Within military watches there are two sub-divisions. There are military specification and then there are watches that were common among G.I.s, SEALs, pilots, etc. This Glycine, like the Zodiac Sea Wolf, belongs in the latter category, but you wouldn’t know it from the design and build. The 24-hour dial is unmistakably military, and the bezel and hands fit perfectly on the wrist of a pilot, and that is exactly where these gained their popularity during the Vietnam War.
According to Hans Brechbuler, the managing director of the company (and its purchaser in 1984) the Airman evolved based on feedback directly from pilots. According to him, US fighter pilots were very active in providing feedback on their needs from a timepiece in the cockpit. While this watch gained significant popularity between its introduction in 1953 and the 70s, like so many others on this blog, it came to a very abrupt drop-off when quartz hit the market. Things got so bad for the company that they where whittled down to a skeleton staff, and eventually purchased by their current owner. Fortunately, our fascination with mechanical pieces has picked up drastically, and modern Glycine watches are still available and can be found at a very reasonable price/quality ratio.
Glycine built a a hack function around the movement making it a somewhat unique mechanism. Unlike other hack functions this one stopped the hand only at 0 (or 24 or 12 depending on your perspective.) The idea being that like with other hack functions, squadrons could precisely coordinate time. Unlike most hack mechanisms Glycine built their function into the case rather than the movement. Because of this there is no way to get the necessary part should something go wrong. This has led to an unfortunately large amount of these fantastic watches to not have a working hack function. This watch came without it, but that didn’t stop me from restoring or appreciating it. In addition to the hack function, they also built a locking bezel and a small GMT spike off the back of the hour hand to coordinate with the bezel.
Glycine used two different base calibers. One from AS and one from Felsa. The one here is an AS 1700/01 movement with the slight modification of the motion works (the gears where the hands are attached) which makes it revolve only once every 24 hours. Although it is slightly odd at first, once you are used to the dial it is fantastic, and its look really does have a style befitting a cockpit (see the Hamilton 37500 for reference.)
As with all military watches, I put a canvas band on this one as well, but thought black was better than the green. Also, as this is the most valuable military wristwatch I have worked on, I opted for the padded rather than plain. Unlike the other military pieces, this one combines history with utility. It is sized and wears on the wrist like a modern piece.
While I am not positive, I believe this is probably one of the last really famous mechanical military wristwatches before they all switched to quartz. Back together it is one of the most wearable military timepieces I have worked on. It will be a tough call whether to sell this one or add it to the personal collection….
Aloha , I made an inquiry on Bing about a Glycine Airman watch I bought at the swap meet in Honolulu today. It led me to your site and I was surprised to see you were featuring the same Glycine watch. Mine looks like yours except for 2 differences I can spot so far. Mine does not say “Special” on the dial and it has the words “Adjusted To Positions” around the rotor bearing , then “Glycine Watch Co.” , “Airman” , and “Twenty Five 25 Jewels Swiss”. It s in good shape out side except for the crystal , it was hard to read the dial , and really clean in the case and running very well so far . The serial # on the case back is 601412 just above the patent # 314050 .
I was glad to see the watch band you chose as the one on mine had a cheap looking fake Rolex stainless….[ the selling point for the seller ], and I was kind of thinking that the movement was probably a quartz like a nice looking Tag Heuer I got at another swap meet .
Can you possibly tell me where I can get a replacement crystal ? As you know it has the cyclops magnifier on the inside and a metal ring on the edge . I do like the padded canvas band , so any Info on that would also be greatly appreciated .
Thanks for all the info I’ve seen so far on your great site .
Regards , Louis Juarez
Thanks for taking the time to check out the site! It seems you got your hands on a great piece. As far as the proper crystal it’s really hard to find originals but they do pop up on eBay from time to time. The generic brand G-S also makes a crystal for it that can either be found also on eBay or through a parts supplier like W.S. McCaw Co. The band I put on it was a Hadley-Roma canvas band with cordura lining. Hope this helps!
Thank You for the reply . I will use your suggestions to start my search for the crystal and band.
Mahalo , Louis Juarez
I found the crystal on ebay by seller ….BILLSHAINE ….and his store is..Shaine Vintage Watch Collection….it looks to maybe have hard to find parts for different watches. Mr. Shaine sent me a link to a Glycine Airman Gallery with pics and descriptions of the different Airman watches.
Also I ordered a Hadley-Roma canvas band and i am looking at a Brown Buffalo band made for the Airman.
Thank You so much for all of your help and Info , Louis Juarez
I’m very happy to have been able to help!
Okie-Doikie …BYW , David at W.S McCaw said that they do not have any crystals for the Airman , not even G-S Brand .
As a follow -up, I received and installed my new crystal . It was a perfect fit , looked like the original and even had the silver tension ring . The package said; G-S , MT 30.1-9.5 , Swiss Made , G-S Supplies Inc. , Rochester, NY USA………
It looks Great , runs Great and the hacking feature works like a Champ. Just waiting for the canvas band .
Aloha , Louis Juarez
Glad to hear!!