Automatic watches were hot in the 1950s, and chronographs were cool in the 1960s. But bringing these technologies together was not at all straightforward! Three different automatic chronograph movements were launched in 1969, and the story of their creation reflects the state of the industry at that time as well as the inevitability of technological progress.
The name “Jaquet Droz” has had many different meanings since the birth of Pierre Jaquet-Droz 300 years ago. For two decades after its formation in 1961, the Coopérative de Fabricants Suisses d’Horlogerie and SAH were leading producers of Swiss watches, commanding a double-digit share of exports and revenue. Was this a success or a failure? And why does the modern haute horology company consistently skip any mention of this history?
Zenith was “the first manufacture”, one of the greatest watch companies in Switzerland, and the economic force behind Le Locle. Then it was purchased by an American electronics company and ordered to destroy its mechanical watchmaking assets. This is the story of the mighty Zenith, brought low, and returning thanks to a machine tools baron, a humble watchmaker, and two other famous brands.
Spend some time looking at old watches and you’re bound to stumble across an unusual watch with an off-center dial, fancy exposed balance, and 8-day power reserve. The dial will likely say “Hebdomas” and “8 Jours” and not much more. Is this some exotic high-end watch or a mass-market pretender? That’s the story I’m telling today!
On Christmas Day, 1969, the Seiko Astron was launched; this was world’s first quartz wristwatch. Or at least that’s how the story goes. But the truth is much, much more complicated, as I have been researching and writing about for months. Only a few examples of that Cal. 35 SQ Astron were produced, and it was so expensive that not many were ever actually sold. And a raft of other watches (the CEH Beta 1, Longines Ultra-Quartz, various Beta 21 models, and even the Bulova Accuquartz) could make a credible claim. So what was the first?
Yesterday I talked about the Nappey Jumelles Times, the first dual timezone watch to use two separate movements in a single case. Although that model was quite obscure, today’s watch is much more famous. Ardath took Nappey’s formula and made it famous, producing a line of Long Distance watches that lasted a decade, including special models for Muslims and homemakers, and a cool sports model that reappeared in the 1990s!
You’ve probably never heard of Nappey or the Jumelles Times (“Twin Time”) watch, and for good reason: It was an obscure model in the 1960s that went nowhere. But the idea of a watch with multiple dials showing different timezones has become a common complication today. And it all came from this watch!
James Bond, Agent 007, has been linked with gadgets for decades. From the Aston Martin to the Rolex to that mini jet, the Bond movies have cemented these images in our minds. But the very first official James Bond watch didn’t come from Rolex, Omega, or even Seiko: It came from an obscure company called Moeris, which has a surprising connection to those companies!
My enthusiasm for various watch models tends to wax and wane as I see something interesting, and lately my attention has turned to the IWC Ingenieur range. From the original Milgauss competitor to Gerald Genta’s remarkable Ingenieur SL to the chunky Mercedes-AMG racing models, the Ingenieur lineup has always been worth a look. Yet today’s lineup is beyond bland and not deserving of the name. Good thing, too, since IWC seems to be eliminating that, too!
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.