Important Watches

Important Watches

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 57. Reference TR-900 | A stainless steel anti-magnetic diver’s wristwatch with humidity indicator, Made for the U.S. Navy, Circa 1965.

Tornek Rayville

Reference TR-900 | A stainless steel anti-magnetic diver’s wristwatch with humidity indicator, Made for the U.S. Navy, Circa 1965

Auction Closed

December 7, 07:12 PM GMT


70,000 - 120,000 USD

Lot Details


Dial: black 

Caliber: cal. AS 1361 automatic, 17 jewels

Case: stainless steel, screw down case back

Case number: 0’410

Size: 41 mm diameter

Signed: case, dial and movement

Box: no

Papers: no

In 1961, the US government, under contract MIL-W-22176A, was looking to supply their sailors with a watch that would withstand the rigors of modern SCUBA diving. Many manufacturers attempted to win the contract, but due to the numerous and specific demands set forth by the Navy, a watch supplied by Allen Tornek was the only one to meet them all. The Tornek-Rayville TR-900 was more than meets the eye, however, it was an incognito Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. 


Several watches were to be tested by the navy, each a hopeful to win the contract to supply the first UDT (underwater demolition team) divers. Namely the Enicar Sea Pearl, Rolex Submariner, and Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. The testing procedure was brutal. The watches would be dropped from great heights, frozen solid, exposed to high temperatures, and stomped into sandy beaches, to name a few.


Not only was the Blancpain the only watch to meet all of the criteria set forth, of the three watches to be abused in The Navy’s tests, it was the only one still ticking when all was said and done. But, how did a Blancpain come to be branded Tornek-Rayville? The most difficult standard to be met was due the “Buy American Act” of 1933, which required that military goods be procured from within the U.S. In order to circumvent this requirement, Allen Tornek would import watches from Villeret through his U.S.-based company. As for “Rayville,” that was merely anagram/americanization of Villeret, the town in Switzerland where Blancpain resides.


In excellent condition, this TR-900 retains all its original parts. The PM147 luminous material on the dial has aged evenly to an attractive and deep yellow, with a matching seconds hand. The hour and minute had—as is consistent with other first batch TR900 watches—have aged to a bold umber. The moisture indicator at 6:00 retains its color differential, denoting that the integrity of the case has not been breached. The bakelite bezel is free from cracks and the luminous material has aged slightly darker than the dial. The case remains in unpolished condition, presenting normal wear from field use. While the case back shows signs of strap burn, all the text remains bold and legible. Presented on a Phoenix G10 NATO-style strap.