Every watch collection should have a splash of colour, and this watch certainly ticks that box: a Glycine Airman SST.
(Click pictures to enlarge)
The history of the Glycine Airman dates back to 1953, and although I’ve written about one of the later models before on the blog (see here), I thought this one deserved a mention as it’s a watch you won’t see every day. Made between 1967-71, this Airman is one of the rarer SST models and is nicknamed the “Pumpkin” among collectors.
As you may have noticed in the picture above, this is a 24hr watch (the hour hand only travels once around the dial every 24 hours rather than twice) and the dial is divided into lighter and darker sections for the the AM/PM hours.
The watch also has a rotating internal bezel which can be used to track a second time zone, not only useful for airmen, but for any international traveller. The inner bezel is rotated left or right to denote the number of hours that the second time zone is +/- the current time zone. The hour hand then points to the time in both zones simultaneously.
The inner bezel is rotated using the upper crown which is slotted rather than formed to prevent it being moved accidentally. According to the owners manual it should be operated with either a fingernail or a coin. Also, the bright orange colour of the inner bezel is no fashion statement, but proved to be the most legible colour combination when tested under night-flying conditions.
The SST branding stands for “Super Sonic Transportation” and commemorates the early attempts to create the worlds first passenger jet that would travel faster than the speed of sound. The SST project started in the 1960’s when Boeing won the contract to produce a flagship aircraft for the US market. Codenamed 2707, the aircraft was designed with a ‘swing wing’ which would split for take off and low speed manoeuvres and would pivot backwards at high speeds to form one solid wing, allowing for a theoretical top speed of Mach 3 (three times the speed of sound).
However, Boeing only got as far as building a prototype before the project was abandoned due to design and environmental concerns. More significantly Boeing had already been beaten to the SST punch by the Russian Tupolev Tu-144 which first went supersonic in June 1968, and government funding was finally withdrawn from the US SST project in 1971.
In keeping with SST branding, the caseback of this watch features an embossed picture of the ill-fated Boeing 2707.
Inside the watch is an A. Schild calibre, the 1903 which runs at 21,600 bph and has a limited quickset (the hands must be moved back and forth between 8pm and midnight to advance the date). In the later versions of the watch produced from 1971-76, the movement was upgraded twice; first to the cal. 2063, and in the final version to the cal. 2163 which increased the beat rate to 28,800 bph and added a quickset for the date via the crown.
Not much of a restoration story this time as the watch only needed a routine movement service, so here it is back in one piece.
Finally, it is interesting to note that although the watch in this post is quite rare, it is trumped in the rarity stakes not once but twice in the same series by two chronograph versions of the Airman SST, both of which were made in 1968-69.
The case design is reminiscent of the chronographs being produced by Longines around the same time, and the watches too are powered by the same base calibre, the Valjoux cal. 72. The inner bezel on both watches is rotated by the crown on the lower left hand side of the case.
It is thought that only around 100 of these watches were sold worldwide and given the disappointing sales they were withdrawn from the market after just 2 years making them a real catch… if you can find one.
** Many thanks to David Brenchley for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **