The Dirty Dozen

Dirty Dozen – a watch by the Great British Watch Company

The Dirty Dozen have been created as a modern homage to the original Watch Wrist Waterproof (W.W.W.) created by 12 companies for the British Army during WW2.

During WW2, when the British Army decided that a supply of standardised wristwatches was required, they turned to 12 Swiss-based companies, as the British watch industry was busily engaged producing precision instruments for the war effort.

This series of timepieces were the first watches specifically designed for British Army service, and they initially became known as “Wrist, Watch, Waterproof” or “W.W.W.” as this was their official designation in the ordnance records. Previously, soldiers had been using their own personal timepieces – many of which were unsuitable for the rigours of military life.

The watches went into production in February and March 1945 and later that year they were delivered to the Army and began to be allocated to troops.

Watch collectors have named the selection of watches the Dirty Dozen, in reference to the 12 watch companies and the famous WW2 themed film of the same name. More recently, the Dirty Dozen watches have become particularly collectible, as their similar style makes them easily identified as a set, with collectors aiming to complete their collection with a watch from each of the 12 companies.

The 1945 design

The watches from the original 12 manufacturers each share a number of similar characteristics:

– black dial with white Arabic numerals
– sub seconds dial at 6 o’clock
– a railroad track of minute markers
– luminous marks for each hour
– luminous hour and minute hands
– “Broad Arrow” on dial and caseback

1945 WATCH SPECIFICATIONS

i) 15 jewelled movement
ii) “shatterproof” Perspex glass
iii) “waterproof”
iv) radioactive radium or promethium luminous paint on dial and hands
v) brass balance wheel
vi) Elinvar balance spring
vii) 6 brands used stainless steel cases & 6 brands used chromium plated brass cases
viii) case sizes 35-38mm

2022 WATCH SPECIFICATIONS

i) 17 jewelled movement
ii) anti-reflective sapphire glass
iii) water resistant to 50m/5atm
iv) Super Luminova luminous paint on dial and hands
v) Glucydur balance wheel
vi) Nivarox balance spring
vii) 316L stainless steel case
viii) case size 37mm

I have only made 12 of these watches – one for each of the original manufacturers.

Dirty Dozen Project

The Dirty Dozen started off as a side project to The Few watch that I am creating. Soon after I’d begun working on the Spitfire watch, Covid19 arrived and the inevitable delays arose as the country went into lockdown, and so I took the opportunity to begin working on a second project. I had always liked the simplicity of the 1940s watches, and the original Dirty Dozen series was a watch that I aspired to own.

I wanted the watch to feel like a piece of kit a solider would have carried and so designed as many elements as I could to promote that idea. The “box” of the watch is based on a WW2 soldier’s ammo pouch, with the top pouch being detachable and usable as a travel case. The cleaning cloth is made from an original WW2 era Lee-Enfield rifle (the main service rifle for British infantry) cleaning cloth, the booklet is based on the solider training manuals and the guarantee card is based on a WW2 army ID card.

This has been an incredibly rewarding series of watches to work on and I have really enjoyed creating a modern homage to an iconic watch that is almost 80 years old. Creating British-made watches was the original goal of the company when I founded it ten years ago, and the Dirty Dozen are the first completed set of watches that are for sale. It is my aim to have made not just a great watch with a timeless design, but also something really collectible and different – hopefully you agree.

Watch Details

– Movement: ETA 7001, manual-wind with 40 hours of run time. Hand-finished bridges and heat blued screws

– Size: 37mm wide, 7.9mm thick

Number made: 12

– Price: £3,500

– Guarantee period: 5 years (1st service included)

– 100% made in Great Britain (except the movement, which is Swiss)

– Individually numbered

The colour of both the strap and the luminous paint on the dial and hands can be customised.

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All 12 of the Dirty Dozen watches were ordered within 26 hours of being introduced for the first time to my mailing list – an absolutely incredible response. If you are interested in keeping up to date with my work and being one of the first to know about any future releases, please subscribe to my newsletter:

The Dirty Dozen waiting to be assembled

16 thoughts on “The Dirty Dozen”

  1. Morning, just read the fantastic article in the Telegraph regarding the Spitfire watch. Stunning watch with so much history to such an iconic plane.
    After reading the article, searched the internet for your company.
    I would certainly have purchased a Dirty Dozen watch you produced.
    Such a great simple uncluttered design. Absolutely spot on.
    Yours Nigel

    1. Hi Nigel,

      Many thanks! I was really pleased with how the watch turned out – I’ve always liked the simple, practical design of many art deco styled watches.

      Although I have only made 12 of these particular watches, I do intend to create other similarly themed timepieces in the future – and so keep an eye out for those.

      Colin

  2. Hi Colin

    I love how simple yet informative this website is and love the work you are doing. Please keep it up and thanks for shining light on the path of Horology.

    Best wishes from Singapore!
    Jayendra

  3. Hello, I am an ex police officer, having a father who was in the war, now deceased. Is one able to order one of the dirty dozen watches still made by you. Thanking in anticipation. Regards. Neil Virgo

    1. Hi Neil

      Thanks for your message. Unfortunately all of the Dirty Dozen watches are sold; I only made 12 of them, and the fact that I only ever would make 12 of them was the understanding when each of the owners made their order. So, despite the interest, I won’t be making any more of this series.

      I will add your name to a waiting list, and if any of the owners wish to sell their watch in the future I can put you in touch with them.

      Thanks

      Colin

  4. Hi Colin,

    Absolutely fantastic, you should be proud of yourself for creating these timepieces – can my name be added to the waiting list if any become available please? Much appreciated.

    1. Hi Dean, many thanks! Yes, I’ve added your name to the list and will be in touch if one becomes available.

  5. Do you plan on ever making more Dirty Dozen watches? I’ve always loved the style and aspire to own a clean and well-maintained original someday (haven’t found a good one at a fair price yet), and also own the modern recreations from Vertex and Timor. If you ever make more, I’d be eager to buy one.

    1. Many thanks Andrew! I made the pledge to only make 12, and so although the demand has been higher than this, it wouldn’t seem fair to the existing customers to make more than this. I’ll let you know if any of the existing customers wish to sell theirs. Yes, the original 1945 Dirty Dozen have become incredibly collectible, and it is difficult to find one for less than £1,500 in a fair condition, with the Grana example now costing £10-20,000.

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