With the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the Crown passed to her eldest son and heir, Prince Charles as part of the United Kingdom's constitutional monarchical system. The new King, Charles III, was officially proclaimed sovereign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the other fourteen realms of the Commonwealth on 10 September.
As you may have noticed in the past in my articles devoted to Lord Mountbatten and Queen Elizabeth II, I am a huge fan of the history of the British Royal family. On Perpetual Passion my attention is obviously focused on what can unite these historical figures with watchmaking. So after discovering the unpublished Cartier Tank Cintrée on Her Majesty's wrist, I thought I'd write an article about King Charles III and one of his watches.
It would have been too easy to talk about the elegant Parmigiani Fleurier chronograph constantly on his wrist, for some years now. With this article I want to show you some less popular shots of the then Prince of Wales, with a fascinating chronograph on his wrist: the Hamilton 6BB assigned to him on the occasion of his service with the RAF and the Royal Navy.
The military career
Before becoming a full-time prince of the royal family, King Charles III of the Commonwealth had continued a generation-old family tradition by serving in the military.
During his second year of study at Cambridge University, Charles received training from the Royal Air Force (RAF). In 1971, after his induction as Prince of Wales, he trained as an RAF jet pilot in Cranwell, Lincolnshire.
He then enrolled in a six-week course at Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth, beginning naval military service on the missile destroyer HMS Norfolk. From 1972 to 1974 she served on the HMS Minerva while in 1974 she also served on the HMS Jupiter. After adding a helicopter pilot qualification to his repertoire, then Prince Charles joined the 845 Naval Air Squadron aboard HMS Hermes.
In February 1976 he was given command of the coastal mine hunter HMS Bronington, continuing in this post for 10 months. After his military service that same year, his severance pay was used to throw The Prince's Trust, a charity dedicated to funding community initiatives aimed at supporting disadvantaged young people.
His post-military life did not stop the former Prince of Wales from flying, although his occasional flights ceased after the crash of the BAe 146 in the Hebrides in 1994. The pilot who was at the controls of the plane on which the heir to the throne he was traveling was taken ill and made a thrilling landing with a prohibitive weather.
HAMILTON 6BB Chronograph
Between the 70s and the 80s, four companies defined “Fab Four“: Hamilton, CWC, Newmark and Precista, have supplied simple and robust 30-minute chronographs to the British Army. At the beginning of the 70s, with the end of the war and the reduction of the military budget, the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) reworked the defense standards (DEF-STAN) regarding the characteristics of the watches to be assigned to their military , allowing the use of cheaper and commercially available movements.
These watches followed the specifications of its predecessor, the Lemania Single-Button, echoing its asymmetrical stainless steel case with 39mm fixed lugs, with a black dial with luminescent hands and indexes. These watches were now powered by the cam lever of the Valjoux 7733 workhorse.
Hamilton was the first company to make this type of chronograph, with examples produced starting in 1970. CWC began production in 1973 and was eventually followed by Newmark in 1980 and Precista 1981. The production period of the Hamilton 6BB coincides with the one in which the then Prince Charles received training in the RAF and then moved on to the Royal Navy.
Like every assigned watch, the case back was engraved with important abbreviations to indicate important information such as the article type number, the issuing agency, the year of issue and the issue number of the individual watches. The abbreviation "6BB" indicates the assignment to the pilots of the RAF, while "0052" to the Royal Navy. and finally 6645-99 to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).
We will hardly know if the back of King Charles III's watch was assigned to him by the RAF or the RN, but we can say that the 'Fab Four' on His Majesty's wrist is certainly a Hamilton.