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….