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 seems to have been used for pocket and wrist watches. They reached as far as just over 6 million in about 1970 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, 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 have a theory as to what the P could mean. In about 1940 Helvetia began to introduce some larger watches than standard for the time at about 34mm and up. When they did this I believe they stared to append smaller model cases with the letter P, almost certainly for ‘Petit’ or small. This applied to existing model numbers and to new cases introduced after this time. For instance, the case number 2021 had a P appended to it after 1940 or so. The cut-off point to be classed as ‘Petit’ seems to have been under 34mm.
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. This smaller case was designated the 3190P 30, the P to show it was under 34mm and 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, the size of the watch and the type of movement fitted.
I am still looking into Helvetia case markings and will update this page as I discover more.