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Thread: 1938 Elgin 24hr Dial "A-12" Navigation Hack Wristwatch

  1. #1
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    Default 1938 Elgin 24hr Dial "A-12" Navigation Hack Wristwatch

    I am new to the MWR forum as I have just acquired my first military watch from the estate of a military pilot.

    While trying to research an Elgin "A-12" military watch online I found almost nothing about this watch.

    Most of the information I found was regarding the Elgin "A-11" watches.

    This watch has an unusual white 24 hour dial with a "circular window and left pointing arrow" on the dial located

    at 6:00 that gradually changes, from right to left, to a full red dot as the time moves from 4pm to 7pm.

    I'm guessing that when a full red dot appears you read the inner red hour markers to tell the time at night?

    From 4:00am to 7:00am the red dot gradually changes back to the white dial color.

    The watch has 15 jewel movement with "US ARMY A.C" stamped on the bridge.

    The case back is stamped:

    U.S ARMY A.C.
    NAVIGATION
    HACK WATCH
    TYPE-A-12
    MFR'S PART NO. 1840
    SER.NO. 37179446
    ORDER NO. 39-2005
    ELGIN TIME LABORATORY

    There is also an "AC 271" mark inside a triangle stamped on the casebock?


    The case is an early base metal 3 piece Wadsworth.

    I can only find information from 2 military book sources that confirm these watches are genuine.

    It appears the watches were produced in late 1938 and issued in very limited

    quantities to the Army Air Corps pilots from 1939 on.

    I would be very interested to know if anyone here knows more about these watches.

    I am beginning to suspect that this watch may be quite rare.

    Unfortunately, my posting permissions on this site will not allow me to attach photographs?

  2. #2
    Super Moderator dave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by abarth1959 View Post
    Unfortunately, my posting permissions on this site will not allow me to attach photographs?
    welcome - attachments are disabled for everyone.

    here are some instructions for posting images to the forum:

    http://www.mwrforum.net/forums/showt...s-to-the-forum

  3. #3

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    Can't wait to see your photos. From your description, it sounds genuine and if so, this will be the first confirmation of the elusive 24hr Elgin Type A-12. There have been 24hr Elgin instrument movements installed in surplus Type A-11 cases passed off for Type A-12s for the last 20 years or so - valued at crazy prices I might add. Hopefully, once you post your photos and we can pictorially document this watch, and can finally put to rest the belief that any Type A-11 cased 24hr watch is legitimate.

    You can email me and I'll host your photos for you if you like... James(at)James-Delgado(dot)com

  4. #4

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    Here is a treat for everyone this Saturday - photos from Matt of his 1938 Elgin Type A-12.















    Non-hacking 1938 Elgin Grade 532 movement.



    For comparison, here is my 1938 Elgin Type A-11 utilizing the same case as Matt's Type A-12.








  5. #5
    Senior Member river rat's Avatar
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    Cool watch and the first one I ever saw photo's of. You have Non-hacking 1938 Elgin Grade 532 movement so they had to do a lot of upgrades to make it a hacking and red dot to tell PM and AM.

  6. #6

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    Neither my early 1938 Type A-11 (Grade 532) nor Matt's 1938 Type A-12 have a second-setting function, i.e. hacking using the crown. It would have been hacked using other methods.


  7. #7
    Member Hallibag's Avatar
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    Thanks for letting us see this super-interesting, super-rare watch!

  8. #8
    Senior Member river rat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr.D. View Post
    Neither my early 1938 Type A-11 (Grade 532) nor Matt's 1938 Type A-12 have a second-setting function, i.e. hacking using the crown. It would have been hacked using other methods.

    On the case back
    Navigation
    Hack Watch
    Type A-12
    So it must hack like most A-11's

  9. #9

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    Nope, there are other means to hack. Hacking has come to be defined in the modern era as stopping the movement but really all hacking originally meant was that a watch's time could be synchronized to a master timepiece, usually a clock or pocket watch. For non-second setting watches, there was a procedure to be followed. If you read the page I posted, you will see what I am talking about. The page after that one gives the procedure for doing so. By 1940, this was not as big of an issue as the second-setting Elgin Grade 539 movement was in full production with Waltham, Hamilton, and Bulova following shorty after.

  10. #10

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    Very cool!

  11. #11

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    The watch is very important to US military collectors as its a ghost watch, with current examples kinda made up to best represent something that has never been their... until now.. I'm very happy for MWR US collectors in seeing a ghost grail come into full view... a special moment for sure..

  12. #12
    Moderator lambstew's Avatar
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    Wow - never seen one😳

    The lab was their testing facility so this might be a prototype 😳😳😳😳😳😳

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Viktoria View Post
    The watch is very important to US military collectors as its a ghost watch, with current examples kinda made up to best represent something that has never been their... until now.. I'm very happy for MWR US collectors in seeing a ghost grail come into full view... a special moment for sure..
    Yes, I agree. Hopefully, this puts to rest the notion the an A-12 can be created from instrument clock movements and A-11 cases.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by lambstew View Post
    Wow - never seen one😳

    The lab was their testing facility so this might be a prototype 😳😳😳😳😳😳
    I believe you are correct, this was a prototype. I also believe that this watch only existed as a prototype. According to the accounts that I've read, this A-12 specification was never adopted so that would indicate that no watches were ever made to that specification. Of course that wouldn't stop a company from trying to meet that specification should the specification actually get adopted.

  15. #15
    Senior Member DaveH's Avatar
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    I have to say that it is exciting to see something so rare and in remarkable condition considering. The cases are very much like the 1950s Elgin designs, which were spectacular for their time. Same designer?

  16. #16

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    I am not familiar with Elgin civilian watches but since it's a Wadsworth case, so it could very well have been used after the war for civilian production.

  17. #17

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    I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that if I spied that on a fleamarket table for a couple of hundred bucks I would have likely laughed to myself at the VN made fantasy watch looking for a sucker.

    I'd like to think otherwise

    The one thing that would have caught my eye and maybe made me ponder it a little more closely would be the AC inspector marking

  18. #18

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    When you have been collecting as long as I have, focusing on US issued watches specifically, you know in an instant when something is right. This happened with me when I found and purchased the first known example of the Bulova Mil-Ships-W-2181.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Joe A.'s Avatar
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    The lugs are very interesting. Does anyone have information for the US archives on the A-12? I recall someone posting excellent information on the Bulova A-15 which was also a prototype and never adopted. I would be curious to know how many A-12 prototypes were made. If memory serves me correctly, there were 50 A-15s. Joe A.

  20. #20

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    This is an amazing find, well done to the OP! Poor guy must be overwhelmed with offers by now...

    And well done James, I love the info on this one, and would like to see more if possible!

    Cheers, Bob.

    EDIT-never mind James, I found the book.

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