Vintage military watches are one of the most interesting sub-sets of timepiece collecting. For many, they encapsulate the essence of "tool watch" in their most elemental form - if for no other reason than they were built to be issued to sailors, soldiers and airmen and brought into some of the harshest environments possible. Their stark, no-frills designs were universally practical, tough-as-a-brick-shithouse rugged, and a large number of them were actually used for what they were designed for, unlike the vast majority of "desk divers" we more commonly see today.
Within the range of military-issued timepieces there are a number of sub-genres, including field watches, divers, and aviator's chronographs among others, all worthy of study and admiration in their own right. But there are a few that truly stand out in a crowd, and we've found one of those for you today!
What you're looking at is a Breitling - yes - a Breitling, issued by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in the late 1960s. What you'll immediately note is the lack of branding (or printing of any kind, really) on the dial. Unlike a number of other militaries, the Canadian Department of Defense opted to have their contract watches manufactured with sterile dials, presumably to dissuade their servicemen from realizing the monetary value of their issued timepiece and keep more of them from "disappearing" under mysterious circumstances. Breitling was of course a well-known luxury timepiece manufacture at the time, and were instructed to do away with any overt branding, although the crown, movement, and inner case back bear their signature. The same instructions were given to Lemania and Omega, who were also contract suppliers at the same time.
Aside from the sterile dial, the watch itself is an interesting example of monopusher chronograph, featuring a modified Valjoux 23 with a central seconds chronograph hand and thirty-minute register, with start, stop and reset all operated via the single pusher at 2:00. With a crisp white dial, red chrono seconds hand, and black printed outer track and Arabic numerals, these RCAF issue chronographs have a distinctive look unlike most military issued watches, and are highly sought after by collectors worldwide.
This particular example is in excellent condition over all, with an unmolested case, supremely clean movement, and beautiful original dial. Both the markers and hands have developed a killer, light green patina. The luminous markers on the dial have been sealed at some point in the past to reduce flaking and disintegration with age, which makes this piece an excellent choice for regular wear. These don't turn up often, and certainly not at this price point, so don't miss out!
For an in-depth look at one-button RCAF Chronographs, take a look at this great article over at Hodinkee, HERE.
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