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October 21—Trafalgar Day, the day of Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson’s heroic victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, in officers’ messes or on battleships, guests drink a toast to his “Immortal Memory.” Glasses raise in silence for the man who fell, struck by a sniper’s shot, on his flagship HMS Victory aged 47.
To the people assembled in the Vickers-Armstrong shipyard in the north of England, on Trafalgar Day in 1960, it was a good day to christen a new submarine.
Clad in a coat with a fur collar, Queen Elizabeth II stretched out a gloved hand toward a lever. With great solemnity, she pulled, and a submarine—the HMS Dreadnought—slid down its slip into the Walney Channel. The moment was full of significance, from the day of its launch, to its name, to what made it run.
1960 was the height of the Cold War, and the Royal Navy was engaged in streamlining its fleet. Ships that had served so gallantly in World War II were sold for scrap, and newer, sleeker ships sprung up in their place. And, after a visit from the U.S.S. Nautilus, the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, the Admiralty instituted plans to build a nuclear-powered sub of its own.
The name Dreadnought was chosen, a name that had been used since England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, and thus held great significance. Vickers-Armstrong, who had built vessels of war (both in the air and at sea) for the British military since the 1920s, was given the contract. After a construction period fraught with tension between the U.S. and the U.K. (who wanted to adapt American technology in the construction of the Dreadnought, despite objections from Admiral Hyman Rickover, the “Father of the Nuclear Navy”), the boat was launched by the Queen on the day of the greatest British naval victory.
Many of the sailors who served on the Dreadnought, as well as its sister ships above the waves, wore watches made by Lemania—watches like this monopusher chronograph.
These timepieces were manufactured under contract specifications from the Royal Navy and were issued starting in the 1950s. The simple Arabic dial clearly marks it as a military watch, while the “Broad Arrow” designates it as property of the Crown. Other indicators such as the engravings on the case back hint at a life dedicated to the service of its country.
Two variants of these chronographs were issued to the Royal Navy. One variant had radioactive dials such as the one found here, which were given to those in service on surface ships. The other, however, which was worn on nuclear subs like the Dreadnought, lacked the luminescent material, as radiation is carefully monitored on submarines for obvious health and safety reasons.
While the original radium dials on watches issued to topsiders were supposed to be swapped out for tritium replacements in the 1960s, this one somehow avoided that fate, and thus lacks the tell-tale encircled T that signifies the presence of tritium. Furthermore, its case back shows both the redacted 'HS9' issue number by the Hydrographic Survey of the Admiralty and the later NATO code '0552/924-3305', indicating it escaped dial replacement at least twice! Perhaps it was once the property of an officer with some sway at the Admiralty and a preference for low level radiation!
Unlike other more commonly-seen military chronographs, this Lemania model utilizes a Calibre 15 monopusher configuration with a central seconds chronograph hand and thirty-minute register, with start, stop and reset all operated via the single pusher at 2:00.
With a crisp silvery white dial, this Lemania stands out amidst a sea of military watches (pun intended) with their stark black dials, and is thus highly sought after by collectors worldwide.
Furthermore, it dates from a pivotal time in British Naval history - the dawn of the atomic age. All of this makes this piece a perfect choice for the collector of militaria, or for anyone who just appreciates a cool chronograph with a great story!
Stainless steel case is approximately 38.5mm (excluding crown).
Overall Condition: Case is in very good condition overall with moderate signs of use and wear. Dial is in very good condition with some signs of age to the luminescent (radium) materials of the hour markers and hands. Unsigned crown. Caseback has military engravings.
Includes one 20mm green nylon strap.
Analog/Shift stands behind the authenticity of our products in perpetuity.
We back each Analog/Shift vintage timepiece with a one-year mechanical warranty from the date of purchase.
All of our watches include complementary insured shipping within the 50 states. We are happy to hand deliver your purchase in Manhattan or you may pick it up at our showroom.
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