Bundeswehr 1550SG

A little while ago, I bought Sinn’s reissue of the classic Heuer Bundeswehr 1550SG military chronograph, the 155. Sinn had produced a run of these watches as a consequence of having some left over cases from their contract with Heuer to refurbish the originals (and, subsequently, to produce their own Sinn-branded version). Now, the Sinn 155 is a great watch in it’s own right, but my brief period of ownership simply fuelled a desire to find the real thing, not for the first time. Having moved it on as a consequence I prepared to play my usual waiting game, but before very long a rather lovely example of the 1550 appeared on TZ-UK. It was in original used condition, and I hummed an hawed for a while as I considered whether or not I really wanted to buy yet another watch. I should have known that snoozing would mean losing, though, and sure enough it was gone before I had a chance to talk myself into it.

I thought that would be it for a while, and actually breathed a metaphorical sigh of relief in some ways. However, what I didn’t expect was that a complete minter would pop up a day later on another forum, and this time I wasn’t prepared to let it slip through my fingers. This morning I popped out for a quick F2F and right now it’s on my wrist.

The Heuer Bundeswehr 1550SG (latterly to become known simply as the Heuer Bund) was a military watch, issued from 1968 until the end of the 70’s; “Bundeswehr” is actually German for Federal Defence, and the watch was issued to those forces. All were built around a Valjoux flyback chronograph movement of one description or another, and I thought it might be useful to explain what that term means first as it’s bandied about quite a lot but I’m sure not everyone understands it. The following quote and image is actually courtesy of Rich Askham:

“In a regular chronograph calibre the chronograph mechanism must be stopped before it can be reset. In a flyback chronograph, the mechanism can be reset while it is still running, making it particularly useful for timing consecutive short interval events. This is achieved by the addition of a additional lever in the chronograph mechanism. When the reset button is pressed the flyback lever lifts the coupling clutch from the chronograph centre wheel allowing the mechanism to reset.”

So, there you go. In fact, the original specification from the Bundeswehr was based upon the Valjoux 230; this movement was not chronometer-rated, but was known for being easily regulated to within +/- 1 second per day. Even without such fine-tuning it was a very accurate calibre, as can be seen by the specification sheet that I unearthed whilst having a mooch around the net for this write-up:

Anyway, back to the watch itself. There were quite a number of variations, even ignoring the Sinn-branded models arising from the contract I mentioned earlier. Because of this one has to be quite careful in order to ensure that all is genuine and above-board (and there are some fakes/frankens about to fool the unwary) but the numerous dial differences are summarised in the lists below – this time, courtesy of Walter Manning and the research he carried out for MWR:

There are 5 configurations of Heuer-branded dials:

· The “classic 3H/T” – a red 3H-symbol appears just below the dial centre, and a tiny “T” appears just above “6”.
· The “3H-only” – a red 3H-symbol appears just below the centre.
· The “T-only” – a tiny “T” appears just above “6”.
· The “clean” – no markings beyond the “Heuer” logo.
· The “sternzeit” – STERNZEIT REGULIERT markings just below the dial centre.

There are 2 configurations of Sinn-branded dials:

· The “3H-only” – a red 3H-symbol appears just below the centre.
· The “clean” dial – no markings beyond the “Heuer” logo.

Then, there are 4 variations of the “3H” symbol:

· The “standard” 3H.
· The “big-letter” 3H – circle is same size as standard, but the letters are larger and fill the circle more completely.
· The “small-letter” 3H – circle is same size as standard, but the letters are smaller and there is a small dot in the centre.
· The “small-circle” 3H – the circle is noticeably smaller.

There are also 3 variations of the manufacturer logo:

· The “standard” Heuer logo – fits inside :58 and :02.
· The “big” Heuer logo – fits even with :58 and :02.
· The Sinn logo.

And (finally!) there are 2 variations of the font used for the hour-markers:

· The “standard” font – most noticeable because none of the numbers are cut-off.
· The “cut-off” font – the 10:00, 8:00, and 2:00 are cut-off by the subdials.

Confused? You should be. But to the watch in hand (or on wrist), then, which from the serial number seems to date back to 1977 or thereabouts, and which houses the classic manual wind Valjoux 230 flyback movement. The case (as I believe with all the variants) measures 43mm x 50mm, and has a height of 12mm including the very slightly domed plexi.

Now, whilst the provenance of this particular watch can be traced back to the original (military) owner in Germany, the case back doesn’t indicate that it was issued. It may have been, and the back subsequently replaced by Sinn at service. Alternatively, and by all accounts not unusually, the back may have been deliberately replaced in an attempt to avoid handing it back to the BW on leaving the service. In any event, this is a truly outstanding and original example of the classic 3H/T dial, with an absolutely gorgeous and matching patina to both the dial and the hands; and a condition all round that can accurately be described as close to mint.

You could look for a very, very long time to find an example like this, which is why I didn’t hang around when I spotted it. It’s destined to be with me for the long term, I think, so here are a few photos to demonstrate why I’m so pleased with it.

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