Introducing the REC RJM Limited Edition Spitfire

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REC Watches is consistently releasing fast-selling limited edition watches that house salvaged parts from historically significant cars and planes. The new RJM watch sports a dial made from untreated aluminum taken from the wing of a WWII MK IX Spitfire plane. As if that weren’t enough historical significance, the specific plane is number PT879, which the Allies loaned to the Soviet Air Forces. Remarkably, of over 1,000 Spitfires loaned to Russia, PT879 remains the only one to return to the UK—and that’s after being shot down in 1945 and sitting in a barn for decades. Today, British aviation expert Peter Teichman is diligently restoring PT879 to exact original specifications. The watch’s name, “RJM,” stands for Reginald Joseph Mitchell, the British designer of the Spitfire.

RJM 1, one of three watches making up this collection.

Unlike many of REC’s offerings, the 41-millimeter RJM is relatively understated. Designed in collaboration with Switzerland’s StudioDivine, there were two goals: to feature the Spitfire’s aerodynamic qualities, and to capture the spirit of WWII British military watches. That sounds like a convoluted design brief to my ear, but by featuring basic shapes of the Spitfire on features like the crown (shaped like the nose of the plane here), the crown guards (shaped like the wings), and the date aperture (shaped like an altimeter), the RJM coheres into a handsome and stylish watch without falling into the pit of kitsch that ensnares many thematic watches.

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The full range.

Other Spitfire-esque features include the seconds hand, whose tail is shaped like a propeller, and the rotor, which is riveted in the same fashion as the Spitfire’s body plates. The sandwich dial—in which we find lume—is suggestive of Italian WWII watches from Panerai, but in this decidedly British context the dial does not seem derivative. There are three versions of the RJM available.

As far as capturing the spirit of British WWII mil-spec watches, REC has focus on basic shapes and proportions: the era-correct long lugs, the larger crown for easier operation with gloves on, the chamfered bezel, and the modest size all contribute to the RJM’s pilot watch vibe.

What doesn’t look historically accurate, however, is the brushed stainless steel throughout the RJM’s case, the rear sapphire crystal, and of course the decorative crown and guards. But the goal here isn’t to mimic British military watches as much as it is to capture and celebrate their spirit. On that count, REC scores quite high.

Compelling stories involving Spitfires—and specifically number PT879—abound, but few are as interesting as the one in which the Russians swiftly painted over the British Royal Air Force’s target-like roundel with the unmistakable red star of Soviet Russia. While Joseph Stalin’s communist state was a key ally in the defeat of Hitler, given what we now know about Stalin’s reign, the remnants of that red star on PR879 are a chilling reminder of the strategic compromises that the British made in order to secure victory. To have a piece of that very plane on your wrist seems a poignant memento, one that captures the twisted nature of wartime ethics. I can’t help but wonder what Churchill would think of this watch.

The PT789 wreckage.

Just after PT879 was shot down in 1945, a Russian farmer pulled it into a barn where it remained until 1998 when various interests—including the Russian mob, apparently—hassled over its ownership. It eventually returned to the UK where it finally met up with Peter Teichman, who is restoring it now. Teichman has resumed almost all of the original metal from PT879, but some parts of the aluminum wings were unusable; it is those pieces that have gone into the RJM watch.

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The movement is a Miyota 9015 with aforementioned rotor decoration. The 9015 is mechanical, self-winding, beats at 28,800 bph, and stores 42 hours of power. Straps include either a black or tan double-layered calf skin or a green canvas. All straps have a stainless steel pin-buckle, as well as a quick release system.

The REC RJM goes on sale today for $1,295, and if the sale is anything like REC’s other releases, you’ll have to move quickly to secure one of these historically significant timepieces. REC

Images from this post:
At age 7 Allen fell in love with a Timex boy's dive watch his parents gave him, and he's taken comfort in wearing a watch ever since. Allen is especially curious about digital technology having inspired a revival of analog technology, long-lasting handmade goods, and classic fashion. He lives in a one-room schoolhouse in The Hudson Valley with his partner and two orange cats.
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