“OCEAN BUNDS” SURFACE AT IWC MUSEUM

Martin Dohrmann wasn't a watch collector when he strolled into a vintage and used watch fair for the first time, back in 1995. In fact he hadn't really thought much about watches at all until he saw the newspaper ad for that Uhrenbörse at the local university's cafeteria. "I just thought it might be interesting," he says. "I had no idea what to expect – I only had 200 or 300 Deutschmarks with me."

 

Little did he know that he was about to embark on a life-changing adventure. Because among the countless watches that were spread across numerous tables, one particularly caught his eye and captured his heart – a vintage IWC wristwatch with an 89 caliber in a stainless-steel case. "I said to myself, ‘damn, I want that watch!’. So I got my hand stamped, left to get the extra cash and returned to buy my very first IWC." It would turn out to be the first of many. 

Martin is a fan of watches with a clean, subtle design. "I work at a bank, so I could never wear anything that screams 'Look at me!'," he says, without any disappointment. "I love watches that someone sitting across from me wouldn't notice unless they're a true watch fanatic. That's one of my favorite things about IWC." His collection spans several decades, includes many special editions, and is comprised primarily of elegant, timeless pieces that fly under the radar. 

 

Given his personal taste and the fact that he did his military service in an infantry unit of the German Army, it's no wonder that he would eventually fall in love the IWC Ocean BUND (short for Bundeswehr or “German Federal Armed Forces”) line of watches.

 

"It all started at a watch fair in Munich - I spotted an Ocean BUND 3314, the quartz version, in near mint condition, and said hmm …" It had all the grit and purpose of a proper tool watch, yet it was also sleek and elegant, with a unique titanium bracelet. Dohrmann was immediately fascinated, but he wanted more information and decided to wait. He went home and immersed himself into the history of the Ocean BUND watches. And what he found was quite convincing indeed. 

In the late 1970s, the German Federal Armed Forces had sent a request to IWC for a robust and technically innovative service watch. IWC turned out to be the best choice not only because it was one of very few manufacturers in the world known for the quality of its diver’s watches; but also – and more importantly – because at that time IWC had already begun research in two fields that would turn out to be highly relevant for the Ocean BUND watches: anti-magnetism and the use of titanium. The German Navy's requirements went far beyond a merely robust and reliable diver’s watch – they also needed a completely anti-magnetic model for its Minentaucher. These anti-mine specialists were tasked with disarming underwater mines, some of which are triggered by any change in the magnetic field surrounding them. They were so sensitive that even something as small as a watch made with any magnetic material could set them off.

Furthermore, under the technical leadership of Jürgen King, IWC had just begun its cooperation with Alexander Porsche in 1978 to create the Porsche Design line of titanium watches, including the famous PORSCHE DESIGN compass watch whose movement also featured anti-magnetic parts. Based on the specifications provided by the German Navy, IWC thus started developing the Ocean BUND watches. They were water-resistant to 30 bar and featured a flat sapphire front glass and orange minute hand. The technicalities and design of the Ocean BUNDs were so striking that the watch would later be made available to the public - as the Ocean 2000. 

 

It was a long and difficult process, but it resulted in some of the most robust and technologically sophisticated diver’s watches ever created. "IWC has such a wonderful history of diver’s watches, but these are particularly fascinating," says David Seyffer, curator at the IWC Museum. "If you look closely, you'll see the 13-digit NATO Stock Number (NSN) on the case backs and straps, and even on the tiny screwdriver that came with the watch. And of course, the completely anti-magnetic Ref. IW351901 was an incredible breakthrough “The watch has zero magnetic field and thus cannot be magnetized”, says Seyffer.

Moreover, the different models of the BUND watches are extremely rare. So rare that even the IWC Museum has trouble finding any. "The simple fact is that there weren’t that many combat divers in the German Navy, so relatively few Ocean BUNDs were actually built," explains Seyffer. "There are only around 300 of the quartz versions, the Ref. 3314 and Ref. 3319 which were used by the combat divers. And the completely anti-magnetic Ref. IW351901 used by the anti-mine specialists is the rarest of them all – only 50 pieces were manufactured in Schaffhausen. When I met Martin and he told me about his collection, we immediately agreed that we had to show them in an exhibition."

 

Seven Ocean BUND watches from Martin Dohrmann’s collection – one of each reference and all in excellent condition – are currently on display at the IWC museum in Schaffhausen until the end of November. "I'm very happy we were able to organize the exhibition," Dohrmann says. "So few Ocean BUNDs were produced that they aren't very well known, even amongst collectors. And those still in existence have an incredible history to tell."

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