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The birth of a Legend. The USAF A-17 Contract

Oct 05, 2023

The birth of a Legend. The USAF A-17 Contract


Did Waltham have to compete with other watch manufacturers to earn the Type A17 contract?

On December 31, 1948 United States Air Force Colonel J.C. Harvell, Chief of the Equipment Laboratory Engineering Division, sent out a letter to the Waltham Watch Company asking for their comments on Specification №21277. This specification would later be known as MIL-W-6433. The A17 is an upgraded version of the WWII era A11 specification that was manufactured by Waltham, Elgin & Bulova for the war effort.

At the end of 1948 the A-17 specification called for a Watch; Hack, Wrist, Luminescent Dial, 1300–2400 Auxiliary Markings, Type A-17.

Further details of the specification were radium lume to be provided on the 1–12 hour markers, five minute markers, hour and minute hands, the tip of the sweep second hand and on the auxiliary 13–24 markings to facilitate the reading on 24 hour military time.

As you can clearly see from the pictures of the 1951 Waltham A-17 all of the requirements from the December 1948 USAF letter made it onto the final design of the watch.

The letter about this new United States Air Force specification was sent out to the Elgin National Watch Company, the Hamilton Watch Company, the Bulova Watch Company, the Gruen Watch Company and, surprisingly, the Longines-Wittnauer Watch Company.

But, in the end the United States Air Force chose to exclusively use the Waltham Watch Company for their new Type A-17 Navigation Hacking Pilot’s Wrist Watch.

A legend was born on March 23, 1951 when Mil Spec MIL-W-6433 was approved for the Waltham Type A-17.

Text by Stan Czubernat

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