A few years ago a gentleman brought us a pocket watch. It was a family heirloom and he wanted us to turn it into a wristwatch, as we've done for so many others. This pocket watch was different though. We don't see many with black dials, and we'd never seen one with a 24-hour dial.
After consulting some of our historical advisors we realized this one was special. Built for the United States Army Air Corps beginning in World War II, this timepiece has been called "The Watch That Won The War."
Today though, there's not much use for a pocket watch, so regardless of its story, these pieces of history are lost, forgotten, and basically thrown away by their owners... until now. We built the Military Edition not just to save these pocket watches, but to celebrate the extraordinary provenance inside each one.
The Pocket Watches
The AN5740-1 was commissioned by the United States Government at the beginning of World War II and built for the Army Air Corps. There were strict requirements for this timepiece because the brave soldiers in the skies needed to know the accurate time.
Three of the Great American Watch Companies were up to the task. Elgin from Illinois, Waltham from Massachusetts, and Hamilton from Pennsylvania all built mechanisms that met these specifications. To make the mark, all three companies decided to retrofit their most valuable and accurate Railroad Grade movements.
The dials were all standardized to be black with simple, white 24-hour markings. Each had a set of white hands, and a long sweeping second hand with a hacking feature that allowed the timepieces to be used not just as pocket watches but as stopwatches.
Time In The Skies
Called the Master Navigational Watch, these pocket watches were used by the Navigator on Bomber aircraft like the B-17, B-24, and B-29. Each dial was marked with "GCT," known at the time as Greenwich Civil Time because that was the standard European timezone. Now called UTC or Coordinated Universal Time, it relates to the time at 0 degrees Longitude which is the location of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England.
When determining your location by using the stars, if your watch is off by about four seconds, you could be as much as one nautical mile off course. For that reason, these pocket watches needed to be extremely accurate and were even mounted inside gimbal systems to protect them from the aircraft vibrations.
It is said that General Henry Arnold, commander of the Army Air Corps during the European campaigns thanked the watch companies for “providing aircraft instruments that played such an important part in [the Allies’] completely successful victory.”
Restoration Of The Original Antiques
Most of the movements we find were manufactured between 1938 and 1950. They were likely used in war-time but were discarded or forgotten shortly afterward. This means the original mechanical, manually wound mechanisms have not been properly serviced or cared-for in recent years.
Vortic's team of expert watchmakers meticulously restores each movement to near factory conditions using only original parts. Thankfully, because these were built as tools for the U.S. Military, extra parts were built for field servicing. We even have access to the original field service manuals from the, now defunct, watch companies!
We do the best we can to restore and regulate each one, but "perfect" timekeeping similar to a modern wristwatch is not achievable. Each watch will be adjusted to keep excellent time on a day to day basis, but there will be variations from watch to watch.
The 2021 Military Edition (3rd Iteration)
To standardize the offering, every watch in the Third Edition of 50 pieces contains an original antique Hamilton 4992B movement. Elgin*, Waltham*, and Hamilton* manufactured movements for the GCT AN5740-1, but the Hamilton version is much more prevalent.
It has taken us years to source all 50 original antique movements, but we now have a consistent, albeit slow, supply. Each piece will be uniquely serial numbered and come with a certificate of authenticity.
*Since all of the internal components are antiques and were made by these now defunct companies, Vortic has no relationship with any modern-day representation of Elgin, Waltham, or Hamilton.
The Wristwatch Engineering System
Vortic is an engineering and manufacturing company with expertise in converting antique American pocket watch movements into wristwatches. The American Artisan Series and Railroad Edition are engineering systems designed to protect and preserve pieces of American history.
The Military Edition is a special example of this technology and has been over-built to house these extremely rare and valuable military mechanisms. Every metal component has been precision cut from blocks of 316L Stainless Steel inside Vortic's Colorado facility.
Only the best materials were sourced for this project due to the priceless nature of the timepieces being converted. The case is 49mm in diameter which is on the larger side of average, but we've sloped the lugs around your wrist and kept the crown at 12 o'clock to achieve a comfortable fit.
The Glass Crystals
For the front crystal of the Military Edition, we decided to do something different than our other watches. The custom domed glass is handcrafted for us by White's Crystals in San Francisco. Mr. White recommended a special German-engineered glass for this project with similar properties to Sapphire.
The domed glass creates a beautiful side profile that makes this watch stand out from all others. It also makes more room inside the watch for the very tall pinion holding the hands.
On the back, we used Corning Gorilla Glass just like our other watches. The scratch-resistant crystal has a clarity rating of nearly 100 meaning it's completely transparent and perfect for showing off the piece of American military history inside.
The Hand Crafted Straps
A watch this special can't have any normal wrist-band, and it shouldn't come with just one. That's why we partnered with Greg Stevens Design in Salt Lake City. Greg typically makes just one strap at a time for individual consumers, but we were able to convince him to collaborate with us on this project and craft two custom straps to accompany every Military Edition watch.
The first is hand-cut from vintage military canvas duffle bags. The army green canvas strap gives even more meaning to the name Military Edition. The second strap is the fun one. The leather is called "Bomber Jacket" because it looks and feels like a vintage, well worn, airmen coat.
The Veterans Watchmaker Initiative
We've partnered with the Veterans Watchmaker Initiative to provide jobs to U.S. Military personnel when they come home. $500 from the sale of each Military Edition watch will directly benefit their mission to educate and certify the next generation of American watchmakers.
With the rise in popularity of vintage and mechanical wristwatches, there's an ever-growing need for skilled watchmakers to restore and service these timepieces. Every watch company from Vortic to Rolex is actively seeking trained workers and the Veterans Watchmaker Initiative is filling those skill-gaps.
The current program can only train about 20 students at a time, but there are hundreds on the waiting list. By purchasing the Military Edition you will be directly impacting the Past, Present, and future of American watchmaking.
Support With A T-Shirt
Get your hands on our Military Edition T-shirt. Printed on demand locally in Colorado, this custom shirt will only be available for a limited time.
Available in 4 colors and tons of sizes, the 2020 Military Edition T-shirt is completely Made in USA.
Frequently Asked Questions
The 50 watches in the Third Edition (2021) of the Military Edition will be $6,995 each.
The Third Edition of the Military Edition will be offered for sale on Veterans Day (November 11th, 2021) at 12:00 pm Mountain Time. They go quickly, so don't miss out! Sign up for the waiting list now!
For the Third Edition (2021) we plan to manufacture the watches ahead of time and ship them as they are sold. Realistically we can ship the first 10 pieces within a week, and the rest will be made to order after that, ideally shipping all 50 by the end of the year.
The Military Edition is 49mm in diameter and 58mm lug to lug. The strap is 24mm, tapered to 22mm. The straps have been sized to fit any wrist between 6.5 and 8.5 inches (one size fits all).
The Military Edition will be exclusively available on Veterans Day each year. We do not know how many antique pocket watches we can find in the future, so subsequent sets may have fewer pieces available and will likely sell at a higher price.
Yes. Active Duty Military and all U.S. Military Veterans can receive 10% off any purchase on vorticwatches.com by using discount code "Military." You will be contacted after purchase for proof of service.
Just like all watches in Vortic's American Artisan Series, everything inside the watch is an original, restored antique. All internal components, including the dial (face), hands, and movement (gears and springs that tell time), are from a pocket watch built a long time ago. We restore those antique movements using only original parts and then build a custom engineering system around it. Everything you can touch, on the outside of the watch, is modern. This includes the case, glass, leather straps, crown, etc.
GCT, during World War II, meant Greenwich Civil Time, the standard European timezone. Now called UTC, or Coordinated Universal Time, it relates to the time at 0 degrees Longitude - the location of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England. It was the standard timezone for all Allied forces during the war.
We take care to restore and regulate each one, but "perfect" timekeeping, similar to a modern wristwatch, is not achievable. Each watch will be adjusted to keep excellent time on a day-to-day basis, but there will be variations from watch to watch. We attempt to regulate timekeeping within 30 seconds per day when averaged across all positions. For day to day use, you should not notice any fault in timekeeping.
The watch industry does not use the term "waterproof." We always say "water-resistant" because every single watch is different, and all customer environments are different. The Military Edition is rated to 5atm of water resistance, meaning it is perfect for day to day use, but not intended for use while showering or swimming.
All Vortic watches come with a 2-year warranty. The bottom line is, if anything ever goes wrong, even after you have the watch for 2 years, we will take care of you. We pride ourselves in our customer service, and we can fix just about anything!
Check out the link below for the unboxing of the First Edition! The subsequent editions have some slight changes but those will be a surprise.
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