TORNEK-RAYVILLE, TR-900 MILSPEC WATCH STRAP
(SPEC : MIL-W-22176A, MILITARY SPECIFICATION: WATCH, WRIST, SUBMERSIBLE (400-FOOT), NON-MAGNETIC)
MIL – W – 22176 A (SHIPS) of 24 March 1961 replaced MIL – W – 22176 (SHIPS) of 1 September 1959, and was for an amagnetic 400 foot deep capacity diver’s watch. The US Navy specification for submersible watches was strict and only one manufacturer could meet the requirements
Allen Tornek, who was then importing pieces from the Rayville Watch Company who were already manufacturing a diver’s watch, the Blancpain ‘Fifty Fathoms’, bid for the contract, and produced the Tournek-Rayville 900.
Only 1000 watches were produced after a purchase order dated 1964, and many have been destroyed as radioactive waste, so maybe only less than 50 currently survive. About 10 sterile dial watches, relumed with tritium rather than promethium-147 exist within this number.
The MIL – W – 22176 A (SHIPS) specification required :
3.9 Strap – Each watch supplied under this specification shall be equipped with a one-piece nylon strap conforming to the specification MIL-S-21382, and which has met the magnetic test requirement of that specification.
Above is part of the Tornek-Rayville instruction manual, showing the 11 ribbed nylon strap.
The watches are commonly referred to as “Tornek-Rayville”, “TR-900” or sometimes just as “Tornek”, as these are the markings seen on the dial and on the movement. The initial order delivered to the US Navy was for 780 pieces in 1964 and another in 1965 for 300 pieces giving a total of just over a thousand for this model.
The as-issued 11 ribbed RAF style watch strap is shown below.
The buckle was brass, and the webbing keeper the same width as the strap.
The wear of the strap can be seen on the two part screw down case back.
MIL-S-21382(SHIPS) is for STRAP, WRIST INSTRUMENT, WOVEN NYLON and was issued on 21 August 1958.
The specification requirements were for an 11 inch, light grey herringbone weave nylon strap, with an 1/2 inch wide keeper of the same material fused to the watch strap. Also, “the buckle shall have a dull nonreflecting finish and be free from burrs.”
In 1963, before the first watches were supplied, MIL-S-21382(SHIPS), was replaced by MIL-S-46383, STRAP, WRIST: INSTRUMENT of 20 July 1963. The strap became the Type I – Strap, Special Purpose: Non-Magnetic Buckle of the 46383 series of specification issues.
The strap colour grey changed to black with the specification change, and the webbing keeper to the same width as the strap (see Note 5). The strap width was 3/4″+/- 1/16″ or in the range 18.2mm to 19.8mm. The thickness specified was .042″ +/- .005″ or 1.1mm. The buckle was specified to be made of brass which complied with the magnetic effect limits specified in MIL-N-19595.
Above is the Type I special purpose strap drawing from MIL-S-46383. The dimensions are as for the MIL-S-21382 specification strap, and the length allows the watch to be worn over a diving suit.
One such strap sold on December 12 2020 in the Philips auction in NewYork, on a TR-900 at a record price.
We will be remanufacturing these 11 rib straps in the near future, as the RAF style (MIL-S-46383), and hope to have these released in September 2021.
The strap is currently being made as a prototype, seen here on a sterile dial TR900.
The U.S. Armed Forces put in a total order for 1,080 Tornek-Rayville watches.⠀The watch used⠀beryllium parts in the movement and featured Promethium 147 lume.⠀This compound was incredibly luminescent, but also known to emit a high level of X-rays.
To counter this,⠀later,⠀the painted logo as well as the hazardous Promethium 147 was stripped from the dial, and tritium lume was applied instead.
There are 5 known sterile dial TR900 watches.
The TR900 was eventually issued partly as a result of the failure of Bulova prototypes during watertightness testing in 1958.
During these tests changes to the strap were recommended.
Recently a Bulova MIL-SHIPS-W-2181 reissue has been made in tribute to the 1958 watch, seen here on our TR900 strap 16mm wide prototype.
Here is the strap on a TR660 watch.
The strap will have either the brass buckle above or a matt black plated buckle.