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Vintage & Antique
Watch Repair

A Short History of the Glycine Airman

The Glycine Airman history starts in the 1950s. Glycine was a well-known and established watch company having been started in 1914. It introduced the first Airman in 1953. Originally marketed to the military, the first Airman watches had various hand styles, and dials in both white and black. The 24 hour dial with a.m. and p.m. sides with 12:00 noon at the bottom of the dial was used from the beginning. The Airman also featured a 24 hour rotating bezel for keeping track of the time in different time zones or for Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and on some models a quick-set date function was fitted. The early watches had the Felsa caliber 690 N/692 N automatic winding movement.

In 1955, the Airman began to appear in substantially the style that would carry through the 50s, 60s, and into the 70s. A noticeable change in 1957  was the introduction of the hour hand with a tail, which points at the opposite hour. This addition is useful for time telling time using the 12 hour method. 1955 was also the date when the hack device was introduce

It is the unique hack feature which sets the Glycine Airman apart from other watches. A hack mechanism refers to a device that stops the watch when the stem is in the setting position. The Airman hack device works by having a tiny wire attached to a lever connected to the stem. When the stem is pulled into the setting position, the lever pushes the wire, which normally protrudes just slightly through a hole in the dial at 24, to come up to a sufficient height to stop the sweep second hand as it reaches the zero seconds position. A more ordinary hack device, which is a very common feature on modern mechanical watches, stops the second hand wherever the hand happens to be on the dial by stopping the balance wheel from turning when the stem is pulled to the setting position. In the case of quartz watches, the hacking is accomplished by interrupting the power to the module.

The early Airman, with the Felsa caliber 692N movement, had a screw back case. The change to A. Schild movements came in 1963. The cross hatch crown and the Compressor snap back cases were introduced about 1965. The first A. Schild movements were caliber 1700/1. In 1967, Glycine first used the crown symbol on the Airman dial This may also have been when the first bracelets with a deployant clasps were used.

Throughout the 60s and until 1978, an important era for Glycine because of the Airman's popularity amongst aviators and others in Vietnam, the watch remained essentially outwardly unchanged. However during this period, the A. Schild caliber went from 1700/01 to A. Schild caliber 1903, and finally to A. Schild caliber 2163. In 1978, Glycine ceased production of its Airman with the mechanical movement due to the increasing popularity of watches with quartz movements rather than mechanical auto winding movements.

The Airman quartz watch was introduced in 1979 replacing the Airman automatic because  the mechanical watch was suffering diminishing sales. It was not until 1998, 20 years later, that the mechanical Airman would reemerge, owing its appearance and heritage to the Vietnam era Glycine Airman. Disappointingly, the modern reproduction Airman does not incorporate the unique Glycine hack mechanism.

The newer Glycine Airman and similar models have movements (caliber GL293) based on the ubiquitous ETA caliber 2893. While these movements do have hack mechanisms, they stop the balance wheel at whatever point the second hand happens to be when one pulls out the crown, rather than stopping the second hand at exactly zero as with the original Airman.

For information about servicing the Glycine Airman hack mechanism, click here

To view the Glycine Airman service/repair price list click here.

For a much more detailed history of the Glycine brand, as well as the Glycine Airman watches, view these links: http://www.glycintennial.com/ and http://andres55.home.xs4all.nl/glycine%20airman.pdf