Unboxing’ a TRIBUS TRI-05 303, a personal reflection
TRIBUS describes their TRI-05, 303 Squadron P833, Limited Edition as a watch that, “doesn’t just carry over a century’s worth of Polish aeronautical cues within its design; it remembers the sacrifice of all those whom Churchill would call ‘the Few’ during those darkest of days.”
…… it’s not just ‘the Few’, it’s ‘the Forgotten Few’.
For me the TRIBUS TRI-05 has a deeper value. It illustrates the extraordinary background story which, for decades, has been forgotten and at times suppressed. Not only of the bravery and sacrifice of the Polish pilots but of all the Poles that fought ‘for our freedom and yours’. A motto associated with the times when Polish soldiers, exiled from Poland, fought for independence; and a fight that includes one of history’s greatest betrayals.
…… the background.
In the last days of the Battle of Britain The Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Command, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding said, “had it not been for the magnificent work of the Polish squadrons and their unsurpassed gallantry, I hesitate to say that the outcome of battle would have been the same”. This assessment was echoed by the Secretary of State for the Air Force and indeed, during some of the most desperate points of the battle, the RAF had ‘only 350 pilots to scramble, of which nearly 100 were Poles’. Together the Polish 302 and 303 Squadrons destroyed 203 enemy aircraft for the loss of 29 pilots. The 303 Squadron became the most successful Fighter Command unit in the Battle of Britain, shooting down 126 confirmed German aircraft. In all probability, they shot down many more. Unfortunately, the RAF High Command did not believe the Poles until they began fitting cameras to their aircraft.
Rarely mentioned, the Polish numbered the 4th largest Allied military force during WW2. A force of soldiers, sailors and air crews. Not forgetting it was the Polish mathematicians who pioneered the decryption work that led to the cracking of the ‘Enigma’ code, which is considered to have shortened the war by two years. Polish intelligence also operated one of the largest and most successful intelligence networks in Europe and across Germany. Yet at the end of the war Poles were not allowed to participate in the 1946 Allied London Victory Parade so as not to aggravate Joseph Stalin; my family members were among those who were denied.
I will never forget my maternal grandfather’s tears when we watched an episode of All Our Yesterdays (a history documentary). He was moved by the images of the battle that near took his life and that of his brother. Yet he showed no hatred, he simply felt that he had been betrayed. My family, both maternal and paternal, never returned to Poland as there was nothing left for them to return to. Their homes, farms and businesses having been confiscated by the communist state. All that was left was their determination to rebuild their lives. At the very least, Britain and the United States gave them that opportunity. My maternal grandfather died in 1974 from injuries that had finally caught up with him.
Ok, let’s take a closer look at the Tribus TRI-05. Here TRIBUS makes an immediate statement with the 303 Squadron emblem pressed into a matte black dial, it’s certainly not a decorative afterthought. It might surprise you to learn that the 303 Squadron emblem, also known as Kosciuszko Squadron, bears the American Stars and Stripes. The Squadron was formed in 1919 by a group of Americans, led by Merian C. Cooper, who volunteered to fight with the Polish army in the little know Russian-Polish War (1919-1920) in which, my paternal grandfather fought to defeat the Russian goal to spread communist rule further west into Europe.
This emblem was designed by one of it’s members, Elliot Chess, and features a four-cornered hat that was worn by Kosciuszko, a Polish military hero, who fought on the side of the American Patriots in the War of Independence. The hat is superimposed on two scythes crossed diagonally (to represent the Patriots who fought with him), on top of a background of the American Stars and Stripes. The emblem was painted on each aircraft, and christened the Kosciuszko Squadron: a tribute to the indelible bond between the American and the Polish nations.
I’m my opinion the emblem sits proportionally within a dial of the Tribus TRI-05, any smaller and the detail would have been lost. It’s refreshing that the dial is true to the watches worn by pilots during the Battle of Britain. I do like to see sympathetic research and development, and the Tribus TRI-05 watch delivers on that.
The TRIBUS logo applied to both the dial and on the screw-down crown are, in my opinion, a fine design embodying the partnership of the three Ward brothers. The white printed indexes are beautifully applied as are the numerals. With the numerals, hands, and dot markers TRIBUS has delivered a good lume without losing the design authenticity on the Tribus TRI-05.
The Tribus TRI-05 has a 41mm case and the 20mm lugs, for me, hit a sweet spot as does the excellent finish making it comfortable to wear. The brushed and polished 316L stainless steel case has been engineered in Switzerland to a very high standard, as good as any of my OMEGA watches. Some may say, ‘high praise’ but it’s definitely deserved. Add the excellent domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating it leaves little doubt. As for the movement, in my mind, the Sellita SW200 is a reliable well made Swiss mechanical movement. In fact, other watch brands are also increasingly turning to Sellita. For me, the advantages are that the service costs are reasonable, parts are available and above all the Sellita keeps good time. All credit to TRIBUS for not modifying or calling the movement by some made-up caliber. The return above the performance of the base can be minimal but the change is then often reflected in the price of the watch.
Where the TRIBUS 303 comes into its own is with the battle scarred P8331 disc suspended in the case back encircled by, the motto ‘Za naszą i waszą wolność – for our freedom and yours’ which has been beautifully engraved into the crystal. This leaves a subtle glimpse of the movement beneath. With the red and white Polish Air Force checkerboard it completes the most intriguing case back in my collection and without doubt a great talking point. Before anyone says the disc is just ‘scrap metal’, my advice is to take a look at the enormous effort and cost that went into recovering the Spitfire and in the production of the discs.
The quality of the Tribus TRI-05 continues through to the 20mm leather strap with a brushed stainless steel dress clasp engraved with the TRIBUS logo. The quick-release pins make for easy change, especially as the watch also comes with a superbly stitched Zulu Alpha strap.
The packaging and delivery of the Tribus TRI-05 were excellent, it’s what I would expect of a well-organised brand. The outer box clearly designed to protect the presentation box from being damaged in transit. The finished box, in my opinion, is sympathetic to the watch and adds to the overall level of quality.
- Movement: Sellita SW200
- 26 jewel self-winding mechanical movement
- Hacking seconds
- Anti-shock system
- Power Reserve: 38 hours
- Frequency: 4Hz (28,800 vibrations per hour)
- Timing tolerance: +/-20 seconds per day
- Brushed and polished 316L stainless steel case
- Domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating (front and back)
- Disc of historic metal from Spitfire P8331
- ‘Za naszą i waszą wolność – for our freedom and yours’ engraved into glass
- Red and white Polish Air Force checkerboard ring
- Polished screw-down crown with debossed TRIBUS logo
- Engraved serial number
- Diameter: 41mm
- Height: 13.22mm
- Lug to lug: 50.5mm
- Strap width: 20mm
- Water resistance: 15 ATM (150 metres)
- White printed indexes
- Numerals finished with Super-LumiNova® Grade X1 GL C1 (white emission)
- Brushed black gunmetal hour and minute hands and white seconds hand filled with Super-LumiNova® Grade X1 GL C3 (green emission)
- Matte black dial
- Five minute dot markers finished with Super-LumiNova® Grade X1 GL C3 (green emission)
- 20mm vintage oak Italian leather strap
- Brushed stainless steel dress clasp with engraved TRIBUS logo
- Quick-release pins for easy changing
- Additional 20mm Zulu Alpha polyester strap
- Water resistance: 15 ATM (150 metres)
As said, this is a personal reflection and one that certainly has not been clouded by some misplaced sentiment. There are plenty of ‘Spitfire’ themed watches out there but none have or had the level of appeal that this Tribus TRI-05 watch has. In fact, this is my only watch that pays homage to the Polish Pilots. What TRIBUS has delivered is sympathetic, honest, and beautiful. A fitting tribute and collaboration with the Łaguna’s Spitfire Legacy. A lasting recognition to all of the Fighter Pilots of WW2 but with a specific focus on a central figurehead in Acting Wing Commander Piotr Łaguna, and the 18,000 Polish Pilots and ground crews of the Polish Air force. There is something very special knowing that my purchase has contributed to maintaining that legacy.
TRIBUS maybe a newcomer but it’s clear that the Ward brothers have been taught well, they have delivered what I consider to be a unique watch in the Tribus TRI-05 which will appeal to more than just a watch collector. In fact, I believe TRIBUS has found a niche that follows no conventional expectations.
Of course, there are those who are much more qualified than me to write a watch review but what I will say is this, ‘choose your words wisely as this is not just a mere watch’.
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