Here at VWC LTD we know that one of the most loved sections of our blog is “Buy a watch with me” where you can find the “behind the scenes” of the purchasing process of some of the watches which we had the opportunity to assess and evaluate during our daily watch-trading activity.
Today’s topic will be very special because it concerns a very rare watch considered by many Longines collectors a real “Grail Watch” : a time only black dial oversize Longines wristwatch retailed by M.Stefanovich of Serbia.
This post was written by a dear friend, a great collector and renowned Longines expert: George Pakkos (geo1518 on Instagram).
We can only be honored to have George on our blog as he is recognized in the vintage Longines community as one of the most accredited scholars in the field.
The post will be divided into 2 parts ; in the first one George will tell us how and where he found the “Black Serbian”, as well as showing others rare – not only Longines- watches retailed by M.Stefanovich of Serbia belonging to important private collections.
In the second part, which will published next week, he will carry out a detailed and in-depth technical analysis of the Longines wristwatches retailed by the historical serbian retailer M.Stefanovich.
Interesting and rare watches often pop up in the most unexpected of places; this is for sure the case here.
This watch found in Cork Ireland, from the nephew of the previous owner.
I decided to take some images and document my day trip going to pick up the watch.
The name of the original owner shown in photograph was a Waclaw Jarosz, from the region of Todz, Poland seen in images below.
According to the information I was given, it wasn’t clear how his Uncle had found it, only that it was around 1945-1947 at the end or just after WWII.
I guess most likely the watch was given in trade by a (Serbian) soldier, as was quite often the case that soldiers would trade goods that they had between themselves.
Early morning flight to Cork, Ireland.
Arrived and walking through Cork looking for a taxi to take me to get the watch.
Looking for the right address walking through the outskirts of Cork, finally I get to the house.
The name of the original owner was a Waclaw Jarosz, from the region of Todz, Poland.
Me and the former owner of the watch, the nephew of the original owner.
Arrived at home , time for a wristshot with The “Black Serbian”.
Sometime later, I was lucky to get a crown straight from the draws of Longines at a recent GTG that we had there.
Thanks in advance to Jennifer Bochud, a friend and curator at the Longines museum for her kind help with this article and for all the information from the archives. Here is the info from the archives on the watch.
(Second batch Black dial) (Info from Longines) – The original serial number 5,778,665 identifies a wristwatch in stainless steel bearing the reference 2326 (this is also known as the cliché).
It is fitted with a Longines manually wound mechanical movement, caliber 15.26 and was invoiced on 15 Sep 1939 to the company Stefanovich Milan T, which was at that time our agent in Belgrade.
Also from the archives ‘ I can confirm the order number 20652.
The name of Stefanovich 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”.
A gallery of the “Black Serbian”
Macro image of the coat of arms and Longines with retailer Milan T. Stefanovich Belgrade.
Case-back image of the watch.
Nicknamed the ‘Serbian’ (or ‘Serbo’ for the Italian collectors), this is the later version (or second batch) with black galvanic dial, coats of arms (Royal House of Karadjordjevic and Saint Lazarus chain emblem) on the dial and Yugoslavian crest (coat of arms) on case back (Serbia was a part of Yugoslavia).
The case back engraving is very clear and shows no sign of previously being polished (often the case with some of these watches that its faded or polished off completely), it didn’t have the correct crown when I found it, (too small and incorrect number of teeth, but was very lucky to get one straight out of Longines draws on a later trip to St Imier).
Also, on the dial the retailer name ‘Milan T Stefanovich’, which was the most prominent royal retailer (one of three court-appointed retailers) in Belgrade at the time selling both jewellery and watches.
We believe that they had 8 shops in the region.
Pictured below is an image of the flagship store in Belgrade (circa 1930), before they were to close during WW2 after the invasion of the Nazis.
During the 1930’s Stefanovich supplied watches to the military on behalf on the monarchy and previously to the railway companies in the region, many of which have the same coat of arms on the dials and on the case backs.
An image of the flagship Milan T. Stefanovich store in Belgrade, circa 1930]
There’s already a great article that exists online about these watches explaining both the history of Serbia and differences in the two variations by Adriano Davidoni (1).
Since then, more examples (Stefanovich retailer stamped) have come to light, and not just Longines (although the Longines versions are undoubtedly one of the most collectable), but also from some other brands as well, these include, Rolex, Leonidas, Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger le Coultre, Pavel Bure, Marvin, Laco, Silvana and earlier railroad pocket watches….
Many of these watches have the coat of arms on the dials, case-backs, inner cases, and sometimes even stamped on the movements, so we thought this was a nice moment to showcase and explain some details of these very rare and interesting military watches. **circa 15 examples of black Serbians are known to the market, around 5 of the earlier white examples.
Let’s now have a look at some examples of Stefanovich retailed watches shown by friends.
Just below an image from a great friend and collector of Stefanovich watches, Srdjan.
Perhaps one of the most important Stefanovich signed watch we’ve seen, a Rolex bubbleback, also with the coat of arms on the dial, and again signed by the retailer above the sub seconds.
The Stefanovich Bubbleback.
Coat of arms and M. Stefanovich stamp on the rotor, unique to see such a stamp on a Rolex rotor.
Inner case back also with the coat of arms engraving and M. Stefanovich.
Incredible box with coat of arms, inside a collection of Stefanovich pocket watches from various brands, also from our dear friend and expert in Serbian watches, Srdjan in Belgrade.
Other examples by our friend Srdjan.
Two very nice Longines railway pocket watches and Longines Serbian wristwatch by a great collector and friend in Cologne Germany.
Pavelj Bure retailed by Milan T. Stefanovich by VWC Ltd.
Macro shot of the Coat of arms present on the dial.
Coat of arms stamped on the movement.
Pocket watch with reference 3450 – Info from Longines says ‘The original serial no 5,329,538 identifies an open face pocket watch in stainless steel, ref 3450.
Fitted with the caliber 37.9 and invoiced on 16 April 1936 to the company Stefanovich, which was at that time, our agent in Belgrade.
The dial should have the emblem and the name in cyrillic: Milan T Stefanovich Belgrade’.
The Stefanovich Longines pocket watch.
Part one ends here, stay tuned as the next week we will publish the last part of George’s post which will be focused on the techinical and historical analysis of the Longines wristwatches retailed by the Serbian retailer M.Stefanovich.