Helvetia 1930/40s Pilots Watches
As well as manufacturing sports style watches in the 1930s Helvetia also provided a range of watches aimed at pilots that have gone on to become firm favourites among collectors.
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During the 1930s and 1940s a variety of watch manufacturers produced pilots’ watches of a very similar pattern. They are often known as 'Flieger' or '1928 Pattern' watches. They are usually larger than standard for watches of the period at around 40mm and have large luminous hands and numerals to allow easy reading of the time even in low light and a large crown so that adjustments can be made with gloved hands.
Along with their range of ‘Sports’ watches Helvetia also made several variations of these pilots’ watches and they are among the most popular among collectors today.
Part of Helvetia Advert From 1939
Helvetia started producing pilots’ watches in about 1932. They were approximately 41mm in diameter and were powered by the Helvetia calibre 51S movement. Helvetia fitted these first watches with, what I believe to be, a variant of the Depollier/Brun shock protection system that they had been using since the late 1920s in their sports watches. (For more information see the Sports Watches and Shock Protection pages). The cases were usually made of chrome plated brass and had a hinged inner and outer back cover. They also had large fixed lugs for passing through a long, wide strap that could be fastened over flying clothing if required.
To mark this new range of watches Helvetia adapted their standard logo with the addition of a propeller. Initially this was static below the name but in January 1933 they registered their famous spinning propeller logo.
Soon after the introduction of the 41mm version a smaller 36mm version was added. These used several different movements initially, I have seen Patria (another brand of Louis Brandt & Frere), Adolf Schild and Fabrique d'Horlogerie de Fontainemelon (FHF), movements fitted to these watches.
By the end of 1934 the 51S movement had been superseded by the slightly amended 51-10 version and the shock protection replaced with the Helvetia’s own system patented in 1929. Within another year or so the movements used in the 36mm version had also been standardised as the Helvetia 81-24 again using Helvetia’s own shock protection.
In 1935 Helvetia produced a central seconds version of their calibre 81 movement. There quickly followed a central seconds version of the smaller Helvetia pilots watch using this movement.
These seem to be rare and the example pictured below is the only one I have actually seen.