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Military watches are an endless source of fascination, with their spartan designs that exude toughness--both inside and out. From the First World War to the present day, manufacturers from Longines to Rolex have produced timepieces for the armed forces. Many of these designs have gone on to become legendary in their own right. Much has been made of the "WWW" produced by twelve manufacturers during World War II (the Dirty Dozen), or of the Mark XI watches produced by Jaeger-LeCoultre and IWC. But in the realm of pilots' watches, there's another Fliegeruhr that has attained a kind of cult-like status among collectors: the Heuer Bundeswehr.
Like the IWC/JLC Mark XI, the Heuer Bundeswehr was designed for the sole purpose of use in military aviation. It was General Issue for pilots in the air forces of many nations (including the Italian Air Force, under the brand Leonidas, which Heuer acquired in the 60s) but is best-known for its use by the Luftwaffe of West Germany. From the 1960s to the 1970s, the "Bund" (as it's affectionately known) saw a range of dial configurations that baffle those not in the know; fortunately, the Heuer experts over at On The Dash have complied a comprehensive overview of these variations, which we'll summarize here.
There's one tell-tale sign that a Bund might have seen military service (or, to put less fine of a point on it, is from the period in which the Bund was issued to the Luftwaffe). It's one little symbol, in bright red above 6 o'clock on the dial: the letters "3H" surrounded by a circle. This indicates that the luminescent material on the numerals is tritium (Hydrogen-3). As one can tell from OnTheDash's breakdown, the 3H symbol came in four different variations, with the characters in varying sizes. However, no matter the size of the 3H symbol, it meant one thing: the watch can be dated (most likely) to the 1960s to 1970s.
The Bund that we offer here, with the requisite 3H symbol, is echt Bund--in short, echt everything you want a pilot's watch to be. The dual subregister layout of the dial is highly legible, in the way that the most iconic pilot's watches are: the chronograph registers are symmetrically-arranged on a horizontal axis, offset by the Heuer logo at 12 o'clock and the 3H symbol at 6. The numerals are big and bold, encircled by a 60-minute chapter ring.
And the matte case is, as you'd expect, nothing short of hefty. At roughly 43mm it dominates the wrist, at home on nylon or on the more traditional leather Bund strap. Like the Heuer Autavias of the period, the case is crowned by a rotating 60-minute bezel.
As with many military watches, the Bund is a front-loader, with the movement being secured by the screw-mounted case back that is attached to the bezel. The Bund, being a manually-wound flyback chrono, used a host of Valjoux movements, from the Valjoux 22 to the cal. 220 to the cal. 230. Sturdy, dependable, it's the sort of watch you want strapped to your wrist whether you're dodging enemy fighters at 35,000 feet or engaged in more terrestrial pursuits.
Steel Case is approximately 43mm (excluding the crown). Heuer Ref. 1550SG. Circa late 1960s/early 1970s.
Overall Condition: The watch is in very condition over all, with only a handful of very faint wear marks consistent with light use. Tapered lugs are strong and show no signs of over-polishing. Matte Heuer dial is in excellent condition, showing no degradation to original printing and no spotting or discoloration. Luminescent material on the Arabic markers is in tact and lightly patinated. Heuer handset is in similarly good condition with slightly darker patination evident in the luminescent material but showing no signs of having been re-lumed. Matte rotating bezel is in good condition with some wear around the outer edge suggesting use, and a series of light scratches from 10 to 12:00. Pushers engage chronograph functions crisply and reset is true. Unsigned crown. Case back bears military marking and two issue numbers: BUNDESWHER / 6645-12-146-3774 and 340-9456.
Includes two 20 mm nylon straps by Crown & Buckle.