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Waltham Trench Watches of the Great War by Stan Czubernat

Review by Adam Harris

A key needed to properly open a Depollier waterproof and

dustproof watch.

Depollier waterproof watch with US Army serial number and gold back

 

This cooperation and relationship between Depollier and Waltham led to the very first fully hermetic wristwatch about 10 years before the Rolex Oyster and about two years before the Gruen patent for a “double-cased” fully hermetic wristwatch.

 

If that is not exciting enough, Czubernat has uncovered and printed in full the small booklet from 1917, titled The Story of the Watch in the Trenches, by Charles L. Depollier.

 

That in itself is an outstanding read—full of thoughts, beliefs, and innovative ideas from a man of outstanding horological passion. He was preparing the wristwatch company for World War I, and he suspected the American troops would soon be fighting.

 

This pamphlet by Depollier is such a riveting book within a book. Its 26 pages are crammed with information and beautiful sketches that reveal the genius of Charles L. Depollier and his unbelievable desire to create the best! He tells us at the beginning:

 

“Thousands of watches have proved useless at the front because they lacked necessary features of quality, strength and protection.”

 

“A watch is like a piece of machinery. It is constructed of many small parts which Are delicately finished so as to be sure to Operate with the least friction and breakage. This results in a smooth running watch that will preform its function with the elimination of the majority of defects which are so frequently found in the average watch movement used for wrist watches.”

 

Note: Stan reconstructed this book from a distressed original; he reconstructed it identically to the original, including print/spelling errors like “preform” rather than perform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following on the heels of Elgin Trench Watches of the Great War (ISBN 978-0-7643-4711-5), Stan Czubernat has once again written an outstanding horological book, Waltham Trench Watches of the

Great War.

 

The Elgin Trench Watches book was the first to truly document American World War I trench watches. It is an outstanding piece of horological research, crammed with information, original advertisements, patents, and top-class photos, so I was very eager to get a copy of Czubernat’s new book. I was not disappointed; it is an awesome read, packed full of newly researched discoveries—just as a new book on horology should be.

 

For example, chapter 4, titled “The Depollier & Waltham Relationship,” reveals the truth about this relationship and how the Depollier hermetic watch evolved from the Ezra Fitch 1879 patent screw-down crown to the 1918 case style No. 3. This was probably the earliest military issued and serial marked wristwatch, as shown in one of Czubernat’s excellent photos.

 

 

Chapter 4 continues with all the facts in the evolution by Depollier and Waltham in the development of a fully hermetic wristwatch. The research is backed by patents, previously unseen advertisements, and documents. It truly dispels any myth, culminating on page 57 with the identity of who really patented the hermetic crown!

 

This 1918 advertisement (series of 10, left) is for a yet “to be discovered” Depollier/Waltham watch case style No. 1. Notice the watch in a goldfish bowl later used by Rolex in 1927. Sadly, history is written by the victor; hence, we need researchers like Czubernat to get the facts correct. I could go on and on about the discoveries revealed in this one chapter, but that would be giving too much away!

 

The next chapters are a wealth of information and are beautifully photographed. Czubernat covers everything as shown in the Table of Contents:

 

 

"Stan Czubernat has once again excelled in producing this outstanding read. It’s well put together and is a must for any serious or novice collector—a bible in horology terms."

 

Chapter 8 “Engine Turned Cases” is a revelation and wealth of previously unknown facts. The Chapter begins as follows with the patent and its mosaics. Then a beautiful photographed example (bottom left).

Czubernat then gives research and explains the ingenuity of the case and the reasoning behind its design, with patents and photos that show this most unusual four-piece case construction.

 

Every chapter and nearly every page is adorned with excellent photographs of watches, their movements, dials, clasps, straps, or advertisements. This advertisement for the Waltham Depollier “Miladi Militaire” was published in the April 1918 edition of Country Life magazine.

Who else was making wristwatches for the military woman?  I think no other manufacturer was doing this in 1918 except Gallet with their center sweep seconds nurse’s watch.

 

Czubernat then continues with this awesome find:

 

“This is without a doubt the most important advertisement within the pages of this book. Behind every myth usually there is some amount of truth. But, in this case 100% of the truth has been passed down through the generations. Usually when you hear the term “Trench Watch”, it is a very generalized term for military watches with fixed lugs that were used during the Great War but no actual evidence has ever been found linking the term to wrist watches from WWI, that is until now. I have searched through thousands of documents over the years from the Great War era and this document proves beyond any doubt that they were in fact called “trench watches” during the Great War.”

 

Stan Czubernat has once again excelled in producing this outstanding read. It’s well put together and is a must for any serious or novice collector—a bible in horology terms.

 

Stan and his wife set up their own publishing company Red 12 Publishing to produce this high-quality book. It will be available around Christmas 2015.

 

Waltham Trench Watches of the Great War ISBN 978-0-692-46829-6. Printed in China Published by Red 12 Publishing Spring, TX. 77379 Website: lrfantiquewatches.com

E-mail: Stan@LRFAntiqueWatches.com Copyright © 2015 Stan Czubernat.

 

 

 

 

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