Unlike Rolex and Omega, the name Ollech & Wajs may not immediately spring to mind when the topic turns to legendary Swiss made tool watches.
But to knowledgeable tool watch collectors, and military veterans who prefer to keep tight-lipped about their exploits, the name is right up there with these illustrious brands. So much so, there’s even an Ollech & Wajs Collectors Club with special benefits passed on to members.
Ollech & Wajs dates back to 1956 when in Zurich a young Albert Wajs went into business with his friend Joseph Ollech to open a luxury watch shop. In the early years, Ollech & Wajs distributed watches from the likes of Breitling and Omega, but it wasn’t long before they also decided to establish their own brand: OWZ (Ollech & Wajs Zürich).
1959 Dive watch
Founder Albert Wajs wanted to specialize in the creation of reliable and accurate mechanical watches such as the Breitling’s and Omega’s he was selling in his luxury store. He chose movements only with the most solid reputation on the market, from ETA, Dubois Dépraz, and Valjoux. He also insisted on the most robust stainless-steel cases which he sourced from Maison Étienne. The highly legible and functional dials were sourced from the Frères Lender du Locle, while the Tritium needles were sourced from Universo in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Then as now, the OW range consists of highly reliable and well-made men’s tool watches, for sport or military use. Over the years, hundreds of letters have been received from soldiers, divers, pilots and other professionals around the world testifying to the excellence of the watches. Today, with an uninterrupted history, the brand is still highly collectible among this exacting performance-driven clientele.
Ollech & Wajs notable achievements
1964: Caribbean 1000
In 1964, using the Jenny 702 case patent, (pronounced ‘Yenny’) OW issued the first 1000M diving watch commercially available to the public. Called the Caribbean 1000, it remains one of the most emblematic models of the line. It broke the 1964 world record for a production watch, beating Rolex and Omega to the Deep-sea, with a patented monobloc case warranted to be water-resistant up to a depth of 3,300 feet. The Caribbean was also adopted by Alberto Novelli and Cesare Olgjai, two diving world record holders, as well as by Roberto Dei, on his North Pole and Red Sea expeditions in 1966 and in 1967. For a small, unheralded brand it was a major achievement.
Another watch, the Astrochron, was one of the first 200m diving chronographs and was also worn by three NASA key figures.
Ollech & Wajs also specialize in sliding rule watches for professionals, including the Selectron line and the Computer Moon Orbiter. All of these watches are powered by the finest available components, including the Valjoux V72 and V92 chronograph movements.
In the late 70s, during the quartz crisis, OW acquired the rights, tooling and stock of the Navitimer model from Willy Breitling, a friend of Albert Wajs. Following this acquisition, the Aviation and Ingenieur Navitimers were produced successfully for over 20 years.
In the 90s, Albert Wajs designed a new line of Ollech & Wajs models including the Mirage chronographs using the Valjoux 7750, the limited edition V7733 military chronograph, as well as numerous diving watches.
Now a new owner…
Time, even if you work closely with it, eventually catches up with all of us. By 2017, with over 60 years as a watchmaker, Albert Wajs finally decided the time was right to hand over the reins to a new owner. Enter Charles Paxson, the man behind the brand today. Every bit as committed and fanatical about the brand as the founders, he has made Ollech & Wajs a modern sustainable Swiss watch brand, with the focus still on functional mechanical tool watches in the Ollech & Wajs tradition.
…With exciting new models: OW P-101 and OW-P-104
Has time stood still at Ollech & Wajs? Not at all. There are brand new models, the OW P-101 and OW P-104 which have been expressly designed to embody the original Ollech & Wajs ethos and spirit.
Swiss made with a 316L stainless steel case running on a modified ETA 2824-2 movement assembled by hand in the heart of the Swiss Jura. Water-resistant to 300 meters, the 39.56mm OW P-101 is a direct homage to the MC Donnell F-101, the first fighter jet in service capable of exceeding 1,000 mph, which set a world record in 1956. The watch takes its inspiration from military-style watches, uncluttered and functional, paying tribute to the thousands of soldiers and officers who favored an OW as a reliable tool watch for survival during their time in Vietnam in the 1960s.
With a sapphire crystal and Superluminova hands and indices, the watch is available to order now at OW’s e-shop. It will also be distributed via a network of certified watchmakers. The initial 56 pieces will each be individually numbered.
OW P-101 and P-104 modified movement
This 39.56mm watch is inspired by the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, and is a worthy heir to the Selectron line of aviator watches produced by Ollech & Wajs. Again, powered by a modified ETA 2824-2 movement, the OW P-104 is also water-resistant to 300 meters with Superluminova indices and hands and a sapphire crystal. It was originally designed as a tool watch for both military and commercial pilots in a pre-electronic era. It’s equipped with a circular slide rule to measure speed and distances and to calculate flight time or fuel consumption. Again, the first 56 pieces will be individually numbered.
Both watches are guaranteed for 3 years against defect. Prices for both the P-101 and the P-104 includes taxes and shipping fees.
Photos by Frédéric Verhoye
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