For some collectors, the later Gallet Flying Officer with a Landeron movement is way too far from the original clamshell pioneer. But is it? 

I have to say that until last week, I had never worn the original clamshell Gallet Flying Officer chronograph. My biggest surprise was how present the 34.5mm case felt on the wrist. But we will talk about the original Flying Officer in another #TBT story. Today, we are going to focus on its later version from around the mid-’70s.

Gallet Flying Officer

The issue with landing an early Gallet Flying Officer

It is not easy to get your hands on the original clamshell Flying Officer. I have been after one for a few years now, but I haven’t gotten lucky yet. Some Gallet Flying Officers pop up here and there, but they usually have so many issues. Either it is a flooded dial with a lot of stains and a replaced crown, which is very specific, or replacement pushers, bezels, and hands. An original Gallet Flying Officer is a pretty delicate timepiece, and to find one in completely original condition is extremely difficult.

Gallet Flying Officer

The later Gallet Flying Officer

When an opportunity came a few years ago to pull the trigger on a later Gallet Flying officer with a screw-back case and Landeron movement, I went for it. It doesn’t have the original minimalist Gallet logo, and the dial misses that vintage charm of early examples, but the design language is there. I also liked the bigger case, which gives the watch a pretty contemporary look and feel. The nearly flawless dial and pristine overall condition weighed heavily in my decision too.

Gallet Flying Officer

A shockingly fascinating model line

What really fascinates me is the variety of executions for Gallet Flying Officer watches. Besides clamshells, you can find models with screw-down case backs, like mine, and even models with snap-on case backs. When it comes to movements, purists would like to see a Venus 150 in it. That was the movement that was original to the so-called “first generation” models with Brevet 189190 cases from 1939 to the mid-’40s.

My Flying Officer is powered by a Landeron 149, which is functional, but by quality standards, it is a step down. When I first found a Gallet Flying Officer with a Poljot 3133 movement, I was almost sure that I was looking at a Frankenwatch. Well, I was not. On their case backs, you can even find a Swiss cross and “AS / 7584” marking, which referred to the Swiss Army (Armée Suisse). From what I know, though, an official connection has not been proven yet.

Gallet Flying Officer

How much is 2mm?

The original clamshell Flying Officers are 34.5mm in diameter, but my later Landeron-powered screw-down case is 36.5mm. Before I tried the original clamshell, I found 34.5mm for a chronograph to be way too small. The bigger case feels almost modern, especially thanks to the super long and rather sharp lugs. What I really like is the utilitarian, no-BS lines of the case. What started to bother me after some time are the enormous pushers. They are comfortable to use, but they kind of kill the aesthetics. I only realized that fully after I tried the original clamshell Flying Officer. The pushers are quite fat on the original as well, but the pusher caps are not so high.

The 12-hour bezel

The bezel is another worthwhile element. The 12 o’clock marker is printed in red, which gives it a bit of edginess. The font is quite specific too. If you look at it closely in macro shots, you can see its texture after it was applied on the bezel’s surface. I have to say that I am now hooked on first-generation bezels with tiny numerals that are embossed deeply into the steel.

Image: Hashtag Watch Co.

These bezels are impossible to find. The earliest Gallet Flight Officer chronographs are very rare, and only a few of them come with their original bezels. If you manage to find an early execution today, the original bezel is often long gone, and the watch carries the second type of bezel. If you decide to buy a Gallet Flying Officer, I do highly recommend consulting with an experienced Gallet collector about your purchase.

Gallet Flying Officer

Baghdad, Bagdad, or Bagdag?

If anything fascinates Gallet collectors, it would be the selection of cities printed on the outer edge of the dial. How the hell did “San Francisko” get there? No idea. It gets even better if you look at the “Bagdad” vs. “Bagdag” spelling on different Flying Officers.

Dan Horton, a big Gallet enthusiast, tried to look into it too. “I’ve done some serious looking through my photo archives and found some relevant information. I’ve no idea why each city’s particular spelling occurs that way, what I do know is that the Venus 150 models all have Baghdad spelled as BAGDAD. All subsequent models (Landeron 149) have the spelling of BAGDAG. My particular Landeron 149 Flight Officer is from 1967, so I believe this is one of the earliest Landeron-caliber FO’s out there. Mine says BAGDAG. I purchased this watch almost ten years ago, from the family of the original owner. Nobody opened up this watch before I did. It’s a mystery why that change occurred.” For the full story, I recommend reading this informative forum thread.

Baghdad is spelled “Bagdad” in several languages, including Slovak, my mother tongue. If I asked you to show me one “Bagdag” spelling, though, you would come up empty-handed, even after extensive research. Was it just a typo?

Image: Fred Mandelbaum via WatchUSeek

Where the hell is Djask?

The story goes on. If you have never heard of Djask and wonder how it got there, Fred Mandelbaum offers a pretty clear explanation for that. “Djask (near Bandar Abbas in Iran) was an important refueling stop for most of the early flights to India, Indonesia, and on to Australia – KLM was still landing there on its Batavia route in the 1960s, in 1926 it was the endpoint of the world’s flight distance record btw, the flight started in Paris and ended in Djask.”

Gallet Flying Officer

Last thoughts on the Flying Officer

As you can see, the Gallet Flying Officer is one fascinating watch with a lot of aspects to study more deeply. Even US President Harry Truman wore a Flying Officer. It’s such a shame that Gallet’s records got destroyed in the ’70s because they could have solved so many puzzles. While there is extensive research on Omega and Rolex watches, you won’t find that much on Gallet. So far, there is just a bunch of hardcore Gallet fans, but I believe the community is growing bigger. Happy hunting!