Although the Tornek-Rayville name sat dormant for decades, it has recently been revived and the marque now offers an updated version of the original Tornek-Rayville dive watch – a watch that makes the charms of the nearly unattainable vintage classic available at an affordable price and with the modern functionality. In our latest installment of What Is On My Wrist, Craft + Tailored CEO Cameron Barr takes a deep dive into the Tornek-Rayville TR-660 to discuss why this reissue is a worthy successor to one of the all time great vintage military dive watches.
Produced during the early 1960s, the Tornek-Rayville ref. TR-900 is a dive watch that was created to fulfill the U.S. Navy’s needs for a timepiece that could be supplied to its Underwater Demolition Team. Although the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms was the Navy’s first choice, the “Buy American Act” of 1933 required them to use a domestically sourced option, leading Allen V. Tornek (a representative for Blancpain) to convince the famous Swiss manufacturer to let him rebrand some Fifty Fathoms watches as the “Tornek-Rayville” and sell them to the U.S. Navy. A total of just 1,000 Tornek-Rayville watches were produced, and since the vast majority were destroyed over the years, surviving examples now fetch six-figures whenever they surface at auction.
Bill Yao is the man behind the watch company MK II, and the gent responsible for reviving the Tornek-Rayville name. Yao has a well-deserved reputation for creating timepieces that properly pay tribute to historic military designs and has handled the Tornek-Rayville name with great care. Rather than attempting to create an exact recreation of the original model, the modern Tornek-Rayville ref. TR-660 AC reimagines the classic Blancpain-inspired dive watch with modern materials and features such a larger screw-down crown, an anti-reflective sapphire crystal, and the reliable Seiko NE15 movement.
Although they were originally created to be military-issued timekeeping tools, the incredible value and collectibility of vintage Tornek-Rayville divers now prevents them from being able to be worn as care-free tool watches. Rather than being an ultra-premium tribute to a celebrated vintage design, the modern Tornek-Rayville TR-660 is intended to be exactly what the original model was back in the early 1960s: a rugged and unpretentious tool watch that can be purchased for a reasonable price and worn throughout a wide variety of different demanding activities.
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