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.
Chronographs are so popular that cheap fashion watches today often feature bogus subdials with non-functional hands and pushers. But once upon a time, a chronograph was a simple tool seen more as an advanced stopwatch than a true complication. What was once a utilitarian tool for soldiers became an upscale choice for doctors, then an iconoclast choice for young people, and now a sign of fine watchmaking.
A friend who lives in the Czech Republic recently mentioned that he loved the classic Eterna Majetek pilot’s watch. Since I had heard of the Majetek (and similar Longines Tartarugone), I decided to delve into these pieces a bit more. Here are my thoughts on these impressive classic pieces, as well as the new Eterna Heritage Military 1939 homage.
Although not a well-known brand today, Universal Genève were leaders in the chronograph market in the 1940’s. And one sign of that success was the Aero-Compax, a full-featured pilot’s watch complete with chronograph and dual-time (GMT) complications. It’s no wonder that companies like Zenith and Girard-Perregaux chose Universal to build their chronographs back then!