Circa 1940 Clinton Vintage Military Chronograph

Clinton Vintage Chronograph Watch

It is difficult for me to look at a vintage chronograph from the World War II era without imagining how it may have been used, and its relationship to the owner.  In the days before sophisticated, portable computing devices, soldiers and airman relied on mechanical chronograph watches and timers for targeting and navigation.  Most vintage chronograph watches have telemeter and tachymeter dials that aid in these tasks, and it is easy to take this for granted as a collector because we see them so often.  In combat, however, the owner would have relied on their watch in life or death situations, and would have developed a more meaningful relationship with their timepiece.  They would need to make quick calculations, and know that their watch was going to give them the correct result.  I’ve often wondered how they could have read the dial’s small print in limited sight situations.  Even with the best of vision this would have been difficult.  I believe the relationship between the watch and its owner was required to be so intimate that they would have made sure of a precise understanding of the dial, and the location of each marking, without having to read the very fine print in real time.  They would have known what number was in each spot even if their vision or the environment didn’t allow them to explicitly read the number.  In the same way we can look at a clock with no numbers and know what time it is, they would have known the individual locations of each telemeter or tachymeter marking and be able to instantly discern the distance or speed of an object.

With this in mind take a look at the dial of this stunning Clinton chronograph watch.  Notice the blue, center, snail type, spiral graduation of the tachymeter that uses imperial miles per hour numbering, instead of metric kilometers per hour.  This spiral tachymeter allows for an expanded range of speeds, as the center hand can rotate 3 times around the dial, instead of the single rotation allowed by the more typical perimeter tachymeter.  Note the beautifully aged lume on the dial and hands that would have glowed brightly when new.  Note the concentric circles that each sector uses to visually group 1/5 seconds, seconds and minutes, and give the dial a very scientific look.

In addition to the amazing sector dial with spiral tachymeter, I like the rotating 12 hour bezel that give the watch a beefy look while keeping track of multiple time zones. More importantly, the owner would have needed a reliable watch, and this Clinton chronograph uses the very dependable Venus 170 manual wind movement. You will also find the Venus 170 inside more recognized brand name chronographs like Heuer and Breitling from the same era. As collectors we often look at the name on the dial more than the specific movements inside. For the soldier or airman the name on the outside was probably less important, but knowing the reliability of the movement would have been a priority. As with all of our vintage watches this Clinton chronograph has been cleaned/serviced and is keeping accurate time. It comes with our 1 year mechanical warranty.

While it isn’t possible to know whether or not this Clinton chronograph was used during the war, I do enjoy imagining the history of every watch that I sell or service.  Each watch has a unique story to tell, but its most important history is yet to come.  This amazing wristwatch is ready to continue its great adventure with a new owner, and I am fortunate to play a small part.

John DiDonato

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