Tornek-Rayville - The Hong Kong Watch Auction: XVI Hong Kong Wednesday, May 24, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Manufacturer: Tornek-Rayville
    Year: Circa 1965
    Reference No: TR-900
    Case No: 1025
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. AS 1361, 17 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Nylon NATO
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel pin buckle
    Dimensions: 41mm diameter
    Signed: Case, dial and movement signed

  • Catalogue Essay

    The Tornek-Rayville TR-900 is one of the rarest and most sought-after holy grails for military watch collectors. Modeled after the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, which served a number of elite military units around the world, this diver’s watch was the only design that conformed to U.S. military specification MIL-W-22176A, a feat that not a single native manufacturer could achieve in the early 1960s. Naturally, the U.S. Navy could not directly commission Swiss-made Blancpain watches due to the 1933 "Buy American Act". To turn this situation around, Allen V. Tornek, a New York-based diamond dealer, created a small local testing laboratory so that Blancpain watches could be tested and certified on American soil. Although Tornek and Blancpain successfully landed the contract as the supplier for the U.S. armed forces, this partnership was shortly ceased as the production of the Tornek-Rayville TR-900 was too expensive.

    According to Blancpain’s “Fifty Fathoms, The Dive and Watch History 1953 – 2013", 780 pieces of the ref. TR-900 were initially delivered to the U.S. armed forces in 1964, while a second batch of 300 examples were subsequently made in 1966. They were never available to civilians and were strictly government property. To prevent these watches from falling into improper hands once they had served their purpose, a large portion of the TR-900 were discarded in the early 1970s and sent to the bottom of the sea in concrete-filled boxes, along with other low-level atomic waste such as uniforms and badges. Due to their un-ceremonial burials, the TR-900 is exceedingly rare. Most original pieces that had been in action were never returned by to the military and are distinguished by the antimagnetic test-marking on the caseback, along with their serial number embossed below, like the present example.

    Preserved in outstanding condition and most likely saw a fair bit of action, the present Tornek-Rayville TR-900 would be the pinnacle of any professional wristwatch collection.


Ref. TR-900
An extremely rare and historically important stainless steel anti-magnetic diver's wristwatch with humidity indicator, made for the U.S. Navy

Circa 1965
41mm diameter
Case, dial and movement signed

HK$120,000 - 200,000 

Sold for HK$952,500

Contact Specialist

Thomas Perazzi
Head of Watches, Asia
+852 2318 2031

The Hong Kong Watch Auction: XVI

Hong Kong Auction 24 - 25 May 2023