Here at TimeScapeUSA, when we present a brand with a dedicated aesthetic or philosophy, we don't assume it will grace every wrist. Procrustes we ain't. With their slim cases, spartan dials, and ongoing attachment to a particular moment in the history of jet age elegance, Glycine watches don't always appeal to the masses. But for the enthusiast seeking a particular idea of quality, it might be the perfect fit.
Eugene Meylan founced the Glycine watch factory in 1914, and while it is still located in the same building in Biel/Bienne, Meylan's reasons for naming his company after a proteinogenic amino acid are lost to time. In the decades prior to the Second World War, he produced innovative luxury movements that were renowned for their quality, and small size, as well as a line of chronometer-grade pieces. Unlike so many Swiss companies of that era dominated by a single perfectionist, Glycine survived its founder and went on to introduce the shock and water resistant Vacuum chronometer in 1952. In 1953 it released the Airman, and that was that.
In a company history that spans a hundred years, the Airman design was Glycine's one enduring contribution to worldwide watchmaking. Equipped with a 24 hour dial and a second time zone indicated by the crown-operated bezel, it was initially marketed to airlines as staff equipment and served the needs of pilots and military personnel almost too well. In the years since, Glycine has experimented with variations, configurations, and appropriations of the original Airman themes but never strayed far from its initial aesthetic. Size was the exception to this rule, and in the early 2000s Glycine produced enormous watches like the 56mm Airman 7.
Airman watches have a solid following among collectors, and the myriad versions of this design have been well-documented. TimeScape suggests the work of Andre Stikkers for those who wish to examine this history in depth.
One can still purchase an Airman new with box and papers. The Airman No. 1 is a near exact copy of the original design, albeit with an ETA 2892 or 2893 beating inside. The differing movements allow for the option of a GMT hand in addition to the extra time zone indication afforded by the bezel, for a total of three. Glycine offers this piece in a profusion of dial and case styles – some in small cases that seem almost antique, and others closer to current expectations of heft. The current Airman 7, while not as ludicrously sized as its predecessors, still packs three separate mechanical movements into its 46mm case to display four separate time zones. Expect service costs to scale accordingly.
With these two models, Glycine doubles-down on a particular idea of immediate post-war fashion. In 60 years of production they have never gone out of style, and of the watches “produced” at the ancient factory in Bienne, they are the ones worth having.
Other models like the Incursore, KMU, and F 104 replicate the standard clichés of military watch demeanor, employing the looming black dials that are currently in vogue. The Combat watch follows suit, occasionally delving into the dive watch tropes seen on the Rolex and Zodiac pieces of forty years ago. The Glycine Classics line aims for affordable elegance, but flirts with being only plain. All of these watches enclose stable ETA executions of known capability and temperament, in stainless steel cases of reasonable pressure resistance. They represent an accessible level of horological quality at an affordable price.