Watch # 6 -My Gruen Airflight

When I was a watchmaking student, I was very hungry to possess anything and everything watch related. I wanted every tool or movement that I could get my hands on. I was addicted to the wonder and magic that is horology, and this tiny world that I had grown to love, just seemed to offer more adventure everywhere I looked. I would scour through flea market stalls and garage sales and would scoop up anything that had a mechanical movement or some semblance of one (the bag of Timex movements is testament to my cute naivety). There were a few other students at school that shared this same enthusiasm. One guy (Serge), was a “mature” student who had, over his life of watch love, collected many pieces and busted up watches. He surprised us one day with a couple boxes full of various watches and movements that he let us to, like vultures in the desert. We all flocked to the boxes and respectfully took turns claiming movements, cases, and parts. I managed to claim about 20 or so movements and full watches. This was very useful to me as I later used many of the pieces to restore and fix several watches. Most of the movements just ended up in my parts box and I would visit it every once in a while when I needed something.

A few months ago, I decided to go through the box again to see if there was anything of use for me. After acquiring much more experience over the last 3 years working in Vancouver, I thought I might find something with new meaning. This is when I found what I thought was just a common Gruen movement. It was interesting because it had a module on it that I was unfamiliar with. I did some research and discovered that this module was an hour corrector for a Gruen Airflight.

I was stoked! I had been wanting one of these for quite sometime. The Airflight is a unique complication. The dial has holes where the hour markers go and there is a disc underneath the dial that changes every 12 hours to reveal a different set of numbers. Either 1 through 12, or 13 through 24. Therefore, it’s technically a 24-hour hour watch. You can see how it works here.

So now that I had the movement, I had to see if I could get it working properly. I replaced the 3rd wheel and added some screws to the module plate, gave it a full service and got it running nicely. Now if I could only find a case, dial and hands, I would be in business. This was a bit of a pipe dream. But low and behold one day this Gruen case came up on (you guessed it) Ebay. It was listed as a “Dummy watch”. It was for display purposes and had never contained a working movement. I wasn’t sure if this was going to work, because there was no picture of the underside of the dial. I didn’t know if the disc with the hour markers was intended to work or was just for show. Would the hands fit the bosses on my movement, and would the stem and crown all link up? I had to try, it was too cool not to. So I bit the bullet and bought it.

When it came in the mail, I was trying to contain my excitement. It was in absolute mint condition as it had never been worn. I opened her up and started my operation. Everything was as it should be. The disc fit perfectly and the case accepted the movement like a hug from an old friend. The only real issue I had was the hour hand was slightly too big, but that was easy enough to tighten.

So voila, here she is in all her glory. I absolutely love this complication as I don’t see it very often. So cool! Sometimes I’ll set an alarm just to try and catch the hour wheel flip. It’s quick and the click sound is oh so satisfying. Check out my youtube channel to see this watch in action.

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