Identifying a Wittnauer watch is not difficult. A visual inspection of the dial and the movement--the spring-loaded mechanism that runs and regulates the timepiece—will quickly identify a Wittnauer watch. It’s more difficult, however, to examine the movement on contemporary Wittnauer watches because they are not easy to open for inspection like vintage versions. Examining the inside of newer Wittnauers should be performed by an experienced watchmaker.
Wittnauer has been producing watches since the 1880s, but its long association with the luxury watch company Longines has resulted in the production of some of the finest watches ever made. Longines-Wittnauer watches were manufactured between 1936 and 1994. Vintage Longines-Wittnauer watches are highly sought after by collectors but remain affordable. Longines parted company with Wittnauer in 1994. Wittnauer remained independent until 2001 when it was purchased by Bulova. In 2010, Wittnauer remained its own distinctive brand, according to Interwatches.com and Longines.com.
Wittnauer watches can be identified by using a jeweler’s loupe or magnifying glass to examine the dial. Wittnauers always have the name printed or embossed on the dial under the 12. The Wittnauer name probably won’t appear on the outside of the case back of vintage models. Most pre-1960s Wittnauers have no identification on the case back. By the mid 1960s, the name was engraved on the back.
Automatic Versus Wind-Up
The dial also will help the watch owner identify the Wittnauer as an automatic self-winding model or manual wind version. Wittnauer self-winding watches will have the word “automatic” printed above the 6 or under the Wittnauer name at the top of the dial. Manual winding watches will have no identification.
Most contemporary Wittnauer automatics have a see-through case back that display the movement. The edge of the case back will be marked “automatic” and the half-moon disc on the movement will identify it as an automatic. The “Wittnauer” name also will be engraved on the disc.
Opening the Case
Vintage Wittnauer case backs can be removed to identify the movement and the engravings inside the case back. Vintage models either have a snap-down or screw-down case back. Snap-down versions can be pried open with a watchmaker’s case blade. The screw-down versions can be twisted counterclockwise with the palm of your hand and removed. The inside of the case back should have “Longines Wittnauer Watch Co.” engraved on it.
“Wittnauer” should be engraved on the movement. A serial number should appear on the movement. The serial number can be matched against the Longines-Wittnauer list. Obtaining the serial number list on post-1994 Wittnauers may be more difficult and may require contacting a retail Wittnauer watch dealer. It's not recommended that novice collectors open case backs on contemporary watches.
Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.