Today I would like to introduce you to a very interesting vintage alarm watch - Wittnauer alarm watch - with one of the first modular alarm movements with technically very unusual construction of the movement, called WA10.
Wittnauer is an American based watch company which at the beginning produced watches based on Longines and Girrad-Perregaux movements. In early fifties Wittanuer developed also it's only in house movement - alarm movement WA10.
WA10 is in general a typical modular movement where Longines hand wind movement was used for the base of the watch movement. On top of it Wittnauer developed it's in house own alarm module which was attached to Longines. As far as I know this WA10 alarm modular movement is in fact the first ever alarm watch movement which was done on a modular way. All other alarm movements developed before WA10 (Vulcain 120, JLC 489 and Junghans J89) are integrated movements.
Of course due to the modularity two spring barrels with two separate operations are present so one for alarm function and one for time function. What is strange, unusual, different here is that alarm module was entirely operated by bezel!
What does that mean? The best way to explain is to simply describe how one can operate with the watch:
Basic time functions are from Longines - so crown in position 0 is winding and in position 1 setting the time. Nothing strange here.
But as said, alarm is entirely operated by turning the bezel. Turning bezel anti clockwise winds alarm and at the same time move alarm hand. When alarm is fully winded it is forbidden to turn bezel any more since this can break the movement! So if alarm hand is not yet in the required position but alarm is fully winded one can only move time hands to the alarm position, so that alarm start buzzing and that alarm spring is released. If I add that for alarm to be fully winded you need just 1,5 turns of the bezel you can imagine that setting and winding alarm is quite a tricky and needs some experience. The best way is to set alarm between 12-18 hours before you need alarm and to turn bezel little more than one full turn of the bezel. You must be aware that fully winded alarm has only power for 7 seconds of ringing. But in reality you are a master if you can set the watch to ring more than 4-5 seconds. That's why you don't have any function to stop ringing except of course moving alarm or time hands. But for such a short ringing that really is not needed.
Since movement is very unpractical and it could easy breake, Wittnauer soon abandoned production of this movement and then produced alarm watches with A.Schild movements instead.
Watch is for the beginning of fifties quite big, it's diameter is 36mm. All other alarm watches from that time were 34mm at most. The main reason for this size is again the bezel which is wider than case itself due to easier and better grip for winding. But on the other hand by this bezel covers much of the winding crown and due to that winding of the watch part is harder than one would expect from standard Longines movement.
Watch is very wearable even today, it looks nice on the wrist, has quite attractive look. Due to it's short production time and breakability it is quite hard to find a fully operational WA10 watch nowadays. I am proud to have not just fully operational watch in great condition but even box and papers. The only flaw is that guarantee card is not filled with the date of initial purchase.
Even though watch was not in production for a long time, it's inovative modular approach and some bezel functions were used in many other alarm movements. For example Baumgartner movement BMG90 or Hanhart 301 both used bezel for the alarm hand setting. But as far as I know no one tried to adopt the idea of using bezel also for winding.
The principle of modular movement where some alarm movement is attached to some time movement has become quite common. The most known and easy modular movements were developed by Ronda which added alarm module to it's base 1213 movement and the result was well known 1223 and later 1243 movement. Interesting modular alarm movements are also one made by NEPRO, where battery powered alarm module was attached to mechanical FHF90 or ETA2671 movements. The latest modular alarm watch was made by Tudor with Tudor Heritage Advisor watch where in house alarm module is attached to ETA 2892. But list of modular alarm movements is much bigger, of course.
So all in all this watch is a great example why do we love vintage watches.
P.S.: This article was first published on "Portal satova" watch forum on September 2020.