Today's Spotted is dedicated to an important historical figure of the 20th century, Louis Mountbatten, British statesman, admiral and last Viceroy of India. Some of you, especially the younger ones, will probably have known him thanks to the Netflix series "The Crown", which has turned the spotlight more on a figure of considerable historical importance. However, his naval and diplomatic career is linked to the history of the United Kingdom and beyond. Before we talk about his watches, let's retrace it together.
Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma,had a long and illustrious naval career. In 1932 he was promoted to commander and in 1937 to captain. During World War II he was in command of H.M.S. Kelly,famous for having accomplished many feats, before being promoted to commodore and captain at HMS Illustrious in 1941. In 1943 he was appointed Supreme Allied Commander of Southeast Asia with the rank of admiral until 1946. Between 1946 and 1956 he was promoted to rear admiral, vice admiral, fourth lord of the sea, first lord of the sea and admiral of the fleet.
In 1947, the 1st Count was created Mountbatten of Burma and in the same year he was appointed Viceroy of India. He was the last person to serve as viceroy and concluded negotiations for the independence of India and Pakistan from the Empire. From 1959 to 1965 as Chief of The Defence Staff and Chairman of the Committee of Chiefs of Staff he worked to integrate various branches of the armed forces. He died on 27 August 1979, while fishing on a small boat in Donegal Bay, Ireland, which was murdered by the IRA.
Earl Mountbatten was the uncle of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and had always been known to the family as Uncle Dickie. He was very close to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and prince Charles is said to refer to him as his "honorary grandfather".
ROLEX BUBBLEBACK ref. 2490
Lord Mountbatten was often spotted with an elegant wrist Rolex Oyster Bubbleback ref. 2940, widespread among British officers, and not only, at that time. The very watch that was often immortalized on the wrist of India's last viceroy was auctioned off at Christie's in 2006. It was a gift from his wife Edwina, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, on their 21st wedding anniversary.
The Rolex Bubbleback is credited as the first official Oyster Perpetual watch, it was characterized by the typical Oyster case and a Perpetual movement with auto-charging technology, a real innovation in those years. Dating back to the 1950s, this 'Ovetto' ref. 2940 is a forerunner of the brand's immensely successful line of sports watches that would follow in a few years.
Although Lord Mountbatten has often been spotted with this wonderful rolex house specimen, although from some shots we found it is evident that he owned at least one other Rolex with oyster gold case, we managed to find two more watches never noticed on his wrist...
BULOVA ACCUTRON ASTRONAUT
This photo depicts Lord Mountbatten wearing a Bulova Accutron Astronaut. It is an iconic watch of the Made in USA fashion house, which owed the name "Astronaut" to the use of the watch during the experimental phases of some American military aviation projects.
The first was the assignment by the USAF, NASA and U.S.Navy agencies of Accutron watches to pilots who alternated on the three rocket aircraft. North American X-15, aircraft that between 1959 and 1968 carried out 199 experimental flights crossing the boundary between the atmosphere and space. Another important recognition was when during the early 1960s the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) entrusted the same models to the pilots destined for the OXCART project, code name of the Lockheed A-12 military reconnaissance aircraft produced by the Skunk Works section.
The movement of the Accutron Astronaut uses a diapason oscillator, driven by an integrated circuit controlled by a transistor, which vibrates at 360 Hz thanks to a battery. The advantage of this type of movement was certainly the precision, reliability and ease of use compared to common mechanical movements especially for aerospace use.
The model worn by Lord Mountbatten was in 14K gold, the type of gold used for the American market.
BULOVA ACCUTRON ACCUQUARTZ
But the Bulova Accutron Astronaut was hardly the only specimen in the diapason's house. Here is Lord Mountbatten in his Royal Navy uniform, wearing a Bulova Accutron Accuquartz, gold laminate, with Fixo Flex type bracelet. In this case the research was really very difficult. Deciphering a decidedly uneman commercial watch from the carrure alone, although so unusual but typically 70s, took hours and hours of research.
The Bulova Accuquartz represents the attempt of a "change of pace" for Bulova, given that the advent of the firstquartz watches, made diapson technology expensive and obsolete, which resulted in a dramatic drop in sales. In 1969, Bulova's management agreed with the CEH consortium, which was developing the Beta 21 movement, which was to be the first quartz movement made in Switzerland, and a year later, in 1970, produced in a small series of experimental watches, which received the temporary name of "Accuquartz", and were sold through some personally selected jewelry stores by the house , as a market test. The operation, however, was not satisfactory, as the high production costs of the Beta 21 caliber would have forced Bulova to sell its watches at too high a price.
This small part, I imagine, of the timepieces that belonged to Lord Mountbatten surprised me somewhat. If the Rolex Bubbleback was a watch spread among the gentlemen of that era, especially if looking for a waterproof, durable and extremely versatile object, the two Bulovas were real surprises. I certainly would have expected them on the wrist of a Navy Seals. Who knows they weren't given to him by some U.S. officer as a sign of friendship between old sea wolves...