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30 Hour Non-Luminous Mark V

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Hmm, where to post a vintage, military, pocket watch?  As the Military Watches section of the forum has had the least replies recently, here will do nicely :)

This arrived today from another, well-known, on-line dealer:

Zenith, 30 Hour, Non-Luminous, Mark V


According to Wesolowski and other sources, these were issued by a number of manufacturers to the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War from around 1916 and were used as aircraft cockpit clocks.  Later on, when night flying missions became more common, a luminous version was issued.

Apparently, the movement in the Zenith was used as the basis for that used in the Zenith pocket watches issued to the Royal Navy's Hydrographic Department some 30 years later during the Second World War.

The movements certainly look similar in many respects:

Movement from Zenith RFC Mark V Pocket Watch, circa 1916


Movement from Zenith HS3 Royal Navy Hydrographic Survey Pocket Watch, circa 1940's


Now that we can post links to other forums, I can point you in the direction of this thread on the IHC185 forum where there's a lot of information about the different manufacturers of and history of the Mark V pocket watches:


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Very interesting, cheers Rich...

The way it is actually specified that it is non-luminous, would that suggest it was for a specific use? Like, 'we dont want that luminous on, get the non-luminous one'

I struggle to understand why it would actually say non-lum on the dial unless it was important to distinguish the 2 types...

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Good point Jase, I hadn't really thought about the logic behind the markings.

I've read various anecdotes about the lume on some watch dials being shaken loose and disrupting the movement.  So you might not want a luminous watch in your rattly old WW1 biplane and the non-lume version would be preferable.  On the other hand, if you're flying a sortie at night (which was a relatively new development at the time) a non-luminous watch wouldn't be much good to you and you'd certainly prefer a shiny one.

As such, I guess they marked the dials accordingly to save the chap issuing the watch having to disappear into the back of a dark cupboard somewhere to check if the dial glowed or not, or for the mechanics fitting them to the planes to ensure they fitted the correct type maybe?

Just my guess.  Perhaps there's another reason. 

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Most WW1 biplanes only flew during daylight so would not have needed luminous hands/dials. Beautiful movement with an interesting regulator?

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Yes, the regulation mechanism appears to be the same in both watches.  I've no idea how it works!

As to night flying, there's an interesting snippet on one the RAF's web pages :

"19 - 20 Jan 1915- The first airship raid on Britain. Zeppelins of the Imperial German Navy Airship Division drop bombs on Great Yarmouth and Kings Lynn, Norfolk, killing 5 people. The RFC flew its first ever night sorties against the raiders, but two aircraft failed to intercept. During the entire war 56 tons of bombs fell on London and 214 tons elsewhere."

And a further snippet from the 1917 timeline page:

"23 Feb 1917- No. 100 Sqn arrives in France as the first night bomber squadron. It is equipped with FE2b aircraft. Originally formed at Hingham, Norfolk, the squadron moves to France a month later."

Edited by rhaythorne

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Those are perfectly lovely watches, and would definitely been classed as 'V and A'. I still use this definition for certain articles that are liable to be stolen - for an example, an aircraft engine of any type is certainly extremely 'valuable' but is not 'attractive' to thieves. But a cockpit watch is absolutely V and A.

I am sorry if I am preaching to the converted...

I also believe that in the WWI era the pilot had to sign for the watch, and if he didn't bring it back after a crash (I suppose on our side of the lines) that he would be charged for it. If he crashed on the German side he didn't have to worry...

Edited by Jim Attrill

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