What was the first automatic watch? English inventor John Harwood certainly deserves credit, and his unusual design was produced in some volume by A. Schild, Fortis, and Blancpain starting in 1926. And Leon Leroy produced a few “perpetual” watches a few years earlier. But one watch that stands out among the many self-winding watches released following the expiration of Harwood’s patent in 1931: Eugène Meylan’s automatic winding module, produced in volume by Glycine and Pretto, was the first practical and widely-produced automatic winding mechanism. And the man behind it has a fascinating story of invention, entrepreneurialism, and dedication with a truly heartbreaking ending.
Here is a Lange Datograph Flyback, model 453.135. This was the very first Datograph model, cased in platinum, and featuring the then-new Calibre L951.1. The black Roman numeral dial catches the eye, but one should note the bracelet which suggests that this is one of the earliest Datographs produced.