In the 1950s Albert J. Wajs founded the company as a supplier of stainless steel bracelets. He partnered with Joseph Ollech in 1956 and expanded into the manufacture of wristwatches from retail space in Zurich. Watches were offered by mail order from Switzerland through magazine ads to customers in the United States and UK.The design philosophy was to create durable and good looking sports watches at affordable prices. Business was done from their retail premises in Zurich, Switzerland. The Logo as shown above was used from the beginning and never changed.
O&W M1 diver model
The company specialized in automatic and manual-wind mechanical military and dive watches. They were sold in PX’s on US military bases during the 1960s. The company’s M 65 military watch was popular with US soldiers. The Vietnam War era marked an all-time high in sales. Breitling Navitimer stock was used to produce Ollech & Wajs chronometer-style watches, called “Aviation”. During the first season of the 1970s British television series The Professionals, actors Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins wore what appear to be Ollech & Wajs Caribbean 1000 wristwatches.
O&W finally ended production of OW models in the early 1980s, although business continued with the Aviation chronographs. In the 1990s, the company resumed under the name A.I. Wajs. and subsequently OW. New models were successfully introduced, such as the M4 diving watch and the Mirage Valjoux 7750 chronograph.
In 2006 a collector of OW became the distributor of the brand for the French market, and in 2017, Albert J. Wajs passed the company over to him.[
While Ollech & Wajs was founded in the 1950’s, they have become quite well known, and rare, amongst vintage military/pilot collectors for their Vietnam Era pieces.
O&W initially began building watches in Switzerland to sell through catalog orders, primarily in the US and UK. This business model swiftly transitioned into sending watches to US military base PX’s overseas once the Vietnam War was proven to be firmly engaged.
This 2834 model has since become highly sought after for those who are aware of them, as they are the vibrantly-colored GMT watch that O&W offered. One of the later advertisements describes it:
“Specially designed for SKIN DIVERS, PILOTS, WORLD TRAVELERS, MILITARY. Hour hand revolves once in 24 hours. 24-hour revolving bezel shows AM or PM time in any 2 time-zones.”
In the late 1970s, perhaps in an attempt to thwart the growing influence of quartz watches, Ollech & Wajs were able to buy up a considerable amount of Breitling stock - particularly relating to the aviator watches such as the Navitimer - and the company began to produce its own branded version of the Breitling chronograph that they called the Aviation, using Breitling cases and the same calibers. This continued into the early 1980s.
The mechanical watches made by Ollech & Wajs, pre-quartz, were of the 17-jewel variety, and they were discontinued in the mid-1980s when the quartz crisis created a lack of demand for mechanical models. However, in the 1990s there began a resurgence in the demand for quality mechanical watches, and former customers began to ask the company to restart production of rugged and solid timepieces like those they had sold before. Once again then, Ollech & Wajs entered the market for mechanical watches, and today’s products are 100% Swiss-made and designed to be of high quality combined with affordable prices. It needs to be stated here that the modern company is technically owned and run by Albert Wajs alone, even though the products bear the Ollech & Wajs name and logo. Albert Wajs is a respected figure among Swiss watchmaking companies, and he continues to innovate and design new watches, although I would personally say that the watches are aesthetically quite conventional.
It is always nice to find a particularly classic model from any manufacturer one writes about, and in the case of Ollech & Wajs, I would say that the Caribbean collection has to be mentioned in this context - more specifically, the Caribbean-1000. Indeed, I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a fascinating little German-language promotional booklet concerning the Caribbean collection, which are classic dive watches of different levels of water resistance depending on model number. Unfortunately, the booklet I have is not dated, but it was printed in Switzerland, indicating a date that is not current. My original feeling was that the booklet dates to the mid-1970s, but given that it has been stated that the Caribbean-1000 model was only in production in the mid to late 1960s, I have now revised my dating of the booklet backwards a few years. I shall be saying more about the Caribbean-1000 in particular, but using the booklet, I have relevant promotional details of the different watches produced by Ollech & Wajs under the Caribbean banner.
A vintage Ollech & Waijs Precision Caribbean-1000 dive wristwatch
The booklet illustrates the Caribbean watches, which were more formally called “Precision Caribbean”, and three distinct varieties are listed. Firstly, there are the Precision Caribbean-1000 watches - automatic dive models with date window and water resistance of 100 ATM or 1000 metres. The earliest date for these watches has been given as 1964 but given other information plus a patent of 1967 mentioned in the booklet, I would estimate that the Caribbean-1000 is a product of the mid to late 1960s, and is significant especially for its monobloc steel case. Caribbean-1000 timepieces came in three sizes - 27mm, 32mm and 38mm - and the largest models featured a bezel with complex three-zone numbering. The second variety of Precision Caribbean watches were the 400 range, and these watches also came in three sizes, though with the largest having a 35mm case. The Caribbean-400 watches were also significantly water resistant, to 400 metres, and like the 1000 series, they feature steel monobloc cases. All of the 400 watches illustrated have a magnified date function at 3 o’clock - with just one plain-bezel example having a date/day window that has no magnification. Finally, there are the Precision Caribbean-100 watches shown, and these are water resistant to 100 metres and generally have either plain bezels or bezels with grooved serration on the upper surface. All the Caribbean-1000 and 400 watches have stainless steel bracelets in the booklet while the 100 range have leather straps. The main logo on the booklet is of a red and white stylised fish, but on the watches themselves, the standard Ollech & Wajs logo is used, resembling a beetle with open wing cases and having the letters “o” and “w”, one on each wing. I have learned that the name, Caribbean, has been used on dive watches by other companies, and I have a feeling from looking at relevant pictures, that some of these other-brand “Caribbean” watches originate from Ollech & Wajs and/or the Jenny watch Company.
It is fortunate that one of the Caribbean-1000 dive watches has recently been the subject of a vintage watch review, and I am indebted to Christopher McNiell and his review of 17 August 2015 on Worn and Wound for the following information:
The Caribbean-1000 was a high-point in the watches produced by Ollech & Wajs, and it resulted from a team effort with the Jenny Watch Company who designed and made the monobloc steel cases for the Caribbean watches. The Jenny 702 case in the watch reviewed on Worn & Wound measures 40mm wide, so this example is one of the largest of the 1000 range, The dial and movement are accessed through the crystal/front of the case, and after the bezel is removed, there is a threaded ring that holds the crystal in place. The lack of a caseback is a feature that assists in water resistance even if it must have made servicing the watch more difficult. As for the bezel on the 1000 watch reviewed, it is steel with an acrylic insert, with numbers and markers under the acrylic. The glass is a 5mm-thick domed acrylic item that sits on a substantial rubber gasket and is held down by the screw-in ring. Interestingly, Ollech & Wajs offered an optional tool and spare crystals so that the customer could replace a cracked or scratched watch glass without having to send the watch away - how unlike most watches today, where the retailer selling the watch often explains that after opening the watch without the maker’s/producer’s supervision, water resistance will be compromised and will no longer be guaranteed. As for prices at the time, a Caribbean-1000 could be had in the 1960s for about $75, and I have illustrated an original late 1960s Ollech & Wajs price list at the end of this topic.
The technical details of the movement used in the reviewed Caribbean-1000 are not difficult as the watch is powered by a workhorse 17 jewel ETA 2452 automatic movement with a semi-quickset date, and with all the Precision Caribbean watches in my booklet being calendar automatics, it is likely that this movement features in many, if not all, Ollech & Wajs Caribbean watches. The dial in the reviewed 1000 model is apparently of distinction, being a high gloss lacquer-black with lumed steel bar markers at the quarter-hours and simple lumed bars at the other intervals and the hands are substantial and dauphin in style, with a wide band of lume. The reviewer rates the comfort of the watch as being high, and is certainly complimentary about the watch in general.
Fascinating picture showing a vintage Ollech & Wajs Caribbean-1000 dive watch with what appears to be a promotional picture of the same watch, dating to about 1970 and then priced at $135 (opic from scubawatch.org):
The Ollech & Wajs Precision Caribbean-1000 is now a desirable collector’s watch. The production run of this range of Caribbean watches was not extensive in either time period or number, and the watches are of superior quality. A large-case Caribbean-1000 with an original rice-grain steel bracelet will now cost about US$2,000 to US$2,500 - not cheap but probably worth the money in the long run. In the context of this price for a vintage Caribbean-1000, the prices for other vintage and pre-owned Ollech & Wajs watches as revealed by a price list issued by the Wilson watch Works who are authorized US dealers for the company seem to be within similar price bounds, depending on model, case material, etc. etc… genuine vintage watches by Ollech & Wajs are actually quite thin on the ground, and prices for the more “legendary” models reflect that scarcity.
New “West Coast Time” branded Ollech & Wajs 200-metre dive watch with ETA 2842-2 movement, stainless steel case and bracelet with diver’s wetsuit extension clasp, screw-down crown and sapphire crystal. Priced at US$385 (pic from westcoasttime.com):
Ollech & Wajs are still going and still producing quality Swiss hand-wind and automatic watches. The firm has gone on in the same vein as when it was launched, with an emphasis on aviation chronographs, dive watches and military style timepieces. When I started to examine the prices for new Ollech & Wajs watches, I thought that we would be looking at pieces costing in excess of US$1,000. It was a pleasant surprise therefore to find that the current range contains many well-specified mechanical models for US$400 to US$600. It does seem that Ollech & Wajs still keep their promise to produce watches that are both workmanlike and affordable, and I have also read that the watches are sometimes used for “modding” by those who are able to carry out such work to provide a unique timepiece. I do have one caveat though, because I am not absolutely sure how far the company is involved in actual watchmaking. The movements used by Ollech & Wajs seem to all be from established Swiss ebauche concerns, including ETA and Valjoux, and even the patented case for the Caribbean range was not an Ollech & Wajs item. I would suggest that the company certainly has always had near-complete involvment in the design and production process of most, but not all, of its watches, even if it is not essentially a watchmaking concern. Clearly though, Ollech & Wajs products will be found bearing different brand names, and sometimes these are direct brand switches, while others may show work performed on the watch in addition to rebranding. Presumably, having originated as a bracelet manufacturing company, original steel bracelets on Ollech & Wajs watches will have been made by the company.
1960s Ollech & Wajs Selectron Computer automatic wristwatch (pic from pinterest)
Period 1960s advert for three Ollech & Wajs mechanical chronographs (pic from sometimeago.com):
Period price list and details for Ollech & Wajs watches from 1969 (pic from sometimeago.com):
I was wondering whether a definitive O&W history exists on the net? Given that Mr Ollech apparently died in the early 1970’s and the fact that Albert Wajs must be getting on a bit if the company ws founded in 1956, I think an overview is due. Ideally, the sort of rigorous analysis done by Pete Millar about Doxa or Chuck Maddox about Moonwatches should be carried out. Here’s what I’ve found from various sources on the net:
From Albert Wajs’s own site:
"The story begins 1956 when, together with a partner, I founded the Ollech & Wajs Watch Company. Right from the beginning, we concentrated
on manufacturing rugged, good looking sports watches at affordable prices. One day, a young American student on visit in Switzerland, bought
one of our watches. He said to us: Why don’t you sell your watches in the US. Everyone there, needs a timepiece like that, that can stand it’s man. To keep quality high and prices low, we decided to try something new… To sell by mail to US customers direct from Switzerland and eliminate the middleman’s profit. This approach proved very successful, for our company, and also for the many happy US owners of our watches. Our company received many letters from satisfied customers. You can view some of these letters on my homepage."
from Neil Wood’s site in conjunction with A. Wajs
"The History of Ollech & Wajs - Written by Neil Wood, but in consultation with Mr. Albert Wajs for authentication of the history of his company
Ollech & Wajs started business in the 1950â€™s when Albert Wajs began making and supplying stainless steel bracelets for wristwatches. In 1956, a partnership was formed with Mr Ollech, and they soon began manufacturing wristwatches. From the outset, the design philosophy was to create durable and good looking sports watches at affordable prices. Business was done from their retail premises in Zurich. They soon began to expand into world wide markets, more notably the US and UK markets. This was achieved through a low cost approach so as to keep the watch prices low. They began to advertise in magazines that were popular with aviators, soldiers, divers and sportsmen. They were selling direct to the end user by mail order from Switzerland. They cut out all of the middlemen, and there was no need to invest heavily in overseas infrastructures, so the cost of quality watches was kept to a minimum.
Sales were increasing so the O&W company were able to produce more models and focus on production methods so that the quality became better. In the 1960â€™s they were selling a high quality professional divers wristwatches for US $12. These watches became very popular with US soldiers who bought them privately, as they were the best quality watch and value for money they could find, and they were a vast improvement on their inferior quality government issued disposable watches.
Sales reached an all time high during the Vietnam era when they were selling thousands of watches via direct mail order. Towards the late 1970â€™s, Mr. Wajs bought up much of the Breitling stock for the aviation models such as the Navitimer. They began producing their own label watches with the Breitling cases and the same calibres used in Breitling watches. These watches were branded â€œAviationâ€ and are now highly prized amongst collectors. The advent of the quartz powered mechanisms drove down much of the traditional watch making industry, and O&W ceased production in the early 1980â€™s.
By the early 1990â€™s, the more discerning consumers who were concerned with quality, style and craftsmanship were becoming tired of quartz wristwatches. Whilst quartz watches were accurate, they were mass produced, often lasted less than a few years years, lacked in character and had no soul. This thought allowed a resurgence in Swiss watch making where customers preferred the machines made by highly skilled craftsmen who have inherited their skills over hundreds of years in the making. O&W subsequently began production again, this time under a new company, formed by Albert Wajs. The company is called A. I. Wajs, who proudly present A. I. Wajs Army Watches. They still use the logo and the brand name Ollech & Wajs or O&W, as these brand names are owned by Albert Wajs.
Albert Wajs is running the company with as much energy and enthusiasm as ever. He is constantly coming up with new ideas and creating new models. He calls upon his wealth of knowledge and technical brilliance to create innovative, fresh and appealing designs. His philosophy however still remains today as it did when he started in business â€“ cost effective, durable and good looking watches. He is passionate about watches, is well known and well respected amongst the Swiss watch making fraternity. His passion and desire is reflected in his â€œappeal to allâ€ wristwatch designs, and his personal success."
info from the MWR site:
"The company now known as A.I.Wajs Army Watches is a manufacturer of durable, rugged yet affordable sports watches. An interesting history began in the 1950s when Albert Wajs was supplying the stainless steel bracelets for wristwatches. Wajs partnered with Mr Ollech to begin to manufacture solid and sturdy timepieces and the company launched as Ollech & Wajs.
The business model that Ollech & Wajs followed was to maintain a low price by selling direct to customers and they have maintained this model through the rise and fall of the company. Very popular with soldiers, sportsman, divers and aviators, the Ollech & Wachs watches were sold predominantly to the US and the UK. The Vietnam era was a peak period for the firm and the Wajs aviator watches created from Brietling cases are still a prized collectors item.
In the 1980s the company closed along with many others as the quartz movement came into fashion. However demand for the reliability of a mechanical watch led Wajs to reopen the company by himself in the 1990s under the name A.I. Wajs.
A.I.Wajs watches are still popular today, still 100% Swiss and still sold via direct mail. Time proven business and design models continue as the basis for the companyâ€™s success. New watches sold under A.I.Wajs brand retail on average for approximately US$200. Collectors watches under the brand name Ollech & Wajs can retail for up to US$2000."
"Ollech & Wajs got their start in 1956, manufacturing and selling rugged sports watches at affordable prices. Their heyday was during the 1960’s when many of their watches were sold to servicemen overseas. This catalog is representative of their line during the 1960s. Interestingly, they also offered Omega, Breitling and Enicar watches in addition to their own.
Ollech & Wajs ceased production during the 1980’s when quartz revolution took place and mechanical timepieces all but became extinct. Today Albert Wajs has resumed production of fine mechanical timepieces, and O&W is once again gaining a reputation for their rugged mechanical sports watches at affordable prices."
Some info about the EarlyBird can be found at:
Some info about the Caribbean 1000;
Some Caribbean 1000 stuff from TZ:
"Not a review. Just a look at an inovative idea designed 30 years ago and why a little known company built something that should have been built by Rolex in IMHO.
The watch in the scans below is an Ollech & Wajs Carbbean 1000 meter dive watch. O & W were not only makers of interesting watches, but also supplied parts to Breitling for their Navitimer models.
The case is a s/s unibody (one piece) with the movement inserted from the top. 40 mm in diameter and 45.5 mm lug to lug. With crystal on. The height is 16 mm. Crown is a screwdown with threads on the inside of the winding tube.
The movement is an unadorned ETA 17 jewel automatic with date.
Bezels came with 60 minute or 12 hour bi-directional turning with luminous markings. The watch came in dark blue, black, yellow or jade green with matching bezel insert. There were also two different widths of bezel inserts. A thin model (shown in scan) or the wider (about 1 mm more)
The watch in the early 70’s was used to set a number of dive records. With tank and without. Been also said that the watch was a favorite of Vietnam military personnel who purchased the watches rather than use one’s supplied to them.
The interesting thing about the watch is the crystal and why the watch warrents it’s 3000 ft. depth rating.
The movement sits in a movement ring and is placed deep into the case. The crystal is then placed into the case and held in place with a s/s screwdown retaining ring. A rubber “O” ring under the crystal and a flat rubber ring under the retaining ring insuring proper water tightness.
With the bezel on. The crystal has a very low profile. The edge is barely 1/32nd above the rim and sit’s about 1/8" higher in the middle.
The crystal is a slab of plastic. 1/8" thick on the side, with a 1/8" thick lip which the retaining ring presses down on. It’s the top that’s interesting.
Due to the lower sitting movement. The crystal has a very shallow curve on the underside matching that of the top. Between inside and out, is a 5 MM thickness of plastic.
At the time of it’s creation. The Rolex Submariner had a 200 meter or 660 ft. depth rating.
Original value was $105.00
Most of these seen for sale are NOS due to the company going out of business just after the death of Mr. Ollech in the early 70’s
At most, have seen over the past year and a half is less than 50 watches listed for sale. How many were produced is unknown, but willing to say that compared to a vintage Rolex from the same era that the Caribbean is much rarer
Current prices for the watches are about $550-$700. With a price of $1000.00 expected by the end of the year by some collectors."
Here’s some very interesting info. about the purported relationship between O&W and Jenny by Peter at watchuseek:
"Jenny Caribbean is a dive watch but is also significant as a vintage watch. Jenny appears to have made watches for only about 10 years from the early 60’s to the early 70’s and they are accordingly rare and sought after.
The basic movements were ETA to which Jenny added special cases, dials and bezels.
Jenny invented the triple safe one piece case in the early 1960s and issued the first 1000 metre rated diver which ultimately lead to the Omega Ploprof.
My research shows that Jenny was probably assembled by Ollech & Wajs under a reciprocal arrangement that allowed O&W to sell the Jenny patents with their own branding.
The evidence for this is that whilst it is well known that Jenny owned the patents, there is no evidence whatsoever that Jenny had a watch making facility. O&W ofcourse had a well known factory.
Moreover, the Jenny divers came in some very unusual shapes and only the O&W Caribbeans can be found with exactly the same unusual cases.
The Caribbean range included Super Water Proof Divers rated for deep water use between 200 metres and 2000 metres, and Dive Chronos rated for use in more shallow water.
The Jenny Caribbean 1000 came with a decompression table bezel and as we have recently cracked how to use it in the WUS Dive Watch Forum I can tell you it had no purpose other than underwater use.
The extremely rare Jennys are the Caribbean 1000 in Orange or Blue from 1963."
Some O&W links and old catalogues from Chuck Maddox:
Some Aviation watch details at:
"The story has been told numerous times before, so I’ll only give a short version here.
In 1979 the original Breitling company that was founded in 1892, and had been in family hands all its life, was liquidated. Several parties acquired parts of the Breitling heritage. Name, designs and parts all went to new owners.
The Ollech & Wajs company was founded more then twenty years earlier, somewhere in the 50’s, by the two gentlemen that gave the company it’s name. They specialised in good quality, affordable tool watches, and achieved quit a good reputation among soldiers, that preferred them to the government issued watches. In 1979 O&W had the foresight to buy much of the parts that were stocked by Breitling to build and/or service their watches from the Navitimer line.
Up to this day they still have on offer new, unused watches build from original Breitling parts, and parts that came from the original Breitling suppliers. They are sold under the Aviation name.
There are six models available. All of them in steel, and some also plated and in 18k gold. Prices range from SFr 2150 (US$1800) for the ref.nr.44017 in steel, to SFr 8425 (US$7060) for the ref.nr.34017 in 18k gold. All of them with vintage movements, including a gift box, leather strap and instructions for use.
It’s important to notice that these watches were designed in the 60’s and 70’s, and although they are new, they must be considered classic watches. They have beautiful vintage mechanical movements, that will give years of trouble free service if well maintained. Most are hand wound, although two models make use of the Buren Cal.12. These latter movements lack a running second hand, and have a reputation for being fairly difficult to maintain. All of these watches should be considered very poorly protected against water. Don’t even wear them when coming close to water. The one exception is the ref.nr.6081, that in its days was supposed to be waterproof. But although this watch will be better protected against accidental submersion, for practical purposes it should be considered not to be waterproof as well.
Just suppose you’re in the market for a classic pilot’s chronograph. You like the Navitimer designs, and you are fascinated by the rich aviation history of the Breitling brand. You prefer a new unused watch, and want to avoid the risks that come with buying a vintage wristwatch.
There are several options open to you.
Obviously you can go for a brand new Breitling. The Breitling name was revived again in 1982 by Ernest Schneider from the Sicura firm. Ever since they have produced new watches, some of which are in design at least close to the original and carry the Breitling Navitimer name. The Breitling company has successfully tried to move upmarket, and both the quality and price are in a different league then the originals were.
You might want to have a look at Sinn. Helmut Sinn bought the rights to the Navitimer design, and the Sinn company still has a few models in their line-up that are closely related to the Navitimer. In some ways you might argue that Sinn is closer to the philosophy of the original Breitling company, in the sense that they focus on technical improvements, and try to keep the price modest. Their Navitimer derivative is more a tool watch, like the Navitimer was once meant to be.
If you want to stay closer to the original, and you don’t need the technical improvements that were made in the last 35 years, there are still a few options left.
You could buy a NOS original Breitling from Old World Jewellers in the US, but there are only a few Navitimer models left, and prices are very high.
Finally there’s O&W. If you can live without the Breitling print on the dial, this is probably as close as you can get to the original Navitimer. It’s basically a brand new watch made from original parts. In several ways, these Aviation’s are more closely related to the much loved 60’s/70’s Navitimer’s then the present day Breitlings are."
(plak, knip en jatwerk )