Recently I added two KNIL timepieces to my collections. A wristwatch by Tissot and a timer by Heuer. Based on these I started some deskresearch and this blog is based on what I found online so far. All additional info is welcome!
Wristwatches. So far I have found three specific versions of KNIL wrist watches. Two versions with a waterproof case and a decentral (small) seconds hand and one with a central (long) seconds hand.
Type 1: WWW. The first type are re-issued watches of the British army. The so called Waterproof Wrist Watch (designated WWW on the back). These watches are nicknamend the dirty dozen (after the movie) as there were 12 manufacturers of these WWW type watches. These watches have a caseback that has the English official stamping and a secondary KNIL engraving and in some cases even a third Indonesian Army (A.D.R.I.) engraving that is somewhat cruder.
Below an example of the 12 makers from the face side and two from the reverse with KNIL and ADRI engraving as shown on: https://www.acollectedman.com/blogs/journal/59621443-the-story-of-the-dirty-dozen-the-first-wristwatches-specially-commissioned-for-the-british-army
The engraving in all cases is KNIL and a 4 digit serial number. So far I have found numbers starting with a 1/2/3/4/5 so a total of more than 5000 pieces seems possible. Most versions I have seen are by IWC and Longines so within the 12 variations the better brands have been chosen again.
Type 2: Tissot. The second type seems to be bought directly by the KNIL as it only has one type of engraving and they all are similar.
These also have a serial number of 4 digits and so far I have found numbers starting with 6/7/8. So based on that it is likely that these came after the WWW watches! This is only a hypothesis though. Further research is needed! My version:
It is numbered 6577. I have seen multiple examples online with the exact same caseback and identical type of engraving with numbers: 6787 / 7009 / 7746 / 8709 so there were probably 3000 of these Tissot watches! Museum Bronbeek (KNIL museum) has two examples in its collection (8466 / 8807). One of these example came from the estate of a Bren carrier driver.
Below a version with the same style of reverse but a slightly different face which has seen very much use (and abuse) – not my collection.
Type 3: Central seconds variation/Queen Juliana. The third variation has central seconds and a later type of engraving. It has a crowned J (for Queen Juliana so 1948 or later!) below that KNIL and under that again the serial number starting with a letter T and 4 digits. The digits start with 0 and 1 again. There seem to be more brands with this engraving but all have central seconds which is fitting with a later period of production/purchase. Technos seems to be one of the brands making this type of watch.
Both photo’s taken from internet – I could not establish the owner of the photo’s if found I will provide the credits.
Apart from the example of the Tissot watch in Bronbeek I have not seen examples of watches with a confirmed provenance. With a possible 8 to 10,000 watches all personell who needed a wristwatch to perform their official duties might have received one (as far as avalaible). This would include air force use, drivers, artillery and many other fuctions, maybe even officers.
British Army Pocket Watch (GSTP – General Service Time Piece). So far I have seen a few examples of these classic pocket watches with a KNIL engraving. These are also re-issued British army timepieces. Probably bought together with the WWW wrist watches from British military surplus after WW2. So far I have only seen examples by Omega, again it seems the KNIL buyer went for quality timepieces. I have seen variations with KNIL only, KNIL with a number and standard timepieces without any additional engravings but with a KNIL provenance and as mentioned all by Omega!
The KNIL version above (left and middle) from my collection came in a batch of three Omega GSTP watches. One marked KNIL, one without any markings, maybe they were rubbed, and a standard GSTP. These three came from a batch of ex Dutch defense watches in the 1970s.
And last for now a Heuer Timer. These are so far all the same and have a 30 seconds face with a 15 minute counter. Serial numbers have 3 digits and all examples seen so far start with the number 2 (224 / 227 /243) so a series of less than 300 it seems. Like the Tissot this seems to be one order for one type only. Thest timers were probably used for sound distancing, so mainly artillery use. Determining the distance based on the sound of impact after a shot has been released and measuring the time in between to calculate the distance. Possibly also used for mortar and air force (bomb) timing.
So far I have not established if these were already used in 1942 or before or only 1946 and later.
As stated above this is only based on some deskresearch so nothing is conclusive yet. More info is welcome, please contact me, also with examples and additional serial number info. One conclusion is possible the KNIL was getting the best timepieces they could buy!