Many of you have been asking us for it for over 2 years now. Well, good news for those people: It’s coming! Who? What? The chronograph! Finally!!
In spite of these (very) strange times, we’re delighted to launch the new chrono project, because creating a chronograph is anything but a walk in the park… It’s one of the most intricate movements in existence. Like tourbillons and other minute repeaters, it is the epitome of specialist complications. But before we get to the heart of the matter, let’s take a look at what exactly a chronograph movement is, and how it came to be.
What is a chronograph?
Don’t confuse Chronometers and Chronographs.
A Chronometer is a precise timekeeping device capable of showing the time reliably. Depending on defined criteria, it may be certified by the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC) in Switzerland.
The chronograph is a timekeeping device that can be started and stopped in order to measure a time interval, and then reset to zero.
A bit of history
At the end of the 17th century, the Genevese watchmaker Jean Moïse invented the first watches capable of indicating the duration of an observation. Then, throughout the 18th century, French and Swiss watchmakers competed technically and creatively in the race for the chronograph (counter indicating/60th of a second, ink blot system on the dial, double second-hand, and the invention of the cam for resetting to zero, not forgetting the push-button). 1860s: production of the chronograph spread through Switzerland (in Geneva and the Vallée de Joux).
1913: the Swiss designed the first wristwatches; then, at the end of 1960 came the race for the first automatic chronograph movement. Thus, the famous Calibre 11 (also known as the Chronomatic) came to be. Chronograph movements continued to break new ground in both technical and esthetic terms, even though few manufacturers produced their movements themselves. Use in motor sports and athletics led this very intricate movement to iconic status.
A high-end timekeeping complication
As enthusiasts will know well, the chronograph is one of the most complex watch movements. It is categorized as a “grande complication”, which puts it on the same technical level as the tourbillon and the perpetual calendar. It’s much more difficult to create than it might seem, not to mention the fact that there are various different chronograph complications:
- “Flyback” chronograph: capable of beginning a new time interval while the first is still active.
- “Rattrapante” chronograph: a second hand measures split times, then instantly “catches” the chronograph’s main hand.
- “Concentric” chronograph: provides a more “intuitive” display of the measured interval, on just one dial.
Cam or column wheel?
- With a column wheel: the wheel is the mechanism’s command center for the activation, deactivation and resetting of the measurement function.
- Cam and lever (or shuttle cam): the ensemble of balances, hammers and other levers is driven by a cam. This component doesn’t turn, but instead moves the mechanism backwards and forwards, like a shuttle.
On a purely technical level, both approaches can hold their own.
Which mechanical movement suits our chronograph?
Now more than ever, times are hard in Swiss watchmaking, for multiple reasons:
- The erosion of entry-level and mid-range watch sales, benefiting Fine Watchmaking and luxury brands
- The wave of smart watches
- Difficulties in appealing to new generations
- The consequences of COVID-19
Age-old expertise is in great need of support. That’s why we want to take action and actively support it by integrating a Swiss movement into our chronograph case.
But then that invites the question: mass-produced mechanical movement or personalized CODE41 movement? Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons, then you can place your vote:
Mass-produced Swiss mechanical movement
Advantage: attractive price, around 300 CHF / 280 EUR per movement, and the whole watch would come to around 1,700 CHF / 1,615 EUR
Disadvantage: mass-produced – they can be found in various different brand’s watches
Personalized CODE41 Swiss mechanical movement (our prefered route)
Advantages: manufacture movement exclusive to CODE41; the chance to go behind the scenes of the development of the movement with a Swiss manufacturer; the opportunity to add special features like a peripheral weight
Disadvantage: high price, around 550 CHF / 520 EUR per movement – the whole watch would retail at around 2,600 CHF / 2,470 EUR
Any other suggestions?
Share your ideas with us in the comments, whether they’re technical, esthetic or ergonomic. We read everything!