Sold on thesaleroom.com: a record-breaking member of the Dirty Dozen14 October 2020 From the thousands of lots that appear at auctions every week on thesaleroom.com, here we focus on a rare British military issue wristwatch.
A Grana Ministry of Defence wristwatch – the hardest to find of the so-called ‘Dirty Dozen’ watches made by 12 Swiss manufacturers for the British army – sold for £18,000 at Thomas Miller in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on October 5.
The price, close to triple the guide of £6000-7000, is thought to be a new high for the model.The watch, with an associated strap but in otherwise excellent untouched condition, came for sale from a property in Northumberland. After the firm had sold some Edwardian and Victorian furniture, the downsizing vendor mentioned in passing a watch that their family had owned since the 1950s.
Watches of this kind were ordered by the British Ministry of Defence during the tail-end of the Second World War for issue to army ground personnel. Back then the acronym WWW to the case back stood for ‘Watch, Wrist, Waterproof’.
Twelve different brands were commissioned to make the watches in c.1945: Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, International Watch Co, Jaeger-Le-Coultre, Lemania, Longines, Omega, Record, Timor and Vertex. The Grana is considered the rarest with perhaps as few as 1500 made by this otherwise routine maker.
A number appear in thesaleroom.com's Price Guide. Prior to 2015, prices between £3000-5000 were typical. This changed in May 2018 when Shropshire firm Trevanion & Dean sold one for £9000 followed by another at Sheffield Auction Gallery on October 2019 for £12,000. However, the recent sale (over £21,000 with 21% buyer’s premium added) takes the brand into new territory.
Auctioneer Guy Macklam said the purchaser, bidding via thesaleroom.com, was based in the North-West, with the underbidder from the North-East also online. Three phone lines did not make a bid, with an overseas commission bidder of £16,000 also left disappointed.