British Army GS/TP Pocket Watches
The main pocket watch used by the British Army in the second world war was known as the GSTP or GS/TP watch. This is believed to stand for General Service Time Piece or General Service Trade Pattern i.e. a watch bought from the watch trade.
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GS/TP watches were made by a variety of manufacturers but tended to be of a similar pattern, this seems to be a standard specified by the British authorities.
The watch provided by Helvetia for the British Army was a 19’” pocket watch with luminous hands and dial, black and white dialled versions, a base metal chrome plated case with a snap on case back, and a 15 jewel non shock protected calibre 32A movement.
The calibre 32A movement was the same as that supplied to the German Army and is of a very good quality and finished to a surprisingly high standard for a mass produced military watch. Most of the movements are in the usual configuration for the calibre 32A but occasionally a different bridge configuration was used. The case is stamped with a Helvetia case number of 6010.
The back of these watches are marked with an individual military serial number sometimes preceded by a letter which is thought to denote the contract the watches were ordered under (G and P in the case of Helvetia). Unfortunately, as they are not marked with a separate Helvetia serial number it is not possible to date these watches any more accurately than to the second world war period. Occasionally a watch will also be marked ’Bravingtons’, this was the name of a London jewellers who sold off surplus watches following the war.
The Helvetia GSTP watches are all very similar but there are a few slightly different types which I will go through below. All the types can have black or white dials that are marked Helvetia but there are some very minor dial variations which were spread over the different types of watch which I will separately illustrate for those die-hards.
PXXXXX Marked Watches
The most numerous of the Helvetia GS/TP watches are those marked with a 5 digit serial number preceded by the letter P. The marking on the reverse is over three lines; GS/TP above then the ‘P’ number then the British military broad arrow mark at the bottom. The movements are marked 32A, Helvetia Swiss Made, and General Watch Co Switzerland.
An interesting example of a Helvetia GS/TP watch is illustrated below. This watch was damaged when it was struck by shrapnel when being carried by Sgt Roy Bishop in Normandy on the 8th August 1944. The shrapnel penetrated his Platoon Roll Call Book and his wallet to hit the watch in his breast pocket.
Copyright National Army Museum
Watches over 100,000
When the numbering reached 6 digits the letter preceding the number was dropped and only the number was marked to the back of the watch. There are two different versions of the watches above 100,000 with the serial numbers intermingled between the two. Perhaps there were two factories providing these watches at this time. It seems that the movement on these watches were only marked 32A and Helvetia without the Swiss Made or General Watch Co Switzerland text. Occasionally movements in these watches are seen with the additional text but not often.
The first type of the 6 digit watches are marked GS/TP as the P marked watches with the 6 digit number below but with the broad arrow at the top rather than the bottom.
The second type has the G.S/T.P with dots separating the letters and with the arrow below the number as with the P marked watches.
The last variant of the Helvetia GSTP watches are those marked with the prefix G. These watches have a 5 digit number all beginning with 2. The G.S.T.P. initials are separated with a dot and there is no slash. The broad arrow is above the lines with the G.S.T.P. and serial number.
The G marked watches are the most scarce, they appear to date from similar date to the early P marked watches.
There appear to be four separate types of dial. The first three are white only, the fourth can be black or white. All the variants have lumed numerals at 12,3 and 9, with no lume on the minute track in these locations, and black painted (or white painted for the black dials) numerals for the rest apart from the 6 which has the sub-seconds dial in it’s place.
Type 1 – This type has a ‘railroad’ minute track around the outside of the dial with slightly thicker marks at the numerals. Over printed on this track are circles for lume dots at 1,2,4,5,7,8,10 and 11. The 6 position has an overprinted vertical box for a vertical bar of lume. This dial is mainly seen in the lower numbered P marked watches.
Type 2 – This type has a ‘railroad’ minute track around the outside of the dial with slightly thicker marks at the numerals. Rather than over printed circles for lume dots at 1,2,4,5,7,8,10 and 11 these are incorporated into the printing of the dial. The vertical box at the 6 position is also part of the dial printing instead of being overprinted. This dial is mainly seen in the lower numbered P marked watches.
Type 3 – This type has a ‘railroad’ minute track around the outside of the dial but as well as having the lume dots incorporated into the printing at the at 1,2,4,5,7,8,10 and 11 positions there are also boxes printed into the track at 12, 3 and 9 as well as 6 though only the 6 o’clock position is lumed. This dial also has a hooked top to the 2s on the dial (there may be some without these hooked 2s, it is difficult to be certain at times). This dial is mainly seen in the higher numbered P marked watches and the G marked watches.
Type 4 – This type has a ‘railroad’ minute track around the outside of the dial with slightly thicker marks at the numerals. There are no markings on this dial for the lume and it is applied in smaller dots directly onto the track. This means there is a variety of ways that lume is applied at the 6 position. This dial can be black or white. It is mainly seen in the watches numbered above 100,000 with no letter.
Some dial variations are illustrated below.
Helvetia GS/TP Pocket Watches may not be the most collectable of military watches but they are not as uniform as they at first seem and are a relativley cheap way of collecting a quality military watch.