Junghans and its aviation wrist chronographs

The way to become a legend

Over the decades, Junghans launched a variety of aviator chronographs on the market. One of the most striking is undoubtedly the chronograph with the typical 12-sided bezel with „waves“, which after all became a style icon.

This aviator chronograph was also used by the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr), but how did that happen and which aviator chronographs did Junghans put on as well?

Pilots of the german air force (Luftwaffe) already used wrist chronographs in World War II. These were produced by the Uhrenfabrik AG Tutima from Glashütte / Sa. and by the company Hanhart from Schwenningen/Neckar. Inside the Tutima worked the caliber UROFA (Uhren- Rohwerke Fabrik Glashütte AG) 59 with 21 stones and 15''', in the Hanhart initially the caliber 40 (one-pusher chronograph), then the caliber 41 (asymmetrical pushers) and also after 1945 the caliber 41 (17 stones, 15.5''') and as reference 417 with nickel-plated brass case and stainless steel snap on case back. The reference 417-ES became a steel case.

After the war and the new formation of the Bundeswehr in 1955 and especially with the reorganization of the Luftwaffe and naval aviation in early 1956, the call for a chronograph was loud and probably initially was considered to fall back on proven. The watches of the company Tutima were unreachable by the location Glashütte on the territory of the GDR and the choice was therefore on the watches of Hanhart. The Hanhart chronographs were slightly modified compared to those used in the war, the distance between the pushers was no longer asymetric, the case was smaller and the strap bars were no longer fixed to the case. Hanhart won the race for the first aviator chronograph used by the Bundeswehr.

The aviation wrist chronograph by Junghans

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Construction plans Junghans J88; documents courtesy of Uhrenfabrik Junghans, Schramberg

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Construction plans Junghans J88; documents courtesy of Uhrenfabrik Junghans, Schramberg

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Construction plans Junghans J88; documents courtesy of Uhrenfabrik Junghans, Schramberg

Junghans also worked on a wristwatch chronograph, the legendary Junghans J88, during the war, at least since 1943. On a caliber listing from 1957 even the year 1939 is to be found as beginning of the construction. The earliest date that can be proved at present is 1943, as shown by the data on various construction plans. Only a few companies were still working on the construction of new movements at that time, mainly the watch producers had to produce bomb detonators and there were hardly any resources left for development of wrist watches.

Officially Junghans from 1949 on developed the caliber and in 1950 the ratchet chronograph was introduced. The gold-plated movement is equipped with 19 jewels, the built-in Breguet hairspring (Nivarox I) lets the balance of the 14-line caliber breathe with 18,000 A/h. In 1950 Kurt von Zeppelin presented the legendary caliber J88 to the trade press in an article in the German watchmaker magazine No. 8, of course still in the civilian version.

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Deutsche Uhrmacher-Zeitschrift No 8 1950; page 202 f

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Deutsche Uhrmacher-Zeitschrift No 8 1950; page 202 f

The author of the article, Kurt von Zeppelin, was employed at Junghans from 01.01.1930 until September 1972. For 22 years he was a member of the management board in the technology division and a member of the executive board. In January 1962, he was appointed to the board.

Junghans consistently continued the development of the chronograph. In the first version, the balance pins were still beared without shock protection, watches with shock protection (Junghans II) followed only from 1952. 

No shock protection, no serial number

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Junghans J88 (civil), reference number 88/0002 RZ without shock protection, without serial number; collection Bernhard Schmotte

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Junghans J88 (civil), reference number 88/0002 RZ without shock protection, without serial number; collection Bernhard Schmotte

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Junghans J88 (civil), reference number 88/0002 RZ without shock protection, without serial number; collection Bernhard Schmotte

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Junghans J88 (civil) reference number 88/0003 RZ without shock protection, without serial number; crown not original; collection Michael Weisser

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Junghans J88 (civil) reference number 88/0003 RZ without shock protection, without serial number; crown not original; collection Michael Weisser

Chronographs with oval or square pushers are often not sufficiently dustproof or waterproof due to their design, and even the pressed base is not necessarily a guarantee of impermeability.

With serial number and shock protection

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Junghans J88; reference number 88/6004 with serial number and shock protection; collection Michael Weisser

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Junghans J88; reference number 88/6004 with serial number and shock protection; collection Michael Weisser

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Junghans J88; reference number 88/6004 with serial number and shock protection; collection Michael Weisser

Junghans made even more improvements: From 1953, the chronograph appeared in calibre lists and brochures as "shock protected and waterproof", meaning that tight watches with screwed backs and round pushers were now available. With this watch, two important steps had been taken towards a more durable chronograph - shock protection and waterproof. Junghans awarded this timepiece the caliber designation Junghans J88/1. At the latest from the introduction of military use, a serial number followed on all watches, including those used for civil purposes, near the balance.

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Catalogue 1953; Junghans J88/0101 RZ and J88/0102 RZ; "shockproof and waterproof"

A watch for the Bundeswehr

After the foundation of the Bundeswehr in November 1955, the Luftwaffe was founded at the beginning of 1956. Probably in the same year (1956), the Bundeswehr searched for a service chronograph for its pilots and Junghans submitted its caliber J88. In addition to Hanhart, the Bundeswehr needed a further supplier for an aviator chronograph, because in principle at least two suppliers were preferred for the procurement of goods. Furthermore, Hanhart had problems producing the required quantities in Gütenbach at that time and the BWB (Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung) accessed the Junghans J88 offered by Junghans in order to create a further alternative to the standard supply of wristwatch chronographs.

Junghans offered various models, including a model with 43 mm and riffle bezel and a further 43 mm model with flyback function ("retour en vole").

Model with 43 mm and corrugated bezel

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Junghans J88 with Poire- hands and 43 mm diameter; watch: Dieter Dietrich

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Junghans J88 with Poire- hands and 43 mm diameter; watch: Dieter Dietrich

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Junghans J88 with Poire- hands and 43 mm diameter; watch: Dieter Dietrich

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Junghans J88 with Poire- hands and 43 mm diameter; watch: Dieter Dietrich

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Junghans J88 with Poire- hands and 43 mm diameter; watch: Dieter Dietrich

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Junghans J88 with Poire- hands and 43 mm diameter; watch: Dieter Dietrich

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Junghans J88 with Poire- hands and 43 mm diameter; watch: Dieter Dietrich

Model with flyback function (also tempo switching, or "return en vole")

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Junghans J88 with flyback function, Poire squélette hands, radium filled; photo Konrad Knirim

The variant finally approved by the Bundeswehr had a case diameter of 38 mm and no flyback function and was probably delivered from 1957 or 1958. The large Arabic luminous numerals were also unusual on the dial design. The watches allowed an exact measurement up to half an hour.

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Data sheet of the Wehrtechnische Dienststelle (WTD), Koblenz; photo/collection Konrad Knirim

Two types were approved for standard supply: The former variant, called "Type 110", has a corrugated bezel. The variant with the typical twelve waves was introduced somewhat later and was called "Type 111". The Wehrtechnische Dienststelle (WTD) in Koblenz (Germany) indicates the year of introduction 1959 for type 111 and "before 1959" for type 110.

The watches were used by flying personnel of the TSK (Teilstreitkräfte; German Armed Forces) Army, Air Force and Navy, as well as by the Fernspähtruppe of the Army and by ship command personnel on submarines. The classic dial in bicompax arrangement of the two totalizers at 3 and 9 is clear and little overloaded. The luminous numerals and hands were filled with radium or in later versions also with tritium luminous material.

The early Junghans-Bund

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Junghans J88 pre-series; no bezel; photo Konrad Knirim

Probably the earliest watches used by the German Armed Forces to be tested had, in addition to the complete supply number (6645-12-120-9351) and the type number (88/0110), a "serial number" engraved without a template (photo: 28.).

Two watches are known here so far, which each have only 19 rubis on the dial and strangely enough both watches are without bezel. Probably the watches were actually without bezel, but it is also possible that these were lost and these are watches on which the ribbed bezel of the type 88/0110 first used by the Bundeswehr belonged. It is conceivable that the bad fixation of the riffle bezel led to a new construction and thus to the solution of the Junghans product designer Max Scheller, who covered the entire bezel and not only fixed it better, but also gave it a new design.

Type 110

ribbed bezel

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Junghans J88 Type 110; collection Bernhard Schmotte

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Junghans J88 Type 110; collection Bernhard Schmotte

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Junghans J88 Type 110; collection Bernhard Schmotte

Also on the back cover of the standard type 110 with riffle bezel was engraved beside the Bundeswehr supply number 88/0110, above it also the supply number 6645-12-120-9351 in full length. The later used "Bundeseigentum" did not exist with these models. The first cases were made of matt chrome plated nickel silver, later of matt chrome plated brass.

Typ 111

12-sided bezel, coin edged bezel

The Type 88/0111 is almost a Junghans trademark - the rotating bezel with twelve concave grooves was designed by Junghans product designer Max Scheller (1927 - 1985). Not only the face of the watch was changed, the functionality was also improved, as the bezel could be easily operated with gloves, thanks to the concave indentations. Here, too, the cases were originally made of nickel silver, later of brass, which is matt chrome-plated, as is often the case for military watches (the matt chrome-plate).

Typ 111

Engraving BUNDESWEHR

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Junghans J88 Type 111; „Bundeswehr“; photos/collection Stephan Schaefer

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Junghans J88 Type 111; „Bundeswehr“; photos/collection Stephan Schaefer

The first versions of type 111 didn't have the engraving "BUNDESEIGENTUM" on the back like later versions, but "BUNDESWEHR", then with the complete supply number: 6645-12-124-8591. Later the shortened supply number was engraved: 12-124-8591.

Engraving BUNDESEIGENTUM

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Junghans J88 Type 111; „Bundeseigentum“; collection Bernhard Schmotte

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Junghans J88 Type 111; „Bundeseigentum“; collection Bernhard Schmotte

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Junghans J88 type 111 in perfect condition, NOS; photo watch factory Junghans, Schramberg

Type 112

Bright chrome plated

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Junghans J88 type 112 shiny chrome plated; collection Michael Weisser

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Junghans J88 type 112 shiny chrome plated; collection Michael Weisser

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Junghans J88 type 112 shiny chrome plated; collection Michael Weisser

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Junghans J88 Comparison matt (Type 111) and bright (Type 112) chrome plated; Collection Michael Weisser

There is also a bright chrome version called type 112.

Type 111 for civil aviation

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Junghans J88 catalogue; handwritten note about Friebe, Heidelberg, a supplier for civil aviation supplies

Even watches without an engraving of the German Armed Forces' ownership mark were sold, for example by suppliers of civil aviation equipment such as Friebe, at that time probably based in Heidelberg.

Dial variants

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Junghans J88 Type 111

There are different dial variations, the earliest watches with the riffle bezel (type 110) had only "19 RUBIS" on the dial. Later, the hexagonal Junghans star with the JUNGHANS lettering below was the most commonly used dial imprint of type 111.

Variants of the dial imprint:

19 RUBIS (Type 110)

JUNGHANS (Type 111)

Star, below JUNGHANS (type 110 and type 111)

JUNGHANS, below 19 RUBIS (type 110 and type 111)

19 RUBIS, below JUNGHANS (type 111)

Since the watches certainly have many years of use and thus also maintenance behind them, a dial replacement as a result of repair work is not uncommon. In later years, the most frequently used dial (star, including JUNGHANS) was usually used for revision purposes.

The screwed case back is doubled with a rubber seal, a sealing ring in the case and a sealing in the screwed steel back. Some watches carry on the right totalizer, the minute counter, a division with longer lines after three, six and nine minutes for the easy readability of the then three-minute billing cycle of the telephone provider. Various sets of hands were also used, for example for the type 111: minute counter hand with arrowhead.

Minute counter with arrowhead

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Junghans J88 Type 111; Minute counter with arrowhead; collection Bernhard Schmotte

The bracelet

Certain watches for the Bundeswehr were equipped with a steel bracelet supplied by the Kiefer company. The straps had a distance of 19 mm and carried the engraving "Kiefer BW -12-121-5361" or "expandro SPORT 1516 STAINLESS STEEL -12-121-5361" on the inside of the strap joint. Other watches had black leather straps with draught.

The successor

Heuer

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With kindly permission: Kronenfan/Uhrforum

The 088/0110 and 088/0111 from Junghans without flyback was used until 1967 when the successor model Leonidas Heuer 1550SG was found. Presumably the transition was smooth and still functioning Junghans chronographs were used further and if necessary for new timepieces the Heuer chronograph was used. Use of the Junghans J88 is known until the 1980s.

This ended the military use of the Junghans pilot chronographs.

The Heuer chronographs were also serviced by the Junghans head company Diehl elektronik until the 1990s.

Frankenwatch

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Junghans J88; photo Uhrenfabrik Junghans, Schramberg

Sometimes watches appear that are assembled from different parts (so-called "Frankenwatches"). Here a "Frankenwatch" with riffle bezel and 110 type case, civil reference 88/0005 dial and 88/600X reference hands (gold-plated case).

Whether these actually left the factory halls and were used by the Bundeswehr remains questionable.

1998 reissue

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Photo of the 1998 edition; reference 027/3850.00; photo watch factory Junghans, Schramberg

In 1998, Junghans fortunately revived the aviator chronograph. The new edition with the reference 027/3850.00 was externally very faithful to the original and only 1,000 watches were produced. Inside, the caliber ETA-Valjoux 7760 is ticking, the case with a diameter of 38 mm is made of matt-blasted stainless steel. A nice and interesting detail: the Junghans star is also found on the crown. The watch cost DM 2,900 at the time.

Unfortunately, there are several fakes or non-licensed replicas of this watch, but they are usually easily recognized by spelling mistakes on the back („wassergechützt“, „Junghangs"), even the serial number is often the same. Other replicas often carry the caliber Poljot P3133 and often have a date display at 6 o'clock. The unauthorized replicas even go so far that the Junghans logo and the name are not only used on the dial and on the bottom cover, but also on the crown is the Junghans star. These watches are not shown on this website.

Junghans Pilot Chronoscope

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Pilot Chronoscope Referenz 027/452200; photo: Uhrenfabrik Junghans, Schramberg

In 2005, Junghans launched another pilot's chronograph, the Junghans Pilot Chronoscope with reference 027/4522 and a satin stainless steel case diameter of 43mm, which was allowed to wear the bezel with grooves. The very present watch runs with the Junghans caliber J880, an ETA-Valjoux 7750 with Geneva stripes and 25 jewels.

The movement allows a few new indications on the dial: three totalizers with 30 min counter at 12, an hour counter (up to 12 hours) at 6 and a permanent second at 9.

In addition, the watch features a weekday and date display at 3. The case has a more massive cushion shape than the previous chronographs, the tops of the flanks are provided with additional distinctive screws. The pushers are not round but rectangular and therefore easy to use.

Junghans Meister Pilot Chronoscope

Relaunch in february 2016

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Re-edition from 2016 Junghans Meister Pilot Chronoscope Referenz 027/3590.00; photo: Uhrenfabrik Junghans, Schramberg

The year 2016 follows an extremely successful reissue with the Junghans Meister Pilot with the reference number 027/3590.00. The watch is strongly based on the original from the 1950s, but very successfully uses new, modern style elements. The case has a much larger diameter of 43.3 mm, the pushers are mushroom-shaped and thus wider and more striking, the hands are sword-like and the second hand is equipped with a small luminous tip and counterweight. The watch gets rare consecrations and is counted to the master class at Junghans - Meister Pilot. The dial also features the "Chronoscope", now used by Junghans to designate chronographs.

Inside, the J880.4 calibre, which Junghans calls the J880.4, ticks with the chronograph module from Dubois Depraz 2030, which has the ETA 2824 or the Selitta SW200 as its basic calibre. It is rhodium-plated and shows a beautiful striped finish on the rotor and the bridge.

The watch is now available in three versions, with black leather strap (reference 027/3590.00) or brown strap (reference 027/3591.00) and with a black DLC-coated case with brown dial and strap (reference 027/3794.00).

Only a short and small edition of an event edition was published for the launch of the Meister Pilot at the Junghans headquarters.


There are two other Junghans watches which are not listed here:

The Junghans Mega Aviator Chronoscope and the Erhard Junghans Aerious Chronoscope.

Acknowledgement

A big thank for  help by exchanging informations and the possibility to use photos and documents goes to:

Watch factory Junghans, Konrad Knirim, Wolfgang Ingerl, Jens Finkbeiner, Bernhard Schmotte, Michael Weisser, Dieter Dietrich, Stephan Schaefer, "Kronenfan".

If you are looking for more information about military watches, you cannot miss the book by Konrad Knirim: Military Timepieces. 150 Years of Timekeeping in the German Military

Collection of serial numbers caliber J88

Please help!

Here is a direct link to the category "serial numbers" where the numbers of the caliber Junghans J88 are under construction:

Serial numbers Junghans J88

Unfortunately I don't have the amount of own Junghans J88 to create a meaningful list, so here's the clear call for help! Who can supply serial numbers (embossed on the movement plate near the balance) with a description of the respective watch would be very helpful!