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  • Condition Report

  • Description

    View our Conditions of Sale.

  • Manufacturer: Tornek-Rayville
    Year: Circa 1964
    Reference No: TR-900
    Case No: 0006
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. AS 1361, 17 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Nylon NATO
    Dimensions: 41mm Diameter
    Signed: Movement and dial signed Tornek-Rayville, inside caseback stamped Tornay Watch Co., movement additionally stamped FOG.

  • 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 ultimately cancelled 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.

    Impressively well-preserved, with the red dot that had previously sealed the case shut still present and clearly unpolished, the present example also bears the number “0006” crisply etched on the caseback. Such an early number has not ever been publicly seen, and to find one “in the wild” is completely unprecedented.

    This fresh-to-the-market TR-900 comes to Phillips with an interesting story. Like many during the pandemic, the consignors of the present lot, confronted with being cooped up in their house for the then-forseeable future, decided to do a bit of pandemic cleaning. Hunting through old items that had been stored for decades, they discovered a box of items that had been packed away while the consignor was still in high school in the 1970s. After speaking to the consignor, he can remember playing with the watch as a kid (the luminous bezel and dial specifically stood out to him, and he remembers it never having a strap), but not the exact origin, as none of their relatives served in the Navy during Vietnam. While the true origins may remain shrouded in mystery, the watch has remained dormant and untouched, for half a century, before coming directly to Phillips. We are honored to present such an exceptional example of this already rare military reference.

139

Ref. TR-900
An exceptional and important stainless steel anti-magnetic diver’s wristwatch with humidity indicator

Circa 1964
41mm Diameter
Movement and dial signed Tornek-Rayville, inside caseback stamped Tornay Watch Co., movement additionally stamped FOG.

Estimate
$50,000 - 100,000 
CHF46,300-92,500
€44,300-88,600
HK$390,000-780,000

Place Advance Bid
Contact Specialist

Paul Boutros

Head of Watches, Americas

+1 (212) 940-1293

[email protected]

 

The 2021 New York Watch Auction

New York Auction 11 - 12 December 2021