German Military Stowa KM Watch for the Kreigsmarine

Kriegsmarine Class II Chronometer

Type: Pocket Watch

Case: Brass with nickel plating, double snap-on caseback

Movement: High-class lever, 19 jewels

Functions: Hack seconds function when the crown is pulled

Dial: Lume base surface

Country of origin: Germany

Years of production: 1935-1945

Signed: KM Stowa II. KL.

Size: Diameter 59.5 mm

There were two types of pocket watches made for the Kriegsmarine. Some have been found with luminous numerals/indexes, or, like this Stowa, have a fully luminous dial surface, which is less common. According to sources about military watches, watches with the fully luminous dial were used on submarines. They were issued to the captain or to the first officer.

Stowa KM pocket watch

The watch is large, the case is smooth and streamlined, it has a pleasant weight to hold in the hand.

Lume Stowa Kriegsmarine pocket watch

Fully luminous dial with black numerals. Lume compound without radiation.

Clear, slightly yellowed, open dial with cardboard texture and contrasting numerals in an easy-to-read font. Very attractive blued hands complete the whole look.

KM STOWA watch, dark blue hands

KM STOWA signature, dark blue hands.

Restoration

As is usually the case, the watch was initially quite badly treated by unskilled craftsmen and restorers (see the photo before the restoration). There was originally an eagle with a swastika on the cover of the case, which was probably removed primarily for security reasons. In the Soviet 1950’s, an object adorned with a swastika would have definitely led to imprisonment, and thus it can be difficult to find a watch with the entire native emblem in the country. You can always try to engrave the eagle again, but it will most likely be completely wrong. Personally, I like it without the eagle and the swastika.

On the good news front, the mechanism has fortunately remained in excellent condition. The dial is still intact, and the hands are in perfect condition.

In addition to removing the swastika, there was a bow made of a nail as well as badly made personal inscriptions on the dust cover. The worst thing is that the body was gilded. It is out of the question to find gold-plated military watches.

During the restoration, the inscriptions are removed, and the case is covered with nickel as it was originally.

The movement deserves special attention. High-quality, aesthetic classic pocket caliber with 19 jewels. The quality of the materials and workmanship is at the level of LeCoultre or Vacheron Constantin. Everything has been made for accuracy – all the arbors are jewelled (19 jewels), with an expensive split balance with thermocompensation and adjustment screws, a Breguet balance spiral, and a ‘swan neck’ micro-regulator. Wheels with spiral precision-grinding, bridges are decorated with Geneva stripes.

The military design of the 1940’s was so successful and popular that modern replicas are still in constant demand. Numerous companies, including the modern revived Stowa, produce new watches with dials identical to the old KM underwater watch.

In 1945, the documents of the Reich were destroyed, making it now impossible to reliably trace the ownership of this watch. How far have they travelled from the factory of their making to the present day, and in what battles has this watch participated? Obviously, the submarine on which this watch would have travelled was not sunk during the war, but was potentially shot down and captured afloat. Otherwise, this watch would not have survived – no movement can survive salt water. We can only guess at what the fate of this object was, and the fate of the person who owned it.

Additional Links

Iron Coffins. German submarines: secret operations 1941-1945  – A Memoir by Herbert Werner (fascinating reading, I recommend!)