There's no doubt about it: I'm a history fanatic. Anything remotely related to WWII gets my blood pumping, and the very idea of a timepiece seeing combat excites me. Assuming they've been maintained, vintage watches—even with military pedigree—can survive decades without a hiccup, never putting up a fuss about daily use. I didn't think this Moeris would be any different.
Earlier this year, a friend who works as the "watch guy" at a jewelry store pulled this little trinket out, excitedly telling me its life story. Normally, I roll my eyes at such nonsense because it's usually nothing more than fabricated BS, but the watch was gorgeous and, above all, for sale. Sadly, I didn't have any money, and a woman who liked it because it was “cute” had supposedly already claimed it. I shrugged my shoulders, walked away, and put the Moeris in the back of my mind.
But, as always, good things come to those who wait. At the beginning of the summer, I was making my usual rounds and happened to remember the decrepit Moeris. As I recalled, it never worked properly--it would rapidly gain minute after minute, and the watch looked like it had been through living hell. Dirt was caked on the case, the dial was deteriorating, and the crystal needed replacing, I thought. My friend told me he'd be right back. A few minutes later, he emerged with the watch and said I could have it. I was floored. It wasn’t worth fixing in his eyes. It barely ran, but I didn't care.
I began to consider the Moeris' story. An older, German gentleman had brought the watch in, along with an Egona-branded 18k chronograph from the forties, to trade for a ring for his wife. Gushing about the past, he reminisced that he found the watch during the war when it came careening across the ground, where he picked it up and placed it in his pocket.
Something didn’t add up, however. Compared with “proper” Moeris military watches, my example was lacking radium lume, and the face was completely different, and not one easily found in online searches. My watchmaker surmised it was a redial (and that the hands had been painted white--look at the indentions where lume originally sat), which I agreed with.
Fascinated, I researched Moeris as a watchmaker. Surfacing in the late 1800s and early 1900s, I didn’t think much of the company’s history, but man, was I wrong. During WWII, Moeris supplied watches to Britain and Germany, building each piece to each country’s desired specifications. Later, Tissot absorbed Moeris, creating the “Moeris Department” for crafting higher-end offerings (I wonder if Tissot can provide any information?). It doesn’t look like Tissot has done much with Moeris, unfortunately.
Rare for the forties was that my watch had shock protection. Very few timepieces employed this sort of technology during the decade, and only in the fifties did shock protection become commonplace. But I unearthed a valuable tidbit of information: according to various sources, the German military explicitly asked that their watches be equipped with shock protection, unlike others, which lacked the function.
Even more convincing was that my Moeris had “shock protection” written in German on the movement when I looked at the service document. “Bruchsicher,” as they called it, was a good indicator that this watch was indeed a forties piece, as opposed to the fifties when shock protection became widespread.
And, boy, did the service document tell all. The movement was disgustingly filthy, with bits of dirt, dust, and what seemed like paper flakes, floating around the gears. Water likely entered the case, too, because a fair amount of rust surrounded the stem hole; never did my watchmaker complain about the mess, and he never told me of it, either. He just got to work and brought the Moeris back to life.
The in-house 10 ½ movement was clearly a hearty beast—it still wanted to run even when resistance was futile. After getting the Moeris back, it’s not the best timekeeper, gaining between 12 and 15 seconds per day, but I think you’ll agree: this isn’t the kind of watch one owns for accuracy. For me, it’s the look, history, and story, true or not.
I’m currently tussling back and forth with getting the dial and hands restored to their former glory. Replacement lume will be appropriately “aged,” of course, and without the radium part of the equation, thankfully. The edge of the dial has started to peel near the 3 o’clock position, so there’s a white paint flake sitting between the four and five o’clock position. I’m not happy about that, but what can I do? It’s 70 years old!
Thoughts are certainly welcome. Should I restore the dial and hands? Part of me blurts a resounding “NO!” because the current look is part of the watch’s history. I know I’ll never buy a correct Moeris, too, because I have no desire to deal with radium past my grandfather’s Hamilton and my Orator.
It’s safe to say this Moeris—WWII watch or not—is my favorite piece at the moment. It’s totally destroyed the honeymoon stage with my Tudor Black Bay, funnily enough. And, yes, everything on the watch is as I received it. Other than a new mainspring, it required no new parts, and the crystal and case were left unpolished. I’ll never polish a watch. Ever.
Apologies for any typos and/or poor writing. I’m strapped for time today and really wanted to share. Thanks for reading.
The dial/hands probably looked something like this originally: