Tag Archives: Military

Stowa Beobachtungsuhr

A “B-Uhr” by Stowa

The german Luftwaffe “observation watch” of WWII is a classic. It was more a navigational tool than a watch, and only worn by pilots or navigators over their flying suits. It was also not issued to anybody in particular, but used only when needed and returned after each flight. Wartime Germany having enormous needs, a specification for a navigational watch was emitted and a few suppliers were selected : IWC (swiss), Wempe, Laco, Stowa, Lange&Söhne (german firms, using also swiss ebauches). All those watches were externally mostly similar, with a grey finish, big crowns usable with gloves and a 55mm diameter; not exactly a wristwatch.

The Unitas movement, under the dial

Note the leather gasket on the stem

Walter Storz’s (Stowa) version of the B-Uhr is based on a swiss Unitas ebauche; this movement is very well finished, most notably the jewels are not flat but convex, thus limiting all friction in the geartrain to a minimum. As per the specification, the base movement is modified, an indirect central second, a swan neck regulator and a hacking stop are added. Such add-ons are quite uncommon on a pocket watch movement.

The hacking lever

Detail of a jewel

The various markings inside

The dial design remains very popular, and is easily found in a lot of modern watches of all kinds of type, price range, and taste.

A few resources:
a military watch expert, K. Knirim
a current example of an IWC “Flieger”
the Stowa brand is still active


Lemania “Majetek Vojenske Spravy”

Lemania was a Swiss manufacturer, best known among collectors for its military watches. It made chronographs for the british RAF, for the swedish army, … Lemania also build ebauches for other manufacturers: the famous Omega Speedmaster “Moonwatch” used a Lemania-based movement. The Lemania 5100 was fitted into quite a few military and civilian watches, for example the Bundeswehr issued some to helicopter crews.

A Lemania “Majetek Vojenske Spravy”, a Swiss watch specially made for the Czech army (1950s)

“Majetek Vojenske Spravy” stands for “property of the military administration”: it is cleanly written all over the caseback, with a unique number, usually 3 or 4 digits. This watch was never sold to the general public, there are no markings on the dial so collectors call it the “Lemania Majetek”.

Caseback markings

During the prewar period, the Cezch administration used Longines watches, non shockproofed with a small second, their design was already old. After the war, Lemania, Eterna and even some Soviet watches (Strela 3017, Pobeda) can be found, bearing the “Majetek…” and number engravings. Contrary to the Lemania, the Eterna model was available in the civilian market. The Lemania is powered with the 3050 caliber, a well made sweep second handwound movement with indirect drive. Two details set it apart from an ordinary movement to my eyes : there is a small jewel in the sweep second friction spring, and the crown wheel is nicely made in the old fashioned way:

The crown wheel

The case has an uncommon shape and size for a 1950s watch: thin (9mm) but big (38mm across without the crown) for yesterdays standards, the angular shape sets this watch immediately apart.

Polishing the case, by hand to keep the angles sharp

Vintage styling is very “in” these days, so Eterna made a reissue of the 1950s model: it had a similar shape to the Lemania. The reissue has of course a modern automatic movement with date:

The Eterna reissue


Chronograph cal. 31659

I already made a quick presentation about those soviet military chronographs (click to read). This one was bought in Moscow in 1991 or 1992 by its previous German owner, who wore it and stored it away when it stopped ticking. When it arrived on my desk, it looked good but was completely frozen. The movement is quite tough, it does have a shock protection device so what did go wrong? Balace staff OK, the chronograph did not block the watch, I had to dismantle all the chrono parts to find …

A toothless gear!

The ratchet wheel somehow lost 12 teeth, of course some of them found their way into the gear train and blocked the watch. A very uncommon mishap! The steel used to make the wheel may have been too hardened? Anyway, this is impossible to repair, so I had to find a replacement.

Let’s look at the insides of this chronograph; in particular, this a hacking version of the regular 3133, meaning that a lever stops the balance when the crown is pulled to adjust the hands:

What makes the 31659 a hacking 3133

Alongside a 0.6mm screwdriver for size:

A closer view of the hacking lever

Gear train and chronograph parts

The bare movement in a chronograph can be quite simple, this is the case : a 21600 bph watch, big diameter, small seconds. All good for simplicity and accuracy.

The bare movement

We can see from left to right : driving wheel and coupling clutch, chronograph bridge with seconds and minute counter, sliding gear and the command levers (start/stop and reset). Lots of screws, do not mistake a simple screw for an eccentric.

All chronograph parts minus the cam and reset hammer

Each function (seconds counting, minutes counting, resetting, coupling the chrono with the watch…) is triggered by the cam, which is itself rotated by the command levers (i.e. the pushers). The cam is just behind the reset hammers:

The heart of a cam-operated chronograph

More parts on the dial side!

The Soviets did not use a Western shockproof device, but designed their own. This one looks like an Incabloc from a distance, but the “lyre” has no hinges, it must be carefully (!!!) removed to access the jewels:

Soviet shockproof device, Incabloc-like but more difficult to handle

All is put back together, this one is now good to go:

Back together, and running

A late soviet-made 31659 ‘Sturmanskie’ military chronograph

Note: This chronograph does look like a Valjoux 7734, but it is different: small balance and higher bph, different jewel count, and I did not try to mix parts but I bet that most are not interchangeable. The Soviet obviously based their design on the 7734 but this is not a carbon copy!


Soviet airforce Sturmanskie cal. 31659

The “Sturmanskie” (Штурманские, Russian for navigator) was a Soviet Airforce issued watch, never available to the general public. The movement was made in the 1st Moscow Watch Factory, named “Kirov” after the famous prewar soviet Party member, and after the 1960s well knowed as the Poljot (Russian for flight) factory. At first, in the 1950s it was a simple watch with a hacking function. The name was reused in the early 1980s to name an all steel chronograph using the well known caliber Poljot 3133. Many civilian versions were made with different dials, always in plated cases.

In 1987 the last version was introduced. New dial (no telemeter scales), modified case (still all steel), specific blued hands and a movement seldom found in civilian watches, the Poljot 31659, a hacking 3133. Between 1987 and 1991, a few variations of the dial can be seen. Here are three of them:

Three Sturmanskie cal. 31659 from the Soviet airforce

Three Sturmanskie cal. 31659 from the Soviet airforce

The light grey dial is the most common, made from 1987 to 1991. Civilian versions were made using this dial and plated cases. The all grey dial was made only in 1987, the movement having a date stamp. The light blue/turquoise dial is even less common, made around 1989.

The all-grey 1987 Sturmanskie

The all-grey 1987 Sturmanskie

A late model light grey Sturmanskie

A late model light grey Sturmanskie