VE-Day Post War Watch

VE-Day Post War Watch

The first good news in a long time... A glimmer of hope after 4 years of metaphorical darkness... that’s what describes May 8, 1945. That day, known as Victory in Europe Day, changed the course of human history. Let’s learn a little about that day and see what it has to do with watches.

A Sliver of Light in the Darkness

A world at war for 4 years is difficult for anyone under 75 years old to imagine, but it was the reality for billions of men, women, and children around the globe in the 1940s. As some had already lived through a world war once, this was the second in a lifetime for many adults then. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, around 85 million soldiers and civilians died as a result of World War II.

As the war neared the 4-year mark, the U.S., alongside the Allied forces, had taken many victories but also suffered bitter defeats. The United States entered the war in December of 1941, first declaring war against Japan and then Germany and Italy. One of the first major victories was its defeat of the Japanese navy at the Battle of Midway in June of 1942. In September of 1943, Italy surrendered to the Allies. Then, in June of 1944, came D-Day - a battle that is considered a victory, though many lives were lost in the confusion of early battle. Prior to 1945, hope was harder to find than spare sheet metal. However, by the time 1945 came around, the United States and Allied forces had seen some key progress.

Turning of the Tides

All in all, the momentum of the war had completely shifted by April of 1945. That month, the United States military met up with the Soviet forces that surrounded Berlin. After Adolf Hitler committed suicide upon the Allied invasion of Germany, things looked increasingly positive for the Allies. That positivity bled into May when Germany finally surrendered. Hitler's replacement, Col. Gen. Alfred Jodl, signed documents solidifying Germany's surrender on May 7. Though Germany had officially surrendered, Soviet Premier Josef Stalin insisted on a second surrender document to be signed by German Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel. Thus, on May 8, 1945, all documents were signed, and Europe's bloody battles were over.

The reaction in the United States was somewhat controversial. With the tragic death of President Roosevelt just weeks before, succeeding President Truman ordered the flags to remain at half-staff despite the victory. Furthermore, Truman reasoned that the war was not yet over and thus asked Americans to mitigate their celebrations. Various levels of celebration broke out around the country, with some city observances being somber affairs while others possessing overwhelming elation. The most famous celebration was the parade in New York City, with thousands marching in and around Times Square.


The Darkness before the Dawn

The world war was not over because of the Pacific theater; after all, Pearl Harbor was less than 4 years in the rear-view mirror for the United States. However, Victory in Europe Day (later nicknamed V-E Day) brought a newfound hope and optimism to the United States and the Allied Forces. It was the wind in their sails that they needed to win the war. V-E Day led the United States to drop the nuclear bombs in Japan in August of 1945. Shortly after the atomic bomb explosions, Allies won the war with Victory in Japan Day (V-J Day) on September 2, 1945. That's a story for another day...

When the war finally ended, surviving soldiers brought home their pocket watches among other possessions. These watches were trusted companions - perhaps more familiar than family to them. Because of this bond with their watches (or for non-sentimental men, simply to save cost), they would integrate their pocket watch into everyday life. But for some soldiers who were issued a timepiece in GCT (which is reported in military time), this posed a point of complication. The GCT dial told time in 24 hours (military time) and required mental math to tell time in 12-hour AM/PM increments.

Just like these brave men had done on the battlefield, Hamilton saved the day – at least when it pertained to their massively-popular 4992B model. This came by way of pocket watch conversion, changing the watch from a 24-hour dial to a 12-hour dial. The process was much more in-depth than simply switching or painting over the dial. It also required replacing the hour wheel, the minute wheel, and the post, plus the hour wheel had to be broached to fit the cannon pinion. This is because the original Hamilton 4992B's 24-hour dial meant the watch hour hands went around the dial just once in a 24-hour day - not two times as a typical timepiece does. The conversion, then, was to change how the watch portrayed time as well as how it measured time altogether.

It's rumored that Hamilton sold a kit to allow for these conversions, either by watchmakers or soldiers themselves if they had a horological background. While advertisements of this kit are nearly impossible to find, it would make sense for Hamilton to sell the approximately 3 parts necessary to make this conversion. History has given several examples where the conversion was done but it is unclear both how many Hamilton 4992B models are still in existence and how many of those have been converted to 12-hour dials.



Written by Jordan Roberts, aka "The Watch Writer"


Hamilton 4992b G.C.T. ca.1941 WWII military pocket watch rare original cream 12 hr. dial. AdamVintage. (n.d.). 

Homage Forum. (2019, August 27). Hamilton 4992B 24 hour to 12 hour conversion. 

U.S. Army Center of Military History. (2021, May 6). Interesting facts about victory in Europe day (VE Day). ASOMF. 

Vergun, D. (2020, August 14). Significant events of World War II. U.S. Department of Defense. 

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