Chronograph Wristwatches: The History of the Classic 50s Movement, the Valjoux 7730

The Appeal of the Valjoux 7730

The Valjoux 7730 is a two-register chronograph manual-winding movement that was produced between 1966 and 1973.
There is a small seconds subdial at the 9 o'clock position, a 30-minute counter at the 3 o'clock position, and a central chronograph seconds hand.
There is no date window, and the time can be easily set using the crown located exactly in the middle of the two buttons.
It was created in the mid-20th century as an alternative to expensive column-wheel chronographs, and helped bring chronographs into mainstream use.
The Valjoux 7730 also served as the basis for movements that were later customized, rebranded and sold by manufacturers such as Breitling, IWC, and Panerai.
This is because the other 7730-series movements used in watches made by various brands were relatively unknown, while the Valjoux 7730 was the most famous at the time.
If you search for "Valjoux 7730" in an online shop, you will find a lot of sporty chronographs from the 60s and 70s, from lesser known brands like Breil, Exactus, and LIP, to more well-known brands like Hamilton, Clever, and Zodiac.
The latter famous brand in particular continues to maintain the elegance and luxury that TAG Heuer has built up to this day.
Even Sears Roebuck sold TAG Heuer chronographs powered by the 7730 under the imaginative brand name "Tradition."
Speaking of TAG Heuer, they only equipped some of their Autavia 7763 and Carrera 7753 models with the Valjoux 7730, but many of the same models were equipped with column wheel movements like the Valjoux 72 and sold under different model numbers.
Valjoux 7730

Relationship between the Valjoux 7730 and the Venus 188

Modifications and rebrandings of the Valjoux 7730, as well as mergers between Swiss movement manufacturers in the 20th century, make the history of the 7730 even more complicated.
To briefly explain, the Valjoux 7730 was originally created in 1948 as the Venus 188.
However, later Valjoux acquired Venus, and the name was changed to "Valjoux 7730."
In 1969, the 7733 was born with a slight modification to a part called the hammer, followed by the 7734 which was equipped with a calendar function, the 7736 which added a 12-hour counter, and the 7737 which added a 10-minute countdown for regatta starts.
All of the above movements use parts that are compatible with the original 7730.
To make things more confusing, the Valjoux 7730 remained in production until 1973, when the older hammer type was said to have been discontinued.

The Quartz Shock Begins

However, production of all of these watches ended in 1978 due to the effects of the quartz crisis.
Valjoux produced many 7750s, which were self-wound versions of the 7733, between 1974 and 1975, and these movements continued to be used throughout the next decade as quartz movements became more and more popular.
With the resurgence in popularity of mechanical watches, Valjoux resurrected the 7750 in 1985, and it remains today as the world's most famous mechanical chronograph.
Despite this complex background, almost all pre-correction Valjoux 7730s are stamped with “7730”.
It is safe to assume that any movement with this engraving was manufactured between 1966 and 1973.
If you prefer earlier movements, we recommend the Venus 188, and if you are looking for a newer version, we recommend the 7733-7737 or the self-winding 7750.
Valjoux 7730

It may be hard to imagine that the cam movement that has remained the standard for the past few decades has actually undergone rapid development.
However, in the 1940s, when the column wheel type was still the standard, cam-type movements were overwhelmingly cheaper than column wheel movements.
The Venus 188 cam movement not only elevated the column wheel movement to a higher level, but also ushered in a wide range of affordable chronographs.
While it is true that column wheel movements, especially those with a clutch mechanism, are technically superior, cam-type movements remain a viable option as they are affordable and work well.
Switzerland travel poster

The role played by the cam system

Culturally, cam movements helped to popularize the chronograph, democratizing it, so to speak.
During the relatively prosperous economic times of the 1950s and 1960s, alpine skiing began to become popular.
In the 1970s, alpine skiing reached its peak in popularity and everyone was heading to the Alps.
Alpine skiing, which had previously only been a sport typically associated with Australia or Switzerland, was transformed into an outdoor sport enjoyed worldwide. Chalet-style buildings, Swiss sweaters, après-ski fashion and fondue became popular, and Matterhorn imitations began to appear all over the country.
Back then, like today, Switzerland was still associated with chocolate and watches, so visitors to Switzerland could purchase a sporty, affordable watch as a memento of their trip, such as Chronograph Swiss, from a myriad of brands.
Between the end of World War II and the quartz crisis of the 1970s, it is estimated that there were around 500 manufacturers that produced watches using outsourced cam movements.
Millions of cam-driven movement wristwatches were sold in the post-war decades, including the Venus 188, Valjoux 7730, and movements made by Landeron and Lemania.
Cam movements became incorporated into a style known as "mid-century."
Before the war, the Victorian style was popular in America and Europe.
However, the war destroyed this style, and a completely different style of casual khaki clothing, polo shirts, sneakers, cardigans, and a cigar or cocktail in hand took over men's fashion.
Jazz, abstract art, and satirical literature were all the rage, marijuana use and socialism were rampant on campus, and bohemian fashion became mainstream.
In this context, chronographs and diver's watches came to serve as tools for individuals to assert their growing freedom, easy lifestyles, and wanderlust (regardless of the reality of the situation).
In the 1970s, with the rise of Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, chronograph-wearing, cardigan-wearing, car-driving characters became some of the most desirable figures on screen and in real life.
Newman and McQueen became fashion exemplars for the average man, and inexpensive chronographs were the perfect accessory.
Valjoux 7730 Farmel 04
Whether they were into mountain climbing or cars, young people who loved the outdoors flocked to get their hands on cam-operated chronographs, and even famous watch brands could no longer ignore this trend.
For example, Breitling launched their "Top Time" chronograph line in 1964, initially using the Venus 188 movement, and later the Valjoux 7730 or similar movements.
Willy Breitling himself said:
"We will tap into the world of young people and speak their language. Starting with an entirely new model called the 'Topline,' we will design some extremely premium, ultra-modern chronographs."
Cam movements allowed various watch manufacturers, including Breitling, to focus on this expanding budget market.
Valjoux 7730 Farmel 03

The 7730 is a representative cam type.

Chronographs equipped with the 7730 series movement were large for wristwatches at the time.
It may be hard to imagine a 36mm chronograph as large these days, but in the mid-20th century, 36mm had quite the presence.
These chronographs, even the gold-plated ones, were considered more casual and sporty than the thin and small dress watches.
Additionally, because it was not as thick as a vertical column wheel watch, cam watches were easy to wear, even at a time when 33mm was the mainstream size for men's watches.
The history of the Valjoux 7730 demonstrates how the intersection of technological and cultural developments can lead to the birth of new horological DNA.
The column-wheel chronograph, which was invented in the 19th century, remains a symbol of high-end products today.
On the other hand, cam-type watches like the 7730 are practical and ideal for the general public, and perhaps we can see a spirit that is connected to the current microbrand boom.
Although antitrust legislation by the Swiss government has slowed its popularity, this spirit lives on in the Valjoux 7750 (EAT7750), demonstrating the movement's continued explosive popularity to this day.