Questions on this recently bagged Helvetia..the dreaded "is it military ? "
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Thread: Questions on this recently bagged Helvetia..the dreaded "is it military ? "

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  1. #1
    Member demonfinder's Avatar
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    Questions on this recently bagged Helvetia..the dreaded "is it military ? "

    I bagged this recently though it`s yet to be posted- let alone drop on my doormat.
    I often browse vintage Helvetias as I already have one in my collection which I like and wear regularly.
    This popped up on ebay looking a bit the worse for wear but underneath the scuffed and tatty crystal the dial looked in fair shape.

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    It was the picture of the case back that upped my interest though.
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    I know precious little about military watches-German or otherwise but I did recognise the DxxxxxxH markings. Even though I know the watch specs don`t fit with many of the basic requirments of black dial,sub secs at 6 and screwdown case back ( to mention just a few ) Does anyone have any views on the authenticity of the markings?
    The seller did not mention military in the listing and seems not to be a regular buyer or seller of watches.
    I`m aware that Helvetia did supply a few different types of watch to the German military and from what I`ve read recently towards the latter part of WW2 standards were sometimes relaxed due to pressing need for watches.
    The DH apparently signifies an Army issue watch but they may have well had many non-combat type offshoots like the equivilant of Britain`s Home Guard or Air Raid Protection units that may have been supplied with them perhaps?


    I thought I`d give you guys in vintage the first try as my last post in Military and Pilot`s was given a wide steer !
    As soon as the watch drops in my hot little hands I`ll update with the movement info/pics -I`m expecting it may be a Helvetia 82.

    Thanks for any info in advance

  2. #2
    Member mkws's Avatar
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    Re: Questions on this recently bagged Helvetia..the dreaded "is it military ? "

    Press-in back + sweep second + white (well, it once was white) dial = not DH-spec = not military.
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  3. #3
    Member demonfinder's Avatar
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    Re: Questions on this recently bagged Helvetia..the dreaded "is it military ? "

    That was my intial thinking too mkws.
    Rain here prevented me continuing with boring work on the garden though -so I settled with a cup of coffee searching the web -and seem to have come up with some potentially promising facts
    I misread the first digitafter the D as a 1 when it is actually a capital I.
    The following pics are from various web sites specialising on military watches :
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    The I after the D would seem to denote "Intelligence " (the DH is the German Army code I now know.)
    Other websites indicate white dials and central seconds were often in use (seemingly popular after around 1942 in one article)
    Other sources also indicates the use of non waterproof snap back cases on some both black and white faced dials.

    Thinking about it , it might make sense for those involved in intelligence activities not to wear a watch that might be easily identified by some as military type watch .
    Though if they were "captured " ,having a number on the back would have been a bit of a giveaway!
    I`ve also learned thata lot of the earlier pre-WW2 military watches were not necessarily marked at all.
    So it`s possible I have an army intelligence issue watch.

    The research on a wet afternoon has been interesting anyhow-even if no firm conclusions can be found yet

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  5. #4
    Member Dan S's Avatar
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    Re: Questions on this recently bagged Helvetia..the dreaded "is it military ? "

    According to this link, there were a lot of excess DI-H cases that were later used by Helvetia to make civilian watches, with features that were not appropriate for military watches (white dials, center second hand, etc.).

    Help please D..H markings for Dienstuhr German WW2 military watch markings - Page 4
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  6. #5
    Member demonfinder's Avatar
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    Re: Questions on this recently bagged Helvetia..the dreaded "is it military ? "

    Thanks for that Dan,I`ve just been reading the same article :0) - some of it got a bit ill-tempered.

    I does appear from further reading that at various times odd batches of unused Helvetia DI-H cases came to light and it does seem that some where used to plonk later (post wa but mainly Helvetia) movements into.
    From what I`ve gleaned so far there seems to be a fair consensus that this less exacting type of watch did exist as an issued type -even if mine turns out not to be one of them ! :0)
    The 3199 2 on the case seems to be the Helvetia case reference.

    I suppose the final unveiling of the movement will provide the main clue..if it`s a post war movement then obviously it`s not the real McCoy.


    I won`t lose any sleep over it -but it`s always a bonus to get a lucky punt.

  7. #6
    Member Dan S's Avatar
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    Re: Questions on this recently bagged Helvetia..the dreaded "is it military ? "

    The fact that there are numbers stamped between the DI and the H would appear to be a good sign.

    On the whole, my impression about military issued watches is that it can be pretty difficult to nail these things down with certainty in every case. I have read numerous reports that certain parts (e.g. hands) were sometimes interchanged for convenience, and sometimes cases without case-back numbers were put into service. Records are spotty. Sometimes (when everything is just perfect and consistent) one might have great certainty that a watch was actually issued; other times one might need to be satisfied with the knowledge that it COULD have been issued.

    In any case, I want to say that I really like the hands and dial, and I think it will look great once the crystal is cleaned up.
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  8. #7
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    Re: Questions on this recently bagged Helvetia..the dreaded "is it military ? "

    The "I" standing for "intelligence" there is just about the least probable explanation. That said, the page you've found, and which makes that claim, is most likely completely wrong about that.

    First of all, I for Intelligence is impossible, as intelligence (in terms of an agency) is "Nachrichtendienst" or "Geheimdienst" in German... So that would be N or G, not I. Military intelligence was the Abwehr, which starts with an A.
    Second, legend has it, that any agent in the field would wear something quite as obviously identifying him as who he is and who is he working for! Imagine that: it's issued to a field operative, the operative gets caught, what do the Allied officers interrogating the prisoner look at in the first place? All the items that he had with him. If he'd have a watch with military markings, he wouldn't even be able to pretend that he's an idiot and knows nothing. They wouldn't even need to ask the man who is he working for, his watch would have told them that in the first place.

    German intelligence back then wasn't known for subtlety or efficiency, but I seriously doubt they'd be that thick. In the wild reality of a regime, such institutions are occupied by careerists, and - as they say of such a reality - "your resolve, not your skill, an officer make you will." But I think that even the most obtuse of them wouldn't stick a paper stating "I'm a spy, please arrest me" to their backs.

    Whether this watch was actually issued or not, that remains unclear, but the theory that it was issued to the intelligence, military or not, IMO has little to do with reality. Besides, with a non-waterproof case, that would be useful only for the staff stationed far away from the fighting.
    I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it.
    Edgar Allan Poe

    If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
    George Orwell

    (...)but that's what mankind is like: they only prize what they no longer possess.
    Erich Maria Remarque

    For any inquiries regarding vintage Doxa watches, please read the highlighted text in my vintage Doxa thread. Sorry, but I will not respond to PMs on the matter.

  9. #8
    Member Dan S's Avatar
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    Re: Questions on this recently bagged Helvetia..the dreaded "is it military ? "

    Quote Originally Posted by mkws View Post
    The "I" standing for "intelligence" there is just about the least probable explanation.
    You're right, I think the DI–H stands for Deutsch-Italienische Heergruppe, in the same way that D–H represented Deutsche Heer. The link I posted suggests this.
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  10. #9
    Member demonfinder's Avatar
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    Re: Questions on this recently bagged Helvetia..the dreaded "is it military ? "

    I have to agree on the "I" mkws -as I pointed out in one of my earlier posts it would be a giveaway if caught wearing a marked watch !
    Dan..I`d read the Italian explaination too..seems to actually more sense on balance I suppose.

    Politically incorrect thoughts about Italians and front line fighting shot throug my mind but I shall let those pass.
    Thank you both for your observations though.
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