• Sale 1348

    Important Pocket Watches and Wristwatches

    12 November 2007, Geneva

  • Lot 101

    Tornek-Rayville. A rare and unusual stainless steel self-winding water-resistant anti-magnetic diver's wristwatch with sweep centre seconds, made for the US Navy

    SIGNED TORNEK-RAYVILLE, US, REF. TR-900, CIRCA 1965

    Price Realised  

    Tornek-Rayville. A rare and unusual stainless steel self-winding water-resistant anti-magnetic diver's wristwatch with sweep centre seconds, made for the US Navy
    Signed Tornek-Rayville, US, ref. TR-900, circa 1965
    Blancpain cal. A1361 nickel-finished lever movement, 17 jewels, soft iron anti-magnetic inner case, metal dust cap, the black dial with luminous numerals, hands and sweep centre seconds, circular humidity indicator to the lower half, in tonneau-shaped water-resistant type case with bi-directional revolving black bezel with luminous 60 units indication, the screw back with engraved military markings, case, dial and movement signed
    40 mm. diam.


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    Accompanied by photocopies of Allen V. Tornek's letter dated 28 December 2005 to Marc A. Hayek at Blancpain, explaining the history behind the Tornek-Rayville a-magnetic diver's watch, Marc A. Hayek's reply, Operating Instructions and Quality Control Manual. Mr. Tornek furthermore confirms that a total of around 1,000 units of this model were sold to the US Government.

    The Tornek- Rayville diver's wristwatch was developed in the early 1960s by Allen V. Tornek of the Rayville factory, the representative of Blancpain in the US. It was made under US Military Specifications "MIL-W-22176 (SHIPS) WATCH, WRIST, SUBMERSIBLE (400-FOOT), NON-MAGNETIC". As requested by the US Government, the watches had to be legibly marked on the outside of the case back with the specification number ("MIL-W-22176"), serial number, the word "NONMAGNETIC" with the nonmagnetic symbol as well as the radiation symbol.

    The design of the Tornek-Rayville was based on Blancpain's "Fifty Fathoms" model already in production; it was fitted with the same calibre AS1361 and Promethium 147 (half life 2.5 years) for the luminous material. By changing its colour from pink/blue to entirely pink, the humidity indicator would show if water moisture had penetrated the watch, hence requiring a servicing.

    Debuted in 1953, Blancpain's celebrated "Fifty Fathoms" model was presented as the first true modern diving wristwatch. The idea for the model arose when two captains of the French navy, Commander Maloubier and Lieutenant Riffand, requested a practical solution for a watch to be used by a new unit of military combat swimmers.

    Upon finding no existing watch capable of withstanding the extreme conditions of underwater missions, the two officers approached Blancpain with an extremely specific set of technical specifications, including the revolutionary unidirectional bezel. The watch developed following these requests is considered the archetype of the diver's watch, its name derived from the water resistance guaranteed to a depth of 50 fathoms or 91.45 meters.