In our first chat with Roberto we talked about his boundless passion for vintage Speedmasters.
A passion that grew together with interest in Space Mission Programs, which have always seen the Omega Speedmaster as one of the main protagonists.
A dedication that, as a natural evolution, resulted in his ten-year plus career as a vintage watch dealer.
Together with Roberto we have looked at some of the rarest and most interesting models that he has had the opportunity to assess and study in these years.
In particular, among the various excellent models, we focused on an extremely rare one as it was produced in a limited edition of only 10 specimens: Omega Omani Speedmaster.
Roberto described us the main technical and historical characteristics of this model thanks to photos and documents, also offering valuable explanations on this rare watch to help assess its authenticity.
Today, with Roberto, we want to tackle another very intriguing topic for vintage watch enthusiasts: Military watches.
In the international collectors’ community, Roberto is known as one of the most passionate experts of watches of Military origin or destination.
The sector of Military watches is a field where it is extremely easy to run into mistakes for several reasons.
The little existing literature is not always precise and detailed, the watches to be used as statistical samples for research are very few in number compared to civilian watches, falsifications and alterations are widespread.
Roberto, thanks to a long run experience in the field that led him to assess and verify the authenticity of a large number of Military watches, some almost unknown to most, can certainly be considered as one of the most authoritative and qualified voices on this complex topic.
That’s why we are convinced that both the passionate novice and the most discerning collector will certainly find it useful and interesting to read this short chat.
ANDREA : Roberto, welcome back. Our first interview has had a great success among the followers of our Blog. Did you expect such a warm welcome?
Hi Andrea. Honestly, I didn’t expect so much success, I’m very happy with the many messages of appreciation I received, it made me really excited.
I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart and I hope there will be more and more similar occasions in future, you had a great idea.
ANDREA : I’m pretty sure that among our readers there are several Military watch enthusiasts. Can you tell us what a Military watch is for you?
In general, a Military watch is a watch that meets the needs of the Military Corps (the so-called Specifications) therefore an extremely reliable tool, strong and featuring other specific characteristics such as Amagneticity or the presence of Fixed Bars instead of spring bars.
Most of the times these models are already available on the market and they are then modified to meet the Military specifications as above, other times they are specifically conceived and designed for Military purposes.
In some special cases, watch models that were initially designed exclusively for Military supplies were so successful that manufacturers decided to make them available for civilian market too.
In other rare circumstances, orders and production of Military watches exceeded the real needs of that Military Corp and a certain number of these watches, not carrying the Military engravings, ended up in the civilian market.
The period that has always fascinated me the most is that of mid-1950s.
It seems incredible but there are some Military watches from that period that could still successfully serve end-users today.
ANDREA : I would like you to give us not only a technical definition, but also to tell us what emotions these uncommon watches arouse in you.
I must confess that the emotions linked to these watches are still very strong and engaging for me today.
These emotions are related not only to the special characteristics of these watches, which certainly differ from the models available on the market, but are connected to the history of that particular object, to the adventures that it experienced as a faithful companion of the Operator to which it was assigned.
When you have such an object in your hands your imagination runs wild and it’s really difficult to be all like detached and cold before these wonders.
In some cases, rather rare, the watch comes together with a series of objects, for example photographs of the Soldier wearing the watch on his wrist, or even declarations written by watch owners themselves.
In these few cases any Military watch enthusiast experiences a state of grace, it is very difficult to describe.
ANDREA : The question I’m going to ask now, can be seen as quite trivial for experienced collectors who read us, but certainly not for the novices who want to know more about this world. Would you be able to provide a general description of the meaning of the assignments that can be found on the case back of these watches?
It’s not an easy task to answer this question in short, but on the other hand I don’t want to bore you with long technical explanations that are available on the net (but be careful to first verify the reliability and above all the credibility of the source, it is an essential step).
In general, these are Engravings that refer to the Country that adopted that particular model, or to actual Codes that help identify the Country, such as NATO Stock Numbers.
The Engravings can vary greatly from Country to Country, or from different periods of time. Over time, engraving techniques have changed.
In less recent years, for example, simple electric pens were used to write the Codes necessary for identification on the Caseback.
It should not be forgotten that, according to Military logics, the watch was and still is one of the many tools made available to Military Corps in order to allow them to perform their tasks in the best possible way and as such, it must be possible to identify it at any time.
The study of Military Engravings is one of the most difficult aspects of this passion.
When in doubt, better to ask for a second opinion and address experts of these objects full of charm and history.
In other cases, in addition to Engravings, there are some other components (for example, Set of Hands, or Bezels) that have been expressly designed for the Military version of that given watch.
Finally, it should be observed that there are Military watches, assigned and used for a long time and with success, which are absolutely indistinguishable from civilian versions, they are exactly the same.
They don’t have any distinctive mark with respect to the civilian versions.
Obviously it is extremely difficult, sometimes even impossible, to identify them.
ANDREA : Another curiosity, are there watches produced for both the civilian and Military market? For example, what is the Rolex Submariner 5513 U.K. Military version different from the civilian one?
Yes, many Military watches come from the civilian market and have been modified in some parts in order to meet the Military Specs we were talking about before.
The Rolex Submariner 5513 U.K. Military version is one of the most classic examples as well as the best known.
Apart from the Engravings on the Caseback, the Military version differs for the presence of Fixed Bars instead of spring bars, the Bezel that shows all the notches of the 60 minutes instead of the classic 15 minutes, the Gladio style Hands, the T on the Dial, which underlines the use of Tritium as a luminous material, the serial number which was also reported inside the Caseback.
Sometimes these watches have experienced trouble and miss one or more of the parts I have just listed.
The reasons are different, we can mention the maintenance of the watch as an example.
It was not always possible to replace damaged parts with those originally designed for Military use. From the point of view of the market, it is true that the lack of one or more parts has a very significant impact on the money value of the object but, from my personal point of view, the charm and intrinsic history of the watch remain unchanged.
For instance, the absence of a Bezel or a Set of Hands cannot and should not affect the intrinsic history of the watch itself.
I know very well that my point of view will not be shared by many people, in today’s market almost by anyone, I’d say, but it’s “my” point of view and it seems fair to express it.
The money value should always be separated from the intrinsic value and history of the watch, especially when talking about a Military watch.
Today’s market has rolled round and I have to adapt but I do regret the times when the economic values were different, and when the historical and intrinsic value of the watch always prevailed for Military watch lovers.
ANDREA : What are your favorite Military watches, or better, which ones gave you the most excitement the moment you bought them?
I wouldn’t be able to choose just one favorite watch in particular.
Over the years tastes change, knowledge improves, watches that you used to love so much before are no longer your favorites or vice versa, it is the very nature of the collector that changes, evolves (or very often goes back to the origins!).
But if I have to pick one, then I’d say a watch assigned by NASA.
It combines the two worlds that I love the most, there’s barely nothing that can exceed the charm of a NASA watch.
In the strictly Military sphere, I would choose the least popular and the least “fashionable” ones; if there is one thing I do not like is homologation.
Too often a watch is chosen because it is a status symbol, and perhaps its history is unknown.
One of the Military watches that I have always loved is the IWC Ocean 2000 Bund.
I like it very much because it combines high technical level and reliability with a discreet charm and I would even say a grace quite uncommon in the field of Military watches. Great watch, no doubt.
ANDREA : And which is the rarest and most valuable you have dealt with as a dealer?
One of the most unique and rarest Military watches ever is the Bulova UDT.
A real Prototype produced in very few pieces and never used for regular assignments, as the American trials aimed at providing the UDT (Underwater Demolition Team) with a watch with special characteristics, chose the famous and equally beautiful Tornek Rayville instead.
Out of seven or eight specimens in existence, two of which missing some original parts, I had the immense luck of having two.
Quite a respectable percentage.
ANDREA : I would like you to tell us in detail about a watch that you have recently purchased and that has not been published on our social platforms yet: the Rolex Explorer 6150 U.K. Military. I noticed your excitement when, after a long waiting, it was finally delivered and you opened the package
I must ask you to have a little patience for now, we will get back at this watch next week in the following interview in which I will deeply explain the characteristics of this special and rare military watch.
Thanks for you attention, see you soon!