The Significance of the Red 12

Many of the fixed lug officers trench watches from the circa WW1 era that we are interested in have the 12 on the dial picked out in red, and sometimes (more rarely) blue. Why is this? I have yet to come across conclusive documentary evidence about the "red 12" to fully explain this interesting trend.

The most plausible explanation that I have come across is that in the earliest days of wristwatches, the location of the "12" on the dial was not standard. This was due primarily to the nature of pocket watches and how the 12 related to the location of the winding crown. The now-usual "12 O'clock" position was not the only option. You could also find it located 90° anti-clockwise from the winding crown, adjacent to the winding crown, or in some intermediate position between the two, as is seen occasionally. Remember, early wrist watches were sometimes simply pocket watches with a strap attached, and they didn't all follow the now commonly accepted design of a wrist watch with regards to orientation and location of the crown. It seems to follow logically then that the "12" was made to stand out from the dial in red (or blue) in so that the person looking at it could more easily locate it, and determine the correct time.

There is much speculation in the vintage watch world and as such, some sellers tend to make a point of noting the "red 12" on the dials of their watches as a selling point. You will even see some contemporary watches with "red 12s" as homage to the early wrist watches. It is this idea of a link to the vintage styling of the early days of wrist watches as well as the historical significance and value of these details that has moved me use the name RED12.

If you have a better explanation of the significance of the "red 12" or a reference to a contemporary source, then please get in touch with me. Thanks!

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