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Gallet-made Desert Storm/Desert Shield watches

  1. krogerfoot

    krogerfoot Dec 27, 2019

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    I know very little about military watches or government sourcing, but a number of elements in the story that the Gallet company tells about its Marathon watch strike me as implausible.

    Screenshot 2019-12-28 06.51.05.png

    This description comes from the people who apparently run Gallet USA, and is usually said to be relayed from the reminisces of Bernard Gallet, who died in 2006. The vagueness of the terms, like "US war department," make it seem like something a non-American would say speaking off the top of his head, and the details may have been lost to time in the intervening years.

    For people who know from military contracting, though, some questions. Are operation names like "Desert Storm" officially top secret? I'd guess "top secret" has a specific US government meaning in addition to the colloquial usage, but would it be likely that the name of the operation would be divulged to a foreign supplier? "Desert Shield" was already ongoing by August 1990, though I don't know if it was also circulating that the future invasion would be called "Desert Storm" at that time. If the name really was confidential, it would have been illegal for a government employee to leak it and obtuse at the very least for the supplier to manufacture items with the name printed on them.

    Gallet touts the military origins and connections of its products, and Gallet watches indubitably feature in some famous war histories, most notably as being associated with the WWII Tuskegee Airmen and President Harry Truman. Nearly every account of Gallet's military connections has a hazy, undocumented aspect, however. Gallet provided several watches, including the Marathon "Desert Storm" watch to an exhibition at the NAWCC museum in 2012, and highlights a few more on its own website, but aside from the Marathon watch, none of them were ever military issued. The story about Truman's involvement in the design of the famous Flight Officer/Flying Officer also purportedly comes from personal conversation with Bernard Gallet and similarly shows some unfamiliarity with the US military ("U.S.A. Ordinance Department").

    Lapses like these are hardly evidence of deliberate dishonesty; if anything, they indicate a trust in the source of the information. The Gallet USA operation seems to be a small one that enthusiastically promotes not only Gallet's current products but also the Gallet legend, often showcasing vintage Gallet watches from the directors' personal collections on the company's group Facebook page. Many of the watches are described as being "issued to officers during the Vietnam War" or "used by bomber pilots in WWII" without documentation or markings on the watches themselves that might lend credence to these claims. These showcases rarely neglect to make claims for the supposed value of the watches, however:

    Screenshot 2019-12-28 06.52.13.png

    Watches that are presented on the Gallet World Facebook site are almost always then put up for sale on eBay and sold for a fraction of their purported worth. Many of the pieces photographed for the Gallet World website, including the celebrated Flight Officer models, have been auctioned off in this manner. (Indeed, it was this watch in particular that first got me wondering whether it or any Gallet chronograph was ever officially issued by the US military.) Gallet FO chronographs were supposedly supplied to the Swiss armed forces, though the evidence for this is, as usual with Gallet, almost entirely anecdotal. The Tuskegee Airmen Gallet watch is utterly fascinating, but even this one is purported to be one of a few given as gifts from Eleanor Roosevelt to the famous pilots rather than being officially issued. I have been in touch with the owner of the remarkable Tuskegee "Red Tail" Gallet watch and was told that Gallet USA has expressed no interest in examining or photographing his watch, which is surprising considering that the company has announced work on a book of notable Gallet pieces.

    I don't have (I think) an axe to grind with Gallet, and I've discussed this stuff with Gallet fans on other sites. I am waiting for approval to join the military watch forum, where I hope to ask some of these same questions. For the time being, I'd be very interested in hearing from anyone who knows of or has a Gallet chronograph that was issued by any military, or anyone with insight about how the US military sources equipment from contractors.
     
  2. janice&fred

    janice&fred Dec 27, 2019

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    that's your best bet. we've been members of MWR for many years and there's milwatch experts there who will have your answers.
     
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  3. krogerfoot

    krogerfoot Dec 27, 2019

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    Things there seem to be moving slowly during the holidays. I've been waiting in the moderation queue for a few days now.
     
  4. EauTerre

    EauTerre Dec 28, 2019

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    Interesting thread.

    I'm familiar with the name Gallet from the helmet they made for the pompiers :

    [​IMG]

    Though I don't know if both companies are related or if they're just homonyms.

    I'm also aware of the name Marathon from the military watches bearing this brand, but didn't know it was a sort of cover trademark and not the original name of the manufacturer.
     
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  5. Professor

    Professor Dec 28, 2019

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    Same here. I have seen older military style watches with this on the dial and had no idea they might be of some collector interest.
     
  6. Professor

    Professor Dec 28, 2019

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    When I grow up to become a super villain I want one of those helmets.
     
  7. Larry S

    Larry S Color Commentator for the Hyperbole. Dec 28, 2019

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    Considering that most military guys go with G Shock or Iron Man .. I’d be a bit skeptical.
     
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  8. krogerfoot

    krogerfoot Jan 2, 2020

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    As expected, a week or so after a historic watch is posted to Gallet USA's Facebook page, off it goes to eBay. If you miss this once-in-a-lifetime chance to bid on a pristine, almost-never-worn military watch straight from the manufacturer, there will surely be another one coming up for sale very soon.

    The 1984 Marathon watch currently on auction is described as "the Very 1st of the Renowned Marathon US Military Watches," which makes the story in my first post about putting "DESERT STORM" on the prototype watch's dial more confounding. If Gallet had been producing Marathon watches for the US military since 1984, what possessed the company to add the supposedly top-secret operation name to the prototype dial design?
     
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  9. SeanO

    SeanO Jan 3, 2020

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    what I want to know is HTF did Gallet find out about a "Secret" military operation with enough lead time to design, test and construct a number of prototypes in order to send them to Defense procurement so that they could be rejected because of the name on the dial.

    this perplexes me.
     
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  10. krogerfoot

    krogerfoot Jan 3, 2020

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    The explanation from Gallet USA, that the company president was such an insider that he was privy to secrets like this, yet also innocently thought his US government clients would be pleased to know their secret operation name was being bandied around in Switzerland, perplexes me as well.

    Was "Desert Storm" even a thing at the time these prototypes were made? A variant with "Desert Shield" on the dial is also attested to by Gallet as being absolutely authentic, and is similarly perplexing. I was certainly around during that era, and though the US-led coalition was obviously gearing up for war with Iraq in 1990, it would be kind of scandalous that the invasion was already such a foregone conclusion that the government was outsourcing "Desert Storm" paraphernalia to foreign suppliers at that time.
     
  11. TDBK

    TDBK Jan 3, 2020

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    Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990. The first use of "Desert Shield" I can find in the New York Times is on August 10. The first use of "Desert Storm" is January 17, 1991, as the air war began.

    The phrasing in the quoted post, "almost a year later", claims that Gallet knew the name for the invasion in early 1990, several months before Iraq invaded Kuwait. If true, this would be a huge news discovery, implying that that the US Defense Dept had detailed foreknowledge of Iraq's invasion such that they had already planned the response down to the code name. This would have been months prior to Iraq mobilizing troops in July 1991.

    While a great seed for conspiracy theorists I think it's quite unlikely to be true as written.
     
  12. krogerfoot

    krogerfoot Jan 3, 2020

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    Indeed, a lot of what Gallet says on their website and in their auctions cannot possibly be true, yet at the same time they're the ones that authenticate Gallet watches. Most of it comes down to sloppy writing and marketing flummery, but it grates on me that the company makes such grand claims about its military pedigree primarily on the basis of family lore.

    I'm a fan of the Glycine Airman, which has a similar mystique, but to my knowledge Glycine does not imply that its watches were officially issued by the military, nor does the company regularly unearth untouched historic pieces and then hawk them as priceless relics on eBay. It seems like if Gallet watches such as the Flight Officer/Flying Officer or the "Desert Storm/Desert Shield" prototypes had the military roles that the company claims for them, it wouldn't be such an impossibility to provide some documentation.
     
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  13. jaspers

    jaspers Jan 3, 2020

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    Have you tried MWR? If your membership hasn't been approved yet, I'd be happy to repost your request there with due credit. Surely the folks out there can shed light on this.
     
  14. krogerfoot

    krogerfoot Jan 3, 2020

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    Thank you, I’d be much obliged.
     
  15. jaspers

    jaspers Jan 3, 2020

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    Done
     
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  16. Michael C

    Michael C Jan 3, 2020

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    I started basic training as a Private in the US Army in June of 1990. I graduated in late August. I then spent the next four years in the Army stationed both in the US and Germany. Never went to combat except in a few drunken bar fights. But I was a little interested in watches. Digital watches were very common and is what most soldiers had on their wrists. I hated them and still do. I always wore analog watches. I went through a bunch as most were junk I bought in the PX. The just rotted away in the sweat and were beat up in training.
    I never saw anyone get issued a watch. I was in a MP unit for most of my regular army time and in a special operations unit as a psychological operations specialist in the Army Reserve. We had special forces dudes around us frequently and no one was wearing any issued watches. Did some officers get watches? Maybe. I would say military divers would be the most likely as they would need kit that wouldn’t fail. Pilots maybe but I knew some and they all had privately purchased watches that I admired. I sold my pickup to a helicopter pilot and he had the first Rolex I had ever seen up close. Bought it for himself upon flight school graduation. But ground pounders? I just don’t think so.
    However, I did see Marathon watches being sold in the PX and almost bought one a few times but it was actually a lot of money at the time for me. Even as I got promoted to Corporal I still couldn’t really justify it. I mostly wore Casio analog watches. They only lasted about a year. The PX had some Timex military watch’s in the plastic or nylon cases, but they looked too flimsy to me.
    As to the story about these watches being developed for desert shield/storm I simply cannot believe it. We were all shocked by the news of the invasion by Iraqi troops into Kuwait. Recruiting was down when I enlisted in the spring of 1990, and it was actually difficult to get into the service at the time. If the Army knew or thought we would be going to war I am sure the recruiting efforts/mandates would have looked different. They were not even taking guys without HS diplomas at the time.
     
    Edited Jan 3, 2020
  17. Edward53

    Edward53 Jan 3, 2020

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    I don't believe it either. Sounds like an invention by Gallet PR to invoke prestige for their watches. If such watches had been developed for Desert Storm then logically they would have continued in use for subsequent desert conflicts and we would see them for sale on ebay in the same numbers we see other military watches.

    I don't know what the preferred watch in the US Army was, but on the British side I think it's a safe bet that Casio was the watch of choice, followed by Seiko then CWC for anyone who happened to be issued them.
     
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  18. krogerfoot

    krogerfoot Jan 3, 2020

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    Thanks very much for that. I have several more questions to ask at MWR if I ever am approved.

    Thanks to everyone for their contributions. Although it's probably obvious that I think Gallet USA is (unwittingly?) making incorrect claims about Gallet watches in general, I would welcome being proved wrong. We can deduce a fair amount just by the kind of armchair analysis we've been doing here, but input from veterans like @Michael C and knowledgeable military watch collectors would be invaluable.
     
  19. SeanO

    SeanO Jan 4, 2020

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    I doubt it's unwittingly. this sort of cock-up is done by PR people who don't understand their market.

    I think the reality is that this is another example of Gallet aiming at their foot and blowing their head off.

    if ever a company with a fantastic history of watchmaking (The Golden Age) has demonstrated a more singular indifference to reality I don't know who it might be.
     
  20. krogerfoot

    krogerfoot Jan 4, 2020

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    Another example, you say?