Got A Grail Watch Finally!

Thread: Got A Grail Watch Finally!

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  1. #1
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Got A Grail Watch Finally!

    Hi -

    Finally found myself a Gruen PanAm in really nice shape AND newly serviced for a decent price. I've been trying to find a good PanAm for about three years now, and finally came across one on eBay from a seller I've bought from before who delivers decent goods.

    The story behind the PanAm is that the airline of that name, which was the US Flag Carrier back when that actually meant something, basically commissioned Gruen to make them a pilot's watch that wasn't a pilot's watch with all the bells and whistles, like we all know from Sinn, Breitling and others. They put a decent high-grade movement in the watch, but there is no chronograph functionality, nor is there even a bezel, which sort of defeats the idea of a pilot's watch.

    But it wasn't supposed to be a watch for pilots: after all, the planes of the period had all the functionality of what a pilot's watch was supposed to do built in to the flight board, so all the pilot *really* needed was a high-quality watch to tell time by when he was on the ground and trying to impress stewardesses from other airlines (after all, the stewardesses from his own airline already knew all about him...). So here some pictures - seller's pictures - of the pilot's watch that isn't a pilot's watch.

    JohnF
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  2. #2
    Administrator Ernie Romers's Avatar
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    Re: Got A Grail Watch Finally!

    Congratulations John, I'm happy for you!
    Best regards,

    Ernie Romers
    Founder and former site owner, Watchuseek.com

  3. #3
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Re: Got A Grail Watch Finally!

    Hi -

    Thanks! Like I said, it's been about three years. Now all I need is a 50mm Curvex and my Gruen collection is complete...

    Yeah, right. There's the Driver's watch with the flexible long lugs as well, the 50th anniversary with the engraved Quadron movement, the Physician's one button chrono and ever-elusive and damned difficult to repair Airflight jumping hour watch, where the numbers on the face change at 12 noon from 1-12 to 13-24.

    Maybe then I'll stop...


    Naaa. Got this one on the weekend as well...Bulova, military ca 1940. Seller claims from the 30s, but what does he know.

    JohnF
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  5. #4
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: Got A Grail Watch Finally!

    Nice pieces John. And as far as the Gruen acquisitions go, I'll believe you'll stop when I see it happen. :)

    There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson. ~ Victor Hugo

  6. #5
    Member pacifichrono's Avatar
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    Re: Got A Grail Watch Finally!

    Magnificent example, John. Congratulations!
    Regards from Sunny San Diego..........Tom
    ____________________________________________________
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    guns and those who dig!"................Blondie to Tuco in TGTB&TU (1966)


  7. #6
    Member quoll's Avatar
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    Re: Got A Grail Watch Finally!

    Fantastic John - there's nothing like securing a long-hunted watch!

    On the 'pilot' designation, I wonder if there is any mileage in the connection to the actual civilian use of the British Mk XI 'pilot' watch (the photo is of a homage I have). In addition to their military use, some models (particularly a JLC) were issued to BOAC air crew in the 50s - to the navigators rather than the pilots. I'm sure pilots wore them to impress the gals too though....



    And a photo of the real grail version...(which I don't own, but wish I did).

    Last edited by quoll; October 17th, 2006 at 10:33.

  8. #7
    Member marc_wl's Avatar
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    Re: Got A Grail Watch Finally!

    A real treasure in perfect conditions. Congratulations!

    The dress design is really amusing for a pilot watch but finally logical in the context of such air company. Should have accompany very well the PamAm pilot uniform!

    Cheers,

    Jean-Marc - From what we get we make a living. From what we give we make a life.

  9. #8
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    Re: Got A Grail Watch Finally!

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnF
    Hi -

    Finally found myself a Gruen PanAm in really nice shape AND newly serviced for a decent price. I've been trying to find a good PanAm for about three years now, and finally came across one on eBay from a seller I've bought from before who delivers decent goods.

    The story behind the PanAm is that the airline of that name, which was the US Flag Carrier back when that actually meant something, basically commissioned Gruen to make them a pilot's watch that wasn't a pilot's watch with all the bells and whistles, like we all know from Sinn, Breitling and others. They put a decent high-grade movement in the watch, but there is no chronograph functionality, nor is there even a bezel, which sort of defeats the idea of a pilot's watch.

    But it wasn't supposed to be a watch for pilots: after all, the planes of the period had all the functionality of what a pilot's watch was supposed to do built in to the flight board, so all the pilot *really* needed was a high-quality watch to tell time by when he was on the ground and trying to impress stewardesses from other airlines (after all, the stewardesses from his own airline already knew all about him...). So here some pictures - seller's pictures - of the pilot's watch that isn't a pilot's watch.

    JohnF

    Hey, what's that about pilot's and impressing girls?
    Here's a joke that's fairly popular with our stewardesses:

    Two girls driving a car, see a drunk man lying naked by the side of the road. One girl, a stewardess by profession, tells her friend, 'that must be one of our pilot's'. 'How can you tell' says her friend 'he's not wearing anything'. 'Easy' says the stewardess 'He has a huge watch, and a tiny......."

    Think of that next time you are considering putting on that 44mm+ timepiece. Girls are too clever to judge a man by the size of his watch.

    Back on topic, that's a very interesting watch. Great find!
    Have these watches really been issued to pilot's? Or were they on board sales items?
    It's a well know fact that all PanAm 707 cockpit crew were issued GMT-Masters. According to some sources the GMT-Master was even designed on request of PanAm. That was in the late 50's. Do you know when these Gruen's were sold/issued?
    Ron.


  10. #9
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Re: Got A Grail Watch Finally!

    Hi -

    There is really only one authoritative source on Gruen and Pan Ams: here. Scroll down a bit for the history of the PanAm watch...

    Basically, they were made for PanAm starting in 1943, definitely civilian watches, but with a central sweep seconds, which is fairly rare for a watch of this age. They were first only available to employees of PanAm and not to the general public, with limited availability during the war, despire advertising: Gruen was building up product awareness for the post-war period.

    They were then available to the public from October 1945 onwards. As you may well be aware, Gruen records were destroyed, so we don't know when they stopped making them or when a watch might have been made, but there were quite a few out there.


    The movement is the critical part, of course: the 420SS VeriThin movement, 11.5 lines in size, with 17 jewels, Bregeut hairspring, and 18'000 bph, which for the time was a relatively fast beat, and had a reserve of around 40 hours, also not shabby at all. This calibre is beautifully built, albeit not beautifully finished, and I think it can be considered to be one of the classic Gruen calibres.

    Remember that in 1953 the fortunes of Gruen took a nose-dive as the family sold it's interest and everything started to fall apart, leading to the collapse in 1958. Sad story, there.



    Since records were destroyed - a horological crime beyond description - there is no way to identify when the watch was made or sold. But it's from the period of time when Gruen was one of the top-tier watchmakers in the US, up there with Hamilton and the others.

    JohnF
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  11. #10
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Re: Got A Grail Watch Finally!

    Hi -

    The watch arrived.

    Hot diggity damn. Hooooooooooooooooot diggity damn.

    Looks one heck of a lot better in reality than in the pictures.

    Hot diggity damn.

    Just wound it up and set the time - bugger all that it doesn't hack - but it's set to 10 s fast on the minute. Will let it rest all peaceful and quiet for the evening to see how it's doing tomorrow morning.

    And the strap is a piece of junk, cheap Chinee leather. So now the big decision: what sort of strap? 16mm...damn, just looked at TimeFactor, where I usually buy my straps, and he doesn't have the Rallye strap in 16mm.

    So, what would look good? I'm thinking a pale brown pigskin, but a real honest-to-god Croc would look good as well, more fitting for the time frame. I don't think I like the black so much, I think a nice deep mahogany brown would be good, sort of the color of a 43% cocoa content chocolate bar.

    But I might end up paying more for the strap than I paid for the watch if I don't watch out (no pun intended).

    Unfortunately, my daughter has my digicam and we're leaving Sat AM for a week in Vienna, so I won't have any pictures until when I return.

    But regardless: this is now in my top 5 watches, right next to the Elgin 24-hour mil watch, my vintage wrong-handed Poljot Strela, my vintage Bulova Sea King, the Gruen 25-jewel automatic and triple date, as well as the my lovely Pontiac Hydraulica.

    Hot diggity damn.

    And the best thing was, I was on the phone when the watch arrived at my office, sealing the first step towards a new cooperative joint venture.

    Hot diggity damn.:gold

    JohnF
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