To Russia with Love - a WWII Hamilton donated to Soviet soldiers

Hamilton Watches used in the Military

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Mugea
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To Russia with Love - a WWII Hamilton donated to Soviet soldiers

#1 Post by Mugea » Sat Aug 22, 2020 11:21 pm

Everybody has his Hamilton wish list. Normally, names like “Piping Rock”, “Spur”, “Coronado”, “Sputnik”, “Pacermatic” and the like will appear on such a list. Well, on my list too, but there is (in fact: was) a Hamilton which doesn’t even have a name. A Hamilton hard to find. A Hamilton with a chromed case and with a design what’s all but extravagant. Well, meanwhile I got one:
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_Still_01c_1366.jpg
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_Still_01c_1366.jpg (229.5 KiB) Viewed 178 times

The front of the watch looks like a standard WWII military Hamilton for the US Army/Marines with a Hamilton grade 987A:
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_01_1366.jpg
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_01_1366.jpg (119.4 KiB) Viewed 178 times
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_02_1366.jpg
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_02_1366.jpg (122.47 KiB) Viewed 178 times
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_03_1366.jpg
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_03_1366.jpg (108.54 KiB) Viewed 178 times

The big difference is the case back:
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_05_1366.jpg
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_05_1366.jpg (98.99 KiB) Viewed 178 times

The dedication reads:
Геройскому народу СССР
Рошен уор релиф
США

In English:

To the heroic people of the USSR
Russian War Relief
USA


The odd part of the dedication is “Рошен уор релиф” - that is no translation, but a phonetic transcription of “Russian War Relief”, making it possible for Russians to get an idea how “Russian War Relief” is pronounced - without giving any idea, what these strange words could mean.

Now: what was that “Russian War Relief” (RWR)? See the explanation here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_War_Relief

The RWR was quite active in collecting “stuff” to be shipped to the Soviet Union in WWII. “Stuff” included used clothes, seeds and… watches. Through their campaigns a lot of used watches were collected:

Detroit_Free_Press_Sun__May_2__1943_Watches-for-Russia_1366.jpg
Detroit_Free_Press_Sun__May_2__1943_Watches-for-Russia_1366.jpg (187.93 KiB) Viewed 178 times

Beside used watches also brand-new watches were procured - (military) watches made by Elgin, Waltham and… Hamilton. I found an interesting article regarding the newly made watches:
https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/russi ... ef-watches

Quote:
And the Russian War Relief even custom-ordered watches to keep Soviet forces on time from a crop of America’s prominent watchmakers, Waltham, Elgin, and Hamilton. These special-purpose watches were built to the U.S. Army Ordnance Department’s general specifications, meaning they were rated to be used for basic timekeeping in military functions, although not necessarily combat. Watches carrying the A-11 specification are a cut above the Russian War Relief–ordered watches. (…)
It’s possible that the Russian War Relief simply organized the delivery of the watches to troops outside the lend-lease act. While a production order for the watches does exist, there is no mention of the lend-lease act.”


I don’t know, how many Hamiltons were shipped to the Soviet Union through the RWR channels - maybe those 3,000 Hamiltons mentioned in several sources? I guess so.

The RWR gave cards to contributors to be attached to the item the contributor donated, e.g. a watch:

RW-Card-01_1366.jpg
RW-Card-01_1366.jpg (111.07 KiB) Viewed 178 times

There was space to write a message to the new “friend”, and the new friend could send back an answer. That’s a little bit naïve, because the new “friend” wasn’t the average Ivan, who will have seen such a Hamilton watch only on the wrist of his commanding officer.

Watches were luxury goods in the Soviet Union and the donated Elgins, Walthams and Hamiltons were awarded to higher officers only - an example of such an officer is Alexander Anfimov, Major of engineers who received such a Hamilton (shown on the bottom of the site):

https://mig26.ru/news/704-den_pamyati_i ... voyny.html

English translation of the site:
https://translate.google.de/translate?s ... voyny.html

Back to my watch. The case back is internally marked with the Keystone brand and a serial number 775184 - but not with “Hamilton”:

Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_10_1366.jpg
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_10_1366.jpg (98.57 KiB) Viewed 178 times

The absence of “Hamilton” seems to be quite normal on these RWR Hamiltons - others I’ve seen had the serial numbers 747461, 765863, 774576 and 775363 - all Keystone cases without a Hamilton marking.

Another difference compared with the US military Hamiltons: there’s no letter between the lugs:
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_14_1366.jpg
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_14_1366.jpg (120.86 KiB) Viewed 178 times
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_15_1366.jpg
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_15_1366.jpg (125.25 KiB) Viewed 178 times

Tucked inside is a Hamilton grade 987A made in 1943:
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_11_1366.jpg
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_11_1366.jpg (133.61 KiB) Viewed 178 times

Well, the remains of a grade 987A - some Russian “watchmaker” gave it a special treatment to keep it running (astonishingly it does run):
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_13_arrows_1366.jpg
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_13_arrows_1366.jpg (237.65 KiB) Viewed 178 times

Unfortunately, the dust cover is missing - does anybody has one for offer, maybe?

All in all: the watch is in poor condition, but these “Russkis” are hard to get in the Western hemisphere (mine came from Lithuania formerly belonging to the Soviet Union, now a member state of the EU) and I’m happy to have one.

By the way: the strap is a NOS genuine US canvas strap made in WWII by the American Strap Co., Inc, NY.

Canvas-Strap_American-Strap-Co_01_1366.jpg
Canvas-Strap_American-Strap-Co_01_1366.jpg (91.82 KiB) Viewed 178 times

I don’t know, if the RWR Hamiltons were sent to Russia with straps of this kind, but I think so.


Regards

Martin

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retroworx
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Re: To Russia with Love - a WWII Hamilton donated to Soviet soldiers

#2 Post by retroworx » Sun Aug 23, 2020 3:18 am

Unbelievable, Martin, WHAT A GREAT READ! Thanks so much for sharing!
My vintage watch collection on Instagram: @retroworx
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Re: To Russia with Love - a WWII Hamilton donated to Soviet soldiers

#3 Post by hamiltonelectric » Sun Aug 23, 2020 6:52 am

Such deep and comprehensive research! Well done -- I really enjoyed this, and admire your attention to detail.

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Re: To Russia with Love - a WWII Hamilton donated to Soviet soldiers

#4 Post by stales » Sun Aug 23, 2020 1:56 pm

Wow - who knew! Thanks for sharing.
Roger

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Re: To Russia with Love - a WWII Hamilton donated to Soviet soldiers

#5 Post by SFC » Tue Aug 25, 2020 9:59 am

I appreciate the great photography and history lesson. I had never heard of these RWR watches before.. the engraving on the case back is next level! Thanks for sharing.

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Re: To Russia with Love - a WWII Hamilton donated to Soviet soldiers

#6 Post by watchdoc#1 » Tue Aug 25, 2020 7:22 pm

Excellent research! 8-)
I used to be known as "watchdoc" now I'm watchdoc#1. Check me out under the members list. :roll:
https://mb.nawcc.org/threads/westfield- ... ny.109201/

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Re: To Russia with Love - a WWII Hamilton donated to Soviet soldiers

#7 Post by inatime » Thu Aug 27, 2020 11:34 am

Wow! :o
Patrick

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Re: To Russia with Love - a WWII Hamilton donated to Soviet soldiers

#8 Post by Nookster » Fri Sep 04, 2020 2:13 pm

I show in 1943, 3000 stainless waterproof (Russian)
mark@vintagehamilton.com
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Re: To Russia with Love - a WWII Hamilton donated to Soviet soldiers

#9 Post by statsman » Thu Sep 10, 2020 8:28 am

I’ve always thought the WWII service watches were great; this one is really neat.

You mention a Russian watchmaker modding it; that’s kind of what Russians are known for- taking other technology and making it work for them. Remember the Apple 2es they used for ICBM controls?

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Re: To Russia with Love - a WWII Hamilton donated to Soviet soldiers

#10 Post by Mugea » Wed Sep 16, 2020 8:53 am

Thank you all for your kind words! It’s always a pleasure to be able to share some new Hamilton info. Or at least, lesser known info.

Regarding “Remember the Apple 2es they used for ICBM controls?” To be honest: no, I’m not aware of this. Actually, I even don’t know, what an ICBM control is.

Anyway: here’s a wrist shot of the RWR Hamilton. BTW: the shirt I used for the still and for the wrist shot is an authentic soviet military shirt. Not from WWII, but from the early 80s. I smuggled it out of the USSR when I was in Leningrad in 1984…. Time is fleeting…
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_Wrist_01_1366.jpg
Hamilton_987A_Russian-War-Relief_Wrist_01_1366.jpg (178.42 KiB) Viewed 74 times

Regards

Martin

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