When collecting the Fifty Fathoms, your way will necessarily cross the Tornek Rayville.
It is unavoidable, at least in your desires, in your dreams.
You begin with the easier Fifty Fathoms to get, the " No Rad ".
Then you are on the hunt for a Mil Spec.
If you're in love enough with these very strong watches, you will try to find an original 1953 FF, or / and a LIP Blancpain.
Then, one will always miss..The Tornek Rayville.
Is it so necessary to get one?
No, of course.
But it is better with than without.
In the world of Miltary Watches, there were several Blancpain Fifty Fathoms watches:
The LIP Blancpain, the " No Radiations " , the Mil Spec I, the US NAVY, some " AM " and the Tornek Rayville, which maybe be called Mil Spec II, by several armies, like the French ( due to the fact that the French Officers Riffaud and Maloubier were the initiators of the project, and in a certain way, the fathers of the Fifty Fathoms ), the US Navy, The Israelians, the Germans, the Norvegians, the Danish, The Polish and some few others...
As the Fifty Fathoms was one of the very first Diving Watches, this watch is interesting and a true object of Passion for every Collector of Diving watches.
And the Tornek Rayville is certainly one of the most interesting.
Every Legend requires a part of Mystery, and with the Tornek Rayville, it is the case.
First of all, because it was on the point to not exist, as Bulova should have taken its place, with a very close aesthetic, but for some reasons, it failed and, at the end of 1964, the Tornek Rayville was born.
Here a pic found on the net of the Bulova ( Credit Pic: Camfam. Thanks for your kind authorization! ):
Here an interesting picture, taken by our fellow Ryan, which shows together a Mil Spec Military, a TR 900, and the famous Bulova:
Then, because most of the 1000 TR produced between 64 and 65 were destroyed by the US Navy, at the end of their service, and a few of them has survived, for the greatest joy of the Collectors.
So, if we compare the number of Tornek Rayville ever produced to the number of all the Fifty Fathoms released from 1953 till 1980 ( 7 or 8 000 pieces per year during 28 Years, according to Stefan CIEJKA ), we can say that it was and still is a very rare bird.
Let's see this watch in detail, now.
The first thing which comes to mind while looking at the Tornek Rayville is the very close look with the Milspec.
The 2 watches are very close, indeed.
Here, the Civilian Version, with the drilled lugs:
It is even closer to the Military Milspec, with the non drilled lugs:
In both cases, we have the moisture indicator, the microbillé case, round and rectangular indexes, the same small crown, well, to make it short, quite the same general layout.
But, if you pay some attention to both of them, you will notice some differences.
1/ The dial, first:
As you can see, the round indexes are a bit smaller on the Tornek, and the rectangular are a bit shorter, too.
The Losange at 12 on the Milspec is a Triangle on the Tornek, and you will notice that all the round indexes almost touch the 5 minutes indexes on this last one, while on the Milspec the round indexes are clearly separated.
Here, the impressive Moisture indicator:
When the blue part doesn't come pink, all is correct and the watch is still waterproof.
As soon as the blue part turns to pink, you'd better check the water resistance of your watch...
On the Tornek, the writing is different, too, on its dial.
There is no mention about Blancpain.
The Tornek dial looks larger than on the Milspec.
And you have another detail, which is quite important, if you look at the down part of the dial:
On the Milspec, the Luminous material is T < 25 mc, while on the Tornek, it is written PM 147 ( PM for Promethium ), wich has a very short luminous life ( 2.5 years, instead of the average 15 years for the Tritium ).
Here, a pic with the Military Milspec.
No big difference compared with the Civilian Milspec:
2/ Now, let's have a look at the bezel and the case.
Like on the Milspec, the case has a microbillé finish, which gives to the watch a slightly dark, matt and very nice look.
The lugs are shorter on the Tornek ( 19mm ) than on the Milspec ( 20 mm ).
Here are some comparative pics of the Miitary Milspec and the Tornek ( the Tornek is under )
The bezel is thicker, but narrower, too, on the Tornek Rayville, and bears the triangle at 12 instead of the losange, even if I saw some Milspec bezels coming with the triangle...( In this case, the triangle is also at 12, on the Mil Spec dial )
On the following pic, the Milspec ( Civilan version ) is under the Tornek:
Here, with the Military Milpsec:
A detail which jumps to the eyes, is that the plexy is less domed on the Tornek.
Is it to enhance the legibility, due to the fact that a flatter plexy presents less distorsion?
3/ The Case Back:
Looking at the case back is a bit like reading the Military Specifications of this watch:
- " If Found, return to nearest military facility ".
- " Danger Radioactive material 2mc PM 147 ", and the radioactivity symbol..
- The month and year of release: " 11/ 64 ".
- " Non Magnetic "
- The rec license reference.
- The famous Milspec reference: MIL - W - 22176.
- The not less famous Trident symbol.
- And the individual number of the watch.
You will notice that the screwed case back is in 2 parts: A kind of ring, and the case back in itself, which gives access to the soft iron anti magnetic dust cover:
The bars are always fixed, on the Tornek.
4/ The movement:
On the Tornek, the movement is a well known one, the AS 1361, but at the difference with the Milspec, the complete code is 1361 N.
Here is the TR 900 movement:
And now, let's have a look on the Milspec movement:
As you can see, there are some noticeable differences.
Some parts seem to be made in brass or copper, certainly to reinforce the resistance to magnetic fields ( if someone has better or more complete informations about this detail, it will be my pleasure to read them ).
Here are some macros of the TR 900 to enhance these differences:
A real tractor, conceived to work in the worst conditions, with a minimum of finish, but not ugly at all...
These details seem to be specific to the Tornek Rayville, as another enhancement, the hacking second, which was required by the Army. ( Credit Pic: Billy Schorr ) :
For the anecdote, Mr Tornek bought American jewels to use them on the movement, because of Taxes, but changed them for better quality Swiss Jewels.
5/ General thoughts:
Each Fifty Fathoms has something special, something hard to describe in words, a kind of blend of strength and sensuality, in the same time.
I took several pics of this Beauty, to try to give it Justice, while thinking at the Military Subs, we all have in mind Panerai, Rolex, Omega, and so on...Forgetting a bit that these Blancpain were real toolwatches!
Look at this pic I took from Billy Schorr:
Isn't it a tempting Duo?
A tool, certainly, but a very nice one:
Here, on a Milspec ad:
In ..." Action ":
Don't think so.
The slightly domed plexy added to the moisture indicator, to the satined black dial and to the nicely patined indexes gives a lot of depth, warmth to this watch, contrasting in a very impressive way with the grey matt microbillé case.
While the Milspec I ( is the Tornek to be considered as a Milspec II ? ) is more looking like a brutal watch with its large and thin bezel, and its smaller dial and a bit more centered indexes, the Tornek is more ..Elegant, better balanced in its proportions, which is clearly noticeable on 3 dimension pics:
The diameter of the case, which is a bit more than 41mm, its moderated thickness, the sensual matt curves jump to the eyes.
The only reserve I still have is relative to the size of the crown.
I like a lot its shape, but I find strange that for a Diving watch, and a Military one, you have such a small sized crown, even if it is evident that no one will use the crown when diving.
When you have to wind the watch, it is not a pleasant excercize.
But, on another side, this small crown is perfectly integrated to the case.
Compared to the Big Crown of the Civilian Milspec:
Aesthetics against Utility and Functionnality?
That is the only small bad point, to me, about this watch which obviously has a lot of presence, character and charm:
On the wrist?
A great moment!
Try it, and you will certainly adopt it.
If we had to think about Legendary Military Diving Watches, I'd say that the Dream List would be a Panerai 3646, a Rolex 5517 or 6538, and a Tornek Rayville.
Among all the fifty Fathoms, it is certainly, at least to me, the nicest, with the " 3 / 6 / 9 / 12 " Dials.
An important and Legendary watch to consider, indeed.
PS: I would like to specially thank Stefan Ciejka, Billy Schorr, JC ( you know who you are ) and Dr Strong for all the informations I found here and there which helped me a lot to better know this watch, and to love it.