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‘Dambuster’ Watch Transports You Back to Daring WWII Mission Over Germany

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Gear Review by Susan Katz Keating

I’ve never known a watch that could help you travel through time, but the chrono-wizards at AVI-8 have figured out how to build such devices, with their timepieces that honor the history of military aviation.

I learned of this when the wizards sent me their latest creation, a limited edition watch that pays homage to the UK’s Dambuster 617 Squadron and Operation Chastise during World War II. 

The crews didn’t have AVI-8 timepieces to keep them on point for the mission; the watch company was founded in 2012. But aviation history buffs can strap on the vintage-inspired watches, and immerse themselves inside the classic cockpits of the P-51 Mustang, the Hawker Hurricane, and more, including the Avro Lancaster bomber. And they can travel through time. 

At least, that’s what happened to me.

First, a word about the Dambuster watch.

This is a man’s watch, classy and rugged. It looks like an instrument that was plucked from a Lancaster cockpit, and secured within strips of leather that were cut from a bomber jacket. But the timepiece isn’t just a beautiful example of retro, functional art; it also has features that are useful for flying into modern day remote airstrips, or for wearing around the hangar.

The Dambuster 617 Squadron 80th Anniversary Limited Edition watch comes in three colorways: jet black, navy blue, and camo tan. Each timepiece has a case width of 43mm and a case length of 51.5mm. It is water-resistant up to 5 ATM. The movement is driven by the Miyota FS26, and nestled inside a stainless-steel case. 

Those are the specs. But these are the effects. When I unboxed my watch and held it, I instantly was reminded of the history behind its creation.

The war in 1943 was intense. In Tunisia, the Allies suffered 10,000 casualties fighting General Rommel at Kasserine Pass. In Belarus, the German Dirlewanger Brigade burnt alive the entire population of Khatyn. In the Labrador Sea, a German U-boat torpedoed the SS Dorchester, killing 674 on board, including the U.S. Army’s Four Chaplains. 

As the Dambuster watch informed me, the Allies desperately needed to drive a blow not just to the German military, but also to the war industry.

Enter the UK’s Royal Air Force. 

READ MORE about Britain in World War II: A Secret Weapons Factory Hidden Beneath Parliament

The Brits devised a plan to destroy key dams deep within Germany, to cut off water and electricity that fueled Hitler’s war effort. Engineers developed a “bouncing bomb” that literally skipped atop the water before hitting the target. Yes, that’s correct; the bomb – dropped from 60 feet – skipped over the water like a stone, enabling the aircrews to attack from a distance, and evade anti-aircraft guns that protected the dams. 

Diagram of Operation Chastise, from the Imperial War Museum

The bombs were loaded aboard 19 modified Avro Lancaster bombers, and entrusted to the 617 Squadron. The unit consisted of aircrew from from Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA, and was led by 24-year old Wing Commander Guy Gibson. They launched the secret Operation Chastise in May 1943.

Of the 133 aircrew that took part, 53 were killed and three became prisoners of war. To this day, the mission is revered as bringing a huge boost to much needed national morale. 

Operation Chastise brought valuable esprit, and so does this timepiece. On a real-world level, AVI-8 is donating 5% of net sales from this launch to support the work of the 617 Squadron Association. In another realm, the watch cultivates a deeper appreciation for the unit’s courageous actions during World War II.

Okay, Dambuster watch: I’m holding you in the palm of my hand. Take me to 1943, and the skies over Germany.

Susan Katz Keating is the publisher and editor in chief of Soldier of Fortune.

About Susan Katz Keating

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