There are few names in the golden age of watchmaking as revered as Vénus, which produced some of the best chronograph movements of the 1940s. But the history of this small Swiss company is not well documented, and the story reveals the surprisingly-connected world of watchmaking at the time. Vénus rose and fell in just a few decades, but the legacy of their chronograph movements, especially the legendary rattrapantes used by Breitling, lives on.
Although it is located in a tiny village of less than 1,000 residents, the factory in Fontainemelon looms large in the history of Swiss watchmaking. The oldest and largest ebauche factory in the country was established there early in the 19th century, and Fabrique d’Horlogerie Fontainemelon (FHF) was a founding member of Ebauches SA 100 years later. Even today, the Fontainemelon factory remains a cornerstone of the Swatch Group. Let’s look at the history that made Fontainemelon the dominant supplier of ebauches in the 19th century.
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.
I first discovered the world of column wheel 7750 variants while looking at a Longines Heritage Chronograph. The movement looked vaguely familiar to me, yet I couldn’t place it. A bit of research revealed it to be something really special: A column wheel variant of the Valjoux 7753 built by ETA for their Valgranges line. Then I stumbled on the fact that Omega also got a version of this ETA Valgranges A08.L01 movement with a Co-Axial escapement.