Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The four horsemen of the apocalypse

It is not often that we have four military watches in our workshop at the same time. While the intention is to introduce them individually next week, here is a lovely group photo of four of them: German Grana Wehrmacht, Australian Department of Defence Pierce, Japanese Imperial Army Seikosha and a British Moeris.

While the watches vary in size, the quality of workmanship and the style, the question we are trying to answer is which one was the best of the lot. Let’s start with the German Grana.

Grana is a Swiss-made watch manufacture established in 1888 as Gebrüder Kurth by Adolf and Alfred Kurth. They started manufacturing movements and supplies for the watchmaking industry with just three employees. In 1906 the brand Grana was introduced for watches and immediately won awards for its high quality. However, the Swiss Law for Protection and Regulation of the Watch Market of 1934 (Uhrenstatut) prohibited the supply of watches and ebauches simultaneously. As a consequence, Kurth Frères concentrated on the watch manufacturing. In 1939, the brand Certina was registered for cheaper volume models, while Grana was used for top models. However after the WW2 Grana production was discontinued and after the 1949 Certina remains the only KF brand name.

Clearly, the Wehrmacht was interested in Grana and not the cheaper Certina. Grana manufactured wrist watches as well as pocket watches. The Wehrmacht requested watches with a black dial with Arabic figures, luminous hands and figures, sub second on the "6", water resistance and a screw back. Such watches were produced for the officers of German Army during WW2. The watches were signed with the letters D and H as well as a number. While H clearly stands for Heer (army), it is the letter D that divides horological historians. It either stands for Deutsches (German) or Dienstuhr which means service watch. We are still waiting for an official clarification on this matter.

Apart from the robust nickel case and stunning black glowing dial, it is was the water resistance that made Grana so very special: a screw lock case back with a Dichtung!

To be continued...

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