Today’s “Watch A Day” is a real classic: A Swiss chronograph in a gold case with the historic Venus 175 movement ticking inside. It’s a joy to wear and enjoy such a wonderful timepiece!
Chronograph watches gained popularity in the 1950s, and numerous Swiss companies sprung up to sell them. Many of these brands were specific to one market or the other, and most were simple “etablisseurs” who brought together components from other suppliers and marketed finished watches. Such was the case of Levrette, which produced classy gold chronographs like this one for a decade or so before being forgotten.
Update: Browsing through the archives of Europa Star, I discovered something very interesting! Levrette was a brand of Charles Wilhelm & Co. SA of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Their other brand was none other than Festina!
This watch has a lovely champagne dial with a bit of patina. The numbers are stamped rather than applied, but everything under the crystal is in fine shape. The hands are graceful and thin, and dial features both tachymeter and telemeter scales in Km and Kmh. The case is in good condition as well, with just a few scratches and scuffs but no corrosion. This is due to careful use over the last 60 or so years and the fact that it’s constructed of 18 karat gold, as evidenced by the hallmarks inside the case back.
The case has a simple oval contour, with the lugs providing the only real styling. They are a three-stepped art deco design that would look right at home in the lobby of the Chrysler Building. The pushers and crown are in great shape, too. And look at that domed plexiglass crystal! It “bends” the seconds hand in a most admirable way.
The snap-on case back is decidedly not waterproof, but I’m not ever going swimming in this thing. And, despite the “antimagnetic” logo on the dial, I don’t think there’s anything particularly special about the watch or movement.
Everything winds and ticks smoothly, and thankfully there’s no date window to worry about. As is typical with Venus chronograph movements, the counter can be stopped and restarted by the top pusher, and must be stopped before it can be reset using the bottom button. That reset feature is amazingly smooth, thanks to a clever trick by Venus: When you start the chronograph it stores energy in the “hammer” used to reset it. So the reset releases this energy rather than asking your finger to do the work.
The 45 minute counter subdial features marks at 3, 6, and 9 minutes, corresponding to the pricing of long-distance phone calls. Watch the chronograph and you’ll see another wonderful Venus touch: A “sautoir” advances the minute hand in steps rather than continually moving it forward. This is old technology but is rarely seen even in today’s high-end chronograph movements.
Open the case back and you’ll see that lovely movement. The Venus Cal. 175 movement is regarded fondly today, having proven itself durable and accurate. This is a column wheel design (see the 7 columns near the top?) with an oscillating pinion clutch, as invented by Edouard Heuer, whose last name might sound familiar. Mere mortals can think of this as working like the “crashbox” gear shifters of old: Push the button and a gear smashes into the center wheel of the movement, engaging the chronograph mechanism. It’s crude but it works!
Although not finished like today’s luxury watches, the plates and bridges are decorated and beveled. And many parts of the movement are gilded for durability and beauty. I’m not sure when this movement was serviced last, but it still works wonderfully today.
On the wrist, this Levrette is a joy. It is warm and classy, fitting easy thanks to the rounded case back. And now that I found an appropriate strap (a simple weathered leather Tissot-branded strap) it really looks the part, too. When I want a classic look, there’s nothing better.