The Culling Collection of Military Watches

Date of Auction: 9th June 2020

Sold for £800

Estimate: £500 - £700

British military: A ‘Dirty Dozen’ wristwatch, by Vertex, 1940s-1950s, the signed black dial bearing British military issue broad arrow pheon, white Arabic numerals and outer minutes track with luminous spots to 5 minutes, luminous hands and subsidiary seconds dial, the signed 15 jewel movement numbered ‘59’, within soft metal inner case, the heavy brushed nickel case with screw down steel back bearing British military issue broad arrow pheon and numbers ‘W.W.W. A.2040 3514956’, to a grey blue Nato strap, dial diameter 29.5mm. £500-£700


In the 40s, during World War II, Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) needed watches to issue to army personnel and perhaps in a bid to maximise production, rather than partnering with a specific brand, they invited any Swiss manufacturer who could build a watch to the requested standard, to do so. Very strict specifications were set: the dial must be black with luminous Arabic numerals and subsidiary seconds dial for maximum legibility, the movement regulated to chronometer level and the case rugged and waterproof. All in all, twelve watch manufacturers were eventually accepted, resulting in the nickname ‘The Dirty Dozen’; they were: Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, Jaeger Le-Coultre, Lemania, Longines, IWC, Omega, Record, Timor and Vertex. These were all delivered in 1945 and accompanied by a pigskin or canvas strap.
More formally, these watches were known as
W.W.W., a code established by the British Army to distinguish these from other military equipment; it simply stands for Watch. Wrist. Waterproof. Two serial numbers were stamped to the reverse of the case, one being the manufacturer’s number, and the other (with the letter) being the military store number.