The Pierce Watch Company was founded in 1883 in Biel (Switzerland) by Leon Levy and his brothers under the name Léon Lévy Frères Manufactures des Montres et Chronographes Pierce SA. As it usually was the case, the brothers started in watch assembly, buying parts and complete movements from other Swiss suppliers. However, for a reason unknown to us, Levy was cut out of the supply chain. Interestingly, according to my research, thishappened at the time when he was already 40 years in the business. Levy geared up production, setting up their own watch factory in Biel and employing 1,500 people. They started manufacturing their own in house calibre in the 1930's and were awarded the contract for development and construction of the pilot's watch flight calendar for the Royal Air Force. Their watches quickly became known for their reliability and robustness.
Recent acquisition: eight Pierce pocket watches dating back to the 1930's, all issued by the Department of Defence and all in rather sad condition. They have been heavily neglected, but still in ‘restorable’ condition.
Set in a nickel case and fitted with a porcelain dial, Pierce DD is powered by in-house movement Calibre 170. This lovely fine grade mechanism is a 15 jewel straight lever escapement in German sliver with individual bridges in the train. With bit of luck there is enough parts to get two or possibly three watches restored to good working order.
How does Aussie Pierce compare with Japanese, German and British military pocket watches? Quite frankly- it certainly would not be my first choice of a timepiece to win a war with. While the time keeping could be on par with Seikosha and Moeris, the case itself clearly lacks robustness and refinement of German Grana (Certina). The lack of luminous hour markers on the dial and rather ‘skinny’ hands render the watch useless at night time. Overall, Pierce looks more like your grandpa’s retirement pocket watch than a lethal combat weapon. No doubt, Aussie Department of Defence had it’s reasons why Pierce was selected as their brand of choice, something we can only speculate about.
Here is an excerpt from Australian Army Dress Manual, Paragraph 2.53 titled 'Watches':
"2.53 Watches or watch bands are not to be worn when they may create a safety hazard. Brightly coloured watches or watch bands are not permitted. Pocket watches with visible chains are not to be worn with the Australian Army uniform. On a ceremonial parade a watch is not to be worn by any member, except the senior soldier controlling the sequence of a parade; normally the RSM or CSM (E) who may wear an inconspicuous timepiece."