If you have any interest in vintage watches, and specifically military-issued pieces, the terms ‘Dirty Dozen‘ and ‘WWW’ should be familiar to you. Among the twelve brands that supplied the British MoD (Ministry of Defense) with watches during WWII was Timor Watch Company… which was re-incorporated in the United Kingdom in 2019, with something pretty cool in mind. And the result is out today, with the Timor Heritage Field, a faithful and accessible reissue of the ‘WWW’ field watch, now launching on Kickstarter.
Reminder – the ‘Watch Wristlet Waterproof’ and the ‘Dirty Dozen’
While we’ve already covered the ‘Dirty Dozen’ topic on multiple occasions, specifically since another brand (Vertex) decided to relaunch with modern watches inspired by the past, a short reminder will help you understand what Timor and the WWW are all about.
By World War II, the wristwatch was well and truly established as an essential part of a gentleman’s daily attire. As you might expect, the wristwatch played an even more significant role in the Second World War than it did in the First. And the Dirty Dozen is a perfect example of standardization due to a military specification.
In order to provide its troops with a reliable piece of equipment to be used in the field, the British Ministry of Defense (the MoD) set specific criteria for how this watch should look and function. These included:
- Black dial with Arabic numerals, subsidiary seconds at 6 o’clock and railroad-style minutes
- Luminous hour and minute hands plus luminous hour markers
- Movements with 15 jewels, 11.75 to 13 ligne in diameter
- Shatterproof Perspex crystal
- Waterproof to the standards of the era
- Precision movements that had to be regulated to chronometer criteria in a variety of conditions
- Rugged case capable of diminishing the impact of shocks
- Water-resistant crown of good size
This gave birth to a watch named the W.W.W. for ‘Watch Wristlet Waterproof’, which could be found as an engraving on the caseback. They were also required to be engraved in three places with the Broad Arrow or Pheon (which denotes property of the British Crown).
As part of its brief, the British MoD clearly stipulated that these watches were explicitly meant for ‘General Service’. This did not mean that each soldier would be eligible for one; it was and certainly remains over-the-top to provide a watch regulated to chronometer standards for every soldier. With the term ‘General Service’ the British meant that these watches would be issued to special units and tasks respectively such as artillery members, staff members, engineers and personnel of the Communications Corps.
At the time, British watch factories already had their hands full with the manufacturing of munitions and weapons. So, requisition officers were sent to Switzerland to find companies that could fulfil the order. In the end, twelve companies would be selected: Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Lemania, Longines, IWC, Omega, Record, Timor, and Vertex. And this 12-company venture gave the watches their nickname, the ‘Dirty Dozen’.
About Timor Watch COmpany
Among them was Timor, a company mainly known for its participation in this production. Timor Watch Company was founded in 1923 by Mr Bernheim and Mr Luthy, in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Timor focused on expertly testing every watch that left the factory. This focus led to Timor becoming a household name in Britain, Germany and France throughout the 1930s. This reputation was reinforced by the strapline: “Trust Timor, It’s Tested“.
By the early 1940s, Timor started manufacturing watches for the MoD, alongside the 11 other Swiss companies. Once peace returned in Europe, Timor diversified and started to create more fashionable dress watches but was eventually affected by the quartz crisis of the early 1970s. In the early 2000s, Timor was still recovering from the quartz crisis. Under the new owner, Mr Bolzli, Timor managed to survive by selling pocket watches at competitive prices.
In 2015, Timor stopped manufacturing pocket watches and refocused on building watches faithful to Mr Bernheim and Mr Luthy’s original idea, and following its reincorporation in the UK, the brand is about to produce its first “not-so-new” watches.
The Timor Heritage Field
Now in 2020, Timor Watch Co. is back on track and has a reissue of the vintage WWW watch coming, named the Heritage Field. And while the exercise isn’t that difficult in terms of design, the brand has objectively done a great job to keep the price fairly decent, and not to modernize aspects of the watch that shouldn’t be modernized. In short, it ticks all the boxes for a vintage-inspired watch lover.
Let’s not debate about what’s new and what has changed; the new Timor Heritage Field is an almost identical re-edition of the vintage Timor WWW Field watch, and as such, it is one of the rare faithful remakes of a Dirty Dozen watch. There are other watches evoking the WWW, no doubt about it, but few are as faithful as this Timor.
First, the case of the Timor Heritage Field WWW is the same size as the original watch, with a 36.5mm diameter. The height of the case is also on par with the MoD pieces, at about 11mm. Other dimensions include a reasonable 45.5mm lug-to-lug and 18mm lug width – all in line with the vintage model. Design-wise, the proportions are just a bit different, as the dial appears smaller and the bezel slightly wider.
The case is made of 316L stainless steel, finished in a period-correct, bead-blasted surface. The crown is objectively oversized and the caseback is closed. The main concession to modernity is the crystal. It is made from scratch-resistant sapphire but still has a pronounced dome.
The dial of the Timor Heritage Field is also a very precise recreation of what was used in the WWW field watches. Obviously black and matte, it features a railroad minute track punctuated by luminous dots and plots, as well as pencil hands – both are filled with cream-coloured Super-LumiNova. The Arabic numerals, typical of these watches, are painted in white and the original logos, including the MoD mark (the broad arrow), is also present. The only (minimal) difference to be noted is the position of the small seconds sub-dial, which sits slightly higher on the dial.
Powering these watches are modern movements – indeed, with the Timor Heritage Field, you’ll have the choice between an automatic and a hand-wound (the latter being historically relevant, and thus recommended). Still, this is a nice detail for those who might prefer the comfort of a self-winding watch. Both calibres are provided by Swiss movement maker Sellita.
The first option is the Automatic Sellita SW260, a small seconds version of the SW200 (itself a clone of the ETA 2824), later modified to remove the date function. This movement runs at 4Hz and stores 38h of power reserve. The second option is the hand-wound Sellita SW216, a clone of the ETA 2801, again modified to remove the date function. This movement runs at 4Hz and stores 42h of power reserve. In both cases, these are no-nonsense, reliable and easily serviceable movements.
The Timor Heritage Field is delivered with two straps. First is a modern “seatbelt” NATO strap with steel hardware. Second is a historically relevant beige cotton strap inspired by the AF0210, which was delivered by the MoD for military watches and compasses as of 1945, and widely used on watches from the Dirty Dozen.
Availability and Price
The Timor Heritage Field is launching today (20 February 2020) on Kickstarter. Watches are expected to be shipped in November 2020. The price starts at GBP 650 (super early birds) and the final retail price will be GBP 950. More details and Orders here, at Kickstarter.