Lemania Series III Royal Navy Nuclear Submarine Non-Lume Chronograph c.1964
These very rare and special watches were issued to crew of the Royal Navy’s nuclear submarines from the early 1960s until around 1990.
For safety reasons, the radiation levels onboard nuclear submarines needed to be constantly monitored. Consequently, no luminous material was applied to the dial and hands of these chronographs so as not to affect the readings of the onboard radiation monitoring equipment.
Other than the absence of any luminous material, the Lemania Series III chronographs issued to crew of the Royal Navy’s nuclear fleet were essentially the same as those issued to pilots of the Fleet Air Arm.
The Lemania Series III differs from its earlier predecessors in that it features an asymmetrical case with integrated crown and pusher and is powered by a rhodium-plated shock-resistant version of the 15CHT known as the calibre 2220.
The NATO stock number issued to all Lemania Series III watches of the Royal Navy was 0552/924-3306. However, and as can be seen with the example for sale, the watches issued to nuclear submarine crew had the last four digits replaced with the numbers “3312”, which refers to the dial and hands being non-luminous.
The single button on the side of the watch operates the chronograph (stopwatch) function. When the button is pushed it starts the centre second hand. Pressing the button again stops the hand and pressing it a third time resets the hand back to the twelve o’clock position. There is an elapsed minute counter, which allows for timing intervals up to 30 minutes.
Sadly, the Lemania watch company is no longer in existence but it has become something of a cult brand in recent years and its watches are very much cherished by collectors. Lemania supplied a number of different armed forces from all over the world. Their movements are extremely well made and are renowned for keeping excellent time, making them a good fit for a rugged life in the services.
Lemania specialised in the production of chronographs (watches with a built-in stopwatch function). Chronographs are inherently complicated things to manufacture and for this reason many watch companies brought-in movements from specialists like Lemania. They supplied amongst others Omega (the movement that powered the first watch on the moon was made by Lemania), and luxury brands Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe. Because Lemania often supplied movements to other brands (for which they were uncredited), watches which are signed by Lemania are especially prized.
It is believed only a few hundred Lemania Series III Non-Lume Chronographs were ever issued and good original examples are very rare and seldom offered for sale. The watch for sale, therefore, represents an excellent opportunity to acquire a highly prized and special collector’s piece.