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Dirty Dozen Timepiece Collection Overview

Dirty Dozen Timepiece Collection Overview

In the watch collecting circles, the Dirty Dozen is well-known as a legendary group of 12 field wristwatches commissioned by the British Ministry of Defense during the World War II. When presented separately, they are not as highly rated as other military watches, while as a set they become some of the most sought-after collectibles among true watch connoisseurs.

Although the watches were introduced during 1944-1945, the Dirty Dozen name was applied to this set only in the late 1960s after a 1967 eponymous movie directed by Robert Aldrich was released. The film was set in 1944 and narrated a story of twelve British soldiers from the titular military unit, who were trained by the Allies as commandos for a special mission before the Normandy landings.

The British military forces had always been provided with the most contemporary timepieces of the epoch – from marine chronometers, which enabled the Royal Navy to accurately determine the longitude at sea, to shock-resistant watches during the World War I. However, when the WWII began, the local producers were unable to supply the required number of watches for the armed forces. Therefore, the British Authorities were forced to engage foreign watchmakers to cover the shortage.

Alan Brooke, the Field Marshall and Winston Churchill’s advisor, is considered to be the author of guidelines for developing a ‘perfect soldier’s watch’. which formed the basis of the would-be Dirty Dozen set. According to the general specifications, each timepiece was supposed to have a black dial with Arabic numerals, luminous hour and minute hands, a railroad minuterie, precise hand-wound 15-jewel movements, a water and shock-resistant stainless-steel or chrome-plated case with shatterproof plexiglass crystal, and a waterproof grip crown for easy use with gloves.

Based on the above recommendations, the 12 leading Swiss watchmakers produced a dozen of wristwatches under 12 different brands. Therefore, the edition of specific timepieces in the collection varied depending on individual production capacities, ranging from 1,000 to 25,000 pieces. However, the overall estimated quantity of the watches produced came up to 150,000 pieces.

One more salient feature of the Dirty Dozen timepiece was an engraving on the caseback. All the watches from this series were stamped with ‘W.W.W.’ standing for ‘Watch, Wrist, Waterproof’, and the Broad Arrow emblem, which identified the product as the UK government property. The casebacks were also provided with military serial numbers consisting of a capital letter followed by five digits.

The list of the biggest manufacturers of timepieces (over 10,000 pieces) for the Dirty Dozen collection comprises such world-renowned brands as Omega, Record, Cyma, Vertex, Timor, Buren and Jaeger-LeCoultre. And although Buser’s name is not mentioned as an official watch supplier for this series, its contribution is great and difficult to overestimate, since it was actively involved in production of certain watch models in its facilities for other Swiss-based watchmakers.