• Lot 270

    Longines. A lot of two rare and historically interesting silver timepieces, comprising one oversized hour angle Aviator's wristwatch with indirect sweep centre seconds and one openface keyless lever chronograph watch, the wristwatch reputably presented to Air Marshal Italo Balbo by Charles Lindbergh, the chronograph watch by Roger Williams and Lewis Yancey


    Price Realised  


    Longines. A lot of two rare and historically interesting silver timepieces, comprising one oversized hour angle Aviator's wristwatch with indirect sweep centre seconds and one openface keyless lever chronograph watch, the wristwatch reputably presented to Air Marshal Italo Balbo by Charles Lindbergh, the chronograph watch by Roger Williams and Lewis Yancey
    Signed Longines, Lindbergh model, movement and case no. 5272672, manufactured in 1935, and Longines, movement and case no. 2980509, manufactured in 1927
    The wristwatch cal. 18.69N nickel-finished lever movement, 18 jewels, bimetallic compensation balance, hinged cuvette, white enamel dial, black Roman numerals, inner scale calibrated for 180 degrees with Arabic numerals, inner silvered rotating disc calibrated for 60 seconds and 15 degrees, blued steel moon-style hands, blued steel indirect sweep centre seconds hand, large circular case, revolving bezel calibrated for 15 degrees in inlaid green enamel and subdivisions in black enamel, hinged back, large ball-form crown,; the openface chronograph watch cal. 19.73N nickel-finished lever movement, 17 jewels, bimetallic compensation balance, hinged cuvette, white enamel dial, Arabic numerals, outer minute divisions, two subsidiary dials indicating 30 minutes register and constant seconds, circular case, hinged back engraved To His Excellency General Balbo in appreciation of his splendid friendship from Roger Q. Williams and Lewis A. Yancey, encircled by inscription Used to navigate the pathfinder from Old Orchard to Rome, chronograph button in the crown, case, cuvette, dial and movement signed
    47 mm. & 52 mm. diams. (2)

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    According to the Archives of Montres Longines, both watches were sold to Longines-Wittnauer Watch Co., New York, at the time their agent in the US: the silver wristwatch with calibre 18.69N movement on 23 July 1935, the openface chronograph in silver with calibre 19.73N movement on 27 May 1927.

    The historically important timepieces offered here for sale were consigned by a friend of Italo Balbo's family who kindly provided the original documents such as Balbo's Diplomatic Passport and the "Tessera Permanente" and "Tessera Personale", authorisations for the free use of all public transports, to support the authenticity of the provenance. These documents will however not be sold with the watches but will remain with the consignor to perpetuate Italo Balbo's memory.

    The two watches are significant mementos of the legendary Air Marshal Italo Balbo on the one hand but on the other hand also of their not less famous presenters with whom Balbo maintained amicable relationships: the aviators Charles Lindbergh, Roger Q. Williams and Lewis A. Yancey.

    In 1929, the American aviators Roger Quincy Williams (1894-1976) and Lewis Alonzo Yancey (1895-1940) broke the over-water flying record by making their historic non-stop flight from Old Orchard Beach, Maine, to Rome, a 3,400 mile flight which took 31 hours and 30 minutes. En route, their Bellanca monoplane "The Pathfinder" hit fog and was forced to fly blind for most of the day. Thanks to Yancey's navigational calculations however the team found themselves still exactly on course once able to see their way again. After an emergency stop in Santander, Spain, Yancey and Williams arrived in Rome were they were met by crowds "almost as fervent as those greeting Lindbergh in Paris". According to the engraved inscription, the present silver chronograph watch was used by the two aviators during their historic flight and then presented to Italo Balbo as a token of esteem.

    In 1937, Italo Balbo welcomed Charles and Anne Lindbergh in Tripoli, Libya, when he presumably received the present "Lindbergh" model from the famous aviator as a token of esteem and to thank him for his guidance. The two aviation pioneers knew themselves very well and had great regards for each other.

    The meeting is documented by the black and white image taken on 25 February 1937, the original caption reading: Lindberghs Receive Guidance from General Balbo. Tripoli, Libya: General Italo Balbo, left, governor general of Libya, is shown as he gave instructions and advice concerning their flight to Baghdad, Persia [sic], to Mrs. Charles Lindbergh, who navigates for her husband, Col. Lindbergh, both shown in white flying helmets when the couple stopped at Tripoli, Libya on their current air trip.

    Charles Augustus Lindbergh (1902-1974)
    Nicknamed "Slim", "Lucky Lindy" and "The Lone Eagle", Charles Lindbergh was a famous American aviator, author, inventor, explorer, and social activist who made the first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927.

    He is also credited with the invention of the hour angle watch which was introduced to the market in 1932. As the accuracy of mechanical watches can be affected by conditions aboard ships and airplanes, the hour angle watch provided a means by which this variation could be readily calculated when used in conjunction with radio time signals.
    For an illustration of the original drawing and explanation of the mechanism see Longines by Daria Marozzi & Gianluigi Toselli, pp. 75-79.

    Similar watches are also illustrated in Ore d'Oro 2 by Jader Barracca, Giampiero Negretti, Franco Nencini, p. 200, and in Armbanduhren - 100 Jahre Entwicklungsgeschichte by Kahlert, Mühe, Brunner, fifth edition, p. 302.


    Air Marshal Italo Balbo (Ferrara, 6 June 1896 - Tobruk, 28 June 1940)
    Italo Balbo was born in Quartesana (Ferrara) on 6 June 1896. At the outbreak of World War I, he enlisted in the Alpini, the elite mountain troops of the Italian Army, where he was awarded two silver and one bronze medals and promoted to the rank of Captain for his merits. Following the war Balbo moved to Rome and became the Militia's General Commander 1924 followed by undersecretary to National Economy and undersecretary to the Air Force in 1926.

    Fascinated by the remarkable progress of aircraft technology in the 1920s, Balbo invested all his time and energy in the field and already in 1928, he was promoted to Marshal of the Air Force or Generale di Squadre Aerea. In 1929, he was made the Minister of Air Force and started a venture for which he became most famous: intercontinental flights. During the very first flight from 17 December 1930 to 15 January 1931, twelve Savoia Marchetti S.55X planes faced the 10400 km long route from Orbetello to Rio de Janeiro.

    Balbo's second flight attracted worldwide attention by leading the Italian Formation Flight from Rome to Chicago during the World's Fair of 1933. Upon his arrival in Chicago, Balbo and his Italian flying unit were received as heroes and a street was named in his honour to commemorate the visit. President Roosevelt invited him to lunch, and the Sioux Indian tribe appointed him chief, with the name of "Flying Eagle". Upon his triumphal return to Rome he was elevated to the rank of Air Marshal.

    Disagreements with the political leaders resulted in his deployment to Libya as Governor in 1934 where he led an enjoyable life until the beginning of World War II. When Germany invaded Poland, Balbo rushed to Rome to show his disappointment and disagreement with Mussolini's warmongering policy, ending in a fall out with the latter. Openly opposed to the regime, Balbo returned to Libya where his life ended under dubious circumstances on 28 June 1940: his S.79 was shot down in the skies of Tobruk by bullets fired from the anti-aircraft guns of the Italian cruiser San Giorgio. To date, the question if the incident was an accident or intentionally is still open.

    Balbo enjoyed great popularity amongst the troops, his aversion to the war against the English and his devotion to the Princess of Piedmont Maria José, fierce opponent of Mussolini's policy, were well known. According to his widow, the late Countess Emanuela Florio, Mussolini wanted to disperse of his recalcitrant adversary and may actually have ordered the "friendly fire".

    Fame and charisma of the legendary Balbo were such that after his death he was praised openly by friends and enemies alike. The British honoured him post-mortem even while formally at war with his nation. America, who greeted him as a hero after the Chicago flight, celebrated him in life and death. To this day the street in Chicago bears his name - to continued controversy.

    Balbo's book My Air Armada narrating his transatlantic armada flight from Rome to Chicago and back in 1933 offers insight into his thoughts and self-image.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Formerly the Property of Air Marshal Italo Balbo

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