Producing robust tool watches for pilots, divers and soldiers since 1959, partners Joseph Ollech and Albert Wajs relied on third parties to source movements, cases, dials and even tritium hands to ensure the best possible Swiss quality at the best price. Following its revival in 2017, Ollech & Wajs, aka OW, sticks to its utilitarian guns and still outsources Swiss movements to contain costs. The latest model – the OW 56 M – with its convincing 1940s military pilot watch vibe goes one step further and combines vintage new old stock (NOS) parts with contemporary components and a 38mm upcycled case from unused stock.
Partners Joseph Ollech and Albert Wajs started their adventure in watchmaking, distributing Omegas and Breitlings from their watch shop in Zurich. In 1956 they created their own brand specialising in robust tool watches, much appreciated by soldiers, divers and pilots. Wajs favoured movements with solid reputations from ETA, Dubois Dépraz, and Valjoux. He also sourced robust stainless steel cases from Maison Étienne. He obtained his supply from the Frères Lender du Locle to create the functional, legible dials, while the tritium hands were sourced from Universo in La Chaux-de-Fonds. One of the few companies to ride out the quartz storm by reducing production, after Ollech died in 1992, Wajs renamed the brand OW and eventually sold it in 2017.
NOS + Unused Stock + contemporary parts
The 38mm case with its 11.5mm thickness is upcycled from unused stock originally acquired by Ollech & Wajs in the late 1990s but manufactured several years earlier. Collectors of vintage OW watches might spot a connection between the Ollech & Wajs OW 56 M and the brand’s historical Valjoux 7733 Flieger. Finished in the Swiss Jura, the brushed surfaces of the case emphasise its tool watch spirit, and the screwed caseback and screw-down crown ensure its 50m water-resistance.
Referencing the brand’s military heritage, the fixed bezel features 12 markers composed of Morse code dots and dashes that spell SOS, highlighted with white Super-LumiNova. The universal Morse code distress signal is relayed by three short dots representing the letter ‘S’ followed by three longer dashes representing the letter ‘O’ and then three short dots again.
The dial colour, aptly referred to as admiralty-grey, is also upcycled from OW’s inventory and features white luminescent Morse code dots on the hour markers with double dots at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. The rectangular hour markers are picked out in a more vintage tone of beige Super-LumiNova matching the framed triangular markers at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. Beneath the white Morse code dots are double-digit numerals representing 5-second intervals. The blunt baton-shaped hour and minute hands are also filled with beige SLN contrasting with the white SLN used inside the arrow-tipped seconds hand. As you have probably guessed, the Plexiglass crystal protecting the dial is rigorously upcycled from NOS.
Marking the second time in OW’s 67-year history, the 56 M bears the founders’ names printed in full in the lower half of the dial, just above the ‘Automatic’ inscription. The reasoning behind this decision is to ensure that the 56 M can be identified in the future as a vintage/new stock hybrid, not to be confused with earlier OW models sharing similar parts. The brand’s propeller monogram with the letters’ O’ and ‘W’ is also featured at noon with the ‘Zurich 1956 Precision’ inscription.
The OW 56 M is powered by OW’s last remaining stock of ETA 2824 movements. Fully serviced and reconditioned after years in a vault, the automatic beats at 28,800vph and delivers a power reserve of 38 hours.
Availability & Price
The OW 56 M comes on a rugged, heavy-gauge stainless steel mesh bracelet with a pin buckle engraved with ‘OWZ 1956’. Given the finite availability of NOS parts, the watch is limited to 56 numbered pieces and retails for CHF 1,356, including shipping and import taxes. To get a place on the reservation list, you can send an email to [email protected]. Deliveries are scheduled for late 2023.
For more information, please visit ow-watch.com.