It’s every car lover’s dream to come across a Ferrari in a barn. Similarly, watch collectors hope to stumble upon a pre-Moon Speedmaster at a garage sale or in a relative’s sock drawer. Well, it does happen and today we’ve got one of those stories. Ian Brown, owner of a jewelry store in Woodstock, Georgia, recently acquired a 1940s A. Lange & Söhne Beobachtungsuhr, or “B-Uhr,” that was found in a toolbox at an estate sale.
If you’re a regular reader of HODINKEE, you know we’ve covered these World War II pilot’s before. But here’s a refresher. The German air force, or Luftwaffe, commissioned five companies to build for its pilots and navigators: IWC, Laco, Stowa, Wempe and A. Lange & Söhne. All of the were built to the same specification – a 55mm , hand-wound movement with center seconds, an oversized crown for easy winding while wearing gloves, an extra long riveted leather strap for wearing over a flight jacket and distinctive, legible dial markings. There were two dial variations of the B-Uhr: the Type A dial had a more standard outer minute track and a large triangle at 12 o’clock. The Type B dial had an inner hour track and a prominently demarcated outer minute track. The Lange you see pictured here is a Type B.
The B-Uhr style is extremely modern watch brands, big and small, selling some variation of it. But it’s not so common to come across the genuine article from the 1940s. Last year we featured a remarkable collection of five Fliegers that was up for auction at Antiquorum, including a Type A dial Lange. Of the five makes that still are occasionally found today, IWC’s version seems to fetch the most when sold, perhaps because they only made them in 1940 and therefore are not as common. But to find any of these wartime relics, the majority of which were flown, is a rare treat. So when Ian Brown contacted us with his story, we knew it was special. Here’s Ian’s description, in his own words, of how he came to possess this Lange B-Uhr:, with many
“I came across the watch via a retired clock repairman who found the watch in the tool box in a shed at an estate sale 28 years ago. This gentleman wandered in and asked me if I might be interested in his WWII pilot’s watch. He came back in about an hour later and I just about fell over. I was expecting something a bit different than a Lange.
He says he didn’t know exactly what it was but recognized that the watch was atimepiece. He subsequently researched it and discovered what it is. He came close to selling it in the 1980s. He states it was wrapped and ready to go to a friend in California whom collected military watches. The day before he mailed it, the man died. “
Ian told us he plans to send the watch to Lange in Glashütte for servicing and then will sell it. He already has some interested parties, which is not surprising. The moral of the story is, don’t stop going to estate sales. Someday you might get lucky.