The Dark Side of the Wrist Watch Industry
by Stan Czubernat
An Open Letter to the Manufacturers, Writers & Editors
of the Wrist Watch Industry
Updated June 7, 2023
The Dark Side of the Wrist Watch Industry
by Stan Czubernat
An Open Letter to the Manufacturers, Writers & Editors
of the Wrist Watch Industry
Updated June 7, 2023
We, the watch community, read your articles on a daily basis. We watch your videos and listen to your podcasts. We have subscriptions to your magazines and we buy your books. But it seems that there is a major difference between genuine horological journalism and drivers of misinformation. It's hard to differentiate between the two, especially when myth is being presented as factual content.
Far too many of these entities are nothing more than sales driven pages that will ONLY give you the perspective of the manufacturer they are pushing, whether they be used or new watches. Putting them in the best possible view while completely ignoring historical facts that are backed up by mountains of corroborating evidence to the contrary. Some of these sites are even partially owned by a group that the general public may not even be aware of so the content is completely biased.
This is where lines are being crossed and fact-based content ceases to exist in favor of a false narrative. How many times have we read an article or watched a video from one of the best known and so-called "top tier" drivers of content in the industry that was riddled with historical errors? The type of content that gives credit to individuals that had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the horological innovation subject matter being discussed. And FAR TOO OFTEN this credit is arbitrarily stripped from an American innovator and given to the Swiss.
Just the other day we read an older article that was published in the New York Times that stated, "the Hamilton Khaki, introduced in 1919 and still a core part of the brand's collection". There are only 14 words in this sentence and one date but there are TWO factual errors! Hamilton released the trench watch the writer is discussing in 1918, not 1919. And when it was released in 1918 it DID NOT have the name "Khaki" attached to it in any way, shape, form or fashion. On May 23, 1917 a gentleman named Charles Depollier applied for the trademark name "Khaki", his application was granted on October 16, 1917. Depollier owned it during that era, not Hamilton. Hamilton had absolutely nothing to do with this watch name coming to market but that incredible detail is completely missing from the article. According to the USPTO Hamilton did not even apply for the trademark name "Khaki" until 1979. Charles Depollier was also responsible for trademarking the watch names "Field", "Utility", "Thermo" & "Marine". This is just one instance of an American innovator being completely written out of horological history and this is simply a "name" for a watch. Can you just imagine what these "entities" are going to publish when it comes to MAJOR horological technological advancements that truly changed the industry forever?
We've also read articles, books and watched videos about auto racing and wrist watches. We LOVE this sort of content! But never once have we seen any of these writers/editors/personalities tell us about the Americans that were the ACTUAL trailblazers when it comes to auto racers being brand ambassadors. Are you even aware that the Elgin National Watch Company debuted their VERY FIRST men's wrist watch at the 3rd running of the Indianapolis 500 in May of 1913? Drivers "Wild Bill" Endicott and Louis Disbrow drove for the Case Team and they did in FACT have these watches on their wrists during the race. In late 1913 Elgin even did a major marketing campaign with these daredevils as their spokesmen. They gave testimonials in these adverts with them pictured in their race cars. Mr. Wilsdorf, there were in FACT watch brand ambassadors WAY before Mercedes Gleitze and Malcom Campbell. You did NOT create the "testimony concept" as claimed on your company's website. BEFORE November of 1927 the concept was already ubiquitous.
On June 7, 2023 Hodinkee published an article titled "An Original Vacheron Constantin American 1921 (From 1919?)". It was written by Anthony Traina. Within this article Mr. Traina states, and I'm quoting him, "It's unusual and can't really be compared to any other watch". He is referring to the Offset Crown Cushion Case Vacheron Constantin. It can't be compared to ANY other watch? REALLY? Actually it can Sir, that's because in 1917 THREE American watch case manufacturers did in FACT produce an Offset Crown Cushion Case Trench Watch. They were the Star Watch Case Company, Joseph Fahys & Company and the Illinois Watch Case Company. They were available in solid gold, sterling silver and gold fill. The IWCCo gave a proper name to their version, it was called the "Admiral Benson". Why do SO MANY writers and editors in the watch industry today do everything they can to write CONFIRMED American innovation completely OUT of horological history in favor of Swiss myths? Shame on you Hodinkee, articles like this are erasing our vast American horological achievements!
How many times have we seen an article about "the firsts in horological history", "the history of the dive watch" or "the best field watches in history"? Unfortunately, this is where it really gets bad. In most instances, with a few exceptions, American watches and innovations are completely left out of the conversation. Is this because the writers/editors/personalities are doing this intentionally or are they grossly incompetent and know virtually nothing about American horological history?
Case in point is the topic of the "world's first waterproof watch". In nearly every instance credit for this truly incredible innovation is given to Hans Wilsdorf and his 1926 Oyster. Yes, it was waterproof. Yes, it had a screw down crown. Yes, it had a threaded case. Yes, it used "case key" technology for opening and closing the case. Yes, it used gaskets. But, was it really Wilsdorf that brought all of this technology to market in 1926 or was it somebody else?
It WAS IN FACT somebody else! That gentleman's name was Charles Leon Depollier, owner of the Dubois Watch Case Company located in Brooklyn New York. Better known as J. Depollier & Son. Charles Depollier went from making his VERY FIRST standard military wrist watch case in mid 1916 to producing FULLY WATERPROOF wrist watches by the middle of 1918! Today, we use the term "water resistant" due to FTC regulations. In the summer of 1918, the Waltham Depollier "Field & Marine" Waterproof Watch was introduced, confirmed!
In 1918 Depollier's "Field & Marine" watch was successfully independently tested for waterproof ability by the United States National Bureau of Standards, America's first physical science laboratory, founded by the United States Congress in 1901. Today they are known as the National Institute of Standards & Technology. And FYI, the findings of the Bureau of Standards are accepted by ALL COURTS OF LAW in the United States and I'm guessing in a few others. The United States government did not take this lightly and simply rubber stamp the design for approval. First it had to get past Lieutenant Colonel Mauborgne, Commander of the United States Army Signal Corps Engineering & Research Division in Washington D.C. Lieutenant Colonel Mauborgne's team wanted several changes to Depollier's watch design that would be better suited for military usage. After these changes were made by Depollier the world's VERY FIRST waterproof wrist watch MIL SPEC was born! It was also approved by the 7 member United States Army Executive Board. This happened BEFORE the Great War ended on November 11, 1918.
Final confirmation of Depollier's successful waterproof wrist watch can be found in the official United States government report the "Annual Report of the Chief Signal Officer to the Secretary of War" dated June 30, 1919. Written by Major General George Squeir, Chief Signal Officer of the U.S. Army to Mr. Newton Baker, the United States Secretary of War. Today known as the Secretary of Defense, a Cabinet position in the United States government who reports directly to the President of the United States. And in the report written in 1919, by Mr. Benedict Crowell, the United States Assistant Secretary of War, Director of Munitions titled "America's Munitions 1917-1918".
Have you ever seen ANY of these writers/editors/personalities or watch media "entities" discuss the WORLD'S VERY FIRST WATERPROOF WRIST WATCH MIL SPEC from 1918 and the American's that were responsible for it in their content? Neither have any of us! Probably because that would go against Rolex doctrine, and we all know subjects like that are completely taboo.
There is a stack of United States federal government reports, U.S. Army records, records that were found in the United States National Archives and a sworn federal court testimony transcript corroborating these FACTS. It is IMPOSSIBLE to attempt to put a spin on these documents, it's all laid out in black and white. Military records have ALWAYS been considered the HOLY GRAIL of documents, the BENCHMARK of evidence so why are these documents being completely ignored by the watch media outlets? By the way, the contract number between the United States War Department and the Dubois Watch Case Company for these waterproof cases was 160,615.
Yes, Depollier's 1918 waterproof wrist watch case had a screw down crown. Yes, it had a threaded bezel and case back. Yes, it used "case key" technology for opening and closing the case. Yes, it used gaskets. Yes, it had a "double clinched bezel" with waterproof crystal technology. ALL of this happened BEFORE Wilsdorf got his checkbook out and bought the Perregaux & Perret patent in July of 1926. Unlike Hans Wilsdorf, Charles Depollier put in his own work, all patents that ultimately went into his waterproof watch were of his creation.
In 1922 Hans Wilsdorf released the Submarine watch, that was flawed from the start. It used completely ARCHIAC "case inside of a case" technology. FOUR YEARS EARLIER in 1918 Depollier had already SOLD 10,000 waterproof watch cases to the United States government, that DID IN FACT feature a screw down crown. Depollier's "Field & Marine" and "Thermo" waterproof watches were also sold to the general public through his network of ADs around the country! The Waltham Depollier "THERMO" Waterproof Watch was the high-end reference of the "Field & Marine" watch. So, if you want to get really technical, Hans Wilsdorf's 1926 Oyster was actually the world's 3rd waterproof wrist watch. Yeah, that's gotta sting! OUCH!
HISTORY IS RE-WRITTEN & CORRECTED EVERY SINGLE DAY IN A VAST RANGE OF FIELDS, WHY SHOULD HOROLOGY BE ANY DIFFERENT? New evidence is constantly being discovered by hard core professional researchers around the world that pushes the accepted dates back by a few years or a few thousand years in many fields. Are you really going to deny this evidence and the men that were actually responsible for their creation?
Every time you deny this evidence you are literally destroying American horological history. Every time you turn in your watch article assignment (that is RIDDLED with historical errors) you are chiseling away at the fabric of American watchmaking. Every time you omit the names of the actual innovators you are erasing their legacies from existence. By doing so, you are personally responsible for the historical annihilation of America's great horological minds, leaders and their achievements.
Many of these "entities" have mission statements, manifestos, or something to that effect published on their websites. We have read the words/terms integrity, honesty, fact driven and credible in these statements. Or, "we aren't afraid to ruffle a few feathers". Sorry, but we are just NOT seeing that in your content. Why?
It's not just the watch industry media outlets that are guilty of publishing highly incorrect information. MANY of the most
famous auction houses in the world have articles and information on their websites that needs to be updated or removed. One of these auction houses published an article that states "But WITHOUT QUESTION, Rolex made the world's first waterproof watch, from which all waterproof watches of any depth are descendants". Seriously? "But without question"? That has to be one of the most pompous statements we've ever read! They are leaving NO ROOM for further research or for new documents to be discovered. They are dealing in absolutions, not reality. Aren't the auction houses the ones that are NEVER supposed to get the history of a company or the provenance of an item wrong? Perhaps they need to hire far more knowledgeable people than are currently employed.
Trust us! There are in fact MANY actual horological journalists out there that feel exactly as we do. They are sick and tired of the puffery and propaganda content that's being driven. Only written from one side of the story, usually in favor of a current manufacturer that wants to SEEM FAR MORE IMPORTANT than they truly are. Horological facts be damned, let's just publish!
Why do we get the feeling that many writers/editors/personalities are far more concerned with securing an invitation to a cocktail party in 2026 instead of publishing FACT driven content? However, some of these "entities" are becoming far less relevant these days as their daily viewer numbers are falling. Is this perhaps due to your deficient content or could it be that your writing pool is coming from shallow horological waters?
If you choose to continue with this type of content, be aware that you will be called out EVERY SINGLE TIME by name. You can ignore our emails & DMs. You can delete our comments when we correct you. You can turn the comments section OFF so you don't have to deal with a point of view that is FACT based. You can ban us from your page for simply asking a question. You can publish your so-called "fact driven content" in newspapers and magazines that obviously don't have a comment section, so we'll just take a picture of your article. We'll then get a big red marker and grade your articles just like your middle school teacher and post your failing grade online for all to see.
We feel that an IMMEDIATLE posthumous PUBLIC apology should be issued to Mr. Charles Leon Depollier. But an actual apology, unlike the public apology Hans Wilsdorf issued to Mr. John Harwood when he erroneously claimed that Rolex "invented the world's first automatic wrist watch". In Wilsdorf's 1956 apology to Harwood, that was an even bigger slap in the face than claiming credit for his innovation, he wrote "we apologize for any injury to his feelings which may have been caused by our advertisement". Go back and read that again! Wilsdorf never actually apologized for taking credit for Harwood's innovation. He only apologized for "hurting his feelings". That is just ruthless! The pattern of Hans Wilsdorf 's narcissistic attitude and falsely claiming credit for another man’s invention is abundantly clear and documented, there's no denying it.
The evidence is BEYOND overwhelming, Hans Wilsdorf had NOTHING to do with the creation of the "world's first waterproof wrist watch". Mr. Wilsdorf was fully aware of the Waltham Depollier “Field & Marine” waterproof watch but went ahead and erroneously proclaimed his 1926 Oyster as being the world's first anyway. Absolutely abhorrent behavior!
Go ahead and put the 1918 - 1919 Waltham Depollier Field & Marine fishbowl and Mt. Everest advertisements directly next to the Oyster advertisements that used this same motif. You'll be dumbfounded! One magazine publisher called it "copy, click & paste advertising", we'd call it something else. Looks like Wilsdorf was incapable of original ideas so he literally copied what Depollier has already done years earlier. In one of Hans Wilsdorf's adverts from the 1930s he even TRIES to toss shade at Mr. Depollier's waterproof watch. The advert mentions an incredibly unique design feature that can ONLY be found on Depollier's watch, so yeah, Wilsdorf 100% knew about Depollier and his accomplishments.
Here are just a few things Charles Depollier did YEARS before Hans Wilsdorf: A collaboration with Tiffany & Co. (about 35 years earlier), the waterproof screw down crown (8 years earlier), case key technology (8 years earlier), flying higher than Mt. Everest (13.5 years earlier), the print fishbowl marketing concept (12 years earlier), world's first waterproof wrist watch (8+ years earlier), the testimony concept (8 years earlier).
Charles Depollier was also responsible for the innovation of applying his trademarked logo onto his watch crystals to combat counterfeiting and trademark infringement. The Swiss would not implement this practice until DECADES later.
These revelations will obviously bring shame to Mr. Wilsdorf's legacy, it's a very unfortunate and humiliatingly situation. But, one should not claim to have done something that one did not do. Mr. Wilsdorf is personally responsible for tarnishing his own crown by perpetrating, what we believe to be, the biggest hoax in horological history. He brought this upon himself by publishing what we would call today “fake news” on the front page of London’s Daily Mail newspaper for a month straight. Mr. Wilsdorf, your Oyster was NOT “The Greatest Triumph in Watchmaking” as you claimed. How could this even be possible when it had already been achieved 8 YEARS earlier by Mr. Charles Depollier and CONFIRMED by the United States government?
The 1918 Waltham Depollier "Field & Marine" Waterproof Watch was tested underwater for 500 HOURS by the
United States National Bureau of Standards before it was certified as "waterproof".
When Mercedes Gleitze FAILED in her attempt to swim across the English Channel in 1927, after only being in the
water for 10 HOURS Hans Wilsdorf called it the "greatest triumph in watchmaking". That speaks volumes!
Making things even worse, when the front page of London's Daily Mail newspaper was re-printed, that red rocker going across the bottom right hand side of the front page was added. Within this red rocker it states "AUTHENTIC "BIRTHDAY" ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE WATERPROOF WATCH. Reprint from the "Daily Mail" London Front Page Announcement Dated November the 24th, 1927". So this "fake news" was double downed upon.
When Wilsdorf made his hoax claim of creating the "world's first waterproof watch" he did far more than just make a claim.
By de facto, he is saying that the highly educated and high ranking U.S. Army officers who did the testing were liars. That America's first physical science laboratory, the United States National Bureau of Standards, were a bunch of unfit amateurs. That the 7 member U. S. Army Executive Board, made up of our highest ranking officers, was incompetent. That the approach to their work ethic, scientific methods and highly talented engineering skill set was deficient. So yes, that is another thing we take issue with when it comes to Hans Wilsdorf! He insulted the dedication of my country's esteemed military members, high ranking government officials and Mr. Depollier. Some of whom were awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. This is a lot bigger than just Hans Wilsdorf and Rolex lying about their product, it's about national pride! These were men of HONOR Mr. Wilsdorf, a trait that was obviously missing within the makeup of your own character.
Rolex continues to insult and attempts to erase the accomplishments of American Charles Depollier and the high ranking United States Army officers that made the successful 1918 Waltham Depollier "Field & Marine" Waterproof Watch possible. In issue #10 of Rolex Magazine (2022), in the VERY FIRST SENTENCE of this publication, current Rolex CEO Jean-Frederic Dufour states, "In 1926, our founder Hans Wilsdorf achieved his entrepreneurial dream of creating the first waterproof wristwatch, the Oyster". Sorry Mr. Dufour, but your statement is not even in the realm of being plausible.
And then, on page 14 of Rolex Magazine, issue #10, paragraph 3, Rolex once again attempts to WOW the world stating that Stewart Blacker flew over Mt. Everest, at an altitude of 29, 528 feet, in 1933 while wearing an Oyster. Rolex proudly quotes him a stating, "I can hardly imagine that any watches have ever been subjected before to such extremes", the temperature was -40 Fahrenheit. Mr. Wilsdorf & Rolex, you know damn well that the Waltham Depollier "Field & Marine" Waterproof Watch flew higher and at more extreme temperatures 14 YEARS EARLIER because you stole this marketing concept directly from Charles Depollier! In 1919 - 1920 TWO American pilots set two different flight altitude WORLD RECORDS while wearing Depollier's "Field & Marine" watch. In September of 1919 American pilot Roland Rohlfs flew to an altitude of 34,610 feet, the temperature was -44 Fahrenheit. And then in February of 1920 the Chief Test Pilot of the United States Army Air Service, Major Rudolph Schroeder, set a new flight altitude WORLD RECORD of 36,130 feet, the temperature was -67 Fahrenheit. These two extremely brave United States Air Air Service Pilots risked their lives setting these world records and all Hans Wilsdorf & Rolex did was essentially spit in their faces by diminishing their achievements. Rolex, have you no shame? Why do you feel that it's necessary to disrespect American military members and their incredible documented accomplishments to sell your watches?
Are the writers of the watch industry really going to give Mr. Wilsdorf and Rolex a free pass on this?
I guess you feel that advertising space revenue is far more important that than historical FACT!
Isn't making false claims about your product in advertising and marketing materials a clear violation of United States Federal Trade Commission regulations? According to the FTCs Division of Advertising Practices, when a marketing claim can be disproven, which is CLEARLY the case here, the FTC will take advertisers to task for misleading consumers. Looks like a lot of website content is going to need to be corrected or deleted, otherwise the government's hammer is inevitable. Any claim by Rolex of creating, inventing or being the archetype of the "world's first waterproof wrist watch" should be removed from their website. This claim has been completely debunked through the use of OFFICIAL United States government reports and the corresponding source file materials.
Hans Wilsdorf never could have possibly ever imagined the internet, university intranets and electronic government databases being invented. These inventions would ultimately EXPOSE Mr. Wilsdorf and the TRUTH of the matter through undeniable date stamped United States federal government documents and United States federal court transcript records.
As with any industry, the watch industry has a dark side, a side that is very rarely spoken about or researched. Plagiarism, historical omissions, corporate espionage, corrupt ADs, intentionally spreading misinformation, spies and claiming credit for another mans invention is probably just scratching the surface. It's a cut throat business hidden behind the glamorous vail of "Haute Horology". It's certainly not all cocktail parties, watch photo shoots with celebrities, trade shows in exotic locations and new watch launches.
After taking a closer look, some of the individuals we thought were heroes and innovators, that are credited with changing the industry, turned out to be far cry from the gentlemanly veneer that is written about them in their corporate bios.
All of Charles Depollier’s successful waterproof wrist watch innovations and the avalanche of corroborating government evidence can be referenced in the 2022 book “The Inconvenient Truth about the World’s First Waterproof Watch, the Story of Charles Depollier and his Waterproof Trench Watches of the Great War”. ISBN: 978-0-578-29133-8, hardbound, 341 pages.
Once again, the findings of the United States National Bureau of Standards are accepted by all courts of law in the United States. So, IT'S NOT US saying that Charles Depollier had a waterproof wrist watch 8 YEARS before Hans Wilsdorf, IT IS IN FACT THE DATE STAMPED United States federal government documents that can be found in the United States National Archives in Washington D.C. saying it. Including the Assistant Secretary of War & Director of Munitions Mr. Benedict Crowell, Major General George Squier Chief Signal Officer of the United States Army, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Mauborgne Commander of the United States Army Engineering & Research Division, Brigadier General McKinzie Saltzman of the United States Army Signal Corps and the 7-member United States Army Executive Board.
Even further corroborating evidence can be found in the historical FEDERAL court files from United States District Court, Southern District of New York that are currently being housed at Fort Riley, a United States Army Base located in Kansas.
Now that it has been proven, beyond ANY DOUBT, we respectfully request that the writers/editors/personalities in the watch industry no longer make reference to the 1926 Oyster as being the “world’s first waterproof watch”. This story needs to be told the way history ACTUALLY happened, we owe it to the true innovator that was nearly erased from the horological record. Those with the power need to start acting as proper stewards of horological history, rather than destroyers of it.
All the errors listed above are just for openers, there are MANY more, so perhaps you should do some actual research or consult a horological historian before publishing your content so future distortion of the facts can be avoided.
In closing, we fully understand that you need to put food on your tables and that you have a job to do. In many instances your highly talented writers are producing cutting edge content directly for a Swiss manufacturer and their interests and that’s totally cool, we get it.
BUT YOU CERTAINLY DON’T HAVE TO DESTROY OR ERASE AMERICAN HOROLOGICAL HISTORY,
INNOVATION AND THE TRUE PIONEERS OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE PROCESS!
Unless that is your goal.