The Fabulous Five Flückiger Weems Dials & Fonts

The large 46mm Weems wrist watch version, unique to Longines, featured a double back, a turning metal inner chapter ring, blued steel full moon hands with a chemin der fer track.

A mid 20th century image of one of the finest dial makers in Switzerland, the legendary Flückiger et fils SA. Established 160 years ago, now owned by Patek Philippe, they still call St Imier home. Image – Jura bernois Tourisme

The Fabulous Five Flückiger Weems (Dials) & fonts were an integral part of the first batch of test production pieces delivered to Wittnauer in 1930.

Longines worlds fair booklet aviation records
Longines Lindbergh watch users
Longines prize of the series awards
Longines awards 1918-1919
Longines worlds fair booklet aviation records
Longines Lindbergh watch users
Longines prize of the series awards
Longines awards 1918-1919
Longines awards 1920 to 1922
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Whilst born as a wrist watch, the large Weems used centre second pocket watch calibres. It first used the 18.69N, before using the upgraded 37.9 in 1938 and the 37.9N in 1941.

Flückiger were the only supplier of Grand feu (great fire) enamel dials to Longines from pre 1910 to post 1950 and consequently made all the Weems and Lindbergh vitreous enamel dials.

The production pieces, were first ordered in 1929 by Wittnauer, but delivered in April 10 and May 2, 1930. They featured an oversize enamel dial graced by one of five incredible Arabic fonts, along with an onion crown that enabled easier use with gloves. 

The complex artisan process creates vitreous enamel, using a process that essentially involves the fusing of glass to metal.

With Longines enamel dials, a thin copper base case has multiple (up to six) layers of enamel powder carefully sifted on to the the dial in the firing process at upwards of 800 degrees celsius.

Lindbergh 1930-lindy-font-1
An exquisite Art Nouveau font, the very first used on a Weems model that mirrors that chosen for Weems piece #1 and the prototype test Weems Hour-angle watch of Lindbergh. To date, a total of three pieces with this font are known to have survived, with the other surviving examples held in the Longines and Smithsonian museums.

Longines metal and enamel dial pocket, wrist and chrono creations featured a range of fonts in the late 1920’s. An incredible five fonts were utilized on the enamel dials during the inception and production of the Weems models.

For one of these fonts, the production was seemingly limited to the first production delivery in 1930 with a single known surviving piece.

First Weems prototype Smithsonian
Piece and Font #1 – P.V.H Weems actual watch and the very first type face to ever grace this model. The delivery made November 30, 1928 and today the piece lies in the Smithsonian. Image – Smithsonian.

The very first Longines Weems piece with an incredible art nouveau font was delivered to its creator on November 30, 1928, with serial number 3585867. 

This watch now rests in the Smithsonian, complete with the exception of the missing crown.

Piece and Font #2 – The second piece ever made, 3585868 with case hallmarks noting construction in 1929 featured another trial test font and was delivered to the UK agent, Baume, in June 1930. Essentially making it the very first Weems watch delivered outside America.

Font and piece #2 – made in 1929 and delivered to the UK agent Baume in June 1930. The case profile, chapter ring size, crown and repurposed movement were all unique on the first two pieces made.

Incredibly, it still has it’s very first pigskin strap, UK hallmarked solid silver buckle from 1929 and accompanying box.

It was the very first large Weems model ever delivered outside America and like piece #1 was a prototype.

The incredible inner chapter ring on these two pieces was just 18.5mm, mirroring it’s direct descendant the Longines Touran, a dual time pocketwatch. The case lugs were thicker, with much more downward curvature than the production models of 1930 that followed. All of these wonderful enamel dials were made by Flückiger.

The test production pieces that followed in the Wittnauer 1929 order, and subsequent delivery in April and May 1930 all had 21mm second-setting chapter rings.

Turkish Touran dual time Longines pocket watch
An incredible and possibly unique Turkish survivor. The Touran, with the name signed in the sub-second register had an 18.5mm turning chapter ring which was the size selected for the first two Weems. The piece featured a much earlier font and its enamel dial was also made by Flückiger et Fils. Today, this Longines dual time turning inner chapter creation lies in the creator’s museum and it bears the remarkable genetic code of the large 47mm Second-setting Weems watch that followed ten years later. Image courtesy – Vefa Borovali & Longines Museum.

Further, this first couple of Weems pieces used repurposed 18.69N pin-set pocketwatch calibers made by Longines ten years earlier in 1918 for the Turkish agent Nacib, who retailed a Duble tour D’Heure (dual time) turning inner disc pocket watch. The 18.69N movement was first introduced in 1908, and the movement on this second piece is stamped patented in 1911. 

Today, one of these early pre-cursor Weems pocket watch pieces with the dial signed Touran, rests in the Longines Museum. It is formative part in the evolutionary process that along with the creator inspired and enabled the Longines large Weems development.

The first production order #139*, made by Wittnauer in 1929, during the onset of the Great Depression, included a number of special test watches. Within this order delivered April 10 and May 2, 1930, were two prototype Hour-angle pieces delivered to Lindbergh. 

Lindberghs-weems-watch-1930
An incredible reminder of where the Hour-angle watch started – one of Lindbergh’s Hour-angle prototypes with a hand edited Flückiger dial. This piece mirrored his aircraft Calotte, which was the world’s very first Hour-angle time piece and delivered in Feb 1929.

This was one of two versions, the other featured a turning bezel for the unit of arc calibrations. This made it the world’s first turning bezel watch and both were delivered in the first production order in the first half of 1930.

One featuring, the unit of arc calibrations on the dial of the watch, is pictured in Weems Air Navigation book published in 1931.

All of these beautiful vitreous enamel dials on these vintage 1929-1944 pilot’s watches were made by the master dial maker Flückiger. These horological creations have now traversed the world, acquiring a special type of air mile. Each played its role writing, shaping and making aviation history. Their large Grand feu enamel dials are highly legible and designed to be functional tool watches. They are preserved in almost the same condition as when they left their St Imier home more than 76 years ago.

The other delivered with a calibrated turning bezel, also used by Lindbergh, was the world’s very first turning bezel wrist watch – predating the turning bezel on dive watches by some twenty years.

A silver heavily oxidized and blackened Weems, made for the Bureau of Aeronautics featuring font #3 and using cal 18.69N. The piece was supplied in this first test batch of production pieces received by Wittnauer May 2,1930, 92 years ago. It is a couple of serial numbers apart from the incredible Weems Hour-angle prototype watch which was the world’s very first watch with a turning bezel. The fonts of the two pieces mirrored one another.

This prototype serial #49315XX, after undergoing further dial and bezel modifications, evolved into the famous hour-angle production watch. The Hour-angle enabled the calculation of longitude and went onto receive a patent from the World Intellectual Property Organization in October 1931, becoming history’s most famous pilot watch. 

A rare and special military Weems supplied in the very first batch of test production pieces in 1930 to a division of the US Navy, the Bureau of Aeronautics.

Further, a Weems with serial #4931573, just a few serial numbers apart was supplied to the Bureau of Aeronautics (Bu Aero). First formed in 1921, this was the US Navy’s support organization for naval aviation, continuing operations right through until 1958. 

The back of the watch bore the division’s inscription. Similarly, an unusual hacking Weems model was delivered in this very same order.

A Weems with Font 4, Breguet type numerals, was also delivered in the first group of production pieces in May 1930. The piece has an unusual hacking feature and the work may have been done by Wittnauer as the watch is not noted in the Longines archives. Image – Courtesy Henry’s Auctions.

Whilst Longines have the most incredible archive department records, we now know that some of these incredible historical creations, somehow miraculously escaped the customary full notation in Longines archives.   

Whilst there were subtle dial variations depending on the date sold including a registration mark, patent note and most times Wittnauer text post mid 1935. Most Weems post 1933 feature just two of the five typefaces delivered in 1930.

Incredibly, this includes the world’s very first Hour-angle time piece, an aircraft calotte delivered in Feb 1929, along with the first two Hour-angle prototype watches which were all delivered to Wittnauer.

This is despite them being unique and incredible prototypes, their known and documented existence, along with their delivery and use, and in the case of these three pieces, use by Lindbergh himself.

Three of the pieces above were from the first production order delivery of 1930. This order included all five experimental fonts.

Whilst we can piece together the history of almost all of Longines incredible creations, tragically, there are no known Wittnauer records for this unique colourful and history shaping chapter of aviation history.  

Given their importance and role in supplying instruments and time pieces to aviation’s who’s who, this is a tragic loss in piecing together an even more complete horological history from this remarkable period.

Byrd's Second Antarctica expedition watch indicating sidereal time, with the original flight log
A special Weems delivered to Admiral Byrd for his Second Antarctic Weems delivered in August 1933, featuring the same font as the second piece made. The red star indicates the watch was regulated for sidereal time. Dials featuring two colors require an extra firing process and only a handful are known to exist today. To date, this is the only known example that has surfaced with a single red star.

Aside from the critical role the Longines Weems played in air navigation, perhaps the 46mm watch bearing the maker’s name, has one of the most aesthetically beautiful dials ever made.  Part of this can be attributed to their oversized Arabic Grand feu enamel dials.

To this, the addition of full moon Breguet type blued steel hands coupled with the contrasting inner chapter ring combine to enhance the balance, making it a unique, instantly recognizable model.

The J partly missing from the ZJ stamp that denotes Zelim Jacot, the founder of Flückiger et Fils.

All Longines enamel dials from this incredible time were made by Flückiger et Fils AG and carry the initials ZJ, for the firm’s founder Zelim Jacot, on the rear of the dial.

He was a master dial maker established in 1860 and started supplying Longines Grand feu enamel and metal dials by 1872, settling soon after in St Imier in the Swiss Canton of Bern in 1884.

Upon Mr Jacot’s passing, the company was taken over by his brother-in-law, Fritz Flückiger, who previously was involved in operations.  The firm stayed in family hands and Andre and Fernand took over in 1923, before Fernand’s passing in 1932. 

Longines Weems sidereal time two star dial
A special vitreous enamel dial with red stars to note regulation for sidereal time dial made by Flückiger for Longines in the 1930’s.

The former was later assisted by his son Pierre in 1941, prior to the reins being passed to the grandson in 1974.  The company was bought by the Stern Family, also with a rich dial making history, the owners of Patek Philippe, in 2004.

Today, Cadran Flückiger, a one hundred and sixty plus year old specialist dial maker continue to make the very best dials for Patek and other Swiss watch industry players and still calls St Imier, in the Swiss Canton of Bern, home.

The last elusive font.. Font #5 a late 20’s dial creation that Longines used on both metal and enamel dials. It was also used as a test font for the first Weems production piece delivery in 1930. To date, there is just a single known survivor with this font variation and it is currently being overhauled by Longines.

It is now known from collected timepieces that this first production order of the large Weems model included a number of sample test fonts. 

To date, discoveries point to a total of five incredible fonts on Flückiger dials gracing these creations.  All of these incredible type faces were supplied on this very first production order –  which seems fitting given just how special this first delivery was.  

Given the Weems incredible evolution from pocket watches, it is easy to see how these fonts were chosen by Longines. One of these test fonts appears to have been delivered only once as part of this 1929 order, and subsequent first production delivery in 1930.  

Discoveries to date, point to just a single known survivor for this font creation. Longines museum noted they are seeing this example for the very first time since its delivery some 92 years ago to Wittnauer.

Whilst another Art Nouveau font, has just three known pieces.  One of these rests in the Longines museum, and another, the very first Longines Weems watch, and that of the inventor, P.V.H Weems, with serial 3585867, now lies in the Smithsonian.

The same typeface was also also supplied to Lindbergh in this first order of 1930 for his Weems Hour-angle dial piece with the unit of arc calibrations added to the dial.

This was pictured in Weems first edition Air Navigation book (pic above) and it’s current existence and whereabouts remain unknown. Perhaps, these three pieces are a type of Weems wonder watch of sorts, given their art Nouveau font and unique history.

An unusual sidereal time text only Weems, featuring the Breguet font delivered to Wittnauer, July 31, 1935. The Flückiger Grand Feu enamel dial surviving miraculously in the same condition it left the factory 87 years ago. By mid 1935, Weems pieces supplied to America were double signed with Wittnauer at 12 and Longines at the 6 o’clock position, months before the formation of the new Longines-Wittnauer Co entity in 1936.

The 1929 Wittnauer order #139* contained an incredible lineup of test pieces. It included two experimental Weems type prototype hour-angle pieces for Lindbergh.  One of these featured the unit of arc calibrations on the dial, mirroring the world’s first Hour-angle timepiece –  his aircraft calotte, which was delivered fourteen months earlier, in February 1929.  

The other had these markings on the turning external bezel making it the world’s very first wrist watch with a turning bezel. Both Hour-angle pieces simplified longitudinal calculations by converting time to arc, the 360 units marking the globe.

This same delivery also included a piece for the US Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics with the back noting delivery, and a hacking Weems that also remains somewhat of a mystery creation.  

The US Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics Weems just two serial numbers apart and carrying the same font as Lindbergh’s Hour-angle prototype watch.

Further, it appears that the specialist Grand Feu enamel skills of the firm Flückiger et Fils, first founded by Zelim Jacot whose dials were on full display in all their glory.  Most likely Longines and Wittnauer were both testing which font versions they both thought would suit the target market of the period.

To date within this first order, at least of four of the five fonts of the master’s dials have now been discovered to have been delivered in April and May 1930 as part of this first production order. Further, delivery information points to one of these five fonts most likely being unique to this very first order by Wittnauer. 

All of these watches have a special St Imier connection – almost all these Longines pilot watches have Grand feu enamel dials that heralded from the master dial maker Flückiger et fils SA.

The Weems heralded from a time when the aviator or aviatrixes lives depended on their reliability, accuracy, functionality and performance.  The Second-setting watch would form a critical and official part of the Weems System of Navigation.

Weems concepts, along with the repurposing of a Longines turning chapter pocket watch from 1918 originally built for the Turkish market were central to the evolution of their Second-setting watch.

A trio of Weems fonts used over 15 years with deliveries in 1933 (L), 1930 (C) and 1944 (R).

The inner chapter ring disc could be rotated in either direction to gain an additional accuracy of +/- 30 seconds by using a radio signal or other known exact timepiece. They were needed to make in-flight second-setting adjustments to better help calculate one’s position.  

The Weems incredible Flückiger Grand feu enamel dials all herald from 75 plus years ago. The detailed, complex, expensive, and time consuming process makes this type of dial, along with the the variety of fonts from a bygone era serves as a unique reminder of the talents of this extra-ordinary dial maker and the Longines watches themselves. Pilots relied upon these incredible aviation tool watches with their lives. 

A 1935 double signed enamel Flückiger dial for Wittnauer in the states. Almost all Weems watches were delivered to America.

They were legible, dependable, accurate, and robust time keepers that enabled calculating one’s position in the air, and were an essential requirement overcoming the challenges of aerial navigation.

Their stories, adventures and the pilots who used them are entwined within this incredible chapter in Longines and world aviation history.  A time and era that forever changed and shaped the world we know today.

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