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!
What Was the World’s First Quartz Watch?
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?
CEH and the Beta 21: The History of the First Swiss Quartz Watch
The development of the quartz wristwatch was a turning point for the timekeeping industry and shifted the balance from Switzerland to Japan and the United States, despite the fact that the Swiss industry developed the first such watch. This is the story of the tumultuous and controversial creation of the world’s first quartz watch by the CEH in Neuchâtel.
The History of the IWC Da Vinci via Europa Star
Regular Grail Watch readers might have noticed that I have begun using the archives of Europa Star rather heavily in my research. The editors noticed as well, and have invited me to be a contributing writer to that fine journal. My first piece was published today, and delves into the history of an iconic model, IWC’s Da Vinci. The archive brought me fantastic information and illustrations, as we will discuss today.
Two Movements, One Case: Ardath Long Distance
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!
The Nadir of Jaeger-LeCoultre and the Reverso
Most enthusiasts could instantly name the watches pictured below, but they’d be wrong: This isn’t a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, its an Eska Sesame! By the 1980s, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s signature model was forgotten and the company was struggling to survive. Yet just a decade later, the Reverso would lead the entire industry back from the brink. This is the story of the fall of Jaeger-LeCoultre and the resurrection of the Reverso.
Retrograde Retrospective: A History of the Le Phare Sectora and Quarta
Although unconventional time displays are popular today, very few watches had so-called retrograde hands to display the time until the 1990s. Sector displays first appeared in pocket watches as early as 1650 and were wildly popular in the early 1900s thanks to the Sector pocket watch from Record. But it was not until the Le Phare Sectora, LIP Secteur, and Wittnauer Futurama of the 1970s that this complication appeared on the wrist. These watches are rarely seen or discussed today, but were truly groundbreaking even as the quartz revolution challenged watchmaking.
The Current IWC Ingenieur Lineup is a Travesty
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!
Enicar Star Jewels: Transitional Vintage
Today’s Watch A Day is another Enicar, representative of the transition from 1960s to 1970s styling. This Star Jewels automatic has lots going for it though perhaps it’s not a 100% match for the vintage James Bond strap.
Breitling Datora 592: Funky Chronograph
Today I’m wearing another watch I’ve previously written about here. I bought this Breitling Datora as a bit of a “fixer-upper” back in 2014 and promptly sent it out to be serviced. It’s now a fairly regular “wearer” in my watch box.