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Thread: Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and Hamilton 308 Device

  1. #1

    Default Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and Hamilton 308 Device

    Hello,

    First time post. I recently bought a watch lot at an estate auction after seeing a Blancpain advertised along with a few other vintage watches.

    I am attaching the photos from the auction site:

    [IMG][/IMG]

    [IMG][/IMG]

    There were a few other lots with military items including zippos with navy markings/enamel and knives which I took as indicia of authenticity. In any event, because I live in a different city and they don't ship, I hired someone to pick them up and ship them to me. I also got the person to take better pictures.

    [IMG][/IMG]



    I don't have it yet, and don't have any photos of the inside, but it looks pretty legit to me. It is missing the moisture indicator, but there is an empty spot for it. It also doesn't look NOS, which in my research before buying was a warning sign to avoid. Any preliminary thoughts (before knowing what's inside) from those more in the know would be welcome.

    If anyone knows anything about the other watch, which also looks military, I would be interested. The caseback is marked Hamilton.

    If real I think I got it at a pretty decent price. If fake, I will wear it in shame.

    Thanks,

    Ashmoret.

    Edit: I should add that I bought it in the U.S. outside of Washington D.C.

  2. #2
    Member hookedseven's Avatar
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    How cool !

    The Hamilton looks like this.

    http://www.mwrforum.net/forums/showt...light=Claymore

    I would wait for better judgements on both, but if the Hamilton is right then I imagine that the Blancpain could be too.

  3. #3
    Senior Member river rat's Avatar
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    with that 308 device explosive timer being in the box I bet the Blancpain is real also.

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    Fingers crossed they are real

  5. #5

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    If they all check out once in your hands, that is a cool couple of finds!

  6. #6

    Default Deja vu!

    Your blancpain looks nice. I want it!!!

     photo IMG_0471 3_zpshs5khi9x.jpg


     photo IMG_0474_zpsjlphmn1o.jpg

  7. #7

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    Those look pretty similar. Do you know anything about the potential value of the Hamilton?

  8. #8
    Member bpc's Avatar
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    I paid a pretty penny for mine...


  9. #9
    Member bpc's Avatar
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    Your dial looks like the one in the Hamilton Museum


  10. #10
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Ashmoret View Post
    Hello,

    First time post. I recently bought a watch lot at an estate auction after seeing a Blancpain advertised along with a few other vintage watches.

    I am attaching the photos from the auction site:

    [IMG][/IMG]

    .
    This one looks quite real to me.

    Amazing find unless the Inside is wrong but I doubt it.

  11. #11

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by bpc View Post
    I paid a pretty penny for mine...

    bpc I would love to send you an email but do not seem to be able to use pm. Can you send me one?

  12. #12

    Default Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and Hamilton 308 Device - Part 2

    I previously posted about two potentially interesting watches I'd found in an online auction: http://www.mwrforum.net/forums/showt...9-Real-or-Fake. I am back from vacation and now have both in hand. In this post I would like to provide an update and some further information I have discovered on their previous owner.

    This is a bit of a long read. If you simply want photos of the watches, scroll to the bottom of the post.

    Finding The Watches

    I found the watches on maxsold.com - a great estates sale website. The auction was taking place in Silver Spring, Maryland outside of Washington D.C.. I found the auction on the day it was closing. The description of the lot was as follows: "Watches. Vintage including one with 24 hour face. Brands include Blancpain, Beauwyn, Timex and more. Some without bands. Untested. Come to pickup at Category A time-slot."

    The pictures of the watches were not great. You can see them here: [Note: I was going to post the photos to the forum, but because I do not want to infringe any copyright (I cannot imagine maxsold would mind, but just in case), I am linking to the auction website instead of reproducing the photos].

    http://maxsold.maxsold.com/auction/2...tches-a-250772

    The watch in the lot that caught my eye was the Blancpain. I'd heard of the brand and knew a bit about the history of the fifty fathoms watch. The price at the time I first found it was incredibly low (under $50). It was worth the risk of a bid and the task of arranging shipping. And though the price went up, it stayed low enough that I kept bidding and eventually won. And once I won I was immediately struck by buyer's remorse as I thought about how much money I'd just spent on the basis of a few photographs of a watch I didn't know was real or working.

    Other Items in the Auction

    Only after I'd bought the watches did I Google "fake Blancpain". I then discovered that, contrary to my assumption, people have previously faked vintage fifty fathoms watches. The surrounding circumstances though, gave me hope. Why would someone sell a fake Blancpain in an estate auction instead of on eBay? It would be far too elaborate a con. In addition there were a number of other military lots on offer, as well as other items of value including silverware and gold jewellery. The vintage military items included knives, zippos and World War II Memorabilia.

    http://maxsold.maxsold.com/auction/2...nives-a-251021

    http://maxsold.maxsold.com/auction/2...items-a-250788

    http://maxsold.maxsold.com/auction/2...taria-a-250739

    Original Post on MWR

    While waiting for the watches, which was going to be a long wait (because of a previously booked vacation), I posted photos on this site (both from the auction and photos the lady shipping me the watches had taken) and asked people what they thought. The responses were all positive, which reduced my panic at my purchase. Of particular importance, reg-life identified the 24-hour watch as a Hamilton 308 Device. Had that not happened, I would likely have thrown it out or left it in a drawer not knowing what it was.

    Research While Waiting for The Watches, or, "What I Did on My Vacation"

    The auction website does not tell you whose estate is being sold. And because I did not go myself, I did not have a chance to speak to anyone there. I also didn't ask the company I'd hired to pick up the watch to ask either.

    And so I started using Google. It occurred to me based on the zippos that the owner of the watch may have been a member of UDT-21 and Seal Team 2. I therefore tried to find a member of those two groups who'd lived in Silver Spring. The search brought up a number of interesting people, but none of them had recently lived (and died) in Silver Spring.

    I then through further searches found the Zippos and a few of the other military collectibles from the estate sale listed on eBay. The person who had purchased the lot at the estate sale was now selling them individually. That person told me he'd talked to the man's daughter who had told him that her father had been in the Navy in the UDT during WW2 and then after the War had played a vital role in the research and development of equipment used by Seals during operations. He also said that in 1997 the man had been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the UDT/Seal Association.

    That information led me down another Google rabbit-hole. It seemed from that series of searches that the eBay seller's information was wrong. According to other online sources the first Lifetime Achievement Award given out by the UDT/Seals Association was in 1998, not 1997 and was awarded to Captain Wendell Webber (http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/wewebber.htm). If the man whose watch it was had won that award, it wasn't in 1997.

    In any event, at the end of my searches I was convinced the man I was looking for was John Munson. Mr. Munson passed away in February 2016. He was an officer in the Navy in WW2, and then became a scientist at the Navy Ordinance Laboratory in White Oak, MD. He then had a long and distinguished career in underwater acoustics, research, development and application. While at NOL he earned his M.S. an Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. His obituary is worth a read and can be found here: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/was...?pid=178032783.

    I thought Dr. Munson was the man I was looking for because his biographical information largely matched what the eBay seller had told me about the watch owner's history. But going back to the other items in the auction (which I should have done at the very start of my research), I realized that I was wrong.
    The first indication that I was wrong were the initials carved into the top of the box of flatware listed for sale. Those initials - E.F.Y. - did not match those of John Munson or his wife (or her maiden name). I therefore looked through all the other items that had been for sale and found a name written on a scrap of paper in the lot of men's items and on a bowling pin - Chuck Young.

    http://maxsold.maxsold.com/auction/2...-misc-b-250787

    http://maxsold.maxsold.com/auction/2...items-a-250779

    Charles Young, Jr.

    Charles "Chuck" Young, Jr. died in February 2007. His wife Eleanor F. Young died in February of 2016. Her initials match those on the box of silverware.
    Mr. Young's obituary is unfortunately silent on the details of his life: (http://hinesrinaldi.tributes.com/our...Young-84754304). For more information, a deep search of the internet was required.

    The first hit was a 2007 edition of The Leaf, a publication by the White Oak Laboratory Alumni Association, Inc. [http://www.wolaa.org/files/Spring_2007_LEAF.pdf]. The tribute to Mr. Young is found at page 17 and reads as follows:

    Charles Young, Jr. Charlie died on 20 February 2007. He is survived by his wife, Eleanor; and children: Jacqueline and Hildie. Charlie worked at NOL/NSWC. He was the Program Manager for Swimmer Weapons. He was a passionate advocate of the SEALs and was dedicated to giving them the best weapons possible. Swimmer Weapons were developed at NOL/NSWC and were a great hands on development for engineers; however when ready for technical evaluation, U40 could clearly not do the actual testing when underwater swimming was involved. Except for Charlie; I am told that the SEALs had so much respect for Charlie that he actually swam with them.

    I also found a transcript of a statement Mr. Young gave to the FDA in March 1996 dealing with the buildings which had once housed the NOL at White Oak. The link is here: [https://books.google.ca/books?id=lzQ...age&q&f=false].

    At page 49 of the transcript, Mr. Young states:

    My name is Charles Young, Jr.; I am a resident of this area, this neighborhood, I'm a former 30 year employee of NOL -- NSWC that is, and I managed a program that I created myself here at the lab called a Swimmer Weapons System.

    At page 50:

    I referred to the Swimmer Weapons System primarily because in my activities I became a member of the underwater demolition teams and eventually the Navy SEALS...

    I also found a number of patents Mr. Young had filed relating to ordinance: [http://www.google.ch/patents/US3143964] [http://patents.justia.com/patent/4217826]

    He also gave a talk at the 6th U.S. Navy Symposium on Military Oceanography: [https://archive.org/stream/usnavysym...usna_djvu.txt]

    There were also a few photos of him in historical newspapers which I unfortunately could not access without a subscription.

    In any event, Mr. Young's involvement with the Swimmer Weapons System explains why he had a Hamilton 308 Device. Those devices were discussed in Mike Weber's previous post here: http://www.mwrforum.net/forums/showt...light=Claymore


    Is the Charles Young, Jr. who owned the watches the Same Charles Young, Jr. who worked at White Oak?


    The items discussed above, as well as the biographical information in The Leaf are in my opinion sufficient to establish that the man whose estate was for sale is the same man who worked at the NOL and who was, in his own statement, a member of the UDT and a Navy Seal. But in any event, a further item from the auction confirms this. I originally thought it was just ephemera, as it was listed in the World War 2 collectibles lot. It turns out however that it is a citation Mr. Young received from White Oak.

    http://maxsold.maxsold.com/auction/2...taria-a-250739

    It is difficult to make out the text, but It appears however to be a citation presented to Mr. Young for his work on the Swimmer Weapons System and the impact of that system on the activities of the Navy Seals in Vietnam. My best guess at the text is as follows:

    The additional requirements imposed on the swimmer weapon systems program by Vietnam in addition to the recent general tightening of funds has imposed severe restraints and introduced new problems. Your exceptional management of the program has enabled the Laboratory to meet those urgent Vietnam requirements with a minimum of delay in the longer range swimmer weapon work.

    I'm sure there is other information out there, and I would love to know if Mr. Young was ever the recipient of the UDT/Seal achievement award, but it appears that Mr. Young did indeed make a vital contribution in the research and development of equipment used by Seals during operations in Vietnam.

    The Watches

    There were six watches in the lot. The two which are of interest are the Blancpain and the Hamilton.

    Fifty Fathoms Milspec 1

    The Blancpain appears to be a Fifty Fathoms Milspec 1, known as both the "Civilian Milspec" and as a "demo". People on this forum will be familiar with the watch (reading your posts is how I learned about it) and so I will avoid making this post any longer than it already is. I was interested though in the old advertisements for the watch previously posted on another forum.

    Photos of my watch are below.

    [IMG] photo front of blancpain_zpsudmkfd4f.jpg[/IMG]

    [IMG] photo crown of blancpain_zpsfefnuqzh.jpg[/IMG]

    [IMG] photo back of blancpain_zpsjizlhliw.jpg[/IMG]

    The dial is missing the moisture indicator, but the place where it once sat is visible in the photos. The crystal is scratched up and the lume no longer glows. The bezel is in good condition but is stuck and won't turn.

    I am also happy to report that the watch is working and keeping good time. Photos of the movement and the inside of the case are below. I do not know enough about watch movements in general or the Milspec 1 in particular to offer an opinion one way or the other as to whether the parts are all original. If anyone can tell from the photos, please let me know.

    [IMG] photo inside case of blancpain_zpshjlkamdv.jpg[/IMG]

    [IMG] photo blancpain movement two_zpspvxgcu6s.jpg[/IMG]

    [IMG] photo blancpain movement_zpsct1gxjax.jpg[/IMG]

    Hamilton 308 Device

    It has been difficult to find any information on the Hamilton. Mike's post on the Swimmer Weapons System was a great starting point. The dial on Mike's watch though is different than the dial on mine as are the other two examples owned by other forum members.. I originally thought that someone, perhaps while using the watch, had cut a hole in the dial for an unknown purpose. But it looks like that wasn't the case. The photo on the Hamilton Museum website shows a watch face similar to mine. It also states that the fuse goes off when both hands are in the 24 position.

    [IMG] photo hamilton website_zpsu293mavo.jpg[/IMG]

    In addition, the image in the book below also matches the dial of my watch:

    [IMG] photo book in watch shop_zpsqhnmks5x.jpg[/IMG]

    Images of my watch are below:

    [IMG] photo front of hamilton_zpsyjt6gfrp.jpg[/IMG]

    [IMG] photo back of hamilton_zpsvkkiqhjk.jpg[/IMG]

    The watch is missing the crown. It still has the plastic cover over the electrodes on the back though, which was probably important when wearing it.
    The watch can only be opened from the front. I had it opened today and this is what I found:

    [IMG] photo hamilton inside 2_zpsxoypvbjx.jpg[/IMG]

    [IMG] photo hamilton inside 1_zpsrytswmwt.jpg[/IMG]

    [IMG] photo hamilton inside 4_zpslmgghdgk.jpg[/IMG]

    [IMG] photo hamilton inside 3_zpsvxoq8kmh.jpg[/IMG]

    With the reference number on the inside of the case, I have been in touch with Hamilton for more information, and if they are able to provide it I will update this post.

    Conclusion

    Thanks for reading through this somewhat lengthy post. I hope it was as interesting to read as it was for me to research and write. I love both watches. Looking inside the Hamilton was a particular thrill. I'd like to get it working, which I think may just require putting in a new crown.

    Thanks also to other forum members who provided me with information and advice.

  13. #13
    Member ceanag's Avatar
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    Good read Ashmoret .. I had a tldr moment when I first saw your post but am definitely glad I persisted.
    I bet you don't have buyers remorse anymore

  14. #14
    Moderator Revo's Avatar
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    Great post. Thanks for sharing. Always good to read original research, it's what sets this forum apart.
    "Early this year I saw ex-army watches exhibited in a showcase at a little under 4 each. A week or two later I succeeded in buying one of them for 5. Recently their price seems to have risen to 8." (George Orwell, "As I Please", Tribune, 29th November 1946)

  15. #15
    Super Moderator dave's Avatar
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    that's a really great read and your initial gamble and later research perseverance has certainly paid off nicely in the end - thanks for posting.

  16. #16
    Senior Member foilguy's Avatar
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    For a watch anorak, better reading than a good novel, great sleuthing.

  17. #17
    Member bpc's Avatar
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    Wow, fantastic work!!

    I would have loved to pick Mr. Young's brain about the watch and the rest of the Swimmer Weapon System. I'm sure he saw and made some interesting things over those 30 years...

    I really hope Hamilton is able to help you with more information. Definitely keep us posted.

    Can anyone speculate about how the watch might work...? It appears that the wires are connected from the poles on the back of the watch to the sides of the movement, but what supplies the "zap" when the hands reach 2400? (The black disk in the center of the dial might have our answer...)

    Great work, again!

  18. #18

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    Thanks everyone for the kind words.

  19. #19

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    I share the sentiments above. A great read and impressive detective work.

    Now, enjoy wearing those beauties in the best of health!

  20. #20

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    Very cool. Was it difficult to remove crystal. The stem screw must have been just under the dial. Have you tired checking with a continuity tester what happens at 2400? Thanks Brian

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