Glycine Airman Airman History

Glycine Airman Airman History

Postby koimaster » November 17th 2016, 10:41am


The history of the Glycine Airman is only coming to the fore as a result of the popularity of the watch with collectors, the success of the company's contemporary models based on the vintage Airmen, and the hard work of Andre Stikkers. Mr. Stikkers has written the book ( Glycine Airman a 24 Hour time Line of Flight, March 2010) which you can purchase on Ebay and hosts the Glycine Airman Gallery ... 5years.htm

The Glycine Airman was popularized by the Vietnam War and its use by pilots and soldiers from the United States, but its history started in the 50s.

Glycine was already a well established watch company when it introduced its first Airman in 1953. Marketed to the military, the first watches featured short, luminous, pencil with pointer, style hands, a 24 hour dial (usually if not always white) and an am and pm side with noon written at 12:00 on the bottom. . Airmen also also feature a 24 hour movable bezel, one for each of the 24 time zones) for the purpose of keeping track of the time in a different time zone or for Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), and a quick-set date. These early models are highly sought after today. The watches came equipped with a Felsa 690 N/692 N automatic movement. Most, if not all, of the early Airmen had white or champagne dials. They also had white numerals around the rotating bezel.

Not long after the introduction of the Airman, the minute hand acquired a long tail, similar to the long tail on the hour hand on today's auction watch. This tail had no apparent function.

An early brochure, appearing in Andre Stikkers' book, on pages 16 and 17, proclaims "GLYCINE-Airman for flying people, GLYCINE-The Chief for the Navy." Until recently, neither Mr. Stikkers nor other collectors knew what was meant by "The Chief". "The Chief" is one of the peculiar Airmen with the long tailed minute hand and can now be seen in the Gallery. Turler, the retailer name on the dial of The Chief, is a well known Swiss retailer of watches, particularly well known as an Omega retailer.

In 1955, the Airman started to appear in substantially the format that it would keep through the balance of the 50s, 60s, and into the 70s. The big changes were the introduction of a large hour hand with a tail (now serving the function of pointing at the opposite hour, useful to non-militants in expressing time the normal 12 hour way), the introduction of a cross hatched crown, and the introduction of a unique hack feature. The hack feature works by having a small wire triggered by a spring emerge at the 24 hour mark through a small hole when the crown is pulled out. The second hand, now elongated and with a dot to make it easy to follow, is forced to stop by the wire. When you hear the words "synchronize watches" in an old war movie, this is what was going on. The usual hack feature, as in the Rolex Explorer, stops the second hand where it is when the crown is pulled out.

In the mid to late 50s, another rare Airman, perhaps made only in prototypes, emerged. These were similar to the Airmen of their day, except that 12 was on top of the dial in place of 24. The hack function worked the same way, by stopping at 12. The date function was adjusted, set to change at the 24, now at the bottom of the dial, as was the quick-set. There were various nomenclature and trademark changes during this period. Notably, the am pm disappeared. The primary color became black, and the word "Automatique" in French, was changed to suit the market and became the English "Automatic". An "Airman Special" was introduced with fewer jewels. I am fortunate to have in my collection one of the very rare 12 on Top prototypes.

The earlier Airmen, with the Felsa movement, had screw backs. The introduction of the A. Schild movements came at about 1960, while the cross hatch crown and the EPSA Compressor backs ( ) were not introduced until approximately 1965. Some have seen screw backs with A. Schild movements, and Felsa movements in EPSA Compressor cases, but these may be changes that happened as watches were repaired. Cross hatch crowns have frequently been replaced, and occasionally, a cross hatch crown has been substituted where the crown should have a smooth top. The majority of correct Airmen, and Airmen Specials that you will see, will have the compressor back and the cross hatched crowns. This is because of the enormous popularity of the watches among American servicemen during the Vietnam War. The escalation of American armed forces occurred mostly from 1965-1969, topping off at about 495,000 troops at the end of 1968. Over 2,500,000 American troops were rotated through the war with over 58,000 killed.

Glycine started featuring pictures of the Airman with a Fixo Flex expandable bracelet, also used on some Omegas, and later (in the 60s) featured the same bracelet with a Glycine signed deployment clasp. The original Fixo Flex bracelets are rare, and fetch about $250.00. The same style bracelet was used through the early 70s for SST model, but in a size that was larger to accommodate the larger lug opening of the SST, and with a Glycine signed clasp.

During this period, and perhaps as early as 1953, Glycine started using wooden, dovetailed, coffin shaped boxes with sliding tops. The boxes were in various sizes, with different numbers of dove tails. Other shapes may also have been used for certain presentation watches.

In about 1960, the red date became black. In fact, some of the Airmen with Felsa movements and the usual dial configuration also included black dates. This is evident in the Gallery pictures, but only in the 12 on top pictures. This still needs clarification.

In about 1960, Glycine changed the movement to an A. Schild 1700/1. In 1967, Glycine started using a crown on its Airmen. This may also have been when the first bracelets with a deployment clasp and crown came out. A further development was the introduction of new movements, also by A. Schild, AS 1701/1903/2063/ and 2163. With the introduction of the AS 2163 came another rarity, a Glycine Airman with a normal, Rolex style, hack function.

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 unchanged. In 1978, Glycine ceased production of its Airman with Automatic movement due to the popularity of quartz movements and its own Airman with a quartz movement.

In 1967, at the height of the Vietnam war, Glycine introduced a new Airman, the SST, named for the forthcoming Boeing 2707 Super Sonic Transport, a plane that never got far off the drawing boards and was later (March 1971) canceled by the United States Congress. The watch was larger, with an orange rotating bezel inside the crystal, and came equipped with an A. Schild 1903 (1967-1971), 2063 (1971-1974, and 2163, (1974-1978). Unfortunately, there is not a picture of the SST in the Gallery (although there is a discussion in the book with pictures). Nicknamed "The Pumpkin", for its orange color the SST was joined briefly in 1968 by a very scarce and collectible chronograph. the chronograph was manual wind and became outdated the next year when Breitling and Heuer and Zenith came out with automatic chronographs with dates. Even these watches were rapidly supplanted by quartz watches.

The Airman quartz watch was introduced in 1978, supplanting the Airman automatic which had 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 Airmen, and even a new SST-06, owing its appearance to the original SST.


1. 1953 AIRMAN original The first series to feature the legendary Felsa 692 movement and a
24-hour display.

The last series was produced in 1978 and was succeeded by the quartz era
of the Swiss watch industry.

2. 1967 AIRMAN SST Also known as the Pumpkin, this model was inspired by the first
supersonic passenger aircraft flight. The last series was produced in 1978. Today the SST is
a highly sought after collectors’ timepiece.

3. 1968 AIRMAN SST Chronograph Manufactured in a limited series of probably no more
than 100 pieces. Today, the SST Chronograph fetches high prices in the collectors’ market.

4. 1978 AIRMAN Quartz A quartz watch in keeping with the spirit of the time, which features an exceptionally strong movement. It was available in steel and bi-colored versions.


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