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A place for SAAF's (South African Air Force pilot's watch thread)

  1. eugeneandresson 'I used a hammer, a chisel, and my fingers' May 18, 2019

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    I find it quite difficult to believe that there is still no thread dedicated to these beautiful and rare watches (google-searching ΩF yields none). So, here it is. Show us your SAAF's.

    I'll go first...with a bit of a story.

    My story with these watches began when I was first made aware of the Lemania SAAF 5012 in the late 90's. During my travels as a young man, I rocked my gold-capped Omega Geneve (the uncle watch) and I happened to befriend a guy at the time who's father was issued one (thanks Geneve for initiating the conversation). It was unnecessary to see it to know I wanted one ... his description of this watch (and his father ... a bad-ass helicopter pilot...) made me know I had to have one...and then seeing it in his photos of his father sealed the lust : there is just something fantastic and unique about the aesthetic of this watch. 'One day' I told myself ...

    Fast forward about 20 years to 2017 when I came into contact with an Omega collector who happened to have one of these rare and beautiful pieces. He also happened be a SAAF watch collector of many years (but finding it increasingly difficult to complete his collection) and had a few more SAAF watches too ... and he also happened to be a retired SAAF pilot. That is pretty darn 'out there' by my book. We ended up chatting regularly throughout the following year.

    As it turns out, he still has his logbook...

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    ..and flight suite (and Ray-Bans!)

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    He was not issued his 5012, but its successor, The Seiko 7A28, seen above.

    His office is still full of pilot's paraphernalia and aircraft chronographs and the like (since retiring from the SAAF, until recently, he still flew for a living...and told me some unreal stories from as recently as a few years ago ).

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    (his office was much more charming / interesting in the flesh then this one small part shown)

    At some point last year, he decided he wanted to further his Omega collection. I take it he also was evaluating me as a collector (and person) in the meanwhile. I happened to have some Omega's that tickled his fancy...and so he proposed a trade.

    I thus have the privilege and honor to be the next custodian of the core of his SAAF watch collection, and in becoming that, I also had the privilege and honor and pleasure to break bread and share wine and be a warmly welcome guest of him and his family. It was one of the sincerest and most hospitable experiences I have ever had with a total stranger, who I now call friend ... such a refreshing rarity in today's silicon coated egotistical face-value based rat-race. It would be my absolute pleasure to return for a visit and talk watches and hear stories and the like again. But it is quite a long way away...

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    And some delicious local home-cooked cuisine ... I was treated like a king!

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    Please excuse the feet. It was not yet summer, but for people-from-the-north it was unbearably hot...

    I was lucky enough to see the kind of life he lives ... where he works ... what he does... how he gets there, the geography of his origins with vast open space and beautiful nature...rural one-horse towns with one traffic light, and two streets.

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    But I digress. Back to watches.

    Like a lot of EBay sales ads with questionable pictures, I only received these kind of pictures (and absolutely no offense meant) no matter how good my instructions. Can see what it is, but the bad looks worse, the good is not visible, not a lot of clarity, colors flat. The take here is : some folks just don't care for the latest most expensive mobiles (in some countries, its not an insignificant amount of money) and some optimize and use their old phones as long as possible (and that is very prudent and arguably more ecological...if only more folks generated less trash), and thus there are still a lot of old sub-par phone cameras around with bad auto-focus (or the users don't know how to use them to focus or can't see that they are in or out of focus). Combine that with aged folk who are far sighted, and *voila* ... eBay-like pics.

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    Still enough to go on, and as you know, in the flesh often times the results are a lovely surprise...

    Lemania 5012

    Everyone has heard the story about how when the Seiko's were issued, the pilots returned their Lemania's for a new 'better' Seiko, and how the SAAF didn't really know what to do with these watches, thus opted for destroying them. This particular watch was bought from the actual bloke who did that destroying for the SAAF (I have his name...)...for the equivalent of $2.10. I am sure quite a few made it to the watch world this way. But my soul cringes to think of those that didn't escape...

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    Even though he was not the original issued pilot for this watch, it has been with him for most of its life, and one can see it. Charm! Its a first series 5012, the AF numbers are very finely engraved...and the watch has had such a life that you can hardly see the numbers directly (they are visible in the correct lighting and under microscope by rotating the back around the lightsource). The case has had a bit of a polish. It came with a tachymeter rehaut (which I believe fit the Porsche Design watches of the same era made by Lemania and powered with the 5100). The bezel is well worn, but the biggest oddity is that this bezel font is the only one of these watches I have seen that matches the font of the (correct) rehaut inside the crystal. Thats a thing I can no longer unsee...and so, quite strangely, all 5012's I see in pictures look a bit off to me (due to fonts...talk about OCD!!!). And then there is the red pip in the bezel...I attribute that (and the tachymeter) to another thing I learnt from him about the SAAF pilots in those days...

    It was fashionable for the pilots to customize their kit, and got the SAAF watchmaker to customize their watches to their wish... as can be seen in the following two ...

    Seiko 7A28

    IMG_9449.jpg

    (This is his issued piece :) )

    Breguet Type 11 Aircraft Chronograph

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    Quite strangely, I really like the customization on these two. I will not touch them... this is what an airforce pilot did to his tools. The Seiko is the only quartz Seiko in my collection. And its definitely the coolest and most comfortable (even the vintage strap is great, it’s a thin and light piece)...an absolute pleasure to wear (although I only wore it during my trip, it could use a service)...AF markings are thick.

    The Breguet was the chronograph used in the Mirage fighter jets that the SAAF bought in the 60's. This was an overly generous gift. I was marveling at the things in his office (not pictured), and he had about 4 different aircraft clocks on his office wall panels. He handed me a screwdriver, and told me to unscrew this particular one (strangely enough, I found it the most interesting, without having a clue what it was). I did not want to do it, but, when a Lt.Col tells you to do something in his dont-muck-with-me-tone you say 'yes Sir!'. And 'Thank you Sir!'. Also thick AF markings.

    The most surprising one in the flesh to me was this one (compare it to the received images).

    Lemania Cal 2220 Monopusher
    I find this one absolutely stunning in its aged and imperfect state...so full of character...and that off-white dial is just ::love::.

    IMG_9448.jpg

    This is similar to the MoD issued Lemania's of this era (of which there are no shortage on the market), but with the later cal 2220 movement found in the asymmetric-cased successors of this model for the MoD. And also AF marked, and with fixed bars. These are nowhere to be found (I did find a thread of an identical one on one of the military watch forums, but for now it eludes me...will find it and edit). I eagerly await getting this one serviced and on the wrist.

    The 5012 I has just come back from service, and it looks just fine. A massive thanks to @tapaptpat for feeding me endless snippets of information, as well as pointing me to a rehaut for this grail of grails which I changed to return it to original aesthetic.

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    Whatever you do, don't notice the matching fonts ... you might forever thereafter see the mismatch in others :)

    PS: all pics, stories, SAAF info/facts, corrections (via PM please!) welcome...
    PPS: this OP has been approved and read by the gentleman (who remains anonymous) whose SAAF watch collection I am now in custody of. Anymore info he shares with me shall be edited into this post. His exact words upon reading this post are : "This post honors my philosophy of cherishing these items. And this is the exact reason why I left these precious things in your care" ...

    Edit : I managed to find a picture of the RAAN with matching bezel to mine. Resolution is poor, but if one compares the serrations on the bezel, at the 12 o'clock pip (on normal SAAFs, its about 3x the width of World Timer bezels (and my SAAF) where its just normal), compare the fonts, and the thickness of the bezel, it should be clear.

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    Edited Aug 7, 2019
  2. kov Trüffelschwein. May 18, 2019

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    What a post ! ::love::::love::::love::

    I can't wait to see that SAAF collection in steel ! GTG to plan asap - beers loading [​IMG]
     
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  3. Gentle Ben May 18, 2019

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    Very interesting. Good work!
     
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  4. shishy www.hpmor.com May 18, 2019

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    I want that monopusher!!

    But here's a picture of my 5012 :). Welcome to the club!

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    And here is my Lemania monopusher, with a cal. 2220 movement and a no-lume dial for British MoD officers on nuclear submarines.

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  5. maanu May 18, 2019

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    Really good write up. Adding my SAAF pictures.
     
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  6. eugeneandresson 'I used a hammer, a chisel, and my fingers' May 18, 2019

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    You, Sir, like me, will have to wait till the family is ready for the wrist :) Looking forward :thumbsup:
     
  7. eugeneandresson 'I used a hammer, a chisel, and my fingers' May 18, 2019

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    @shishy ... stunning pair you have there ... however, one of them is not SAAF issued :whipped: ... and the other, well, I can't unsee the font thing (thats my problem) :p I guess there is also a dibs in there somewhere ... noted :thumbsup:
     
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  8. eugeneandresson 'I used a hammer, a chisel, and my fingers' May 18, 2019

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    @maanu That is an absolute beaut ... and the only one I would still consider adding to the collection. Congrats on finding such a fine specimen.
     
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  9. mblease May 18, 2019

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    Amazing post Eugene! Very enjoyable read. :thumbsup:
     
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  10. shishy www.hpmor.com May 18, 2019

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    I know, I know, but they're basically brothers
     
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  11. Nathan1967 May 18, 2019

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    Can’t play, won’t ever be able to play, but I am so pleased for you. 20 yrs of eyes on the prize - I know what that feels like when you finally get there.
    Let me know if the Arctos is now superfluous to your collection..... ;)
     
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  12. CdnWatchDoc May 18, 2019

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    Fantastic story! Love the pics and the descriptions...I now have another "rabbit hole" to explore. Thanks for sharing Eugene!
     
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  13. jerryct May 19, 2019

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    Such an inspiring story. Goes to show watch collecting goes beyond just watches.
     
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  14. eugeneandresson 'I used a hammer, a chisel, and my fingers' May 19, 2019

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    Never say never :)

    Arguably I was chasing a lot of other *cough*cough* things in the greater part of that time ... hence it took so long ;) But with age comes wisdom (we hope) ...

    Noted.

    Speaking of which...that one is bone dry and in for a service (more flattering pics to come in a few months...this was taken at the watchmaker exchange)...

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    The DNA is clear. And such a minty handsome beast it is as well. I believe the Lemania RAAN (so the one that looks almost identical to the SAAF, but with incabloc on the dial) shares the same movement (5100) as the Arctos-signed one and not the SAAF(5012). It would be great if @tapaptpat would create a thread about his beautiful RAAN, as well as the encyclopedic snippets of knowledge he has on them, as they are practically non-existant/non-present on the interwebs...

    Edit : and about the Arctos ... would love more info from anyone who may have anything, or even pics from others who might have one. I can not find anything on this watch. The only pics on the web, are of this exact watch (correlated with the bezel marks)...so the 2 or 3 times its was sold. I wrote to Breguet sending in all possible pictures of it (and the 5012), SN's caseback shots, side profiles, the whole bang shoot, but it appears in the multiple handovers of the Lemania Watch Co all paperwork is lost (or misplaced) and their archivists came back after a month with a 'sorry, we can not find anything'...
     
    Edited May 19, 2019
  15. J-Luc May 19, 2019

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    Beautiful story, Thanks Eugene.

    My Lemania
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  16. eugeneandresson 'I used a hammer, a chisel, and my fingers' May 19, 2019

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    Merci @J-Luc

    Your world timer must be extremely rare...
     
  17. andy_s Jun 2, 2019

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    Fantastic WorldTime J-Luc. Great story there eugeneandresson with some great examples.

    The case (Arctos too I imagine) is also shared with the Heuer 510-523 family:
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    Certainly one of my favourites:

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    [​IMG]
     
  18. eugeneandresson 'I used a hammer, a chisel, and my fingers' Jun 6, 2019

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    Per chance I had the pleasure of happening upon @J-Luc this evening...the universe must have know as I sure didn’t because I randomly switched out my watch to the 5012 today. Sweet Lord what an armful of ::love::::love::::love::::love::

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    And this is a pile of vintage newspapers from 19 July 1969...pity I was too fixated on the mini Lemania s—pile to take better pictures of them...

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    Edited Jun 6, 2019
  19. Sanremo Aug 1, 2019

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    I love-hates these posts. A small part of me feel green of envy but most I love reading about these fantastic pieces.
    Thank you all for sharing (and I hate you )
     
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  20. matthewt Aug 7, 2019

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    Do you know if the 5012's specifically were issued to any other Airforces apart from South Africa. I have a 5012 that is a bit of a mystery. The caseback stamp is AF 20XXX, and i thought all the SAAF issued ones were AF11XXX. I also notice some have thick outer bezels and others have thin?? FYI, the hands on mine have been painted a cream colour, but i have a few sets of orig hands that i intend to change them for.

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