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The pilot watch from Neil Armstrong
The Pilot Watch Magazine
20 May 2024

Traditional brand awakened from slumber

The history of the traditional American brand Wolbrook and its sister brand Douglas dates back to the 1940s. To be precise, Wolbrook is the parent brand and Douglas its daughter brand, as inside Douglas chronometers, both the movements and all other parts are signed Wolbrook. This practice was common among many prestigious watch brands, especially in the 1960s, where cases, movements and other components were shared between sister and subsidiary brands.

Wolbrook’s watches enjoyed great popularity in the 1950s and 60s. Their robust construction as well as their outstanding accuracy make the timepieces lifelong companions of their proud wearers. Wolbrook’s chronometers are distinguished by their reliability, by their high-quality components as well as by their moderate prices. All movements are triple-tested for accuracy, all parts are standardized and interchangeable. The best prerequisites for absolutely durable timepieces in tough everyday use – even by NASA engineers and test pilots.

A timepiece for pilots and astronauts

Founded in 1949, the brand owes its particular fame to the fact that one of the most famous people in history was the proud owner of a Wolbrook watch, or rather a Douglas Skindiver timepiece – the engineer, test pilot and astronaut Neil Armstrong. As commander of the famous Apollo 11 mission, Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was common practice for pilots and astronauts to have a personal backup watch in addition to the timepieces issued to them as standard. Neil Armstrong was no exception.

Sturdy construction and constant accuracy make Wolbrook watches lifelong companions of their proud wearers.


Wolbrook and the quartz crisis

Wolbrook’s success story comes to an abrupt end in the 1970s. Cheap watches with modern quartz movements from the Far East flood the international markets. Quartz watches use electronic movement technology in which a quartz crystal is used as a timer. This enables far more precise timekeeping compared to mechanical watches, whose operation is based on a complex interplay of springs and gears. The new competitors are causing interest in classic mechanical watches to wane and, as a result, one traditional brand after another is experiencing economic difficulties – the beginning of the so-called quartz crisis.

The quartz crisis in the 1970s and 80s leads to a profound change in the watch industry and is often considered a turning point in the history of the classic wristwatch. Certainly, mechanical timepieces continue to retain their place as luxury items and coveted objects of esteemed craftsmanship in the watch world, but at the same time, quartz watches are gaining wider acceptance in the mass market as practical, accurate and, above all, affordable timepieces. As a result, the financial problems of many traditional watchmakers caused by the crisis become so great that they have to cease operations. Thus, the quartz crisis is also the end of Wolbrook and Douglas – for the time being.

Revival after a long slumber

After a slumber of around 50 years, Wolbrook and Douglas will be revived in 2019 by a passionate team of veteran watchmakers. While originally the timepieces of both brands were manufactured in France from the late 1950s onwards, all new watches are now also being developed and assembled on French soil once again. In doing so, Wolbrook’s latest chronometers are always very close to their ticking ancestors in terms of aesthetics, design and technology, promising both everyday wearers and ambitious collectors – whether in the air or on the ground – a true vintage adventure for the wrist.

More from Wolbrook

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