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Discussion Starter · #1 ·


This is not a military-issue Ebel, which would have a caliber 99 and would also have the appropriate markings on the back. But given the materials and styling, I'm thinking it was made during those years.

The reference number provides information:



The first digit (2) means the case is plated, though it has a stainless steel back. Digits 2-4 define the movement, which is a caliber 120. In the last few decades, Ebel has assigned that caliber number to an ETA 2892A2, but back in the day, the cal. 120 was an AS 1203. The production period of that movement might validate the age, but I don't know when it started. It certainly was made into the 50's, but I just don't think this watch is that late. Ebel was an early adopter of shock protection, though always ready to try an alternative to Incabloc. This one is not shock-protected, and that suggests the earlier production.

The past three digits identified family, size, and finish in later years, but I'm not sure if that was the case always, and the codes meant different things in different periods. If applicable here, the"082" would denote a special production model of large gents size, with a standard finish (probably polished without jewels). That isn't implausible.

This movement is marked "120" and "Ebel Fabrique Suisse", according to their usual marking scheme.



It has no markings suggesting it was imported to the U.K. or to the USA, and I bought it from a seller in Poland. Clearly, this is a European-market watch, and I'm sorta curious how it found its way to Poland.

The case has been restored--polished and replated. The job wasn't perfect but I buy this stuff to enjoy and occasionally wear, not to be absolutely original, and this watch looks very good. The dial is original, though I'm not so sure about the lume on the minutes hand, which I think is newer than the rest, and not as well applied. The dial itself is really gorgeous, with finely outlined numerals filled with (the remains of) radium lume.

One thing that puts me off military-issue watches (besides the price for good ones) is their small size. But this one is a little bigger than military Ebels, at a little over 34mm in diameter and 42mm lug to lug. Thickness is about 9mm.

Its running consistently fast at +90, but I haven't yet really looked at the movement to assess health.

This watch would have been made in their new factory in the Rue de la Paix in La Chaux-de-Fonds, which opened in 1941. They used that facility until 2013.

I now have an Ebel from every decade over the last 70 years except for the 70's. The collection marches on!

Rick "more Ebel fun" Denney
 

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Well, as to how it made its way to Poland- if it was made for the European market, then why wouldn't it have been sold there? It's not somewhere in Asia, it isn't Ultima Thule or terra incognita, neither is it a spot on the map to be marked "here be monsters." At least I'm not aware of the country having mysteriously teleported from east of Germany to Tierra del Fuego or to the steppes of Mongolia. An ancient Roman or Greek coin can make its way to a coin collector's drawer in, say, Alaska, a watch can change hands many times all the same. After WW2, Swiss watches were hardly available in the Eastern Bloc, but there were a few channels of distribution, more or less official. Or completely unofficial. Smugglers, for example- freighter crews bought "deficit goods" new in the West, and sold them at a substantial profit...

Not necessarily was it made during WW2- the style was popular well until the 1950s. For example, I have a Roamer made for Turler, very similar in style, from 1948.

The movement is an AS 1203 indeed:
bidfun-db Archive: Watch Movements: Ebel 120 (AS 1203)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Well, as to how it made its way to Poland- if it was made for the European market, then why wouldn't it have been sold there? It's not somewhere in Asia, it isn't Ultima Thule or terra incognita, neither is it a spot on the map to be marked "here be monsters." At least I'm not aware of the country having mysteriously teleported from east of Germany to Tierra del Fuego or to the steppes of Mongolia. An ancient Roman or Greek coin can make its way to a coin collector's drawer in, say, Alaska, a watch can change hands many times all the same. After WW2, Swiss watches were hardly available in the Eastern Bloc, but there were a few channels of distribution, more or less official. Or completely unofficial. Smugglers, for example- freighter crews bought "deficit goods" new in the West, and sold them at a substantial profit...

Not necessarily was it made during WW2- the style was popular well until the 1950s. For example, I have a Roamer made for Turler, very similar in style, from 1948.

The movement is an AS 1203 indeed:
bidfun-db Archive: Watch Movements: Ebel 120 (AS 1203)
It certainly could be late 40's, but it is not a 50's Ebel unless it's made from old-stock parts, which isn't really something I expect from them. I have an early 50's Ebel, and there are key differences, not just the shape of the numerals or the use of a chrome-plated case. This watch was just too utilitarian for Ebel in the 50's, when it was already back into its haute-de-gamme sweet spot. And they certainly had shock protection in regular use by then.

Do you know when A. Schild started production of the 1203? I have not been able to find that out. The 50's examples I've seen of the Ebel 120/AS1203 from the 50's, particularly those used by Ebel, had shock protection.

But it seems to me that Poland of the 40's was not where people were buying nice watches, what with armies marching back and forth and unfriendly occupying powers and all that, although I'm sure there were pockets of relatively normal life. And it could have been in Poland for all of a month before I bought it, for all I know, and the Polish connection is a complete red herring in the hunt for this watch's story. There's no way to know, but then that's why I'm curious.

I constructed a similar story (fantasy) around my ca. 1946 Jaeger LeCoultre ref. 2953, by wondering if it had been purchased by a member of the occupying forces (say, an officer--it was gold and wouldn't have been that cheap) on a weekend pass, and brought back home to Pennsylvania as a souvenir. The guy I bought it from bought it in an estate sale in Pennsylvania. That story is a complete fabrication, of course, but another fellow with a similar watch given to him by his (now deceased) grandfather asked me how a JLC (not simply "LeCoultre") in a Swiss-hallmarked case from the 40's would have made its way to the USA, and I told him of my fictional reconstruction. He consulted various elderly relatives, and discovered that my fictional story was exactly what happened in his case. That was really fun for both of us to discover. Constructing a plausible story is often a way to figure out what questions to ask.

Rick "having fun" Denney
 

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It certainly could be late 40's, but it is not a 50's Ebel unless it's made from old-stock parts, which isn't really something I expect from them. I have an early 50's Ebel, and there are key differences, not just the shape of the numerals or the use of a chrome-plated case. This watch was just too utilitarian for Ebel in the 50's, when it was already back into its haute-de-gamme sweet spot. And they certainly had shock protection in regular use by then.

Do you know when A. Schild started production of the 1203? I have not been able to find that out. The 50's examples I've seen of the Ebel 120/AS1203 from the 50's, particularly those used by Ebel, had shock protection.

But it seems to me that Poland of the 40's was not where people were buying nice watches, what with armies marching back and forth and unfriendly occupying powers and all that, although I'm sure there were pockets of relatively normal life. And it could have been in Poland for all of a month before I bought it, for all I know, and the Polish connection is a complete red herring in the hunt for this watch's story. There's no way to know, but then that's why I'm curious.

I constructed a similar story (fantasy) around my ca. 1946 Jaeger LeCoultre ref. 2953, by wondering if it had been purchased by a member of the occupying forces (say, an officer--it was gold and wouldn't have been that cheap) on a weekend pass, and brought back home to Pennsylvania as a souvenir. The guy I bought it from bought it in an estate sale in Pennsylvania. That story is a complete fabrication, of course, but another fellow with a similar watch given to him by his (now deceased) grandfather asked me how a JLC (not simply "LeCoultre") in a Swiss-hallmarked case from the 40's would have made its way to the USA, and I told him of my fictional reconstruction. He consulted various elderly relatives, and discovered that my fictional story was exactly what happened in his case. That was really fun for both of us to discover. Constructing a plausible story is often a way to figure out what questions to ask.

Rick "having fun" Denney
As to Poland after the war and watches... My 1947 Tissot in a 14K case, apart from the Swiss gold hallmarks, also bears the "hussar's head" in a hexagonal frame, which was a Polish gold hallmark, stamped on imported and locally made gold items alike. The funny thing is, that until the changes that took place after Stalin's death (transition took place 1953-1956), theoretically no one could own solid gold or platinum, due to the policies of the state treasury (stockpiling precious metals). The only exception were stores for the officials... So, people bought nice watches, only it depends on what kind of people did. Sometimes I wonder, who owned my vintage watches before me. Who bought them first, what did the watch mean to that person... That Tissot is the only exception- I don't want to know. Whoever it was, he must have been wealthy enough to buy a gold watch in a ruined country, and who was slightly above the law.

As to smuggle, looking at Atlantic- the most popular Swiss brand behind the Iron Curtain- most watches to be found in the former Eastern Bloc were made for the Swedish market... Which does suggest smuggle as an explanation. Besides, I did talk to someone, who bought his watch in 1952 from a smugglers' den in Gdansk, from a freighter crew member alright.

No idea when the cal. 1203 was introduced and discontinued- at least the good Doctor's archive has no answer for that.
 

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I would guess 1950, no earlier.
 

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congrats on your purchase
 
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This is a nice-looking watch, and I like the idea that you are assembling this longitudinal collection of Ebel watches. Perhaps you bought this watch from an eBay seller from Poland who has a large inventory of vintage watches. He has some attractive watches from good quality Swiss brands, and most of them are cosmetically restored to various degrees (i.e. re-plated re-lumed, new hands, new crowns). Some look original, but not very many. I have been suspecting that his MO is to purchase good-quality vintage watches (often from slightly lesser-known brands) that are in poor cosmetic condition for low prices, restore them to make them look good, and then flip them for a profit. While I'm not a big fan of restored watches in general, in this case I think that he is probably putting a lot of un-loved watches back into circulation that would otherwise just sit in drawers. And given the size of his inventory, and his rapid turnover, it seems likely to me that he is buying up these watches from all over the place.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Yes, that is probably the case--the seller has many watches of similar vintage and he probably got them from all over.

And, yes, the case was replated, which I think is a reasonable restoration step for watches not particularly collectable in poor original condition. But the dial is original and all the numbers align. Were it not an Ebel, I might have been more cautious, but I know how to check the numbers on Ebels.

Rick "who avoids restored dials and incorrect hands, though" Denney
 

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As to replating, some brands had chrome plating of rather poor quality, or sometimes a watch simply had a hard life, so to speak, so often it is simply necessary. This one was replated quite well, I think.
 
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
As to replating, some brands had chrome plating of rather poor quality, or sometimes a watch simply had a hard life, so to speak, so often it is simply necessary. This one was replated quite well, I think.
Agreed. Ebel, being a quality company from its inception, probably did good plating originally, but chrome is brittle and the base metal is not, plus both have different coefficients of thermal expansion. Chrome plating just isn't a great solution. This one still has some pitting that was plated over, especially on the underside of the lugs, but it looks pretty good while on the wrist.

Let me ask you a question that you will know: Chrome was really hard to come by during the war, and for some years after the war. Why are so many watches from the WWII period chrome-plated instead of made from one of the early stainless steels, such as Staybrite? It may be that even though chrome was hard to come by, the nickel used in early stainless steel was even harder to come by.

Rick "Ebel didn't own its own case factory until the 70's" Denney
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
I would guess 1950, no earlier.
Could be, but any particular reason?

I do see that the Ebel 120 pictured by Ranfft is dated to 1950, and it lacks shock protection, but Roland probably doesn't have any better resources than I do for Ebel and dating Ebel watches is really difficult. They did not have catalogs in the day, or at least none seem to have survived, and dating requires looking at ads, of which there were very few. The usual late 40's ad features a ladies watch, but this supposedly one dates from 1945, for the Swiss market, for a civilian version of the military watch:

54b9575f74684_260372b.jpg

The usual early 50's ad features an Ebel Videomatic (their first full-rotor automatic):

vintage-ebel-watch-7.gif

Or the Ebel Epsom, also an automatic, with a hidden crown. This ad is from 1953:

50f47aed48d12_260372b.jpg

The watch in question seems to be more akin to the former, but it would seem the AS movement certainly means it is post-war. And, pursuant to the question I asked MWKS, the 1945 ad touts stainless steel. Perhaps stainless steel wasn't shiny enough, although that 1953 stainless steel Epsom looks pretty shiny.

Rick "still researching" Denney
 

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Agreed. Ebel, being a quality company from its inception, probably did good plating originally, but chrome is brittle and the base metal is not, plus both have different coefficients of thermal expansion. Chrome plating just isn't a great solution. This one still has some pitting that was plated over, especially on the underside of the lugs, but it looks pretty good while on the wrist.

Let me ask you a question that you will know: Chrome was really hard to come by during the war, and for some years after the war. Why are so many watches from the WWII period chrome-plated instead of made from one of the early stainless steels, such as Staybrite? It may be that even though chrome was hard to come by, the nickel used in early stainless steel was even harder to come by.

Rick "Ebel didn't own its own case factory until the 70's" Denney
Many companies bought cases mostly from external suppliers, so it's no surprise that Ebel did as well. So it all depended on the case makers' quality of plating. Nevertheless, differences between plated cases from different watch manufacturers are noticeable- some brands had fairly durable plating, like Tissot, and some- like Doxa- left a lot to be desired.

Well, from economic geography, historical or contemporary, I was never good- whenever it was necessary for an exam, I have happily forgotten what I've learned once I managed to pass. I'm not well-versed in geology or metallurgy either. Were I any good with these, I'd probably know the answer to your question.
My best guess is that the raw materials were imported from the areas of the Third Reich and the occupied territories, and most of these materials were ones needed by the arms industry (including vehicle/aircraft factories); chrome and brass would still be cheaper than steel. Besides, plated cases were always less expensive, so except the Swiss market itself, there wouldn't have been much of a demand for steel cases. After the war, the economies of continental Europe were pretty much in ruins, so people would have preferred the more affordable alternative all the same.
 
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Congrats Rick. Another great find. Where are you finding all these old Ebels. Let me know if you pass up anything you think I'd like.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Congrats Rick. Another great find. Where are you finding all these old Ebels. Let me know if you pass up anything you think I'd like.


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Both of the last two were on eBay. Must have caught you on an off day:)

Rick "not the only Ebel collector here" Denney
 
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