Helvetia Case Markings
Helvetia marked their cases with individual serial numbers and case numbers for their different models.
Find out what they can tell us below...
The two main numbers marked on Helvetia watches were the serial number and the case number, which also doubled up as a model number.
The serial number was placed on the inner or outer case back and the same range was used for pocket and wrist watches. They reached as far as just over 6 million in 1973 when they moved to a new system of numbering which consisted of two digits, the meaning of which I haven't got to the bottom of but may be a factory ID, followed by a further two digits for the year. For more information, and to date a watch from the serial number, please visit the serial numbers page.
The case numbers are a bit more confusing as there are no records to translate their meaning. After studying about a thousand watches I believe I broadly understand them.
The case number was used to identify the model of the watch and usually consisted of a four digit number. These case numbers are sometimes followed by the numeral '2'. This signifies that the case is fitted with a larger 11.5 Ligne movement instead of a 10.5 Ligne movement and therefore needs a larger movement holder fitted.
Some Helvetia watch cases have a P in addition to the case number. I have puzzled over this addition for some time and I did think that the P could stand for 'Petit' or small but now I have found larger cases also marked with the P. It does seem to have been brought in during the war and may possibly denote older case models as only the older model cases they also used pre war seem to have had the P added. For instance, the case number 2021 had a P appended to it after 1940 or so.
In the case of the 3190 pattern waterproof case, which is 34mm in size, Helvetia actually produced a second smaller 30mm version after the war. There was obviously demand for this well designed, waterproof case in a smaller size more normal for the time and it seems to have replaced the larger version used for the military contracts. This smaller case was designated the 3190P 30, the 30 to show it was the 30mm version of the larger 3190. Depending on the movement fitted these watches may also have the additional number '2' to mark the fitting of an 11.5 Ligne movement.
So if you have the markings from the back of a Helvetia watch it is possible to get a good idea of the date of manufacture and the size and type of movement fitted.
I am still looking into Helvetia case markings and will update this page as I discover more.