Deck Watch: The Royal Navy's 3992B

Discussion in 'Chronometers' started by Leigh Callaway, Jan 7, 2017.

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  1. Leigh Callaway

    Leigh Callaway Registered User
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    Sep 5, 2011
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    IMG_3690.jpg IMG_3692.jpg


    Herewith photos of my Hamilton 3992B, serial nr. 3C1772. I am interested in learning how these watches were used by the Royal Navy.
    First, some recent history: in a post January 13, 2013, DaveyG wrote: "On withdrawal from Naval service, the UK based [3992B] watches were returned to storage at Herstmonceux Castle . Some were subsequently issued to the Royal Air Force for use on the nuclear bomber (V) force.."
    Documentation which came with the watch indicates it left Herstmonceaux Castle on March 24, 1967. The case back is etched with the Air Ministry section and reference number "6B/60." So it's easy to imagine this was a navigational watch used aboard the V bomber of 1967, the Avro Vulcan.
    Back to the Royal Navy: another post in this forum (HUDD, March 12, 2016) notes a 3992B used by the father of its previous owner who served in HMS Quorn. The post indicates that Quorn was sunk after the previous owner's father was transferred. So, at least in this case, the watch may have been issued to an individual, not a vessel.
    The back is etched "NAVIGATION MASTER WATCH" and Whitney calls it a "Master Navigation Center Seconds Watch." Test tolerances were average daily rates not to exceed five seconds, and variation from the average daily rates not to exceed two seconds over five days. That rate variation translates to significant navigational error over time, so it's hard to believe the 3992B was issued as a master timepiece for extended periods.
    The 3992B is also described as a "deck watch." This most likely means it was a source of time throughout the ship after hacking to the chronometer, thus not disturbing the latter. In this role, it's similar to the U.S. Navy's comparing watch, the 2974B.
     
  2. doug sinclair

    doug sinclair Registered User

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    Some navy ships carried three full sized chronometers. The rule was that the chronometers were NEVER to all be in the same place at the same time (can you spell Kamikaze?). These were often called a "comparing" or comparison watch, used in comparing time on the chronometers.
     
  3. River rat

    River rat Registered User
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    Nice watch. You did do your home work the same info about this watch is in the book a concise guide to military timepieces by Wesolowski and Doug is right used as a comparing watch the Navigator would get a fix on the time from the ships chronometer then go on deck to do the navigation sighting here is a link that mite help.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longitude_by_chronometer
     
  4. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Moderator
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    I suspect from the marking and packaging that this watch was for aircraft navigation.

    I am guessing on this because I though that aircraft navigation watches were marked "HS 3" and this is one not but the HS 3's are usually 4992B's or equivalent Elgin or Waltham models.
     
  5. River rat

    River rat Registered User
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    #5 River rat, Apr 5, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2017
    Here's the info out of Wesolowski book the price is wrong the book a little old wished the prices were the same these days. And the poster said one was issued to a sailor on the HMS Quorn no aircraft on board so could of been used as a comparing watch and some might of been used on aircraft.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Quorn_(L66)
    DSC_0070_zpspyyxohsi.jpg

    DSC_0072_zpsv6e5hswb.jpg
     
  6. Barry Armstrong

    Barry Armstrong Registered User
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    Nice Watch. On my "wish list". Not easy to find a nice one.
     
  7. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Just thought I'd add (my first experimental post on the new format) that your watch has the "Broad Arrow" printed on its dial. That is the traditional symbol of British Military property which has been in use from the 1690's. On a trip to Bermuda I saw the markings everywhere in the area of the old Naval facilities. I hope you can read the attached picture for more information.

    Bermuda Cruise 077.JPG
     
  8. Sheep Farmer

    Sheep Farmer Newbie

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    My understanding of how these watches were used is that they were set accurately using a radio time signal and then taken from the radio room to wherever accurate time was needed on the ship.Remember at this time (World War II) Morse code was the standard method of radio communication.I would guess by the 1960s they were becoming obsolete.
     
  9. River rat

    River rat Registered User
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    #9 River rat, Jan 2, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
    These watches were used for air navigation not for a radio room time piece. Cool link below
    Navigating in the Air | Time and Navigation

    The Wartime Navigator | Time and Navigation

    Tools of the Trade | Time and Navigation

    The AM engraved on case back the stands for air ministry for the RAF just notice that.
     
  10. HUDD

    HUDD Registered User

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    My 3992B is the one that was used as a comparing watch on HMS Quorn and is marked on the case back HS3 only ( No AM ). I also have an Elgin 581 with the broad arrow marks and with the HS3 on the rear cover. I guess these were used by the RN as comparing watches, but also by the RAF as Master Navigation Watches. Probably by the army as well in some circumstances where accurate timing was necessary.

    Hudd
     
  11. tick talk

    tick talk Registered User

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    Nice discussion about the tools of aviation navigation, but I'm reminded how much depended on the talents of the person. Just finished reading Terror in the Starboard Seat, an autobiography of a wartime navigator in a DeHavilland Mosquito over Europe. He didn't talk much about his navigation tools, except the pile of maps on his lap and a pencil with 1/2" marks for scale. Timing was often just seconds between landmarks, so he mostly counted in his head. During the Battle of Britain they flew anti-V1 patrols (they bagged 4), and later night Intruder sorties at treetop level, alone, circling enemy airfields to catch returning fighters (they destroyed or damaged 14). They completed 41 missions and earned the DFC! I'm still amazed :-0
     
  12. tick talk

    tick talk Registered User

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    I dug up the exact description of how they used their "navigation pencil"...

    We cruised at 240 miles per hour, or four miles a minute. So I divided the distance by the speed and got the time. Thats all there was too it. In practice our navigation boiled down to this: we took a long pencil and marked it off in inches. Each inch was four miles or one minute. The pencil laid between two points on the map gave us the rough course and the notches in it gave us the time and distance. We had only three basic tools: the pencil, the map, and the flashlight to see the map. That was in the air. On the ground you worked out as much basic information as you could use with proper compass and ruler. But as soon as your pilot went haring off after an enemy plane or a train or a convoy all that preparation stuff was out and you were left with the three original basics. The pencil is mightier than the sextant in my navigation system.
     

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