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Blog: Land & Water wristwatches

Date: 22 December 2016

Copyright © David Boettcher 2005 - 2024 all rights reserved.

I make additions and corrections to this web site frequently, but because they are buried somewhere on one of the pages the changes are not very noticeable, so I decided to create this blog section to highlight new material. Here below you will find part of one of the pages that I have either recently changed or added to significantly.

The section reproduced here is from my page about Birch & Gaydon.

If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me via my Contact Me page.

Land & Water Wristwatches

Birch & Gaydon Limited
Birch & Gaydon 1916 advert for Land & Water wristwatch: Click to enlarge.

Many Zenith wristwatches were sold during the First World War by Birch & Gaydon under their brand name "Land & Water". The name "Land & Water" appears to have been taken from a patriotic British newspaper of the same name that reported on the progress of the war.

Land & Water magazine began as a section in the "County Gentleman" magazine. During the First World War this section was published as a magazine in its own right and covered the war in great detail. It was edited by the politician and writer Hilaire Belloc.

The image here shows an advert by Birch & Gaydon from Land & Water magazine dated 2 November 1916 for a Land & Water wristwatch. If you click on the advert you should get an enlarged version that is interesting reading. This is the earliest advert yet found for these watches.

The watches were imported by the British branch of the Zenith Watch Co. Hallmarked cases of these watches don't carry Birch & Gaydon's sponsor's mark but instead carry the sponsor's mark ZWCO in a triangle.

There were two different case designs used for Land & Water wristwatches during the First World War:

In the 1916 advertisement, the Land & Water wristwatch is said to be “absolutely damp and dust proof”. This is a rather exaggerated claim. Although the design of the Type 1 screw case and the screw back and bezel case makes these cases relatively well sealed, there was no attempt in either design to specifically seal the entry into the case for the winding stem.

The Type 1 case uses negative or America set movements which require a detent mechanism in the stem tube as described in the detailed section about this case. It would be very difficult, probably impossible, to make this area waterproof.

The Type 2 cases use a conventionally stem set movement, and again there was no attempt to seal the entry point of the stem into the case to make it waterproof.

1928 Land and Water advert
1928 Land and Water advert: Click image to enlarge

The Land & Water Type 1 wristwatch in a silver case with unbreakable glass and luminous dial cost £4 0 0. A special non-magnetic model with a white dial was £4 10 shillings, and a white dial model in a 9 carat gold case was £8 0 0

Both of these different designs of Land & Water wristwatches have Zenith movements.

The Land & Water name was an important brand for Birch & Gaydon and they continued to use it for many years after the First World War.

Later Land & Water

After the war, Birch & Gaydon widened the range of wristwatches sold under the Land & Water name. In the late 1920s, smaller round wristwatches, a size that was becoming more fashionable for men to wear, were introduced, as were watches in “fancy” tonneau shaped cases. These were clearly not as well sealed as the original Land & Water cases and adverts said they were not guaranteed to be water or dust proof.

The original Land & Water wristwatch remained available. It is described in the advert as a “Larger size wristlet watch specially designed for overseas wear”.

A watch has been seen marked Birch & Gaydon Land & Water with a Zenith movement in an 18 carat swing ring case manufactured by Dennison. The case has Birmingham Assay Office hallmarks for 1934/35, whereas the Zenith movement serial number dates its manufacture to 1938, and an inscription on the back is dated September 1939.

The movement and inscription dates tie together well, but at first sight it seems a long time between 1934/35 and 1938/39 to hold an 18 carat gold case in stock before inserting a newly made Zenith movement. However, since the world was gradually recovering from the great depression this could have happened.

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Land & Water Type 1 Case

The Birch & Gaydon Land & Water wristwatch with a one piece case and screw bezel is quite unusual. The case is sometimes mistaken for the eponymous screw case designed and patented by François Borgel, but it is in fact quite different.

Land & Water Type 1 Case
Cross Section of Land & Water Type 1 Case: click image to enlarge detail.

To remove the movement from a Land & Water Type 1 case, the bezel is unscrewed from the case in a similar way to a Borgel screw case, but in this design there is no need to hold the crown and stem out as with a Borgel case because the movement doesn't turn as the bezel is unscrewed, although the crown should be withdrawn to its outermost position. There is a clever concealed rotating joint between the bezel and the movement carrier ring that allows the bezel to rotate while the carrier ring and movement remain stationery. Once the bezel is unscrewed from the case it can be lifted away and the movement comes with it.

Once the assembly is lifter clear of the case it can be seen that the movement is held in a carrier ring which has a smooth external surface - unlike a Borgel screw case there are no screw threads on the outside of this carrier ring. The bezel and the carrier ring are held together, but the bezel is free to rotate on the carrier ring so that the movement doesn't turn in the case as the bezel is screwed and unscrewed.

At first glance this seems to be a bit of a mystery, it is not obvious how the rotating joint is formed. The secret is that the bezel is made in two parts. The drawing of a cross section through the case shows that the bezel has two parts, a lower part that has an external screw thread which engages with the threads in the case, and an upper part which carries the glass.

The movement carrier ring has an external flange at its upper end. This flange sits inside a counter bore in the lower part of the bezel. The upper part of the bezel is a press fit into the counter bore in the lower part. This holds it securely in place but it doesn't trap the flange of the movement carrier ring.

The two rings that make up the bezel are a marvel of the case maker's art. They are extremely thin and delicate and it it is difficult to imagine how they were made, and especially how the screw thread was formed on the outside of the lower ring. They usually fit together so well that it is difficult to believe that they are not one piece, hence the apparent mystery of how the carrier ring is held.

Land & Water case stem
Case Stem Fitted to Case: click image to enlarge
Land & Water case
Case Stem and Detent Sleeve: click image to enlarge.

The lower bezel ring has coin edge milling for grip, whereas the upper bezel ring is smooth, you can see this in the photograph of the watch. Once you know this you can gently insert a fine blade into the joint and gently pry them apart, working round as you do so that you don't distort them. A blade from a Stanley knife is ideal; gently inserting this all the way round, the two parts of the bezel are easily and safely separated.

Once the two parts of the bezel are separated the upper ring is lifted away and the lower ring slides down and off the carrier ring. The case screws are then removed and the movement can be pushed out of the carrier ring.

The movement has negative set or American keyless work, so a short case stem is contained in the stem tube of the case. A detent mechanism in the stem tube holds the case stem and crown in either the winding or hand setting position.

This is also shown in the cross sectional drawing. The detent mechanism is formed by a split spring sleeve, coloured green in the drawing, which holds the stem in position axially but allows it to rotate. The drawing shows the case stem held in the normal winding position. When the crown is pulled away from the case the fingers of the split sleeve are pushed aside by the tapered swelling on the stem and then grip it again at the waist on the other side of the swelling. A flange stops the stem being pulled out any further.

Land & Water case
Stem Tube with Internal Threads

The case stem and its detent sleeve are another masterpiece of the casemaker's art. The picture to the left shows the case stem in place in the case. The picture on the right above shows the case stem and sleeve removed from the case and the picture on the right below shows the stem tube on the side of the case.

There are three parts in the stem assembly, the case stem itself, the split sleeve, and an externally threaded hollow plug, coloured red in the cross sectional drawing, which screws into the stem tube and holds the sleeve in place. The sleeve is held axially by the threaded plug but is free to rotate. When it was made the sleeve was fitted into a socket on the end of the plug and the end of the plug swaged over to hold the stem in place. This is different to the arrangement in pocket watches where the plug and sleeve are separate, the sleeve dropping into the pendant onto a shoulder and the plug screwing down to hold it against that shoulder. In this wristwatch case the stem tube isn't thick enough to machine a shoulder for the sleeve to sit on, which is why it is attached to the plug. In the picture of the stem tube you can see a small land that is just big enough to screw the plug down on to but not big enough to allow the same arrangement as in a pocket watch.

Bearing in mind that the square on the end of the stem is only about 1mm square you can get an idea of how tricky it would be to make one of these. The spring sleeve is made from high carbon steel and was hardened and tempered to make it resiliently springy. The stem itself would also be made from high carbon steel and hardened to reduce wear. They have survived the hundred years since they were made in remarkably good condition and work perfectly.

Land & Water Type 1 Wristwatch

The images below are of the Birch & Gaydon Land & Water wristwatch that the case stem was taken from.

These are "as found" pictures before cleaning and restoration. The hands are wrong, they should be poire-squelette shape skeletonised radium luminous hands like the ones shown in the 1916 advert.

The Zenith movement has the micro regulator mentioned in the 1916 advert. Those with sharp eyes will notice that the click spring appears to be slightly short and not pressing the recoil click correctly, which could cause problems when winding so needs to be sorted.

The inside case back case of this watch (not shown) has Swiss hallmarks, 925 and a single standing bear, and Glasgow import hallmarks for 1916/1917. The sponsor's mark is Zenith's own registered ZWCO within a triangular surround.

Land & Water face
Land & Water wristwatch (NB: wrong hands): click image to enlarge
Land & Water Zenith movement
Zenith movement: click image to enlarge

If you have any comments or questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch via my Contact Me page.

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Copyright © David Boettcher 2005 - 2024 all rights reserved. This page updated December 2019. W3CMVS. Back to the top of the page.