The best chronograph movement: The appeal of Swiss Lemania

Lemania Chronograph Watches Product Page

Swiss-made luxury movement Lemania chronograph

If you're interested in vintage chronographs, you've probably heard of Lemania.

Although Lemania's own brand of watches is less well known, they do have a very nice and extensive selection of vintage Lemania watches.

One of the most popular vintage watches is the military chronograph.

Even earlier, in the mid-20th century, Lemania produced high-quality chronographs.

This is a black dial chronograph from the 1950s, which is extremely rare compared to the white and silver dial versions.

The coolest thing about this watch is the movement hidden inside it.

If you're a fan of vintage chronographs, you're probably familiar with Omega's Caliber 321.

It is globally recognised as the best chronograph movement ever made.

Also, if you are a watch enthusiast, you will surely know that Omega is supplied by Lemania.

However, what many don't realize is that Lemania also uses the same movements in their own production watches.

The unique caliber Ch27 is also known as the pinnacle of manual-winding chronographs.
Lemania movement Lemania ch27

Military Chronograph

Now let's take a look at the military chronograph, mentioned above.

Before the development of GPS, accurate technical timepieces were highly valued within the military.

During World War II, many different types of watches were used by military personnel.

At the time, what was needed in the field was something simple and durable. Dive watches were essential for naval divers and instructors.

And finally, pilot's watches, these were watches, or chronographs, used only for flying and only showed very accurate time.

The German, French and British armies each had their own schools of chronograph design that met common standards of legibility, robustness and accuracy.

The German military took to the road with the Luftwaffe Flieger Chronograph, produced by Hanhart (1938) and Tutima (1941).

Even after the end of World War II, aviation personnel continued to use Hanhart aircraft until 1958, when they switched to the Junghans J88.

The French school was heavily influenced by the German military.

British School

The British school of military chronographs is arguably purer than either the German or French schools.

There they designed high quality, durable watches that demonstrated design continuity through production and use.

The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) established the British Standards that defined the design attributes of military pilot's chronographs: a classic black (or sometimes white), two-register, highly legible dial with a workhorse movement and a simple round case shape (later changing to an asymmetrical design).

From the late 1940s until the 1970s, British military chronographs were made by only one company: Lemania.

Its products were used by pilots of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, among others.

It only had one push button and a zero button, making it ideal for piloting, guessing position, etc. as a single button chronograph is error free. The oldest known chronograph of this type is the Lemania caliber 15CHT and later the caliber 2220.

The perfect watch: Lemania Chronograph (Caliber 15CHT)

Lemania push-button chronographs were made for the British Military from the late 1940s until the 1970s.

The round case model is known to come in two versions, Series 1 and Series 2, which were introduced in the mid-1940s.

By the way, the Series 3 is easy to distinguish because of its asymmetrical case.
Lemania Chronograph (Caliber 15CHT)
Lemania Chronograph (Caliber 15CHT) case back
If you look at the back cover, you will see that it is engraved.

Looking at this, we can see that HS stands for Hydrographic Service, which means this watch belongs to the Navy.
Then, the arrow symbol and the number "9" indicate that this is a chronograph watch, and the number below that is the serial number of this watch.
Lemania Chronograph (Caliber 15CHT) Movement
The caliber inside is the Lemania Cal. 15CHT, which originated from a pocket watch movement, and was used as the basis for the Lemania Cal. 2220 caliber, which was used in the Series 3 chronographs.

Lemania's Military Chronographs are Something Special

In the early 1970s, the British Ministry of Defence made major changes to UK regulations, allowing the use of two push buttons.

The reforms also helped reduce the size and cost of the RAF.

The change in regulations allowed more manufacturers to offer chronographs, paving the way for more affordable movements such as the Barouge 7733, Hamilton, CWC, Precista and Newmark, etc. This continued until the 1980s when the British military started using Seiko wristwatch chronographs and the early days of quartz.

The next Lemania military chronograph is perhaps the most special of all: produced for just two years, from 1975-1976, it was the last Lemania chronograph to be used by the British Military.

The sturdy case and dial are the same as the previous military chronograph, with the only differences being the seconds reset pusher and, of course, the caliber, the Lemania 1872.

Only a limited number of Lemania 1872 watches were produced for the Swiss and South African Air Forces.

The special case, dial and hands made it extremely rare and now highly coveted.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

The double pusher Lemania Royal Navy Ref. 818 is a military pilot's chronograph that maintains the purity of British design.

This Royal Navy Double Pusher Lemania was made by a top Swiss watch company that no longer exists. The case is the epitome of simplicity, high-quality stainless steel, asymmetrical to protect the pushers, and features a disproportionately large crown for easy winding.

The case back of the watch is engraved with the NSN mark and an arrow, signifying royal property, while the easy-to-read dial features a circled "T" (denoting the use of tritium) and an arrow.

The numbers 12 and 6 have squares on the outside and the other numbers have dots on the outside, which are designed to glow in the dark.

The Calibre 1872 has a frequency of 21,600 vibrations per hour, a diameter of 27.5 mm, a thickness of 5.7 mm, 18 jewels and a power reserve of 48 hours.

This chronograph has a center seconds hand and two subdials: a 30-minute counter at 3 o'clock and a small seconds at 9 o'clock.

This particular Lemania chronograph represents the best of the British school of military/pilot chronographs and is rumored to be extremely rare, with only 500 made (250 per year). Its beauty lies in its simplicity: it is easy to read, practical and functional, and you can tell it's a military chronograph from afar.
Lemania military/pilot chronograph
It is well known that Lemania provided movements for Emouge, but I think it is less known that Lemania itself manufactured watches.

Lemania Chronograph Watches Product Page