Extremely Rare IWC B-Uhr (Beobachtungsuhr) WW2 Luftwaffe Observers Watch c.1940
In 1935, with the storm clouds of war gathering over Europe, Adolf Hitler announced his plans to reconstitute Germany’s Air Force and officially created the Luftwaffe.
The German Air Ministry (Reichs-Luftfahrtministerium), who were responsible for aircraft production, began to design a suitable timepiece for its bomber navigators. Pilots required extremely accurate watches for navigational purposes. The watches needed to be precise, robust and easily read. This led to the iconic B-Uhr design being conceived.
These watches were very large in size (55mm) and were made to a standard specification. The movements were uniformly cased in a grey varnished, brass or steel housing with a snap-on back cover. The dial faces were black with large luminous Arabic numerals and minute and second indicators. The hands were coated with radium so the watch would glow in the dark. The outer casing had FL23883 engraved on the left-hand side. FL designated flieger, and 23 identified the watch as a navigation watch.
There were five manufacturers who supplied the B-Uhren. The four German makers were A.Lange & Sohne, Wempe, Laco and Stowa The fifth maker was the Swiss International Watch Company (IWC), who supplied watches to both Axis and Allied forces throughout the war.
These watches were not actually issued personally to aircrew in the usual sense. Instead, one was supplied to the navigator of the bomber crew before every mission or raid. It would then be returned to the stores following their return.
The IWC B-Uhr is considered to be the rarest and most highly prized of all the B-Uhren. IWC only produced 1,000 of these watches, which were shipped to IWC’s Berlin agent, Siegfried Heindorf, in 1940. Due to the heavy losses sustained by the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain, it is assumed that very few IWC B-Uhr survived the war.
The IWC B-Uhr is a true rarity with huge significance to both watch collectors and military enthusiasts alike.