Affordable Vintage: Cyma WWW, One of the “Dirty Dozen”

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In the early 1940s, the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) published a set of specifications for a wristwatch to be issued to their soldiers. The specifications are commonly referred to as WWW, or Watch Wristlet Waterproof. Twelve companies submitted watches that met the criteria: Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, Jaeger LeCoultre, Lemania, Longines, IWC, Omega, Record, Timor and Vertex.


If you’re into great vintage military watches, click here to read about the Mark 11 specification.


These twelve watches together are called the “Dirty Dozen” by military watch collectors. Interestingly, the second World War ended before these great watches could be issued to soldiers for combat duty.

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Of the twelve brands, the Cyma WWW is one of most popular for several reasons. It 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. The 38mm case is also the largest of the dozen, making it a bit easier to wear today.

Despite all these desired features, the Cyma is one of the more affordable of the twelve. Many of the other Dirty Dozen are relatively rare and expensive, but the Cyma is one of the more common to be found, making it a prime choice for a burgeoning mil-watch collector.

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CYMA_WWW_5The stainless steel case is 38mm wide by almost 45mm long, and it features 18mm lugs. The original factory finish had the case largely brushed, 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 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 movement. 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 lugs have fixed bars (meaning bars are soldered onto the case).  With fixed bars, you’re most basic option with regard to straps are mil-straps, but there are also open-ended straps designed for fixed lugs.

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.

CYMA_WWW_1The 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 (and it was a tad scary). I’ve seen these go for anywhere from $400 to upwards of $1,000 depending on the condition and seller/site (as of 2017, the going rate for a Cyma WWW is around $1,500). So, if you’re looking for a wearable vintage military watch that won’t break the bank, the Cyma WWW is a great place to start.

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Christoph (Instagram’s @vintagediver) is a long time collector and lover of all things vintage, starting with comic books when he was a kid (he still collects them). His passion for watches began in 1997 when he was gifted a family heirloom vintage Omega Genève by his step-father. That started him on the watch collecting path—buying and selling vintage watches of all sorts, with a special appreciation for vintage dive watches and Seiko.
vintagediver
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7 responses to “Affordable Vintage: Cyma WWW, One of the “Dirty Dozen””

  1. Thomas says:

    “Chirping like crazy.” Is that not dangerous to wear?

    • Perhaps a bit, lol. The tech who did the reading said he wouldn’t put it near his family jewels! The reading was much weaker on the back side, with all the metal it has to go through. Bottom line, it’s pretty safe to wear…..mostly.

    • w&w says:

      I’ve read a bit about this and it seems that Radium is most dangerous as a dust…the radiation it may or may not be putting into you is fairly insignificant. BUT, if it has a cracked crystal, or you are handling a dial with Radium lume on it, you could get it in your lungs…thus putting an radiation emitting inside your body, and that’s no good.

      Good reading on Radium and the “Radium Girls” http://www.damninteresting.com/undark-and-the-radium-girls/

  2. Josh says:

    I love the crown proportion to the rest of the case.

    I go back and forth on trying to acquire one of these. I like them very much and they are a neat piece of history.

  3. MPO says:

    I want to find a Cyma WWW watch. Just wonder where is a good place (web-site) to start with. I did search through ebay, but find nothing there.

    • mnby says:

      Chrono24 is a good place to find them. I myself haven’t purchased anything from the website but it seems safe. they range from $1000 though.