ideal watch for a Government on a budget. It was cheap, easy to repair, light on the wrist, practical - and even reasonably accurate. And, to its credit, it survived to this day as a testimony to the fact that even years of daily wear (and abuse) could not kill it.
I guess my main problem with Peerless is the lack of decoration on the Mechanism - the AS1900/01 movement is just boring.  Plus another small detail: the watch dial is lacking even one iota of Railway character! The Peerless SHOCKMASTER looks more like a dress watch than a tool piece - a watch for the Rail Accounting Department rather than locomotive drivers and train masters.  For fanatical, internet-forum, railroad enthusiasts who are desperately looking for at least something to hang onto, here is the heart-crushing truth: no, the Peerless Shockmaster is not 'a younger cousin' of the famous IWC/ Peerless 1930’s watch – the two Peerless models are part of two completely different stories.
But Australian rail watch history is like the history of any fragmented, slightly disfunctional family: it is what it is. As much as we 'hate' it, the Peerless Shockmaster is as important as any other Government Rail issued watch issued in the past 140 years.  

For subscribers who will be looking for VR Peerless: beware of fakes!  Pay close attention to the case back engraving.  Letters V, C and W are machine pre-engraved, while individual serial numbers are crudely hand engraved.  What is the fair price to pay for an original example? Whatever you think it's worth to you. Based on my limited research, recent sales vary from $120 to $1000, depending on condition. The good news is that we can repair/service your Shockmaster for around $250.  A small curiosity is the lug width of exactly 19mm which is a perfect match for our James Young kangaroo straps.

If you do have a Victoria Rail Peerless watch in your collection, please get in touch with me at so we can add its number to our database.  Thank you.

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