In the early 1940’s, the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) published a set of specifications for a wristwatch design that they wanted to use for their soldiers. The specifications are commonly referred to as WWW, or Replica Watch Wristlet Waterproof. Twelve companies submitted replica watches that met the criteria: Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, Jaeger LeCoultre, Lemania, Longines, IWC, Omega, Record, Timor and Vertex. These twelve replica watches together are called the “Dirty Dozen” by military replica watch collectors. Interestingly, the war ended before these great replica watches could be issued to soldiers for combat duty.
Of the twelve brands, the Cyma is one of most popular for several reasons. The Cyma WWW is housed in a solid stainless steel case, measuring a respectable 38mm wide not including the large crown. Many of the other manufacturers used chrome plated cases which have survived to varying degrees, making the steel case of the Cyma easier to find in nice condition. Also, the 38mm case is the largest of the dozen, making it a popular choice for wearing in this day and age of larger replica watches. Some of the Dirty Dozen are quite rare and expensive, but the Cyma is one of the more common to be found, making it a prime choice for the casual or beginner mil-watch collector.
The stainless steel case is 38mm wide, by almost 45mm long, with 18mm lugs. The lugs have fixed bars, and will not accommodate spring bars of course. With fixed bars, these are usually worn on Nato straps, but I’ve got mine on an open ended pilot strap. The original factory finish was brushed on the case, with a wide, beveled polished bezel. The crystal is acrylic, with a nice mellow dome to it. These crystals are extremely difficult to source, so replica watch out for bad or ill-fitting crystals. The steel crown is a healthy 6.6mm wide, making it easy to grip and wind. The movement in these is the Cyma caliber 234, a 15 jewel manual wind. Oddly, this movement does not have a shock protected balance. Closing the movement in is a soft iron dust cover, which also helps with anti-magnetic protection.
The dial is black with Arabic numeral hour markers, and a sub seconds dial at six o’clock. It originally came with Radium lume plots at each hour, and the large baton shaped hands were also filled with Radium. It was common for these to be relumed by the MoD, removing the radioactive Radium and replacing it with a less dangerous material. It seems to be getting harder to find these with original Radium in good condition.
The dial and/or lume on these are often found in poor condition, but with patience and persistence, good examples can be found. My example has a lovely “tropical” dial going, with the original Radium lume on the dial and hands. I even had a co-worker check the Radium with a Geiger counter, and it was chirping like crazy….just a tad scary. I’ve seen these go for anywhere from $400 to upwards of $1000 depending on the condition and seller/site. So if you’re looking for a wearable vintage military replica watch that won’t break the bank, the Cyma WWW is a great place to start.
by Christoph McNeill a.k.a. @vintagediver