Adolph Schild trench watch, c1917

Last updated on May 8, 2021

Late last year I was looking to add my first trench watch to my collection. I only collect antique (100 years old+) plus watches, but all World War 1 (1914-1918) watches fall into this category. My criteria included, not necessarily in order of priority, presentation and condition, reliable timekeeping (+/- 2 – 3 minutes per day) and the watch must be dated from the period of the war.

Antique silver trench watch.  © The Vintage Wrist Watch Company

Quality

I intend to wear all of my watches so the timepiece must be free of obvious cosmetic damage. I don’t mind the odd dent or scratch as it shows the watch has been used during its lifetime. It must also run and keep reliable time. I don’t expect it to be as accurate as a modern mechanical watch, but it needs to be reliable within a couple of minutes over a twenty-four hour period. There is no guarantee, even with a valid date, that any watch was ever inside a trench. You would need some serious provenance, such as military papers and records to be sure. Undoubtedly, such assurance would add considerably to the value.

Movement

This trench watch has a movement by Adolph Schild, a noted manufacturer of ébauche movements. Schild formed his company in 1896 in Grenchen, Switzerland. By the 1920’s he was one of the largest movement manufacturers in Switzerland. He was one of the earliest manufacturers to realise that a mechanised system of production could produce standardised components that were easily interchangeable. Adolph Schild movements were greatly respected for their reliability.

The Vintage Wrist Watch Company, believes the movement to be an AS Calibre 137. This is a reliable 15 jewel movement. It was often found in official wristwatches issued by the British War Department, circa 1917.

Condition

The watch measures 33mm diameter excluding the winding crown and the fixed wire lugs. The case is silver and there are hallmarks inside the hinged case back although they are unclear, due to scratching. The Vintage Wrist Watch Company thought they included the London (import) hallmark and the date letter for 1917. The front of the case is in good condition. The side has a small bruise and the case back has unevenness, these are barely noticeable.

Trench watch and box. © The Vintage Wrist Watch Company

The acrylic lens is in good condition. The dial had some very faint hairline cracks, which only show if you look very closely and from certain angles. The trench watch came with a new, fitted leather strap. As a bonus, the watch came with an antique presentation box from the jewellers, Diss & Son of Dewsbury. The jewellers, in this instance, did not make the watch, but merely acted as the retailers. That said, the original box is a nice touch.

Decision

This particular watch I was considering alongside another trench watch, which had clear hallmarks for 1917. In the end, I had to go for the timepiece that was guaranteed to be made in the war years. As I write this piece this watch has been sold and there is no doubt a proud owner of a World War 1 period trench watch. I just couldn’t make the purchase without the guarantee of age.

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