U.S. NAVY DIVE WATCHES
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
HOW THEY LOOK
NOTE. THE 2 DOXA 300T
THE BLACK WOULD HAVE BEEN THE ONE UTILIZED
THE EARLY ZODIAC NON-DATE WAS THE TOP VIETNAM ERA MIL DIVE
RARE NON HACKING VERSIONS WERE THE FIRST ZODIAC MILITARY
THE BULOVA AND BLANCPAIN WERE ALL DESIGNED FROM MIL SPECS
BULOVA BUILT THE FIRST NAVY AUTOMATIC
THEY BUILT AND TESTED A SERIES OF DIVES TO 300 PLUS FEET
THEN THE FINAL SPECS ARRIVED 1961 WHICH HAD THE CIRCULAR MOISTURE INDICATOR
BULOVA DID NOT RENEW THE CONTRACT CHOOSING TO OFFER CIVILIAN WATCHES
WITH THE TECHNOLOGY THEY DEVELOPED
BLANCPAIN TOOK OVER AND USED ORIGINAL BULOVA TECHNOLOGY FOR CASE ETC
AND THE NEW Milspec 1 SPECIFICATIONS IN
TO PRODUCE THE TR-900
NOTE THE FIFTY FATHOMS WAS UPDATED TO INCLUDE THE U.S. NAVY DEVELOPED MOISTURE INDICATURE
[NOTE PICTURES –THANKS TO TIME ZONE — X
DOWN TO THE CHEMICALS THAT MADE IT WORK
AND THEN PLACED THIS TECHNOLOGY INTO THE FIFTY FATHOMS Milspec 1
(NOTE: THEY HONORED THE U.S. NAVY )
THE FIRST AUTOMATIC DIVE WATCHES
The modern scuba diving watch was introduced to the public in 1954 at the annual watch trade show in Basel, Switzerland; With existing contracts with the Air Forces and Army, the US Navy entered into an agreement with the Bulova Watch Company, and it’s Bulova Research and Development Laboratories, to develop and manufacture a new dive watch.
THE 1964 BULOVA 666 MODEL LAUNCHED ALL FUTURE LINES AND MODELS OF THE FAMOUS NAVY MILITARY DIVE WATCHES DURING VIETNAM WAR AND ALL FUTURE BULOVA 333 FEET AND 666 FEET DIVE WATCHES.
ADDITIONALLY, THE FIRST OFFICIAL US MILITARY DIVER WATCH WAS IS THE RESULT OF THREE GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS FROM 1958,TO 1961, [MIL-W-3181 / MIL-W-22176 / MIL-W-22176A].
IT WAS IN 1961 THAT BULOVA, UNDER US NAVY CONTRACT TO PERFECT THE FIRST AUTOMATIC DIVE WATCH WITH PLEXIGLAS CRYSTAL, WAS FINALLY SUCCESSFUL AND IT PASSED ALL GOVERNMENT TESTS INCLUDING DIVING TO 392 FEET.
WHILE STILL IN DEVELOPMENT, IN 1963, BULOVA DROPPED THEIR CONTRACT & THE CONTRACT WAS TAKEN OVER BY BLANCPAIN, WHO PRODUCED THE TR-900 DIVE WATCH.
THE TR-900 DIVE MATCHED MUCH OF THE SPECS, CASING AND OTHER DESIGNS OF BULOVA’ FINAL VERSION, INCLUDING THE VERY LOOK AND DESIGN DOWN TO THE RADIUM MARKERS, BEZEL AND BEZEL INSERT.
ABOUT 1000 TR-900’S WOULD BE PRODUCED UNDER TWO CONTRACTS FOR THE NAVY DURING 1964 & 1965 AND ISSUED TO NAVY UDT FROGMAN TEAMS AND MARINE RECON UNITS DURING THE VIETNAM WAR.
AROUND THE SAME TIME, BULOVA RELEASED THEIR PLEXIGLAS AUTOMATIC 666 DIVE WATCH FOR COMMERCIAL SALES AND WERE AVAILABLE AT MILITARY PX.
IT IS IN THIS TIME FRAME THAT ELGIN PRODUCED THEIR FIRST AUTOMATIC WATER PROOF, ALL STEEL DIVE WATCH WITH RADIUM MARKERS.
BY 1964-1967, DIVE WATCHES WERE IN HIGH DEMAND. ESPECIALLY AUTOMATICS. AND, WITH A WET HOT HUMID VIETNAM WAR — THE PX WAS A HOT MARKET.
[NOTE: ALL THE WATCHES SHOWN WERE RESTORED BY ROCK]
BULOVA, WHO ACTUALLY DEVELOPED THE FIRST US AUTOMATIC DIVE WATCH UNDER US CONTRACT, RELEASED THEIR AUTOMATIC MODEL IN COMPETITION WITH THE ZODIAC SEA WOLF AUTOMATIC. BOTH WERE INVESTED IN BY US AND AUSTRALIAN SOLDIERS FROM PRIVATE TO OFFICER…I FACT, THEY MADE MORE SALES AND MONEY THAN BLANCPAIN, WHO HAD TAKEN OVER THE BULOVA CONTRACT AND UTILIZED THE MAIN LOOK AND FEATURES OF BULOVA RESEARCH IN PRODUCING THE US MILITARY DIVE WATCH! IN ADDITION TO NEW SPECIAL ALLOYED STEEL ANTI-MAGNETIC CASE, AND THE USE OF AN ALTERNATIVE ***ILLUMINATION MATERIAL FOR INDICES AS WELL AS THE NAVY MOISTURE INDICATOR AND IT HAD TO WORK DEEPER THAN FIFTY FATHOMS (300 FEET).
Promethium 147 would glow brighter and longer, both underwater and at night. However the downside to this was that its half-life is only 2.5 years, unlike Tritium, which has a 12.4-year half-life, and Radium whose half-life is measured in centuries.
WALTHAM [ABOVE], ANOTHER LONG TIME US MILITARY WATCH DEVELOPER, FOLLOWED WITH THEIR OWN MODEL WHICH WAS LARGER THAN THE BULOVA, ZODIAC OR ELGIN…
ELGIN, WHO HAD SUPPLIED US MILITARY WATCHES SINCE WWI. RELEASED THERE OWN VERSION WITH STRAIGHT DROP LUGS, MEDIUM BEZEL IN A SMALL CASE SIMILAR TO THE OLD ELGIN WWII CASES. IT WAS ONLY LARGER DUE TO THE BEZEL.
AND, FINALLY, WE HAD BENRUS. BENRUS HAD, BY BEATING OUT BULOVA, ACTUALLY WON THE FIRST MAIN CONTRACT FOR MILITARY ISSUED VIETNAM SERVICE US ARMY AND AIR FORCE WATCHES AND ALSO A MILITARY DIVE WATCH. THEY WOULD INTRODUCE THE SINGLE CASE BENRUS. AT THAT TIME, DUE TO ITS SINGLE CASE DESIGN AND THE SIMPLY BEZEL WITH ELGIN STYLE LUGS, IT BECAME A HIT WITH THE GI’S. BUT THEY TOOK ANOTHER STEP. TO MAKE THEIR DIVE WATCH STAND OUT, THEY INTRODUCED A LIMITED 25 JEWEL INCABLOC MODEL. THEY UTILIZED A 25J A.S. EUBACH AND A ETA 17J ROTOR ASSEMBLY TO PRODUCE THE LIMITED SELF WINDING ULTRA DEEP 666 FEET.
Someone had put Blancpain 50 Fathoms Milspec 1 on Ebay with
the Hefty Price Tag attached. Even if I had THAT Purchasing Power, I doubt
I would have paid that much… OK, it is a limited issue military
Blancpain. I assume by sn# you can trace it to some military top gun,
and, correspondingly to some military operation. However mechanism does not have
that many complications! Wondering how much will it fetch at the
Enjoy your week-end!
I WROTE THE VENDER. WE BELIEVE IT IS NOT 1950, NOR MILITARY.
THE US GOV OFFERED A CONTRACT TO WATCH MAKERS TO BUILD FIRST AUTOMATIC US NAVY DIVE WATCH
BULOVA WON THE CONTRACT
BULOVA SUCCESSFULLY DESIGNS IMPLEMENTS A PROTOTYPE THAT PASSES TO 300 FEET
WITH THIS TECHNOLOGY IN HAND, BULOVA DECIDES TO NOT RE-UP THE CONTRACT WHEN CHANGES ARE MADE .
BULOVA BEGINS PRODUCTION OF DIVE WATCHES [666 333 ETC] FOR CIVILIAN SALES.
ABOVE OPENS IN OWN WINDOW SO YOU MAY CONTINUE READING
NOTE THE YEAR AT TOP RIGHT OF SPECS, NOTE THE ADDITION OF A MOISTURE INDICATOR ABOVE 6 POSITION, NOTE ALL DETAILS OF DIAL
BLANCPAIN SUBMITS FOR CONTRACT AND TAKES OVER 1960/61
(IN COULD HAVE BEEN 1958/1959)
THE WATCH HE IS SELLING IS A DEAD RINGER FOR THE FIRST CIVILIAN MODEL THAT WAS CREATED USING TECHNOLOGY FIRST DESIGNED–INCLUDING CHEMICAL COMPOSITION
OF CIRCLE MOISTURE INDICATOR– BY THE US NAVY .
ADDITIONALLY, THE Milspec 1 on dial? That WOULD correspond to the first contract spec proposal FOR THE MILITARY VERSION by the USA NAVY.
YOU DID CLICK THE LINK ABOVE AND READ THE DATE?
THE U.S. NAVY VERSION DID NOT AND WOULD NOT HAVE “FIFTY FATHOMS ” EITHER ON THEIR WATCHES AND I WOULD ASSUME THEY ALL HAD THEIR CASE BACKS SIGNED AND IMPRINTED WITH SERIALS ET AL. I BELIEVE THERE WERE 10,000 UNITS.
the military version would have U.S. on dial as shown in specs, – though documents could arise that have something i have not seen…
so, it is a nice find, it would technically be a copy of the MILITARY SPECIFICATIONS AS OUTLINED IN DOC ABOVE.
So cannot be 1950’s……. AND THE Moisture Indicator IS EXACT AS THE DOC.
THE US GOV RELEASES THEIR SPECS AND THEN BIDS ARE MADE
IN THIS CASE IT IS POSSIBLE THAT US NAVY USED MOISTURE INDICATOR
BASED ON A BLANCPAIN DESIGN, YET NO DOCS HAVE SURFACED. BEING
AN AUTOMATIC IS ALSO AN INDICATOR. PROFESSIONAL AUTOMATIC DIVE
WATCHES USUALLY DATE TO 1958 +
ABOVE LINK OPENS IN OWN WINDOW SO YOU MAY CONTINUE HERE..
i noticed moisture ring is one color
that means case was breached; got wet..
value IN MY OPINION could by $9k
i do not believe it is worth 30k.
but who knows, it is original and awesome.
i cannot see how one could fix the moisture ring
i believe 10,000 units of the US NAVY version were released.
IF IT WERE MILITARY a premium would be added.
i have not seen nor acquired any info that says “milspec 1? was a US issue
RATHER Milspec 1 SEEMS TO BE IN HONOR OF THE FIRST U.S.NAVY VERSION.
i also do not know if case back was imprinted like all mil watchs,
but would say i cannot believe they were not
ps: you are about to become educated in us mil dive watches!.
BLANCPAIN watch dial ( No Radiations )
with Date window ( Old fifty fathoms )
DIAL IS FAKE IT SHOWS RAISED TRITIUM MARKERS THAT HAVE AGED. STRAIGHT PAINT WOULD NOT AGE. WHETHER OR NOT IT IS RADIUM OR TRITIUM IS NOT THE POINT. THE DIAL INDICATORS COULD BE COLORED TO LOOK LIKE AGED RADIATED INDICES. THE SELLER TRIES TO MAKE YOU BELIEVE THIS WATCH DIAL IS GENUINE BUT HAS FAILED TO REMOVE THE TRITIUM “T” AND RADIATION DETAILS TO THE RIGHT OF THE SWISS MADE SIGNATURE DENOTING TRITIUM ON THE DIAL
IN FACT, THE ABOVE DIAL HAS THE HIGHEST RADIATION SYMBOL IN THE
“T <25 mc .
Tritium was used from the 1960s until the late 1990s. Also being radio-active, but more mildly so (beta waves). The half-life mentioned above is of approx. 12,3 years. After that, Tritium (in most cases) will not glow anymore.
There were two degrees of Tritium employed at the time:
a) the dials emitting radio-activity of less than 25 mC. Dials were often marked “SWISS T < 25”
b) the dial emitting radio-activity of less than 7,5 mC. Dials often marked “T SWISS T”.
WE WROTE THE SELLER
EXPLAINED THE DIAL WAS RADIATED
WILL SEE IF THEY STILL OFFER IT FOR 999.00
THIS VINTAGE Fifty Fathoms aBOVE HAS THE CORRECT anti-radiation dial marking
IN ADDITION, NOTE THE MARKERS ARE WHIT, AND NOT
AGED BROWN YELLOW OR ORANGE TINTED OR COLORED
LIKE TRITIUM AND RADIUM DIALS
REAL DEAL BLANCPAIN FIFTY FATHOMS
BUILT TO US NAVY SPECIFICATION
BUT NOT MILITARY
1950’s Original Vintage BLANCPAIN
Fifty Fathoms Milspec 1 Automatic Dive Watch
“This watch has a very distinctive look, the Fifty Fathoms were first made around 1953 for the French Army Frogmen commandos and it’s one of the most collectible military piece as well as the rarest BLANCPAIN you can find!”
NOTE : THE DATING AND THE COUNTRY ARE WAY OFF. THE FIFTY FATHOMS WAS THE CIVILIAN VERSION OF THE TORNEK-RAYVILLE US NAVY DIVE WATCH/ DEVELOPED BY BULOVA AND THEN IMPROVED UPON BY US NAVY SPECS BY BLANCPAIN. THOUGH THERE WERE SERIOUS MILITARY DIVERS DEEP SEA WATCHES SINCE THE 1930’S, LIKE THE U.S. CANTEEN, THEY WERE MOSTLY MECHANICAL WIND VERSIONS, NOT AUTOMATICS. AS FAR AS AUTOMATICS, ROLEX HELD A PATENT FOR THE 360 DEGREES ROTOR SYSTEM UNTIL APP: 1950 WHEN THE SWISS INTRODUCED A FULL ROTOR MOVEMENT. THE BIDYNATOR WAS THE AUTOMATIC THAT WAS UTILIZED BY NEARLY EVERY TOP LINE MAKER.
TR-900 U.S. NAVY DIVER
THIS IS A CASE BACK WITH MIL-W-22176 SERIAL
AN ACTUAL NAVY DIVERS BLANCPAIN
OPENS IN NEW WINDOW
NOTE DATE TOP RIGHT
NOTE INDICATOR AT BOTTOM
OPENS IN NEW WINDOW
NOTE CASE BACK
WHICH WAS IN REGARDS TO THE FIRST
US NAVY CONTRACT SPECIFICATIONS
BUT IS NOT A NAVY DIVER BLANCPAIN
NOTE THE LOOK
NOTE RADIUM RAISED MARKER
NOT THE DIAL INDICATOR
[AGE OR MOISTURE HAS TURNED THE WHITE HALF PEACH COLOR)
THE DIVE BEZEL AND MARKINGS ARE CORRECT
THEY ARE AGED CORRECTLY
THE MOISTURE INDICATOR IS TWO COLORS
WITH SOME INDICATION OF MOISTER
THE TOP MARKER WITH RADIUM IS CORRECT
THE ABOVE IS CORRECT
THOUGH THE MILSPEC 1 LOOKS REPAIRED
IT IS MIRRORED ON THE REVERSE ON CASE BACK
BLANCPAIN RAYVILLE S.A.
BELOW ARE PICTURES OF ALLEGED GENUINE BLANCPAIN DIVE WATCHES. NOTE WE FIND SOME WATCHES WITH THE MILITARY SPECIFICATION MOISTURE
INDICATOR AS EARLY AS 1953. I FIND THAT FACT SOME WHAT STRANGE, SO I WILL STICK TO WHAT WE HAVE PREVIOUSLY DETERMINED. THE OTHER ITEM IS THE FRENCH MILITARY BLANCPAIN BEING THE SEED FOR THE FF BLANCPAIN. ONLY ONE BLANCPAIN HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED AS FRENCH MILITARY AND THAT WAS FOR FRENCH DIVERS SCHOOL, AND THE DATRE AND STYLE ARE MORE 1956 TP 1958.!
French military diving school model.1953-1955
OUR DATING IS 1956
BLANKPAIN AND FRENCH NAVY
ON THE BLANCPAIN WEBSITE, BLANCPAIN DELIVERS A MESSAGE THAT IT WAS THE FRENCH WHO ARE RESPOCIBLE FR THE FIFTY FATHOMS AND THAT THE US ORDERED SOME/ THEY DO NOT GO INTO ANY DETAIL AND MAKE IT SEEM AS IF US NAVY SIMPLY ORDERED THE BLANPAIN.
FIFTY FATHOMS EQIAL 300 FEET THE US NAVY HAD ALREADY REACHED 333 FEET WITH BULOVA’S AUTOMATIC PROTO TYPE. BY THE TIME BLANCPAIN SIGNED ON USN HAD OPTED FOR A NEW DESIGN IN THEIR MILITARY SPECIFICATIONS 1= 400 FEET.
ALSO, CONTRADY TO THE AWESOME BUT LACKING TIMEZONE BLANCPAIN HISTORY, TIME ZONE STATES THAT THE ONLY MAJOR ITEM THAT THE US NAVY REQUIRED WAS THE ILLUMINATION FOR THE DIALAND OTHER ILLUMINATED PARTS.
” delivered the watches to the US military under two names, “Blancpain Tornek” and “Rayville Tornek– “Like many of the military watches, the Tornek series complied with particular military specifications. Indeed, the Tornek series watches bear the label “MIL-SPEC 1” on the dial. One element commonly found in the military specifications dealt with the luminosity of the dial and bezel markings. In the US case, as in the case of many other military units, it was required that the Fifty Fathoms use radioactive material, such as Promethium 147, so that the indications would “glow” in the night conditions envisioned for many dives. These MILSPEC materials were fearsome, even by the rather casual standards of the day that applied to radioactive elements. The cases bore an inscription reading “DANGER. IF FOUND RETURN TO NEAREST MILITARY FACILITY “
THE ABOVE STORY LINE LEADS ONE TO BELIEVE THE ILLUMINATION WAS “FEIRCE” AND, THUS, “DANGEROUS”, AND THAT THE WATCHES HAD TO BE BURIED, DISPOSED OF. ET AL.. THE FACT IS, BY THE TIME THE FF BLANCPAIN REACHED CIVILLIAN USAGE, RADIUM WAS THE FEAR. STORIES OF CANCER OF THE NOUTH, HEAD, NECK. AND TERRIBLE FACTS THAT WERE COMPLILED OVER THE LAST 20 YEARS MADE THE PUBLIC FEAR WATCHES THAT GLOWED. THAT IS WHY THE WORDS “NO RADIATIONS” WAS USED ON SO MANY LATER BLANCPAIN FIFTY FATHOMS. THINK ABOUT IT. THIS UGLY YELLOW OT GREEN CRUICLE WITH “NO RADIATIONS” WRITTEN ON IT.
OPENS IN NEW WINDOW
MILSPEC US NAVY 1960
OK, WHEN IT COMES TO HISTORY, EVEN BLANCPAIN CAN MAKE CHANGES IF NO ONE IS WISER. THEN WE DISCOVER THE AUTHORATIVE PUBLICATIONS PICK THIS UP AND IT BECOMES HISTORY. BUT THEN, FROM A NOTHER SOURCE WE DISCOVER THAT OOPS, THERE ARE REVISIONS.. AND FROM TIMEZONE AT THAT. ONE ARTICLE STATES THE ABOVE WERE US NAVY WATCHES. YET WE NO THAT THE TR-900 WAS THE U.S. NAVY DIVERS WATCH. FURTHER THAT THE INDICES WERE :
“BLANCPAIN AND THE US NAVY”
“To counter this threat the Navy retrained their divers as Explosive Ordnance Disposal Units concentrating on keeping harbours and waterways clear and free for US Navy and allied vessels. But, with the rise in new technology mines, utilising multiple fuses, operated by pressure, time, contact or magnetic influence it was obvious that the Navy needed new equipment and amongst that equipment there was a requirement for a new diver’s watch.
The naval specification MIL-W-2217.6A(SHIPS) called for a watch capable of operating at depths of up to 400 ft, with an accuracy of at least 30 seconds a day and also to have absolutely no magnetic signature at all. Under the ‘Buy American Act’ the specification went to all of the major US watch companies; Elgin, Bulova, Hamilton and Waltham. However, as the initial request was for only 1,000 watches, none of them thought that the contract could be fulfilled profitably and that the challenges involved in the construction and testing were too demanding. However there was one American company who thought that they had a chance, Allen Tornek was the US importer for the Rayville Watch Company, of Villeret, Switzerland who made watches under the Blancpain name and also watches for department stores and other retail jewellers which did not have their own manufacturing facilities. Tornek & Rayville were interested for a couple of reasons; to both of them an order of 1,000 watches was a substantial one and they had a head start over the other companies in that Rayville were already manufacturing a diver’s watch in the Blancpain ‘Fifty Fathoms’.
But the requirement to make the watch completely amagnetic (an anti magnetic watch is one where the movement is protected from outside magnetic influences, whilst an amagnetic watch is one that has no parts in it that can be influenced by magnetism) was the major challenge. This required that special steel for the case be imported from Sweden; this steel had a completely different composition to the normal stainless steel used for watch cases and the compromise that this entailed was the steel was nowhere near as corrosion resistant.
Sourcing the special steel used was a minor problem compared to making the internals of the watch amagnetic, this involved making the escapement from hardened brass rather than steel; the balance spring also could not have been made from steel, but I have not yet been able to discover what material was used in its place.
It took almost 2 years from the initial inquiry before the Navy got their first watches, and when they did they went initially to the EODU guys and afterwards to other naval divers. The watch they received was quite different from the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. Firstly, it did not bear the name ‘Blancpain’ anywhere on the watch, the entire watch case was finished with a grained matt surface making it completely reflection proof and the dial luminous was neither Radium nor Tritium, rather it used Promethium 147. Promethium has several advantages over both the other commonly used isotopes; it emits many more particles than either of them, meaning the luminous indices would glow brighter and longer, both underwater and at night. However the downside to this was that its half-life is only 2.5 years, unlike Tritium, which has a 12.4-year half-life, and Radium whose half-life is measured in centuries. Obviously this short half-life would have been unacceptable in a civilian watch, but the Navy had different requirements.
The initial order was for 780 watches (at $187.50 each) and the last of them were delivered in June 1965, a few months later another order for slightly fewer than 300 was received but that was it for the Navy. Two years later Mr. Tornek approached the Navy asking if they needed any more watches, but as the Vietnam conflict was at its height, the Navy had other things on their mind and told him that they didn’t think that they would need any more. So the special production line was dismantled, and the external suppliers (dial and steel companies) were told that their services were no longer needed. But, if you will remember, I mentioned that Promethium 147 had a half-life of only 2.5 years; this meant that only five years after the first watches were made they would now be down to 25% of their initial luminous output. But when the Navy approached Tornek about obtaining replacement dials, they were told that there were no more and that there was no chance of getting any more. So, as the dials became dimmer and the watches became less useful they were returned to the naval stores. However, once they got into the stores they were doomed, because the rear of each case had been stamped “DANGER Radioactive Material” and a large radioactive symbol. Under naval rules, they were sent back to the Atomic Energy Commission in the US, where they were disposed of as low-level atomic waste. They were placed in containers with other low-level waste (uniforms, badges, pipework etc) and the containers were filled with concrete and then buried deep underground at sites in deserted areas of the US. The watches were very low production items to begin with (just over 1,000 units made) and many must have been lost by divers whilst being used and most of the rest were destroyed by the Government. This means that the Tornek Rayville TR-900 may well be one of the rarest of all military watches; current research believes that there to be only about 20 known examples extant. This makes the watch shown here extra special as it remained at Rayville for 40 years and never went either to Tornek or to the US Navy and so shows the finish that these watches had when new.
LINK OPENS IN NEW WINDOW
65-70 65 GERMAN MILITARY
70 LIP 99