Thursday, June 27, 2019

Watch collecting on a budget

A couple of subscribers were puzzled by my “new found interest” in pocket watches.  Is this true love or just a phase – and where are we headed with this?  I’m not sure.  Perhaps I am just trying to keep myself busy while awaiting delivery of a crucial piece of equipment from Switzerland which will allow us to continue work on our Made in Australia watch.  So brace yourselves for at least a couple of weeks of pocket watch talk.

Last week Moeris calibre 19A was mentioned and praised for not just robustness but the refinement of the finishing.  As any watchmaker would agree, the silver plated movements, and especially German silver mechanisms, are regarded as a mark of quality.  Nowadays German silver is the material of choice of true watchmakers like Lange.  I suggest that if you are on eBay looking for a Moeris watch then I would strongly recommend calibre 19A. 

This morning the Postman delivered a parcel from Israel containing a
1930’s military Moeris G.S.T.P. pocket watch.  To my surprise, it wasn't a
calibre 19A but 19H.  All complete, yet long overdue for service. The main
plate and bridges were heavily oxidized. Clearly, I got into it straight
away.  Half an hour later the watch was disassembled.  The oxidised bridges
were first hand cleaned and then with all other parts run through the
automatic cleaning machine. A dream job for any watchmaker: you know that
once cleaned, reassembled, lubricated and adjusted, the old Moeris will tick like a rocket.

And it did.

However, what is special about the Israeli Moeris is that the watch was issued as a G.S.T.P. military timepiece somewhere in the late 1930’s.  I am not going to pretend that I know about military markings so the rest of the information comes from Google.

Pocket watches marked with G.S.T.P. were used as a basic pocket watch issued to British soldiers, with Air Force and Navy watches having different markings.   Many watch manufacturers provided Britain with these timepieces.   The acronym is said to stand for a number of variations including General Service Trade Pattern, General Service Time Piece and General Service Temporary Pattern.  “Trade Pattern” refers to the fact that the movement is a basic commercial design (or off the shelf purchase) rather than an item made for military specifications.  G.S.T.P. was also engraved on non-standard Government issued firearms.  You will find a broad arrow marking in various forms on these timepieces as an indication of British Government ownership.

“S” could also appear near the broad arrow indicating “sold out of service” - usually to the soldier.

In addition to being provided to those in service, they were also issued to the military of Commonwealth countries.   Usually there would be an additional marker on the watch to indicate the country it was issued to.  For example, a watch issued to India would have an “I” marker above the G.S.T.P. 

Swiss made G.S.T.P. timepieces have a 15 jewel movement with a luminous black or white dial.  Black dial pocket watches are considered extremely rare.

A word of warning.   The numerals on the dial of most military watches contain a mix of radium and zinc sulphide.  Don’t be fooled by the fact that the watch dial no longer glows in the dark. The radioactive material is as potent now as it was 100 years ago (it is the other component that has deteriorated).  Cleaning of radium dials is not recommended. 

Here is a link to a great article about military markings:

So what is in it for you?  Clearly, it would be hard to find a more attractive and more affordable, well-made pocket watch than Moeris fitted with a calibre 19A or 19H.  Again, go for an example with original dial and hands.  And even if you have to invest in servicing, it will be money well spent.

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