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Two Rare Military Watches From the ‘Dirty Dozen’ Are Heading to Auction

Ten-hut, collectors: Bonhams is auctioning off two coveted military watches from the famous “Dirty Dozen” this month.

For the unversed, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) enlisted 12 watchmakers—Omega, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Longines, Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, Lemania, Record, Timor, and Vertex—to produce timepieces for its forces in 1945. The wrist candy had to be waterproof, shockproof, and deadly accurate. It also had to feature a black dial with Arabic numerals and luminescent hands to ensure readability in any condition.

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Omega was reportedly the largest supplier, with the Swiss watchmaker creating 110,000 timepieces for the armed forces. Other members of the Dirty Dozen delivered far fewer examples, making the military watches rather hard to come by. Some collectors even desire a set of 12, meaning the historic pieces are always in high demand.

Leading the auction is an ultra-rare 1945 Grana (pictured top). The manually wound wristwatch features a sleek stainless-steel case and a simple black dial with a small-seconds register at six o’clock. The face is also adorned with the pheon, or broad arrow, which has been used to mark the property of the government (or Crown) in the United Kingdom as far back as the 17th century. Limited to between 1,000 and 5,000 examples, the highly sought-after piece is expected to fetch between $18,900 and $25,200 (£15,000 and 20,000) at the upcoming sale.

1945 Jaeger LeCoultre Wristwatch
The Jaeger LeCoultre military watch from 1945.

The next Dirty Dozen dazzler comes courtesy of Jaeger LeCoultre. First issued to soldiers in the second half of 1945, the timepiece sports a chrome-plated case engraved with “WWW” to show it is waterproof. The watch also has a black dial, a broad arrow, and a small-seconds register, just like the Grana. The JLC is expected to hammer down for between $2,500 and $3,800 (£2,000 and £3,000).

“It is a rarity to offer watch aficionados two impeccable designs from horological history, a Grana and a Jaeger LeCoultre from the Dirty Dozen series,” Charles Dower, Bonhams watches specialist, said in a statement. “These watches never cease to fascinate watch enthusiasts across the globe.”

A Lange & Söhne from 1924
The A Lange & Söhne watch from 1942.

Taking place at Bonhams London on February 21, the Watches and Wristwatch sale includes some other highly collectible military watches, too, such as an A Lange & Söhne from 1942 that was made for the German Air Force (estimate: $6,300 to $8,800).

Forward march, gents.

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