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Thread: Crusader story

  1. #1
    Moderator - Central tribe125's Avatar
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    Crusader story

    Crusader story

    Thinking about a new strap for my Crusader 1148, I realised that I've never told its story in any detail. People occasionally ask about it, so in future I can just direct them here. The watch doesn't really have a name, being a project watch put together by ‘Crusader’, my former moderator colleague at Watchuseek. When not on the internet, Crusader is Dr. Martin Hoch. Martin was a respected contributor to several watch forums, but withdrew from forum activity after taking up positions in the watch industry. He is now a project manager for Sinn and chairman of the TESTAF working group.

    Back in 2005, Martin’s main project was the ‘Mark MCXLVIII’. The number has some significance for Martin, and it was only after deciding upon it that he realised that it also referenced the IWC Mk 11 and the year of its introduction, 1948.






    The IWC Mk11

    A British government report in 1941 revealed that only a quarter of night bombers found their targets. It was also estimated that 95% of bombs missed their target by more than five miles. The reason for this was not incompetence, but the inaccuracy of the navigators’ watches. Relying on astro-navigation, navigators needed chronometer precision to establish their latitude and longitude, and they didn't have it. Marine chronometers couldn't be adapted for use in the air because of vibration in the aircraft. After the war, the Ministry of Defence drew up specifications (6B346) for an ‘air chronometer’.

    The specifications required: a highly accurate movement with hacking device, an inner iron cage as protection against magnetic interference, a stainless steel waterproof case, a crystal secured by a screwed ring to stop it popping out in sudden de-pressurisation, and a black dial with luminous markers and hands.

    The first version of the Mk 11 (1948-51) didn't have the familiar squared hour hand and had a ‘12’ instead of a triangle. This design proved not to have sufficient clarity so the design was modified in 1952. The watches were initially supplied on a ‘Bonklip’ bracelet, but a nylon strap became the standard in 1954. The Bonklip was reintroduced as an option in 1956.





    The Mk 11 was also manufactured and supplied by Jaeger Le-Coultre, but the JLC version was dropped, probably because it didn't feature shock-protection.

    The Mk 11 was in service with the RAF from 1948 to 1981, but was only classed as a navigator’s watch until 1973. After that date it was downgraded to ‘navigator’s watch secondary type’. The Mk 11 was also supplied to the air forces of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The RAF sent its stock of Mk 11s to auction in 1984. They were sold cheaply ‘as seen’, jumbled together in cardboard boxes of twenty or more.

    In addition to military use, the Mk 11 was issued to BOAC airline pilots (BOAC was a forerunner to British Airways). They weren't issued to individual pilots but were part of the flight kit. The call sign for BOAC was ‘Speedbird’, which is why Eddie Platts chose that name for his hommage to the Mk 11. IWC also sold Mk 11s on the domestic market. Sir Edmund Hillary wore a Mk 11 on the 1957 Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition.

    A stray fact: before the International Watch Company abbreviated its name to IWC, the watches were known as ‘Internationals’ and were advertised under that name.

    The Mk 11 is generally held to be the most iconic of military watches. It is also a design classic irrespective of its military heritage.



    Project Mark MCXLVIII

    Martin had been fascinated by the Mk 11 for as long as he had been interested in watches. For him it was the ultimate military watch with the most beautiful combination of dial and hands. He considered buying a modern equivalent, in the shape of a Mk XII or Mark XV, but really wanted an everyday watch that he could wear casually, without considering the consequences of knocks and scrapes. In addition, the Mark XV didn't have the elongated markers of the Mk 11 and the Mark XII was said to have a sensitive movement. He looked at Bill Yao’s Quad 10 but decided it was too big and heavy. Eddie Platt’s Speedbird didn't yet exist. Martin realised he was going to have to make his own. This was back in 2005.

    Bill Yao didn't make the right watch but he made the right dial and hands, which he referred to as Type 48. For a case, that of the Precista PRS-53 was near-ideal. The Mk 11 measured 36mm x 12.8mm and 46.3mm lug to lug. The lugs were fixed, with 18mm spacing. The PRS-53 measured 37mm x 12.75mm and 48mm lug to lug. The lugs were fixed, with 18mm spacing. The PRS-53 also had a beautifully domed and armoured acrylic crystal.

    Martin changed a few things:

    • New ETA 2824-2 élaboré movement to replace the standard ETA 2824-2 of the PRS-53.
    • Speedbird 2 seconds hand (which had to be shortened) to replace the Yao seconds hand.
    • Removal of the Precista branding from the case back.
    • Reluming of the hands and quarter markings from white to pale green. Bill Yao had used white to match the unlumed numerals but green was more authentic.



    The mechanical and assembly work was done in the UK, the reluming in the USA. Eddie Platts provided support.

    Eighteen months later, Martin had his watch. In appearance, it’s actually a cross between a Mark 11 and a Mk XII. The dial printing is Mk 11. The Mk 11 and Mk XII dials may look the same at first glance, but they’re not.



    The Mk 11 has more elongated markers and the Mk XII has hooked ‘1s’. The presence of a date, which Martin was keen to have, is a Mk XII feature. The Yao dial might actually be preferable to the Mk XII dial because the lume markers at ‘9’ and ‘3’ are the same length. Martin chose a white date wheel because it offers a better balance with the opposing ‘9’. Stylistically, you could call the watch a Mk 11.5...

    Martin chronicled his project on Watchuseek and TZ-UK, and it was no surprise to see others emulating his PRS-53 conversion. I had a PRS-53 and in 2009 I decided to have a go myself.





    Mk 1148 and PRS-53



    Crusader 1148

    With Martin being a moderator colleague and friend (although I hadn’t met him at that time), I had no hesitation in contacting him for advice. His reply was completely unexpected. He had two completed watches, and I could have one. Martin had never mentioned the existence of a second Mark MCXLVIII. I was flabbergasted and deeply appreciative.

    It transpired that Martin had become frustrated at the length of time it was taking for the dial to be relumed. During the course of the project he had accumulated enough parts for a second watch, so he sent a second dial to a different relumer that he hoped would be quicker.

    There are two differences between the watches. ‘Number 1’ has an élaboré movement and reluming by International Watch Works, ‘Number 2’ (mine) has a standard movement and reluming by Everest Watch Works.

    I'm a lucky boy. For my money, Martin’s hommage to the Mk 11 is more successful than the Quad 10 or Speedbird. In fairness to Bill Yao and Eddie Platts, they didn't set out to make a close copy of the Mk 11. Eddie, in particular, likes to distinguish his hommage models from their originals.

    The Crusader 1148 is perfect for me. The IWC Mk 11 is one of the most significant watches of the twentieth century and I've got something that looks an awful lot like it, and which satisfies my desire to own one. I wouldn't want a vintage Mk 11, with its puffy lume and collector halo; neither would I want the up-scaled Quad 10. The Speedbird is a fine thing, but I would always wish that there were fewer departures from the original.

    And... very important, this - the Crusader was put together by Crusader.



    Last edited by tribe125; Jul 8, 2015 at 08:07 PM.

  2. #2
    Great to hear the story behind this watch (which is an absolute beauty, I have to say), especially as it contains such a lovely example of people from across the watch community working together

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  4. #3
    wind-up merchant OhDark30's Avatar
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    That's very cool - thanks for sharing the full story!
    Clearly a great homage to a significant watch - look forward to the pics on its incoming perlons :-)
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  5. #4
    The Dude Abides Nokie's Avatar
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    Excellent post.
    "Either He's Dead, Or My Watch Has Stopped....."
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  6. #5
    That's a brilliant story and a lovely watch, but surely the 6b/159 chronometer standard watches were more than up to the job over an eight hour flight, as were the Smiths clocks? Don't forget that the wartime 6b/159 movements were recased in 1956 for extended use! The problem identified by Cherwell as the cause of the problem Butt found was the quality and training of navigators. As I remember, the Butt report was more descriptive than prescriptive and the fact is that, for example debate that followed led to Don Bennett being moved from initial navigator training in five group to form the Path Finder Force, Arthur Harris taking over bomber command and the adoption of area bombing at night over precision bombing. In short an admission that only the very best navigators working with the best crews could actually find a target. Standards, for the best crews, were rapidly raised allowing precision night raids on small dark targets such as Operation Chastise, the raid on the Ruhr dams which was achieved on 6b/159 specification watches.

    It seems all sorts of people were up to the MKXI game though, here's mine, using a JLC case:

    Last edited by Matt; Jul 8, 2015 at 06:29 PM.

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  8. #6
    Moderator scottjc's Avatar
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    Great story behind an iconic watch. Thanks for sharing.
    If the supply of ETA movement parts affects you please complete this survey:
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  9. #7
    Moderator - Central tribe125's Avatar
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    Thanks, all.

    Re-reading my post I realise there is a rather obvious error. I say that the Speedbird didn't exist and then say that Martin used a Speedbird seconds hand...

    And now I can't be bothered to check my facts.


    Quote Originally Posted by Matt View Post
    The problem identified by Cherwell as the cause of the problem Butt found was the quality and training of navigators. As I remember, the Butt report was more descriptive than prescriptive and the fact is that, for example debate that followed led to Don Bennett being moved from initial navigator training in five group to form the Path Finder Force, Arthur Harris taking over bomber command and the adoption of area bombing at night over precision bombing. In short an admission that only the very best navigators working with the best crews could actually find a target. Standards, for the best crews, were rapidly raised allowing precision night raids on small dark targets such as Operation Chastise, the raid on the Ruhr dams which was achieved on 6b/159 specification watches.
    I'm going to bow before the depth, height, breadth and mass of your extensive knowledge. That's what I get for relying on articles in the British Horological Journal.

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  11. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by tribe125 View Post
    Thanks, all.

    Re-reading my post I realise there is a rather obvious error. I say that the Speedbird didn't exist and then say that Martin used a Speedbird seconds hand...

    And now I can't be bothered to check my facts.




    I'm going to bow before the depth, height, breadth and mass of your extensive knowledge. That's what I get for relying on articles in the British Horological Journal.
    I wouldn't worry too much, there's a vast amount of mythology spread about the war in the air and it was only when the original documents started being released that the true picture was revealed, as such the writer of the BHI story was probably working on propaganda from the period, and there was plenty of that. However, these days, it's all at Kew either as a paper record or on the good old 'fiche:



    and all you need is to do a short training course to get one of these:


    Which lets you loose on a remarkable amount of amazing detail!

    It was a very dodgy time for the RAF. If it hadn't been for Harris' showmanship in putting together the thousand bomber raids and the remarkable success of the first attack upon Cologne, Bomber Command might well have been relegated to a secondary role and at least in my opinion, that would have cost us the war. Harris also took advantage of the newly trained pathfinder force to mark the target and a bomber stream that overwhelmed the radar and night fighters as well as a number of technological advances in both navigation and countermeasures. At the time of the Butt report, by then a year earlier, every aircraft wandered off on its own night time route and generally got lost. The eighth airforce had a far worse time of it but didn't tend to get lost as often as they flew by day and as a unit.

  12. #9
    Great read - thanks.
    Now, should I run into ar MkXI for sale I just might think about it a little more closely....

  13. #10
    Happily unadjusted 😜 popoki nui's Avatar
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    I just love in-depth background information like this! Great story, thanks!
    Eterna | Tudor | Seiko | Casio | G-Shock | Orient | Swatch | Mondaine | Zodiac (pre-Fossil) | Rolex | Wenger | Pulsar Time Computer | Omega | Timex | Bucherer | Citizen I Bulova

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