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CWC 1970 Specs Chronograph: Flying with the Royal Air Force

Le 11 December 2015

Let’s talk about the RAF’s little asymmetrical stopwatches of the 70s. Beautiful, timeless pieces that still make our little childish hearts beat fast. But why? Well, English specs and build quality make for elegant, efficient, historical and robust timepieces. This is the chronograph that the James Bond of the seventies could have worn if the Secret Agent/ Commander of the Royal Navy hadn’t been already sponsored by Rolex since his humble beginnings.

Four watchmaking brands were commissioned during the 1970s: Hamilton, CWC, Newmark and Precista. The original models with the military markings are highly sought after, and thanks to growing interest in the past ten years, prices have skyrocketed for pieces that have often suffered despite their robustness.

The model that we’re going to talk about today was offered to me by my brother a few years ago. I actually wear it quite often. I’m going to talk about it because people often ask me about that “little watch” that I wear with such pleasure. This timepiece is a Swiss Made reedition of the CWC stopwatch of the 1970s. It’s a limited edition, with only 450 of these manufactured, and contains almost exactly the same specs as its predecessor.

But first, a little history: CWC, or “Cabot Watch Company”, was created in 1972 with the sole purpose of providing wristwatches to the English Army, RAF, RN but also to the RAN (the Royal Australian Navy) along with “Her Majesty’s” other military units.

RAF Specifications

The Case

The main characteristic of these models is the asymmetrical 38mm case. The case side at 3 o’clock is larger in order to offer protection to the push pieces and the big ridged crown. The watch band attachments are soldered, completely securing the watch to its Nato band. A beautiful convex plexiglass covers the watch face.

Editor’s note: I’d like to take this opportunity to come back for a moment on the Nato band which I hold in high regard: this band was specifically developed by the British Ministry of Defence in 1973, with only one color, the famous “Admiralty Grey”, which is a dark grey with bluish hues. Right in line then with the case regarding historical legitimacy.

If you’re on the hunt for the G10 band (the official name of the Nato band, which was present on the document one had to fill out in order to get one before the arrival of Ebay and our Chinese friends), then Phoenix is the company that still manufactures them in England, ever since 1978. They now make them in different colors but still with the same standards of quality that has been present since the beginning. Other variations? A tighter nylon fiber band which is longer and seamless… Let’s not forget though the authentic “Admiralty Grey”, which you won’t find anywhere else.

A note to the enthusiasts.

The only damper for me would be the is the difference in size from the original model, along with the entirety  entire polishing of the case. being polished. It’s not the end of the world though, and you’ll also notice with your highly trained eyes that the top of the lugs  horns and the caseback centerpiece on the bottom of the case were brushed in a circular motion in order give it more of the military look of the original, which also gives it an added perception of depth beside the thin polished bezel. We’ll call that detail “the officer touch  side of me”.

The crown is also worthy of praise. It’s very big, making it a real pleasurable and hassle-free experience to rewind each morning.

The screwed underside of the watch kept the historical military markings, even though it’s never been commissioned. This may bother some but personally I find it quite pleasant to have the “broad arrow” engraving on the back of the case.

The Watch Face

CWC 1970 Chronograph

Matte black, with two counters. The seconds counter is found at 9 o’clock and the 30 minute counter of the stopwatch is at 3 o’clock. At the center of the watch face is the military broad arrow at 6 o’clock and the “T” for Tritium, which is the photoluminescent matter used, just like the original. What difference does that make? Well, in a decade or so, the middle of the watch hands along with the hour markers, as a result of being aged, will take on that beautiful “egg shell” patina that we love so much about our vintage timepieces. It is much more rare to experience that color change when “Super-luminova” is used.

The Movement

Just like its predecessor, this stopwatch uses a manual winding Swiss movement. The only difference is, forty years later it’s no longer the Valjoux 7733 but the modified 7760 reference, which basically means that not much has changed. No outrageous complication or decoration here, just a movement that we can trust. Function first and foremost.

There you have it, you now know all there is to know about that “nice little chronograph of mine, stopwatch” which graces my wrist with its presence. Iconic design, military history, and a great Swiss movement. All the pleasures of the authentic and vintage married with the modern advantages (waterproof guaranteed), as opposed to some of its vintage comrades.

If you’re interested, I advise you to move quickly. Even though this military watch hasn’t seen combat, it’s popularity is quickly growing, with no sign of slowing down. Not too long ago, it was still being sold for 900GPB (1,250EUR), but as of today it’s now going for 1,500GPB (2,090EUR) for some of the last available models. Second-hand models are virtually impossible to find.

CWC 1970 Chronograph

“Wait a minute: why a military watch?”

“You’re not James Bond!”

To that naive and borderline insulting question I’ll simply reply: “Oh really?”. Personally, I consider each new day to be a new mission, a new challenge. Life, as a great big adventure…

“So… Why ?  Don’t you?