American Military Timepieces:

Preface of the book of Marvin E. Whitney, AWI Press 1992
(Due to lack of a compact presentation of US military timepieces, this is a reference to Marvins excellent book!)

Military timepieces must have the properties of timepieces in general, but the rather special conditions under which many of them were used render the emphasis somewhat different. They may be simple or complex, depending on the number of processes which intervene between the operator and operation. Hence, in some instances, special types of timepieces were conceived, designed, and built specifically with this purpose in mind. The design of the basic watch/clock movement and the execution of additional cams, gears, levers, and springs created an instrument which asserted an individuality of its own. Thus, because of its self-contained motive power and controlling unit, it could be made to actuate a pointer, a recording pen-arm, a bell, or other elements, either directly or by the means of an intermediate mechanical device.

Most of the time-oriented pieces which made up the military's repertoire of timepieces were contemporary in design, appearance, and use. Specifications dictated some changes, such as sturdier and nonreflective cases, luminous hands, numerals and graduations, nonmagnetic, withstand vibrations, and operational at very low/high temperatures. However, by and large, movements in most instances varied little from the various models and types found in pre-war civilian watches. Even though the contemporary design prevailed in most military timepieces, numerous special pieces were designed and built.

During my tenure at the U.S. Naval Observatory, we were often requested by various branches of the service to alter and/or design time-oriented instruments which would perform a specific operation(s). Often after completing the prototype, and the tests proved satisfactory, the piece was contracted out for production. Sometimes we were informed as to what the piece was for and in other instances the use was not divulged. However, some of these interesting timing devices have or are making their appearance at government surplus sales, marts, antique sales, etc. Often I am asked to identify these pieces and/or explain their use. Some I recognize as being done at the Observatory, while others, I am also at a loss as to what they were designed to do, since other branches of the service and governmental installations were often involved in this type of developmental work. However, they have become highly collectible items, and are truly conversational pieces.

While at the Naval Observatory, I realized that many of these timepieces, in due time, would become historical artifacts, and thus I began collecting as much available material on them as possible. When the war ended and the government entered into the surplus property business, I began searching for and acquiring many of these timepieces. Others were doing the same thing and as an out-growth of the bond and common interest shared by a small group of collectors, the Society of Military Horologists was formed.

During the years following World War II, a great accumulation of war materials became obsolete and were declared surplus. Some of this material was stored under adverse conditions while large quantities were destroyed, including hundreds or even thousands of military timepieces.

Eventually some of the remaining surplus stock was offered for sale and began to fall into the hands of collectors of military timepieces and historians who realized that items which are commonplace today are likely to become tomorrow's cherished possessions, and historical artifacts once they are no longer readily available.

Inherent in the pursuit of collectors' items is the necessity for gathering information which enables the researcher to arrive at a classification of types produced and identification of the companies that produced them. Such information is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. Many manufacturers of wartime timepieces have ceased to exist. Others had production and distribution records which were classified information at first, only to be destroyed later when declassified. This loss has for all time obscured data which would have been the basis for orderly accession of a well-rounded collection.

The passing of those craftsmen who had designed and developed manufacturing technology is closing the doors of in~uiry. However, the scope and magnitude of time, determination, and the development of many different timing devices, did indeed mark a milestone in the annals of horology.

Awareness of this fact has led to the urgency of assembling and recording data before it is lost forever with the passage of time. This realization prompted the formation of the Society of Military Horologists in March of 1984 by a small group of collectors and historians led by Dr. George W. Huckaba. The purposes of this Society of Military Horologists are:

1. To disseminate general and technical information on military timepieces of all types:
a) Purpose served by the type.
b) Identify manufacturers of eachtype.
c) Determine rarity of each type byproduction figures where available.
d) Type of unit, ship, or aircraft in which each was used.
e) Type or rank of personnel towhom each was issued.
2. To furnish advice relative to repairservice and other assistance to members.
3. To furnish a source of original repair parts by pooling resources of members.
4. To promote purchase and/or exchange of duplicate items among
5. To offer an opportunity for fellowship and encouragement among those with this common interest.

Tn order to promote membership and to serve the stated purposes, a newsletter has been published quarterly since the first issue in February of 1985. The newsletters have presented such topics as the operation and disassembly of timepieces, surveys of existing types, suggestions for repair and preservation, a want ad section which is free to members, and a variety of other illustrated articles which have been furnished by members with the hope of promoting the Society and the interests of collectors yet to come who depend upon present day collectors to pass on to them the item which will become later-day Collections.

In June 1989, the Society of Military Horologists was honored by the presentation of a charter recognizing it as Chapter 143 by the National Association F Watch and Clock Collectors. The Society ofMilitary Horologists is a nonprofit organization. and all secretarial and editorial work is voluntary.

In concluding a preface, it is only fitting and a pleasure to mention those who have been most helpful in the preparation of this manuscript.

To my most valued friend and former coworker, Margaret H. Crawford, I owe a particular debt of gratitude for her thorough ness and devotion in reading and correcting the manuscript.

For their help with various catalogs, photographs, and technical material, I should like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to Rodney V. Councell, Greensboro, MD; Henry B. Fried, NY; Roy Ehrhardt, Heart of America Press, Kansas City, MO; Michael P. Danner, AWl, Cincinnati, OH; Rod Minter, Lombard, IL; Gordon Minnich, Lancaster, PA; Robert L. Ravel, MD, Bryn Mawr, PA; Anthony Pararas, Derwood, MD; Ron Gordon, NYC; Mike Kirkpatrick, Bellevue, WA; Howard Schroeder, Lynnwood, WA; Skee T. Jenssen, Fairfax, VA; Art Bissell, Boulder, CO; Al R. Betters, Cmdr. USN (Ret.), Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) and the Sea, Air, Land Teams (SEAL), Bakersfield, CA; and Captain William Peterson, USN (Ret.), Oregon Maritime Center and Museum, Portland, OR.

I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to Fred C. Hougham, Daytona Beach, FL, and Dr. G.W. Huckaba, Memphis, TN, who took the time to photograph and supply me with many excellent photographs of pieces from their very fine collections of military timepieces.

The author is gratefully indebted to William D'Andrea, Alexandria, VA; Glenys Dyer, Arlington, VA; George 0. Evans, Annandale, VA; and particularly to Paul Morrow, Clinton, MD, who gave of their time and expertise in providing the many fine photographs of pieces from the author's collection.

Thanks to Steven Dick, Astronomer/ Historian, U.S. Naval Observatory; Patricia

A. Tomes, Curator, National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors;Carlene Stephens, Curator, Division of Mechanisms, Smithsonian Institution; U.S. National Bureau of Standards; and the Truman Library and Museum, for the valuable material and photographs which they so graciously furnished.

My grateful thanks are extended to all the manufacturers, namely, Karl Keyes,

Bulova Watch Company; Richard F. Leavitt, Chelsea Clock Company; Johann Jargo, Breitling Watch Company; Scott Chou, COSERV, Hattori Corporation of America; William Plank and Frank Salzano, LonginesWittnauer Watch Company; Erich A. Lorenz and Charles Berthiaume, Rolex Watch, USA, Inc., Karen Zaverdas, Revue Thommen, Tyrolit Company, Inc., Susan]. Rich, Waltham Clock Company; Heuer Time and Electronics Corporation; and Seth Thomas Clock Company-all of whom took the time and trouble to furnish drawings, photographs, and particulars on their products.

I should like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army Ordnance and U.S. Navy, for allowing me to use many of their illustrations and technical material from their various technical manuals. The author would like to express his thanks and appreciation to Milton C. Stevens and Regina Stenger of the AWl Press for their helpful cooperation in the production of this book, and to Ms. Stenger for her fine work on the preparation of the index. Miscellaneous pictures have come from many individuals, duly noted by credit line, to which I would like to record my grateful thanks.

Zurück zum Seitenanfang