Operation Mincemeat...the man who never was wore the watch that no one knows?

I've just finished the book " Operation Mincemeat" by Ben Macintyre which describes the astounding true story of the most audacious and successful deception ever carried out during the second World War.

A British Naval Intelligence Team which included a young Ian Flemming used a stolen corpse disguised as a Royal Marines Officer with some false papers to fool the Axis into thinking Greece rather than Sicily would be invaded in July 1943.

I'm posting this for two reasons.

Firstly the attention to detail in the planning and execution of this operation will appeal,I believe to many warch collectors?

Secondly the mystery, I believe, surrounding the watch worn by the corpse?

The only description I can find in the list of personal effects is " watch , wrist" to describe the said timepiece. 

There is one photograph I could find which shows surprisingly a dress watch rather than a field watch?

The watch is on a leather strap and appears to have a small seconds complication. That's about it!

Why was this supposed Royal Marines Major wearing a dress watch rather than an issue Field watch?

Can anyone identify the watch worn?

Sorry its not much to go on! I have done a bit of research but have so far drawn a blank.

Anyone more expert in Vintage dress watches or vintage in general able to shed some light on this fascinating mystery?

·

Great questions!

My first instinct is to tag @Aurelian on this, but I also did some digging.

Rectangular watches were so common back then and many watch companies sold them. Some of the indicators I am searching for are:

  1.  “rectangular watch” or “tank watch”
  2. “sub seconds”
  3.  “arabic numerals”
  4.  “inner track”

I’m also looking for that inner rectangle, which might or not be the minutes track. Here are a couple that are along those lines. However, I don’t see enough of the 6 showing and with the CYMA, it seems that the 5 and 7 are sitting out too far.

Image
Image

Aslo, for anyone else looking, here’s the largest version of the original image that I could find and another I cropped to focus on the watch.

Image
Image
·

Sorry, I don't have time for that internet search today. The fully visible six is unusual. It is a blocky case. My first thought is a 1930's watch easily available in London.  There were so many jobbers watches cased in London that it may be impossible to tell.  It was probably inexpensive.

Here is a Marvin with a fully visible 6:

Marvin | tijdloos
·

I think we can add some constraints to the search.  It’s likely a British brand, high volume and cheap.  They wouldn’t use a name brand European company like Omega, JLC or IWC where the origin of the watch could be searched in the archives. It would have to be as untraceable as the person.

We tend to think nowadays that every soldier or officer was issued a watch.  That isn’t the case.  Only certain naval personnel were issued watches, navigators, watch officers, etc.  In the army, certain artillery personnel got watches.  I don’t think all air crew even got watches, just navigators and certain pilots.  The rest had to supply their own watches.

I have a breakdown of what Hamilton supplied during WWII and as you can see, they could not have supplied all the millions in the service, even accounting for Elgin,Waltham, etc. adding to the totals. 

Image
·
Aurelian

Sorry, I don't have time for that internet search today. The fully visible six is unusual. It is a blocky case. My first thought is a 1930's watch easily available in London.  There were so many jobbers watches cased in London that it may be impossible to tell.  It was probably inexpensive.

Here is a Marvin with a fully visible 6:

Marvin | tijdloos

That dial is spot on.  I was looking for a model with a sub-seconds register that was tucked up close to the central pinion and the Marvin is just like that.

This dial might have been available in several models of jobber cases to suit the customer’s style.

Edit - I visited the site that your photo came from to see different angles of the case back.  I’m pretty sure you nailed the exact model. 

·
Davemcc

That dial is spot on.  I was looking for a model with a sub-seconds register that was tucked up close to the central pinion and the Marvin is just like that.

This dial might have been available in several models of jobber cases to suit the customer’s style.

Edit - I visited the site that your photo came from to see different angles of the case back.  I’m pretty sure you nailed the exact model. 

The visible 6 is the biggest clue given all of the other context.

·

I've just picked up these responses guys. I'm in Greece near the hoax landing grounds funnily enough. One of the reasons I was reading the book!

I was aware that issue field watches were far from standard in the British Military at that time. My late father was a Royal Engineers Officer in Burma at this time and never mentioned from memory having an issue watch?

My uneducated guess was that they would have given the body a civilian watch of the type readily available at that time and pretty nondescript. Definitely not a higher end watch with a traceable serial number as you point out!

I have looked several times for a better or indeed any other photograph but nothing so far! Many thanks for your thoughts!

·

So its looking like the Marvin is the best contender. It does look very similar indeed?