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Nothing conjures up images of derring-do and bravery under fire more than the Second World War. The far-flung and long-lasting conflict ranged from all corners of the globe and had ramifications that resounded long after the end of the war. All walks of life, from industry to commerce, were affected.
The same holds true for the watch industry.
One after the other, watch manufactures received commissions from the world’s militaries. In such a huge conflict, millions of soldiers, sailors, and airmen took part. Along with the food, water, and ammo that comprised an individual soldier’s kit, he also needed a watch.
In the latter part of the war, the British Ministry of Defense contracted twelve manufactures to create watches for members of special units, mainly artillery and radio. These watches were classed under the designation W.W.W., for Watch, Wristlet, Waterproof. With sturdy water-tight cases and stark black dials, they were indispensable to the men who wore them, vital for keeping pace with the intricate and fast-paced movements of the war machine.
And now, known as the “Dirty Dozen” by collectors, these watches have become desirable—because of who wore them, what they represent, and for being, quite simply, completely badass.
The twelve manufacturers were IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Longines, Omega, Grana, Cyma, Buren, Lemania, Eterna, Timor, Vertex, and Record. Each manufacturer delivered as many as was possible for it to make, with the larger manufacturers—such as Omega and Lemania—producing the most, approximately 25,000 and 10,000 respectively. As such, these are among the easiest to find.
However, the smaller outfits only managed to muster enough resources to produce 5000 or so pieces, making it more challenging for these examples more challenging for collectors who wish to catch ‘em all today.
Though perhaps not as familiar a name to modern collectors as Omega, Longines, or JLC, Vertex is an old one, with a proud British history. In 1912, Claude Octavius Lyons set up a watch company which he named Dreadnought after the famous battleship. Shortly thereafter, under the name Vertex, the company had facilities in Switzerland and made watches in conjunction with Swiss companies like Movado and Revue Tommen.
In 1915 Vertex secured a contract to supply watches to the British army.
This tradition continued throughout World War II under the leadership of Claude Lyons’ son-in-law, Henry Lazarus, who was himself a captain in the British army. Through Henry’s influence, he secured a contract to produce watches for the military. Though the company’s London headquarters was bombed during the Blitz, the company’s facilities in Switzerland—a neutral country—continued to churn out watches for the war effort.
In 1943 the company received specifications for navigation watches, which would become the W.W.W. supplied under the Ministry of Defense’s specifications. Over 15,000 of these watches were produced in all, proving that Vertex had the chops to do their part for the war effort. Like examples of W.W.W. made by Buren, JLC, Lemania, and Record, they were plated with chrome due to the scarcity of steel during the war.
However, the case of this particular Vertex W.W.W. shows very little of the brassing that often plagues chrome-plated watches of the era, making it perhaps the nicest example that we’ve found.
The brand enjoyed a recent revival under the founder’s great-grandson, who reissued this very watch, making examples of the original particularly desirable.
But we love the original, and with one as nice as this one is, it’s not hard to see why.
Chrome-plated brass case is approximately 36mm (excluding crown). Calibre 59 Manually-Wound Movement.
Overall Condition: Case is in very good condition overall showing normal brassing from age and wear. Dial shows some signs of age, including patination to the luminescent elements. Unsigned crown. Case back has military markings.
Includes one 18mm grey 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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