Last updated on March 30, 2023
This is the first trench watch that I have added to my collection, a Swiss made gentlemen’s silver trench watch. It’s a very presentable timepiece and is perfectly suitable to wear as a dress watch. It keeps good time and has a power reserve of approximately 24 hours, which is more than acceptable for an antique watch.
When I was looking for my first trench watch I was adamant that I needed to own a watch that was made during the war years. Obviously, without provenance, such as military papers or photographs there is no way of ever being certain that the watch had been actually worn in the trenches. Although there are no markings on the movement to indicate its age, it is clearly hallmarked on the case. The watch strap is a new genuine leather replacement.
The movement is stamped ‘Swiss Made‘, with no other identifying marks. I expect that this is a Swiss ébauche movement, which may have the makers mark and calibre stamped out of sight beneath the plates. At this stage in my collecting career, I haven’t the courage to pull apart my trench watch and identify further. If someday I do, I will be sure to update this post. For now, I will call it a Swiss ébauche movement such as an Adolph Schild or FHF. The movement includes a regulator, which allows for the adjustment of timekeeping. The regulator has markings for Fast (F) or Advance (A) to speed up the movement. Alternatively, Slow (S) or Retard (R) can be used to slow down the movement.
There is no stamp on the movement indicating the number of jewels. However, under magnification I can clearly see that the balance, escape, third and fourth wheels are all jewelled. The centre wheel isn’t jewelled so I can fairly confidently say this is a 15 jewel movement.
The watch measures 32mm in diameter excluding the fixed wire lugs and the winding crown. It’s small for a modern watch, even smaller than the typical male dress watch, but most of the original trench watches were around this size. The case is sterling silver and there are British hallmarks inside the case back for London 1917. In addition, there is a sponsor’s mark for George Stockwell.
Stockwell’s was an assay agent that facilitated the import of foreign silver and gold items into Britain. Each item had to be assayed and hallmarked in a UK assay office before being released for retail sale. An assay office is an institution that tests the composition, purity and quality of precious metals. If an item successfully passes an assay test it is stamped with a hallmark by the assay office to certify its metallurgical content. Those manufacturers, such as Swiss or American, that didn’t have a British assay office, would use an intermediary, such as Stockwell’s to arrange the testing and hallmarking.
Overall, the case is in very good condition for a watch of this age. There is some very slight unevenness on the back of the case, but obviously, this is not visible when you are wearing the watch. The acrylic lens is in good condition, again with no noticeable scratches or damage. The enamel dial is clean, with some very fine hairline cracks radiating from the number 5. These minor blemishes are barely noticeable to the naked eye. Additionally, the traced numerals and the cathedral-style hands are unpainted. Originally, these would have been filled with luminous radium paint. Under magnification, there are some traces of the luminous paint on the hands. At some point, during the lifetime of this trench watch, the paint has been removed and the dial cleaned.
The watch runs well over a 24-hour time period remaining accurate within a minute or less. As a result, it’s perfectly acceptable to wear on an evening out or for a day in the office. This is a really nice piece and I enjoy wearing it as a dress watch. The minor imperfections are barely noticeable and if anything, add to the character of the timepiece. It is clear that this trench watch has been used and not just sat in a box on a shelf during its lifetime.