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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
And Now for Something Completely Different.. (M.Python, 1971)

How about a little discussion of two really odd "wristwatches" out of my small watch collection?:
- a 1953 Hanhart spy watch made in Germany ($1800.00)
- a 2008 noname spy watch made in China ($18.00)

55 years of technological development lie in between these two examples - we sure made some progress in electronics and miniaturisation since back then! And then the price tags...

The 1953 watch is part of the very rare spy-set "MD51" made by the German Protona (formerly Monske) factory.
Basically the MD51 was a miniature wire recorder - the smallest in the world for many years - and was the favorite surveillance "toy" of all secret services around the world. In fact even the CIA used it in 1963 during the Kennedy murder investigation. Main customers were the Russian KGB, German BND and of course the CIA. Sound was recorded on hair thin magnetic wire, using hidden or disguised microphones like this spy watch to pick up the conversations.

The watch is actually "fake" - there is no movement inside the case! It just looks like a bi-compax Hanhart chronograph, including (fixed) crown and stoppers, glued-on hands and printed dials. Inside the metal case is a simple microphone, the back of the watch reveals many openings for picking up the sound and some odd engravings about 'shockproof, antimagnetic and auto-compensating' (yeah, right...).
A rather thick cable and old style 2-pole plug was used to carry the signal (hidden under the sleeve of a shirt) to the wire recorder.
I tested the microphone on a modern audio recorder (heck, you can even connect it to a PC!) and it works fairly well, even if worn on the wrist under a long sleeve shirt.
This spy watch was priced at 350 German Mark back in 1953, more than the monthly wage of any technician! Using inflation indexing (7x) and the now defunct U.S. Dollar as a reference this watch would be around $1800 today. "No", my 'Hanhart' is not for sale, nor is the rest of the complete "MD51 spy set"!

The 2008 Asian watch could be right out of a James Bond movie. Since it is incredibly cheap (less than $20 shipped from HongKong!) I decided to take it entirely apart. If it breaks - who cares, just get another one!
It can record audio and video in digital quality to its internal memory, also serves as a data storage device (4GByte, that's 2,000,000 pages of printed paper).
The watch part is actually operational and uses an ultra-flat (probably genuine) Miyota lady's quartz movement, driven by a (again genuine) Sony SR626W battery. Like on the Hanhart the tri-compax chronograph dials are fake though - but I purposely bought this model, as it looks so similar to the 1953 version. Not many of these matched twins will exist on this planet!

Piggy back on the quartz movements rides the electronics circuit board, consisting of a wired condenser microphone, an optical CCD camera with lens (NO pinhole camera!), a 32Gbit Flash RAM chip, the Anyka video chip and a controller.The microphone is cleverly hidden in one ear of the watch case, the camera peeks through the little hole between '1' and '2' on the watch face. The other opening at '8' reveals the indicator LED that shows the state of watch, i.e. on, charging etc.
A Li-ion pack is used to drive the electronics, it allows for 70-90min of continuous video and audio recording. Connection to the PC is done by opening the little chained cap at '9' - it fits a unique 4-pole 2.5mm plug, enough to carry the basic USB signals and power for charging.

The watch is clearly 'oversized' to pack all these parts inside, not very comfortable on the wrist. I wonder how many owners would actually wear such a thing as a daily timekeeper?
Audio and video quality are acceptable for such a small device - the 640x480 AVI files are fairly large and can easily be compressed to 1/10 of their original size later, without visible loss. Obviously the Anyka chip is a fast recorder and memory 'hog', but cannot compress video data very well.

I like both spy watches - the 1953 one is an absolute rarity, the other a great companion for it - both are perfect 'conversation pieces' and reflect the 'Zeitgeist' of their times perfectly!

For more hi-res pictures of these two watches visit
http://www.box.net/shared/argy5lujg9

Enjoy - and please excuse the deviation from the beaten path of typical watch reviews, I simply could not resist!

mw
 

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And Now for Something Completely Different.. (M.Python, 1971)

How about a little discussion of two really odd "wristwatches" out of my small watch collection?:
- a 1953 Hanhart spy watch made in Germany ($1800.00)
- a 2008 noname spy watch made in China ($18.00)
mw--

What wonderful and enjoyable reviews! These are truly fascinating pieces of history, and well-worth reading about!

John
 

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Great review!

I would be nervous wearing the older one of the wire coming out of it but the new one seems to be the perfect device to getting "the evidence" for safekeeping and later use, if required.

I have a pen microphone but it does not shoot video and is not self-contained.

Gotta have one. . .
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Great pictures and a wonderfull piece of history thank u for sharing.

But u cant just leave me with a cliffhanger like this what r the rest of the spy set pictures please !
Sorry for the late response (not a frequent reader).
For a detailed set of pictures of my Protona Minifon M51 spy set you may visit my public share at:
http://www.box.net/shared/j3n6mz2o0w
Enjoy!
 
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