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  • Manufacturer: Tornek-Rayville
    Year: Circa 1966
    Reference No: TR-900
    Case No: 0337
    Material: Sandblasted steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. AS 1361, 17 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Nylon NATO
    Dimensions: 41mm Diameter
    Signed: Dial signed Tornek-Rayville U.S.
    Accessories: Accompanied by a Seabess patch.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Today, the TR-900 is one of the rarest and most sought after military watches for collectors. Delivered in two batches, one in late 1964 and the other in mid-1966, a total of about 1,000 watches conforming to U.S. military specification MIL-W-22176A were provided by Blancpain through their American subsidiary, Tornek-Rayville. Due to the 1933 "Buy American Act", the U.S. Navy could not directly purchase Swiss Blancpain watches. Allen V. Tornek, of the Allen V. Tornek Co. based in New York City, was an importer of Blancpain and won a bid to be the American supplier of Blancpain for the U.S. Navy. Despite passing the technical tests, the model was considered too expensive and the project was abandoned.

    A few years later, Alan Tornek proposed a new offer and “Tornek Rayville”-branded batch of Blancpain-supplied watches to the US Navy. Cautiously, Tornek Rayville only delivered a very small amount, which proved to be a safe bet as the US Navy rejected the project due to its cost.

    The Navy Experimental Diving Unit used elements from three watches tested: the Rolex Submariner, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, and the Enicar Seapearl 600 to create the specifications for the TR-900. The official report of the Navy Experimental Diving Unit regarding these watches noted the need for a dull case like the Blancpain, rather than a shiny case such as the Enicar and the Rolex which “should not be used in tropical waters where biting fish abide.” The hacking mechanism, humidity indicator, luminous bezel and dial, and most importantly, an easily adjustable rotating bezel, made the Blancpain the ideal choice.

    The present TR-900 is exceptional. Remarkable not only for its incredible state of preservation, but also due to its impeccable provenance, coming directly from a descendant of the original owner. Consigned by his grandson, the original owner enlisted in the Navy shortly after graduating from high school in 1964, joining the U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion – popularly known as the SeaBees. The first SeaBees arrived in Vietnam in 1963 and were a constant presence in Vietnam until U.S. involvement ceased in 1975. Of his grandfather, the consignor of the present lot writes regarding his grandfather’s military service, “He just considered it something that he needed to do as a young man. His passion was in the automotive industry and working on cars and drag racing.” Showing hardly any signs of wear and fitted on its original NATO strap, the present example is amongst the finest examples of a TR-900 to appear on the market, and a rare opportunity for the discerning collector.

    Consigned by the Family of the Original Owner

18

Ref. TR-900
An extremely rare, exceptional well-preserved, and historically important stainless steel anti-magnetic diver’s wristwatch with humidity indicator

Circa 1966
41mm Diameter
Dial signed Tornek-Rayville U.S.

Estimate
$50,000 - 100,000 
CHF45,000-90,000
€42,100-84,200
HK$388,000-775,000

Sold for $176,400

Contact Specialist

Paul Boutros
Head of Watches, Americas & International Strategy Advisor
Senior Vice President
+1 212 940 1293
[email protected]

Racing Pulse

New York Auction 12 December 2020