The Dirty Dozen. During the 40s, towards the tail-end of World War II, Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) made custom orders from 12 manufacturers in Switzerland for military spec watches to equip its soldiers.
The watches needed to have a black dial with Arabic numerals, to be waterproof and luminous, regulated to a chronometer level and composed of a rugged stainless steel case. Furthermore, they had to have fixed bars, have a broadarrow on the dial, signifying that it was property of the government and also on the caseback which included other government serial numbers. Nicknamed the ‘Dirty Dozen’ by collectors, they were officially set out by the MoD as W.W.Ws, standing for ‘Watch, Wristlet, Waterproof’. The result was a group of 12 watches, that embodied the very idea of ‘purpose-built’, and it doesn’t get any more utilitarian than this.
In the last few years, it has become a favourite amongst collectors to collect the entire set. While it is relatively easy to acquire most, there are a few brands that make completing the set a real challenge. On top of this, as these watches were issued to soldiers and used for their intended purpose, condition becomes everything, and let me tell you this- it is not easy to find WWWs in nice condition.
Included in the ‘not so easy to find’, is the Eterna WWW. The Eterna is probably the most under appreciated WWW watch. With an estimated production run of around 5000 pieces, this makes it the second rarest, behind the Grana. Yet, compared to the Longines and IWC, the Eterna can still be had for cheap.
Perhaps a real military connoisseurs watch, with this Eterna WWW, it really is a case of ‘if you know, you know.’