Chronographs are the sexiest mechanical movements ever; they are complicated, sophisticated and a pleasure to look at all the time.
I’m a big fan of Chronographs in general, maybe I’ve never used one to time anything, but probably helped me killing time during boring meetings!
Chronographs were made very early in the 20th century or even earlier in the late 19th century.
There was a lot of Swiss manufacturers who adopted the movements’ development and evolution, and because of those companies we have those fascinating complicated movements nowadays.
Starting off I will put them in order based upon their popularity;
Whenever this name is mentioned beautiful mechanical chronographs come to mind; I think all watch enthusiasts will agree that Valjoux is a legendary movement maker; The word Valjoux developed from “Vallee de joux” meaning the Valley of joux [games].
It started early in the 20th century, and it was one of the first producers of modern chronographs.
It is part of the Swatch group for longtime now, and they are still producing movements up till today.
There was a lot of chronograph movements produced and developed by Valjoux, till they reached the movements we know and see today; worth mentioning that Rolex from 1920 to 1986 used Valjoux as their base movement for their chronograph watches.
Here is a list of there evolved chronographs:
Their most famous movement, is the Valjoux 7750.
The 7750 is still produced today but under the ETA name, and it is powering most of the mid to high end Chronographs known today, for example it is the base for Caliber 11 which is Tag Heuer’s in-house movement powering their current chronographs.
The Valjoux 7750 is different from most other mechanical chronographs; using a three plan cam system rather than a column wheel. Although the plan cam movements are originally developed by Landeron, which I will mention later on part-2.
There are a lot of chronograph movements today that are considered as derivatives from the 7750;
And a lot of companies are using this movement as is or with few in-house alterations.
In 1902 a master craftsman by the name of Paul Schwartz and his wife Olga Etienne Shwartz founded the Shwartz Etienne watch company in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, under this company many watch brands were either produced directly through the company or through a partnership such as Alpha, Sultana Le Phare, Astin and the very famous Venus.
The company dedicated a large part of its business to the supply of movements.
One of their most famous Chronograph movements is the hand-wound Venus 175.
This column-Wheel chronograph became very popular and it has powered few high end watches during the 1940’s up to the 60’s; one of those was the Breitling Ferrolex Ref 1403 and more.
The Venus column wheel chronograph calibers are widely regarded as being the finest ever.
During the Quartz evolution and the negative effect it had on the Swiss Watch manufacturers, Venus was not spared, and they had a lot of challenges;
In 1961 they sold the Venus 175 Chronograph patent to the Chinese manufacturer Tianjin Sea-Gull, as Venus needed the funds to develop their new at the time Caliber 188.
Sea-Gull used this patent to initially produce their ST19 Caliber that was used in the first Pilot’s watch for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force finally on 1967.
The ST19 is still produced with few enhancements, and can be seen on some Chinese high-end chronographs, like the 1967 reissue.
To be continued….
On my next post I will present the Lemania and Landeron movements.
I will also shed some light on the low-end Swiss Chronographs such as Laponouse and REGO as well as some Russian Chronographs.