Tornek-Rayville - The Geneva Watch Auction: X Geneva Saturday, November 9, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Manufacturer: Tornek-Rayville
    Year: Circa 1966
    Reference No: TR-900
    Model Name: Tornek-Rayville U.S.
    Material: Sandblasted steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. R.570, 17 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Nato
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel
    Dimensions: 40mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial and movement signed
    Accessories: Accompanied by an analysis report made by Blancpain Heritage Department

  • Catalogue Essay

    The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms’history started in the early 1950s thanks to the specification given by Bob Maloubier, the head of the elite branch of the French Navy – the Service de Documentation Extérieure et de Contre-Espionnage and to the personal passion for diving of Blancpain CEO, Jean-Jacques Fiechter. Together, the two men brought to life a project that would meet the French elite branch’s requirement and equip thousands of professional and recreational divers for the next 60 years.
    In the early 60s, Alan Tornek, a diamond dealer based in New York saw the opportunity to supply the American Navy with Fifty Fathoms watches. As Blancpain was a Swiss brand, it did not comply with the “Buy America Act” and therefore was not allowed to supply the Navy directly. Tornek opened a small laboratory in order to test and certify the watches on US soil. The partnership between Blancpain and Tornek was successful and gave birth to the famous “Milspec I” Fifty Fathoms as the US Navy ‘s dive watch.
    Delivered in two batches, the TR-900, conforming to U.S. military specification MIL-W-22176, were provided by Blancpain through their American subsidiary Tornek-Rayville. Despite succeeding the technical tests, the model was considered too expensive and in 1964, the US government did not renew its order and the production was abandoned.
    A few years later, Alan Tornek made a new offer to the US Navy for a new batch of which the present watch is part of. This Mark II, can be recognized by the new double O’ring crown, an improved bezel insert that would not break unlike Bakelite one and a resized bezel in order to avoid any loss during mission. Cautiously, Rayville only delivered a very small amount of this order which proved to be a safe bet as the US Navy rejected the project due to its cost.
    According to scholarship, most of the first TR-900s were destroyed by the United States government. To find one is rare, but to find one from the second generation and in exceptionally preserved condition, such as the present lot, is even rarer. Today, the TR-900, made for the United States Navy, is one of the rarest and most sought after military watches for collectors.


Ref. TR-900
An extremely rare and attractive stainless steel wristwatch with centre seconds and humidity indicator, made for the U.S. Navy

Circa 1966
40mm Diameter
Case, dial and movement signed

CHF60,000 - 100,000 

Sold for CHF75,000

Contact Specialist
Alexandre Ghotbi
Head of Watches, Continental Europe and the Middle East
+ 41 79 637 1724

The Geneva Watch Auction: X

Geneva Auction 9-10 November 2019