BUY A WATCH WITH ME : “THE STORY OF THE BLACK SERBIAN” PART 2
Last week we published on our blog a post written by George Pakkos (Geo1518) concerning the purchase from the original owner of a rare oversized Longines with galvanic black dial sold by M.Stefanovich.
You can find the first part of the post – HERE –
George told us the behind the scenes of this purchase by revealing how and where he found this watch.
He also showed us other rare watches retailed by the prestigious Serbian retailer M.Stefanovich belonging to important private collectors.
Today, in the second part of the post, George will analyze these rare Serbian Longines both putting together their origins and history, but also focusing on the more technical aspects.
The graphics of the dials, the engravings of the casebacks, the types of movements will be carefully analyzed.
Hoping it will be to your liking, we wish you a good read!
Just for some context (as the info does get somewhat confused on the forums), here is a brief history of the region prior to the existence of these wristwatches.
The Kingdom of Serbia went through quite a few changes during the early period of the 20th Century.
Most notably, at the end of the WWI (Nov 1918), Serbia united with Vojvodina and the Kingdom of Montenegro.
Then a month later Serbia merged with the newly created state of Slovenes and Croats, which in turn eventually became known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929 (2).
Fast-forward to 1939 and the arrival of WWII, Yugoslavia was surrounded by countries which had become allies with the Nazis.
Prince Paul who was temporary King Regent decided to enter into a non-aggression pact with Germany.
This did not bode well with the people of Serbia, (or the future King Peter II).
As a result, there were riots, and eventually a coup, supported by the British.
Following these events, King Peter II was proclaimed of age, and Prince Paul’s regency was ended.
There was a deep sense of pride and national unity in Serbia at the time, but they were forced to surrender April 17 1941.
Serbian coat of arms, first used by the Karađorđević dynasty.
Students At Serbian Military Academy (Photo by Chusseau-Flaviens/George Eastman Museum/Getty Images)
Image of the ‘Vojna Akademija’ (military academy) in Belgrade.
The First and Second batches
By 1939 both batches were already in circulation, and both versions of these watches were given as gifts on behalf of the King to the graduates’ officers of the military academy (vojna akademija) and we can assume that they were on special order by Stefanovich to Longines.
The first batch (with white dial and a larger engraving on case-back) to the 62nd class of the military academy, all invoiced Sep 1937.
The second batch (black dial) with ‘smaller case-back engraving’ to the 64th class all invoiced Sep 1939.
Both have snap back, three-part cases.
Logo for the military academy (vojna Akademija).
Saint Lazarus emblem.
62nd Class (vojna akademija) Military Academy 1934-37
Below, a first batch Longines Serbian with white dial.
Reference 3494, order number 19477, invoiced 11 September 1937 to Stefanovich.
The hands are blued steel ‘Feuille’/leaf hands, the case is a great size at 38mm diameter.
First series Serbian Longines retailed by M.Stefanovich.
Another nice example of a second batch reference 2326 order number 20652.
The hands on the second batch are also leaf shaped, different in style to those of the first batch, brushed steel almost luminescent.
The case is 37.5mm in diameter.
A second series Serbian Longines retailed by M.Stefanovich.
The real difference in the two versions are case-back engravings and the obviously the dials.
They naturally have different reference numbers (or cliché numbers as they are known at Longines).
The early white versions have the reference 3494, with order number 19477.
Also from Longines archives regarding this first batch watch “The case back must be engraved with the Serbian coats of arms for officers, grade and year 1937.
The dial must be white with the name Stefanovitch and Belgrade in Cyrillic and the coats of arms.” 1937 would have been the year in which the officer graduated from the academy. At the top it says “Protect Yugoslavia”. At the bottom it says class 62.
These details regarding the case-backs in the archives lead me to believe that the case back engraving was most likely done in house by Longines rather than at the manufacturer Stefanovich, but this is just a guess.
Both versions have fixed bars.
The first series caseback.
The later black versions have the reference 2326. Longines archives also stated “I can confirm the order number 20652. The name of Stefanovitch and the emblem are on the black dial (in cyrillic).
There also is the engraving on the case back of a “military coats of arms”. At the bottom class 64.
As stated, the case back has the symbol of Yugoslavia (coat of arms first used by the Royal House of Karagjordgevic), of which Serbia along with Croatia and Slovenia were part of during the period.
Both case backs are very similar both in their purpose and design.
The second series caseback.
On both versions the inner case backs there is the engraving “Acier Inox Staybrite”.
The later black batch has the order number engraved ‘20652’ and what we guess might be a progressive number below, but Longines are not able to confirm this.
The second series inner caseback.
Following, inner and outer case back from the earlier white batch.
The serial number also stamped, but with no order number engraved on the inner case.
Inner and outer first series caseback.
Outer casebacks of 4 different Longines Stefanovich wristwatches comparison.
An image from Longines ledger on the left, with text and image showing coats of arms Saint Lazarus emblem, Longines Milan T. Stefanovich.
On the dial, the coat of arms (Saint Lazarus emblem) and retailer signature ‘Milan T. Stefanovich Beograd’ directly under the Longines font in Cyrillic, hence the nickname ‘The Serbian (Serbo).
Both the black and white dials made by dial maker Fluckinger & Fils (ZJ. (Zelim Jacot) stamp on the back), who were one of the most prominent dial makers (along with Stern) for Longines, also located in St Imier.
This typography on both the white and black dials are also used in other time only Longines from the period (most with calibre 15.94, they are easily distinguished due to the larger printing of the 12, 3 and 9 index).
Macro shots of black and white dials.
As previously stated, these watches were ‘prize watches’ or gifts awarded to the soldiers/lieutenants who finished the military academy top of the class .
The second batch with black dial has a serial range, 5,7xx,xxx, with case size 37.5mm.
The white version (first batch) has a serial range of, 3,3xx,xxx, with case size 38mm. The white early version also has a faceted bezel opposed to the flat bezel on the later black version.
First series white dial Serbian Longines.
Second series black dial Serbian Longines.
A combination of a large case at 37.5mm, coin edge flat bezel, military connection, a very distinctive dial with the coat of arms and retailer signature, along with the case-back engraving (the retailer signature for sure and likely case-back engraving both done by the manufacturer), in addition to its rarity, makes it a very desirable and interesting watch for collectors.
There is a nice size to the crown, also quite flat, usual for Longines from the period with 24 teeth.
Interestingly, most of the examples that have appeared seem to have aged in a similar fashion (with a couple of exceptions), most have this almost puffy looking patina, as can be seen in the various pictures of this watch in this article.
This is probably in relation to the process in which these galvanised dials where originally made and in turn have aged and, in my view, adds to the charm of the watch.
Another second series Stefanovich Longines.
Movement – Calibre 15.26
The calibre 15.26 was first produced in 1911, it’s a 15½ line movement “hunter lever winding mechanism”, more or less it used the same ebauche as the calibers 15.25, 14.25, 17.26 and 21.25.
Many have suggested that this was in order to retain the production costs  and this was a goal regarding production of the movements early 20th century.
But it should be emphasised that by 1937 these “old” calibres represented just 10% of production and were generally used mainly for special order watches, as ‘the cost of finishing these movements were higher than that of the new calibres’ .
The 15.26 proved to be a sturdy calibre and as a result were used in other military Longines from the period, most notably the ‘Tartargua’ (ref 3582).
The movement proved reliable, gilt finished, 34.7mm in diameter and 5.65mm in height, with bimetallic balance and steel Breguet overcoil.
Second batch with black dial, caliber 15.26
First batch white dial, with caliber 15.26.
An image from Longines catalogue spare parts no 8 calibre 15.26 along with dimensions and list of parts.
Below, a collage of images all showing coat of arms mostly Stefanovich, also …including Zenith M.R Pektovic and Longines railroad watch Božidar Mišić Pirot, all Serbian.