Thursday, October 24, 2019


The most exciting part of research is when the “third sample” is discovered. At that point in time, we are starting to get a glimpse of the bigger picture. Clearly, with the more samples we find, we are inching closer to completing the entire puzzle. However, researching objects while trying to create the bigger picture of an event that happened 100 years ago is always an adventure. Especially so in the case of Tasmanian Railway Pocket Watches where our focus is on timepieces issued in small quantities over unknown periods of time.

The total number of TGR issued watches is unknown. My guess is that a rather small railway network like Tasmanian probably issued less than a few hundred. The other unknown is: How many of them survived to this day? Probably only a handful. As government property, railway timepieces were issued to locomotive drivers, guards and station masters. And as such, they were expensive high precision instruments that the government meticulously maintained and serviced while in use over the decades.

TGR pocket watches were not given to employees upon their retirement – or at the retirement life of the watch. However, during the 1970s and 80s, when the mechanical watches slowly become obsolete and battery-operated watches proved themselves as cheaper yet more accurate, some of the government issued pocket watches were sold at auction. Again, we can only speculate at how many pieces end up in private collections.

The tragedy of the second phase of the watches’ lives is that firstly they were all dispersed. And secondly, most of them were worn until they broke, then discarded in a drawer and forgotten about. And this is where we are now – at the point where we have hardly any data and the railway watch story is almost completely forgotten.

When the third TGR (Tasmanian Government Rail) Omega arrived earlier this week, I was very excited. With three points of interpolation, we are finally heading in the right direction. This is what we know so far:

All three watches have the same case back number – 1149 – which is clearly the model reference number. This is quite unusual because other Omega pocket watches from the 1940s only have a serial number on the case back, not a model reference number. The model reference number is followed by a single digit number which is most likely the actual production batch. All three watches are fitted with the movement calibre 38.5L.T1 15 jewel none inca block.

TGR 576 serial number 11805116.
TGR 705 serial number 11805062.
TGR 804 serial number 12213595.

And this is why I’m excited! As more watches are discovered and catalogued, we are getting closer to the point where we will be able to tell if a particular watch is really a government issued piece or a watch cleverly put together to deceive.

Of course, our horological railway research covers all Australian states and territories. If you have a government rail issued watch of any type or brand, please let us know so we can include it in our database. If you do come across a watch which is for sale, please do let us know as well.                         

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