7 Recommended Vintage Chronograph Watches

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7 Recommended Vintage Chronograph Watches

For men, having a cool watch is probably an eternal dream.

Among the watch genres, the most popular are probably "chronographs" and "diver's watches."

There are many wonderful current models of chronographs, but this article focuses on vintage watches, so we will explain the ``stories behind the creation'' and ``strengths'' of models from the 1930s to 1960s.

We like timepieces that have history, a sense of dignity, are rugged, unadorned and nostalgic, rather than the flashy watches still on sale today.

I love vintage watches too! If that sounds like you, then be sure to read to the end.

The table of contents looks like this.

1. About in-house movements

2. Representative ébauche makers

3. An ebauche maker who can also make wristwatches

4. Recommended chronographs

4-1.Breitling Navitimer (Ebauche Movement Venus)

4-2. Omega Chronograph (Ebauche Movement Lemania)

4-3. Heuer Chronograph (Ebauche Movement Landeron)

4-4.Longines 13ZN (in-house movement)

4-5. Angelus Chronograph (in-house movement)

4-6. Movado Chronograph (in-house movement)

4-7. Universal Geneva (in-house movement)

Finally, here is a summary.

So let's get started right away.

About in-house movements

This is possible for a three-hand watch, but when trying to make a chronograph movement from scratch, the number of parts changes significantly.

As a result, companies that focused on manufacturing only movements were born, called ébauchemakers, and they would purchase only the movements from these companies and assemble them with parts such as dials and cases bearing their own company names to create chronographs.

Of course, there were companies that could make movements and other parts, but these were called manufactures.

One of the most well-known manufacture brands today is Longines.

Therefore, it can be said that companies that are able to manufacture their own movements have higher technical capabilities than other companies.

However, "technical ability" and "marketing ability" are different, and companies with strong technical abilities have often been the targets of bankruptcy or acquisition.

It's the difference between using limited funds for research and development or for advertising.

2. Representative ébauche makers

Wristwatch chronographs were developed in the 1920s and were replaced by automatic chronographs in 1969.

First, the major manufacturers of hand-wound watches are





These brands are leading ebauche makers, and their movements are often featured in chronographs from the 1930s to 1960s.

For example, Rolex's Daytona uses the Valjoux Cal. 72, and Omega's Speedmaster uses the Lemania Cal. 27CH, which is renamed Cal. 321 when installed in an Omega.

The Navitimer was equipped with Venus' Cal. 178, while the Heuer was equipped with Landeron's Cal. 13.

These company names have disappeared through acquisitions and mergers, but their traditions continue to this day as ETA and Manufacture Breguet.

If you are interested in learning more details, please watch this video.

An ebauche maker who can also make wristwatches

In addition to the manufacturers mentioned above, there are other brands that can produce powerful movements.

What sets Valjoux and other manufacturers, introduced in the first half, apart from others, is that they only provide movements to a limited number of brands.

Although it wasn't quite a partnership, it's easy to understand if you imagine them as partner companies making watches, taking advantage of each other's strengths and compensating for each other's weaknesses.

To list them,

1. Minerva

2. Excelsior Park

3. Movado

4. Angelus

5. Logines

6. Universal Geneva

There are many others, but for now we have listed the top Swiss brands.

A characteristic of these brands is that they were only produced in-house or supplied to affiliated companies, so production numbers were small.

In today's world, Rolex and Omega would probably be the top choices for watch brands.

However, for those of you reading this article, it's obvious that this is not where vintage watches are concerned.

Wristwatches from the 1930s to 1960s were not like the modern-day power balance, and there was still a lot of variety in the market.

There were a lot of great companies there.

Rather than just looking at the name value of the brand name, you can enjoy both the movement and the brand by looking at ebauche movements, in-house brand watches, in-house movements, and in-house brand watches.

When we talk about it like this, aren't watches with in-house movements and in-house branded watches the best?

However, this is not always the case.

Companies that put a lot of effort into marketing are still around today, and it is because of such activities that we feel attached to and identify with those brands.

So, taking all of this into consideration, I think the fun of vintage chronographs lies in the fact that they are not just about mechanical technology but also about the brand's passion.

Now, let me introduce each of these wonderful chronographs.

Breitling Navitimer (Ebauche Movement Venus)

Breitling Navitimer First Cal. Venus 178

Breitling is known as the pioneer of chronograph wristwatches.

Its history began in 1914 during World War I, when the British aviator Morris wore a wristwatch equipped with a chronograph mechanism, in response to the need for accurate bombing.

Because of its important role during wartime, Breitling introduced the one-push chronograph in 1923, and ten years later in 1933, they introduced the two-push chronograph, which gave birth to the typical chronograph that we see today.

After the war ended, the functions needed by the military became available to the civilian public, and Breitling took notice, becoming the leading pilot's watch brand that we still easily associate with today.

And its most famous work is undoubtedly the Navitimer.

The movement used is the Venus Cal. 178, and Breitling manufactures the Navitimer using movements from Valjoux and Venus.

Most of the time, Venus movements are more prevalent, and although Venus also supplies movements to other companies, Breitling still dominates.

If you want to know more about vintage Navitimers, please watch this video, which explains the details in detail.

OMEGA Chronograph (Ebauche Movement Lemania)

Omega Turer Chronograph Movement Cal.27ch & Cal.321

I'm sick of hearing about the Speedmaster!

I think that's what it's like, so let me introduce you to another ordinary chronograph.

Omega and Lemania had a close relationship, and together with Tissot they formed the SSIH Group.

Lemania's strength lies in the manufacture of robust movements which have been supplied to the Royal Navy and Air Force, and because they were trusted to deliver this, they have had a contract with the British military for many years, and the Speedmaster is also equipped with a Lemania movement.

As a result, most Omega chronograph watches from this time period are equipped with Lemania movements.

The company Lemania produces quite a large number of watches using their own movements and under their own brand, but they are known more for being a movement company that is capable of operating in special environments, so I think their movements are less likely to break than any of the movements introduced in this article.

For these reasons, vintage Omega chronographs are not often seen on the market, but they are durable and can still be used even if they are over 60 years old.

Heuer Chronograph (Ebauche Movement Landeron)

Heuer Chronograph Movement Landeron Cal.39

Heuer is famous for the Autavia and Monaco, but they also made some excellent chronographs before that.

Landeron was a company that made cheaper movements compared to Valjoux and Venus.

While the other two companies mainly produced pillar wheels, Landeron's main caliber is Cal. 48, which uses a cam to operate the chronograph.

Landeron Cam Caliber Cal.48

However, Landeron also manufactures movements for high-end watches, such as the Cal. 39, which is used in many Heuer watches.

Another early movement is the Cal. 11, which is a little-known movement, but it was a pillar wheel type and was used by Breguet.

Breitling Chronograph Caliber Cal.11

And the Heuer being released this time is equipped with the Cal.39.

Landeron Cal.39, a luxury caliber

The watch shown in the photo is one that I had as part of my collection until two years ago, and the ring around the movement is a stopper used to secure the movement in place when the back cover is closed.

It has now been acquired by TAG, so it has become TAG Heuer, but I like Heuers like these before they had the tag as they are often well made, and this is a watch that I would recommend adding to your collection.

Longines 13ZN (in-house movement)

Longines Chronograph Movement Cal.13ZN

Longines doesn't seem to have that much name value these days, but it is probably the strongest when it comes to mechanical chronographs.

Representative movements include the current 13ZN and its successor, the 30CH.

Longines Chronograph Cal.30CH

What's amazing about it is that it is probably the world's first chronograph equipped with a flyback function.

He received a patent for this in 1936.

In addition to these technical aspects, what is also appreciated is the smooth chamfering of the parts, a product of their hand finishing.

At Longines, craftsmen carefully chamfer each part when making this chronograph.

Compared to Valjoux and Venus, which are strong in mass production, what Longines does is inefficient and involves labor-intensive processes.

As a result, Longines stopped performing this labor-intensive process in the 1950s as labor costs rose, but the charm of this watch is that when we look at it today, we can still feel that kind of careful craftsmanship.

You can probably imagine that if you were to try to buy something like this today, it would cost an unimaginable amount.

Angelus Chronograph (in-house movement)

Angelus Hungarian Air Force Chronograph LE engraved.jpg

Nowadays, the brand has become extinct due to the quartz shock, and although it continues to produce watches from time to time under different management, they are completely different from what they were back then.

Brands that have their own movements are evaluated based on the technical capabilities that have allowed them to create those movements.

Angelus was founded in 1891 and has had a reputation for high technical capabilities since the beginning, with its watches winning a gold medal at the 1900 Paris World's Fair in recognition of their complex technologies, such as long power reserve (longest operating time) and highly precise chronographs.

It has also won numerous Grand Prix awards at prestigious venues such as world expositions and exhibitions held in Belgium, Italy, the United States, Switzerland and other countries.

In recognition of this technical capability, Angelus chronographs were officially adopted by the Hungarian Air Force in 1940.

This model was engraved with the logo "LE (Legi Ero)", which means "Air Force" in Hungarian, and was supplied to the Air Force.

Angelus Movement Cal.215
Movement: Angelus Cal.215
・Case = 38mm / Stainless steel
・Dial: Black mirror dial
With a larger lineup of chronographs than three-hand models, this is a brand that cannot be left out when talking about vintage chronographs.

For more information on the history of Angelus, please see the video below.

Movado Chronograph (in-house movement)

Movado Chronograph FB (Francois Vogel) case used Movement Cal.90

Movado does not produce many watches, but what sets their watches apart is that they are stylish.

The chrono button and hands have shapes that are not often used by other companies, and it seems that they actively use Breguet indexes.

Above all, chronographs with FB (Francois Vogel) cases are shared by both Mido and Patek Philippe, and are one of the watches that people want as an affordable Patek Philippe.

There are two types of movements: register 2 is Cal. 90 and register 3 is Cal. 95.

Its distinctive feature is its two-story construction with a three-hand movement equipped with a chronograph module, which is a slightly different movement shape from those of other companies, but its level of perfection is extremely high and comparable to that of an integrated chronograph.

If you are interested in the history of Movado, please see the video below.

Universal Geneva (in-house movement)

Universal Geneve Tricompax Movement Cal.281

This is just my personal opinion, but I think this company is the best when it comes to mechanical chronographs.

The fact that it can be equipped with a calendar is already impressive enough, but it also goes beyond that to be equipped with a moon.

Valjoux later developed something similar, but Universal was probably the first.

Considering these things, Universal Geneva was a brand that had everything, producing two- and three-register watches, calendars, and even moon watches.

We believe that there is no other company that can create such high-quality movements while also producing watches, without investing solely in movements.

The Tricompax is the most complicated watch of all time, and although it does come onto the market quite often, those in good condition can cost over 1 million yen.

That said, this watch was trading at roughly half its price, around 500,000 yen, in 2014, so the trading price has risen significantly, and of course it is one of the models that will continue to rise in price in the future.

For more information on the history of Universal Geneva, please see the video below.


There are other great brands such as Bovet, Pierce, and Mido, but I think I have covered a wide range of vintage chronographs to a certain extent.

The interesting thing about vintage chronographs is that there are still many mysteries about them.

This brand uses this company's movement...

That's because even after doing this for many years, I still make new discoveries.

For example, when I see a Breitling chronograph equipped with Landeron's inexpensive cam-type Cal. 48, I wonder if they are using this movement to popularize the brand.

I sometimes think that.

I look at the dial design and make a comprehensive judgment, but I think the fun of choosing a vintage chronograph is being able to pay attention to the movement, which usually goes unnoticed.