The P-40M Pilot Watch Inspiration: An Award Winning Warbird Restoration
The Inspiration of the P-40M Mechanical Pilot Watch.
Inside two large hangers at the Tri-State Warbird Museum in Batavia, Ohio stands 14 beautiful historically accurate restored WW2 era air fighters (warbirds), including the "1943 Curtiss Wright P-40M NZ3119 KittyHawk III "; the inspiration and namesake of the P-40M Mechanical Pilot Watch.
Teaching American History
Every weekday a team of American mechanics at the Tri-State Warbird Museum manufacture and restore the fighter planes that fought in WW2. Commonly referred to as "Warbirds", seeing the restored aircraft in person elicits the emotion often necessary to grasp the history and sacrifices of WW2.
Tri-State Warbird Museum
The information below and the pictures we use are provided by Tri-State Warbird Museum CEO David O'Maley and his team of mechanics, historians and supporters of the P-40M and Tri-State Warbird Museum. Special thanks to Noah Rectin, historian extraordinaire.
Award Winning Restoration
It's this Osh Kosh Award-Winning restoration that inspired the design of our P-40M Mechanical pilot watch; and it's this restored warbird by the Tri-State Warbird Museum the P-40M Mechanical watch is made to honor.
The P-40M by The Tri-State Warbird Museum in Batavia, Ohio. A portion of the sale of P-40 Pilot Watches is Donated to the Museum for future restorations.
2016 Osh Kosh Grand Champion Warbird
The Tri-State Warbird Museum won The 2016 Osh Kosh Grand Champion restoration award, a prestigious award reserved for the most historically accurate of warbird restorations. The cloth wire insulators on the P-40M NZ3119 were restored as if the plane just rolled off the assembly line
Built in May 1943 in Buffalo, NY
The P-40M KittyHawk III was originally built in May 1943 by American aviation company Curtis-Wright on an assembly line in Buffalo, New York.
The Curtis Wright factory image below shows P-40's being built. P-40 series unknown, but in the picture we can see the air intake that the P-40M used for the additional cooling. The year of the picture reportedly dates from 1943, which is the year the Tri-State Warbirds P-40M KittyHawk was built. Could the picture below be the P-40M's being built in Buffalo, New York?
America is All-in
Notice the female mechanic standing on the wing in the foreground. By 1943 Americans of all sexes and ages became "all-in" filling all roles in wartime production. Men and Women, old and young stepped up; and a lot of Americans were not coming back from the war. Image Credits
The P-40 : Versatile & Adaptable
The flexibility of the P-40 airplane made it so valuable. It evolved rapidly over the first years of WW2 meeting new requirements and being fitted for different roles in a sudden and new escalation of modern war. The P-40 fought in every front, against every plane, and creating valuable time for America to upgrade and eventually manufacture the P-51 to take on the agile speedsters of the Japanese Zero and the Fock Wulf of the German Luftwaffe
One Distinguishing Feature of the P-40M is the screened air intake grill on the front which functioned as an additional cooling air intake. And you can always tell a P-40 by the rearview-looking glass behind the pilot, a part of the sliding canopy that allowed the P-40 pilots to look behind them.
Cameras Recording Video Tape on the Wings
During WW2 war planners needed to improve our pilot's training and count the number of combat kills a pilot had. So a camera was mounted inside of the wing and would start recording only when the 50 Caliber guns were fired.
In the picture below there is a white stripe of paint on the wing and a bulge, the camera is mounted vertically inside. As it was a post-production addition it could not fit anywhere else. You can see the small opening where the camera's aperture looked out.
In the picture below you can see the wing-mounted three 50 Caliber machine guns, as well as the screen for the additional air intake in front of the exhaust pipes behind the propeller.
Flown By Legends When It Counted
Some Tales of P-40 pilots have become legends. It was the P-40 that was sent to China with 100 pilots and 200 crewmen, all of whom had to officially quit the military and denounce being military if captured to take on this American task, to defend China against attacking Japanese before the onset of American involvement of WW2.
Due to the American pilots ability with the P-40 to fight off the Japanese bombers they gratefully became known as The Flying Tigers. The Nose Art was drawn, the look that inspired the entire US Air Force throughout the war.
Most P-40 restorations today are painted with the classic tiger teeth nose art. Certainly not the Tri-State Warbird's Osh Kosh Award-winning historically accurate P-40M RNZAF NZ3119, which was sold to the Royal New Zealand air force in a lend-lease deal. It is the RNZAF colors that the warbird is painted in.
Tuskegee Airmen Training Plains
It was the P-40 that in January 1942, 5 Tuskegee Airmen trained in.
The Most Important P-40 Ever Built
Our story is about one of the most important P-40's ever built, The P-40M RNZAF NZ3119. Reborn by the Tri-State Warbird Museum the P-40M RNZAF NZ3119 is the most special of special warbird planes, the warbird who gets to live forever. To be reborn to work as living history, bringing to life the real story of the American & Allies hero's struggle of WW2.
Love At First Sight
It was the P-40M that attracted Rick Bell from the first time he looked at the powerfully matte green fighting warbird, sparkling in her completely polished adherence to rolling off the production line. Rick discovered immediately he was looking at an Osh Kosh Grand Champion Restoration down to the smallest bolt, the smallest switch.
Of course Rick could have chosen the sparkling roadster of WW2 warbirds, the P-51 "Cincinnati Miss" sitting right next to the P-40M but that is who Rick is. Bling is cool, but the story, the parts, that substance counts for everything. And the parts of the P-40M were meticulously restored.
The A-11 Specification of the 8-Day Clock on the dashboard of the "P-40M KittyHawk III":
What is an 8-Day Clock?
Like Inside of the restored P-40M KittyHawk, The clocks in the WW2 era cockpits flight control panel were mechanical clocks. No batteries were available or stored electricity lightweight enough to be used for an electric dashboard clock to work. The dashboard clocks were mechanical. Since the clocks were mounted in a cockpit control panel the main spring and barrel of the clock could be made much larger than that in a wristwatch, large enough that one full wind could power the clock for 8 days. Thus, they are now referred to as "8-day clocks".
One full wind and the clock would run for 8 days.
See More of Waltham's Modern 8-day clocks here.
The 8-day clock on the dashboard of the P-40M RNZAF NZ3119 at the Tri-State Warbird Museum.
The A-11 Cockpit Dial Specification.
The A-11 Spec is the unofficial name of the US Military documents that specified all of the design needs of the 8-day clocks to be installed into the American warcraft cockpits. Privately owned American companies like Waltham, Wittnauer, Elgin, Hamilton, and others had to meet these design specifications if they wanted to produce 8-day clocks for the cockpits of the warbirds.
Think of the chaos if each company could design their own dashboard clock design when the US Government researched and discovered the best color combinations, dial colors, widths, fonts for seeing during the course of a life or death battle. Standardization is absolutely necessary and the documents that outlined the cockpit specifications were titled A-11, A-12, and A-14 during the war
The P-40M's 8-Day Clock
It's likely a Waltham 8-Day Clock inside the cockpit of the P-40M RNZAF. Made in Waltham, Massachusetts by The Waltham Clock Co. to meet the standards of wartime production specification A-11. It is this clock that inspired the dial design of the P-40M Mechanical.
The A-11 Spec Sheet included these necessities & more:
- Black Dial (Background)
- White font & markings
- Outer ring marking the seconds made of simple dashes
- Arabic outer ring Numerals at the 5's marking the minutes
- Big bold Arabic Numerals marking the hours
- large white minute and hour hands
Servicing and Function Wartime Clock
One A-11 specification for the 8-day clocks designed for the cockpits of WW2 Warbirds was that the movements had to be adjustable from the back enclosure of the case without having to access the movement itself to adjust the movement's speed. This way, military "mechanic horologists?" could adjust the 8-day clocks easily with a screwdriver while sitting in the cockpit of the plane without having to remove the movement from the case.
(I wonder if the US Air-force had or has a horologist postion specially assigned to the upkeep of the 8-day clocks in the cockpits? )
The P-40M RNZAF by the Tri-State Warbird Museum
The Design of the P-40M Pilot Watch
The Pilot watch design took many months, Rick would draw designs and present them to a small group of individuals close to him. Seeing the P-40M Warbird cockpit clock, the A-11 spec designed cockpit dials, ignited Rick's inspiration. You have to look no further than the more simple A-11 design of the P-40M clock and the P-40M Mechanical watch to glimpse to how bright that inspirations can get. Rick ended up combining core components from multiple versions of the A-11 and A-series specifications combining two previously separate designs.
When you see the P-40M restored by the Tri-State Warbird Museum you see i t's the leather helmet, Babe Ruth of Warbirds with the Power of 12 giant cylinders. Gritty Beautiful. The P-40M definitely influenced Rick's field watch design.
The Tale of the Original Propellers
The Tri-State Warbird's P-40M propellers have the original Curtis Wright logo on them as they would have looked like coming out of a box in 1943 - because they came out of a box from 1943.
Near-Death Experience for Pilot & Bird
The story of the original propellers on the P-40M KittyHawk by the Tri-State Warbird Museum in Batavia, Ohio is one of Survival, Death, Rebirth, and Miracles.
The P-40M was on a flight in 2011 when suddenly an oil pressure alarm went off. Suddenly, the pilot loses power! The courageous pilot's first thoughts were for the airplane and getting it back to the airport. His selfless courage stayed with the plane during the life-threatening harrowing situation, he stayed calm and glided the plane 12 miles back to the airport where he crash-landed successfully. Alive! And the P-40M in great shape considering. Although the propellers bent back from hitting on the ground but otherwise the plane and pilot were in good shape. Here are Pictures of that P-40M warbird wreck.
Brand New Vintage: New Old Stock Propellers!
In the search for the original propellers, the museum was astounded by their luck to find a set of brand new Curtis-Wright P-40 propellers available. New Out Of The Box! Incredible Blessing.
How Do We Tell Their Story?
There are so many heroes that died in the all-out war, so many men & women who stood in the face of death turning into the hail of bullets every minute. That's a very difficult history to pass on, to tell their story, to share the sacrifice made by an entire generation with books, and dry documentaries.
When you see and hear a restored warbird, the history is literally brought to life!
Here is our inspiration, the Tri-State Warbird's Oshkosh Grand Champion restoration of the P-40M taxing on the runway after landing.
Notice how the pilot has to zig-zag on the runway since the nose of the aircraft sits so high, the only way for the pilot to see in front of the plane is to go diagonal literally zig-zagging while taxing.
Historically Accurate, True To History
The beauty of the restoration is the great efforts the Tri-State Warbird Museum went to restore the plane as it would have come off the assembly line in Buffalo in 1943. The museum found an original drop tank, they created the old electric wiring cover in some cases, they recreated so many components parts that are now 80 years old to make every part an exact restoration.
Painted True To The NZ3119 Airplanes History
Most noticeably, they did NOT paint the Flying Tigers teeth on the nose because this P-40M was not a Flying Tiger. The plane is painted with the Royal New Zealand Air Force signatures including the large yellow, blue, and white circle. We love this living history.
The People Who Made It Happen
The restoration of the P-40M "KittyHawk III" began in February of 2008 and required 32,000 hours of restoration. The museum and restoration team working for the Tri-State Warbird Museum on the P-40M NZ3119 included:
It could not have been possible without:
David O'Maley, John Fallis, Dale Hoffman, John Saunders, Chad Van Hook, and Tom Wilson.
Thank You Tri-State Warbird Museum!
We are honored to acknowledge not only the brave pilots, but the grounds crews, mechanics, assembly line, and all of the strong people of the Greatest Generation who sacrificed for our American Constitution.
A portion of all sales of the P-40M Mechanical pilot watch is donated to the Tri-State Warbird Museum for future warbird restorations.