Today I’m returning to one of my favorite watches for “Watch A Day“. This Nivada Antarctic was created to commemorate the company’s accomplishments in exploration, part of the International Geophysical Year, 1957. It’s tiny by modern standards but has a wonderful look to it.
Nivada was a successful maker of mass-market watches in Grenchen, Switzerland around the middle of the 20th century. The company was barred from using their name in the United States due to the phonetic similarity to the popular Movado, so many of their watches are branded “Nivada Grenchen” (like this one, from Germany) or resold under the Croton brand. Today the brand is mainly used in the Latin American market.
This particular model is part of Nivada’s Antarctic line, which reflects the brand’s support for the US Navy during “Operation Deep Freeze“. I’ve written a bit about the International Geophysical Year and Nivada Antarctic before, so I urge you to go take a look at that article for more information.
The dial and markers support this connection: The silver dial is brushed vertically rather than in the typical sunburst style to look like drifting snow, while the markers clearly resemble icicles. The dauphine hands and bezel-less case complement this look nicely.
One of my favorite elements of this watch is hidden from view on the back of the case. The medallion there shows the Antarctic base, including a plane and ice breaker, as well as mountains and stars.
This is a tiny watch by modern standards, measuring just 34 mm in diameter and 10 mm thick, including the tall period crystal. I like smaller watches, but it still sticks out in my watch box. It’s almost hard to believe it, but this was something of a tool watch back in the 1960s.
The textured dial is silver but takes on a bit of a champagne tint in some light. I emphasized this with a brown lizard skin strap which also has the benefit of being extra thin like the watch itself.
Nivada had access to high-end components on the Swiss market and used ETA movements in many of their watches. This particular watch is powered by the ETA 2472, an advanced movement in its day and quite similar to today’s 2824. Although just 18,000 A/h, it features bi-directional winding and “quickset” date (though not crown-set date like modern watches). It was tuned to chronometer specification at the factory, a prime selling point for this watch.
As might be expected, the movement is in need of servicing though it still runs well. The hand winding is extremely stiff, and the power reserve is fairly low. This isn’t an issue as long as it’s on the wrist, however. Another issue are the hands: The hour and minute hand are off by about 10 minutes, likely due to a shock in the past. This is nothing that a good servicing wouldn’t take care of.
The Nivada Antarctic is a wonderful vintage watch with many appealing aspects. The dial, markers, and medallion give it a novel feel and the vintage automatic movement still works well. It’s one of those watches you might overlook at a shop, but has a lot going for it.