I just picked up what is probably the coolest WWI trench watch that I've ever seen!
This is a 1918 WWI Illinois Trench Watch in 100% original condition.
I just finished putting it all back together this morning, ONLY mechanical repairs were done to this incredible piece of history.
This sterling silver size 3/0s case was made especially for the Illinois Watch Company and it still has the original factory crown.
The rectangle swivel lugs design is a dead giveaway to this fact.
I have a STRONG feeling that this case was made by the IWCCo specifically for the Illinois Watch Company.
This is a semi-hermetic case so the bezel and case back are both threaded.
The case measures 46mm lug tip to lug tip, 31.5mm without the crown with a 14mm lug diameter.
This Illinois Trench Watch still has the original Khaki green strap and sterling silver strap clasp made by D & C.
This watch features a rarely seen plastic crystal that is yellow in color, has some radium burn.
This type of yellow crystal was used to lessen the brightness of the lumed dial and hands.
Some Depollier and Fahys WWI trench watch cases also used this technology.
The metal shadow box military dial and skeleton hands have about 95% of the original lum still in-tact.
The 17 jewel size 3/0s movement is simply amazing and it was the BEST that money could buy.
This is the highest jewel count possible on an Illinois 3/0s movement.
Only 920 of these grade 24 movements with 17 jewels featuring a solid gold train were made in 1918!
And it only gets BETTER from here!
As you can clearly see there are MANY engravings all over this historic WWI 1918 Illinois Trench Watch.
First, this watch was a gift from a mother to her son that was going off to war.
The case back is engraved with: C.F. Columbia from Mother 1918.
Now here is where it gets EXTREMELY COOL ! ! !
There are 23 city name engravings all over the watch and Khaki strap clasp.
I have NEVER seen ANYTHING like this before!
I looked up every one of these cities and placed the locations on a map of France, pic provided.
21 of them are in France, 2 of them are in England.
The vast majority of these cities are in Northern and Northeastern France around Verdun where trench warfare was fierce.
Luneville, Epinal, Troyes, Chalons, Nancy, Bar le Duc, Mirecourt, Charmes, St. Germain, Paris, Saumur.
Tours, Angers, Nantes, St. Nazaire, Marseille, Nice, Monte Carlo, Chinon, Le Havre, Mailly.
Two city names in England: Liverpool and South Hampton.
Now here is my best guess....................
The watch was originally only inscribed with "C.F. Columbia from Mother 1918".
The soldier then went off to war and was in all of these cities during his service.
When he came back home safely he then had these 23 city names engraved onto the bezel and case back of the watch.
The engraving style is different on the city names when compared to the engraving work that his Mother had done.
I am extremely confident that this soldier's service records can be found, but it would be a massive undertaking.
Common Googles searches probably won't get the job done due to his last name being Columbia.
The country of Columbia drowns out the search results, probably have to use the official government service records.
How many men could there be with the last name "Columbia" in the US Army during the Great War?
If we can find out what unit he was with we could then track their movements and the battles/cities they fought in.
This soldier's Mother must have had some coin, this watch was the BEST money could buy, it has all of the bells and whistles!
Hope you enjoy the story and the pics!
It is quite and honor to have this piece of history on my wrist right now.
Thank you for your service C.F. Columbia ! ! ! ! ! !