Wolbrook Skindiver “Worldtimer” – Neil Armstrong’s Other Watch A new/old Skindiver/Worldtimer from France by Balazs FerencziJanuary 11, 2020 MIN READWolbrook Skindiver “Worldtimer” – Neil Armstrong’s Other Watch
Wolbrook/Douglas is not a brand we often mention when we talk about Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon.
You are reading Fratello Magazine, and while we talk a lot about the Moon landing, most of the time, it’s another brand we mention in connection with this event. This time, however, we would like to bring your attention to something else. We don’t feature Kickstarter watches often on this site. It’s not because we dislike them, but we like to focus on watches that offer something special. I firmly believe that Wolbrook is such a brand. There’s also the fact that most of the team at Fratello are, to some extent, space geeks. So, anything that has something to do with NASA, the Apollo program, or Neil Armstrong, for that matter, is worth our attention. And what does the legendary commander of And what does the legendary commander of Apollo 11 have to do with Wolbrook? Well, let’s start at the beginning.
At the end of the 1940s (in 1949), two brands came to the watch market; Wolbrook and its sister brand Douglas. It wasn’t uncommon back then to sell virtually identical watches with different brand names on the dial. Later, their signature model became the Wolbrook / Douglas Skindiver “Worldtimer.” In those days, watches were sometimes created to cater to multiple facets of life – think of the Nivada Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver. As such, the Wolbrook was a skin diver as well as a “Worldtimer”. I placed the latter designation in quote marks since the function was merely a manually-rotatable world timer bezel. The brand(s) thought of the watch more as a diver, which bears out in the aesthetic as well. Such was the trust in the watches’ water resistance (6ATM or 60m) that they even sold them in boxes filled with water (seriously). Sadly, like so many brands, Wolbrook and Douglas eventually fell victim to the quartz crisis.
Neil Armstrong Connection
The lives of NASA astronauts are well-documented. We know about their military careers, which space programs they were involved in, and even what reference number of Speedy they wore. The crew of Apollo 11 is a special brunch for apparent reasons. After they landed on the Moon in 1969, and even before, they were never far from the public eye. Since Neil Armstrong was the commander and the first man to set foot on the Moon, he received special attention. The 2018 film First Man beautifully documented Armstrong’s life before the program as well as during it. The reason I’m talking about Neil Armstrong here is that according to Neil’s brother, Dean, the commander of Apollo 11, owned a Douglas Skindiver “Worldtimer.” This watch was auctioned in 2019. It is at this point where past meets present, and Neil Armstrong’s and Douglas’s (and Wolbrook’s) stories connect.
To clarify, Wolbrook was the mother brand, and Douglas was a sister or sub-brand. They were not Swiss according to the marking on the dial, but, instead, they came from France. Now, some 50 years after the initial launch of these Skindiver watches, a small group of enthusiasts decided to resurrect the company. It was perfect timing to start the project in 2019: 50 years after the marvelous achievement by NASA, the Apollo 11 team, and Neil Armstrong specifically. For this occasion, the guys behind the brand(s) are offering their watches via a Kickstarter campaign. After this ends, customers will be able to buy one of the three different watches directly from the company. But wait, this’s not all! We have three groups, and in each group, several options from which customers can choose. Let me explain. You have 3 “re-edited” Skindiver “Worldtimers,”; Skindiver WT Automatic, Skindiver WT Professional, and Skindiver WT Mechaquartz.
Skindiver WT Professional – X-15 Edition
The North American X-15 was a hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft with a mission to reach outer space and return safely. The program ran from around 1959 to 1968, with 199 flights going as high as 107.8km. The Kármán line (100km) divides the mesosphere and thermosphere; these X-15s went well into the thermosphere. Neil Armstrong was one of the test pilots. As such, the Skindiver WT Professional X-15 Edition features the silhouette of the plane on its case back. The watch has a hand-brushed steel case, hesalite box crystal with internal cyclops, drilled lugs, and water resistance to 100m. Inside the Skindiver WT Professional is a Miyota 8215, an automatic caliber with a date. The dial resembles Armstrong’s Douglas watch and carries the same name on it. Large Super-LumiNova-coated hands and indexes are present along with a red seconds hand. Wolbrook offers five combinations with black or silver steel rotating bezel, black or white dial, and black or military green/brown bund strap for a truly retro look.
Skindiver WT Automatic – Apollo Edition
The second option is virtually the same as the Skindiver WT Professional, however here the name on the dial is Wolbrook. Furthermore, this time the case back has a different engraving. As the name suggests, the Skindiver WT Automatic Apollo Edition has the silhouette of the Lunar Module on the back with the famous quote from Armstrong. “The Eagle has landed.”
While the case and movement are the same, Wolbrook offers 12 different versions. We have seven dial options (black/green, white/green, black/vintage, white/vintage, black/gilt, black/white, blue/white) five bezels (black PVD, steel, matt blue aluminum and steel, matt red aluminum and steel, matt black aluminum, and rose gold PVD), and two cases (steel or black PVD steel). And we have leather NATO straps in various colors (black, beige, or deep brown). Talk about options!
Skindiver WT Mecaquartz
Not everyone is into mechanical watches. Some prefer the comfort of a quartz timepiece. Wolbrook gets this, so the third model they offer is a quartz Skindiver. The size is again similar to the previous two, but this one is a few milliliters thinner. Despite this, the diameter and lug measurements are the same. Like before, we have a hand-finished 316L steel case. The crystal is smooth. There is no need for a cyclops magnifier, as there is no date on the Mecaquartz. The case back features the Lunar Module in the take-off configuration. The movement inside is the Seiko VH31. For this version, Wolbrook gives the option to choose from various executions. Steel or PVD case, black PVD, steel, red, or blue bezel just like above. The dial is either black and green, white and green, black and vintage, or black and white. Every combo, just like before, is numbered and limited to 1969 pieces only.
As is the norm with Kickstarter projects, the more money the company garners through pledges, the more options they offer for prospective buyers. The Wolbrook team set a pledge target of around $32k, which is now, a few days before the campaign ends, already reached. Right now (a few days before the deadline), they are at an astonishing $236k, and hopefully, this will increase before the campaign concludes. Just like the vintage Wolbrook / Douglas watches, these are also coming from France where the watches will be assembled. The accessories are worth a note too. The leather straps are excellent quality, Italian and vegetable-tanned. The nylon NATOs are fantastic and come in three colors. Each watch will arrive in a canvas and leather travel pouch. If you are a bracelet fan, don’t worry: Wolbrook offers a mesh bracelet for an additional cost.
What’s left to talk about is the price. Well, as you know, when it comes to Kickstarter, these things can get tricky. The cheapest option you have is to pledge €149 and get a Skindiver WT Mecaquartz. If you opt for a mechanical Skindiver WT (Professional or Auto), the pledge is €279. Of course, if you want a batch of watches, there are options for those too. I’d recommend checking the Kickstarter campaign for more details. Wolbrook is happy to ship your watch(es) anywhere in the world. Delivery is scheduled for July 2020. Click here for the Wolbrook campaign on Kickstarter.
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About the author
Balázs joined Fratello Watches in 2014 and he has been a fan of watches as long as he can remember. His passion for watches really took off in 2007 when he purchased his first fine Swiss timepiece. From 2007 up… read more
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