1942 V&C Kriegsmarine Observatory Chronometer

1942 Vacheron & Constantin Kriegsmarine Observatory Chronometer

If there was a prize for closest to the mark, it would have to be awarded to Dan yes.

1942 V&C Kriegsmarine Observatory Chronometer

This is as much about the hunt as it is about the watch.  I had been on the look-out for a V&C deck watch for some time.  Eventually I came across a few fuzzy internet pictures offering a rather large and plain silver-cased pocket watch.


The dial displayed the required noms de famille of Vacheron and Constantin surrounded by distinctive Breguet numerals.  On the back were faint traces of an engraved serial number.  Blued spade hands and an oversized subsidiary seconds dial added to the clues…perhaps this was an elusive deck watch!

1942 V&C Kriegsmarine Observatory Chronometer

The back engravings provided further encouragement.  “M4929” surmounting “I Kl.” signified a rare veteran of the Kriegsmarine from WWII.  The categories of chronometer-rated watches used by the German Navy at that time were:

1. Seechronometer (Marine Chronometer)

2. B-Chronometer (Ship’s Chronometer)

3. B-Uhren 1. Klasse (Class 1 Navigation Chronometer)

4. B-Uhren 2. Klass (Class 2 Navigation Chronometer)

1942 V&C Kriegsmarine Observatory Chronometer

This piece was thus marked as a Beobachtungsuhr der Kriegsmarine 1. Klasse or Class 1 Navigation Chronometer. 

Typically a German Eagle and Swastika were poised above the numbers; however, denazification laws passed after the war required that such symbols be obliterated.  As the watch was located in Germany it was acceptable, indeed preferable, that this act of purification had occurred.

1942 V&C Kriegsmarine Observatory Chronometer

Through the services of dear Alex, I learned the case and movement were legitimately mated in 1942.  But I was puzzled; the movement was significantly older – circa 1925.  It also appeared somewhat familiar.


Previous research on V&C Observatory Chronometers had acquainted me with its distinctive micrometric regulator.  Patented by Vacheron & Constantin in 1923, this highly precise mechanism was used in both chronometer and high-complication watches like the fabled King Fouad and Farouk timepieces.  The subtle but distinctive components of the revolutionary Guillaume integral balance were also present.

1942 V&C Kriegsmarine Observatory Chronometer

Observatory movements often stayed in the manufacturer’s inventory for years before being offered for sale.  The hairs were beginning to stand up on the back of my neck!  Was this such a watch?


Once again I ran to Alex, but he returned with disappointing news…there was no record of the movement having been sent for chronometry trials.  Despite this, I chose to trust my instincts and made the purchase  There had to be a reason why this valuable movement was kept for nearly twenty years before being cased, and Observatory competition was the most credible answer.

1942 V&C Kriegsmarine Observatory Chronometer

There were precedents after all.  In March of this year Antiquorum offered at auction a Patek Philippe silver-cased deck watch.  The Guillaume “Extra” movement was manufactured in 1921 to compete in Observatory trials, attaining an Honorable Mention at Geneva in 1927 with 636 points.  It then laid moribund until cased and sold in 1942 to the self-same Kriegsmarine.

1942 V&C Kriegsmarine Observatory Chronometer

1942 V&C Kriegsmarine Observatory Chronometer

Further support for my hypothesis was provided at Dr. Crott’s most recent auction where a 1923 V&C Observatory deck chronometer with power reserve indicator was featured along with supporting documents.


The movement was a virtual twin to my Kriegsmarine watch, with the added distinction of displaying its chronometer awards on the inner cuvette; a 1er Prix at the Concours de Genève (earned with 807 points) and Class A Kew Certificate (rated “especially good” with 96.2 out of a possible 100 points).

1942 V&C Kriegsmarine Observatory Chronometer

Another email was fired off; this time directed to the Observatoire de Genève.  A few days later the happy reply was received.  Indeed the movement appeared in their registers and a Bulletin de Marche was available.

The bulletin revealed more than I’d hoped for.  In addition to chronometer status, it confirmed the movement participated in Observatory trials in 1927 and was awarded a IIIeme Prix for Vacheron & Constantin with 742 points.  Moreover, the régleur was the famed Edmond Olivier!


I was especially pleased to realize this watch bested the aforementioned Patek Philippe in direct competition and was left to wonder if they also crossed paths at sea.

1942 V&C Kriegsmarine Observatory Chronometer

The newsletter of La Fédération Horlogère Suisse for March 24th, 1928, dutifully reported on the 1927 Observatoire de Genève Concours de Chronomètres.  The published results were specific only for the Premier and Deuxièmes Prix chronomètres de poche winners, while briefly mentioning “5 troisièmes prix des 739 à 720 points”

Overall it was a good year for Vacheron & Constantin and Olivier; capturing the Premier Prix and top score for ship’s chronometers with an impressive 819 points.  V&C clearly excelled with their chronomètres de bord.

Information provided to the previous owner by Vacheron & Constantin revealed that some fifteen years following its Observatory appearance the competition movement was cased according to the required specifications of the Kriegsmarine and delivered to the German purchasing agent in Berne. 

1942 V&C Kriegsmarine Observatory Chronometer

From the collection of Dr. Knirim

Military watch expert Dr. Konrad Knirim was kind enough to respond to my enquiries.  He disclosed that the Deutsche Seewarte in Hamburg tested chronometers for the Kriegsmarine.  Beside the German-made watches of Lange & Söhne, Wempe, Laco, Stowa and others, there were those of Swiss origin from IWC, Ulysse Nardin and Vacheron & Constantin.


1942 V&C Kriegsmarine Observatory Chronometer

Vacheron & Constantin supplied mainly I Klasse chronometers, which could be off by no more than 1/2 second per day when tested at different temperatures and positions.


As the records of the Deutsche Seewarte were destroyed during a bombing raid in 1943, that avenue of investigation was closed.

1942 V&C Kriegsmarine Observatory Chronometer

By this time the watch had arrived in the mail, frustratingly delayed by a national postal strike.  The last source of anxiety was removed along with the wrapping paper.


An instrument watch leads an active life so scuffs, scrapes and dents are expected.  I consider these marks of honor and loathe polishing them out.  This piece, however, only exhibited the superficial patina of an honest working watch.  A few turns of the crown started the machinery running effortlessly and accurately.  If the German eagle had been present, it was so expertly removed that no trace exists.

It was a most gratifying conclusion to this horological adventure and, I hope, a fitting subject for post number 1755.

Best Regards, Tick Talk © 2011

1942 V&C Kriegsmarine Observatory Chronometer

Technical Details:

Case: 0.925 silver plain polished four-body bassine-style, case maker’s mark for Federation des Fabricants de Boites Argent (FFBA).  Three repair marks scratched on inner cover.  Plain polished inner cuvette, case back engraved with “M4929  I Kl.” Kriegsmarine acceptance marks.  Completed in 1942.  Diameter 59mm.

Dial: white enamel with bold Breguet numerals, outer minute track, sunk subsidiary seconds with Arabic numerals in 10 second intervals.  Blued spade hands.

Movement: R.A. 22’’’ 224 caliber, 21 jewels, gilt brass, Guillaume balance with gold poising screws, patented V&C micrometric fine regulator, sapphire endstone, blued Breguet balance spring.

Case, dial and movement signed Vacheron & Constantin.

Photo Credits:


Auktionen Dr. Crott


Konrad Knirim

07/09/2011 - 20:01
07/09/2011 - 10:28
07/09/2011 - 20:10
07/09/2011 - 20:19
07/09/2011 - 20:53
07/17/2011 - 07:45
07/10/2011 - 13:35
07/12/2011 - 01:02
So, we having Deck Watches from opposing sides, hmm...
07/09/2011 - 06:54

How close did they ever get on the Oceans?  wink

Terrific find and as usual - tremendous research! yes    You've got me thinking about contacting the Kew Observatory to get records for my Deck Watch.

At first I thought you might have gotten the watch from Crott's that you mentioned above. (Which was Lot #358 to my new prize, Lot#354.  Now that would have been fate, wouldn't it?)  But when I saw the Bulletin and that this watch was regulated by D. Perret, I knew it wasn't the one you picked up.

Thanks for sharing this beauty and it's history with us.  Wear it well!

BR, Dan

Go for it Dan!
07/09/2011 - 20:01

Although Kew doesn't re-issue Chronometer certificates any longer (I'm trying to convince them to do so - feel free to add your support) they will provide copies of the test results.  It can only add to the interest of your lovely watch smiley.  BTW, your posting of the HS piece came at a great time and added motivation for this acquisition!

outstanding !...
07/09/2011 - 10:28

dean , once again you've earned my admiration for your meticulous nature and perseverance. i am so contended to be a member here to learn your ways and the knowledge imparted by you and many members here.  congratulations for reaching the significant 1755 posts. yes you never fail to amaze!

Re: outstanding !...
07/09/2011 - 20:10

Aaron, you know what turns my crank wink.  It is my sincere desire to take some of the fear out of collecting vintage V&C watches by showing that there are means and ways to make educated purchases.  Sometimes it doesn't work out (I've had a few of those for sure) but we can learn from each other by sharing our experiences.

speecheless is often used but I can't think of a better
07/09/2011 - 10:59


Your passion is contagious and your style is better than a detective novel.

Congratulations on this amazing piece of history and on the tremendous amount of research which you have undertaken, maybe you should move to Geneva and join the Parimony department smiley

Congratulations on your 1755th post, you are a pillar of the Loungeheart

You got a spare room?
07/09/2011 - 20:19

Ah, now its your turn to tease, Alex.  I can already imagine how much I would learn from Rudy and the others heart.

Funny how once you put a story to bed, you spot problems blush.  One paragraph is misleading...the previous owner had contacted VC several years ago to confirm the serial numbers (as I did recently through you) and was informed the watch was purchased by the German government through their Berne agent in 1942.  Just as you found, they had no record of its Observatory past.

Congratulations, Dean - what an amazing find!
07/09/2011 - 12:05

You must be one happy camperwink

And I have to second each post above. You never cease to amaze. Your passion of a true VC collector is enormous and your research is thorough and complete. Great job! I only wish I had been just as half motivated as you are in that respect.

Enjoy your new prize, buddy! And may it only tick-(talk) away happy momentsyes

Giving Patek an ass-kicking was the best part!
07/09/2011 - 20:24

Icing on the cake, as they say cheeky.  Thanks for your kind words...the appreciative and knowledgable people here at the Lounge is ample reward (and motiviation) for a bit of sleuthing.  That and a compulsion to follow all unknown trails...it drives my hiking partners nuts!

Dean, maybe you can solve the Apollo 14 watch mystery? :-)
07/09/2011 - 12:19
congratulations on this amazing post and watch!
That one has me stymied...
07/09/2011 - 20:28

but somewhere out there, someone knows!

Hours of research, magnificently portrayed and beautifully presented..
07/09/2011 - 19:50

Dean, Thank you for a most interesting and informative article superbly compiled with excellent typography. It's a credit to you!

It should be framed!


Sorry to post and run...
07/09/2011 - 20:53

Thanks Tony smiley.  With Alex's posting of that awesome Apollo XIV watch, I would have waited a few more days for my little project.  Unfortunately, the timing was bad as we leave for a hiking trip very early tomorrow and I just couldn't bear (pun intended) any delay blush.

Within a couple of hours we will confront our first river X-ing (yes, it is as cold as it looks)...

Then we get to hike up a few hills...

Before we reach our Shangri La...

And can enjoy watching the Big Horn Sheep...

So forgive my silence here at the Lounge for the next few days!

Thanks for a fantastic story, as aways!
07/09/2011 - 20:18


now you fired up my brain!

This yacht just need one of it's siblings smiley

Ok, I have a barometer and a clock from the German firm Stockburger.

I also have this lovely Freiberger sextant from 1987 made in East Germany,  just before Germany was united again.

of course a watch like yours would make my little ship even more valued cool

It's so clean so couldn't let be, to 'loan' it for this answer!

Thanks again, Dean for a marvellous article!


LOL Doc, that "Lady N" clue was just for you! nt
07/09/2011 - 20:26


Do you see some familiar things in my watch?
07/10/2011 - 01:43

From 1919!

But it's no deck watch .....

Lady N's skipper is sorry to say crying

I write you a mail Dean!



Very similar Doc...
07/17/2011 - 07:43

confirms my guesstimate of circa 1925 for the Krieg enlightened

Thanks Dean, absolutely captivating. I am in
07/09/2011 - 20:28

awe at the length, depth and true integrity of your work. Many, many thanks.



Your comments are appreciated Tim :-) nt
07/17/2011 - 07:44


Re: 1942 V&C Kriegsmarine Observatory Chronometer
07/10/2011 - 05:56

Absolutely fascinating report, Dean!

Congratulations on finding such a rarity!


Thanks Joseph!
07/17/2011 - 07:45

Its a whopping big watch though...next might be a clock wink

Fantastic read !
07/10/2011 - 13:35
Superb info and great find ! I do not know anything about the pocketwatches but this has raised my attention for sure ! Thanks for sharing ! Nest, Mark
Every collection needs a pocket watch or two! nt
07/17/2011 - 07:46


07/12/2011 - 01:02

Thanks for  a riveting read and story about the chase for this illusive chronometer. You're right the story is as good as the find!

All the best,


Thank-you for participating
07/17/2011 - 07:47

I look forward to hearing more from you yes

Re: 1942 V&C Kriegsmarine Observatory Chronometer
09/15/2011 - 18:19
great post, very interesting regarding the swastika, mine has the eagle and swastika still on the back . mine is a little different to yours as mine has the winder guage on the face ( saw this on ebay, exactly the same as mine http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/230657671297?ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1423.l2649). great forum, will drop in from time to time to check on the world of v&c.