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Two Chronographs Two Different Paths To History


The year 1969 has many relevant moments within its period.

But for us, we wish to make a special mention to two of, arguably, the most famous chronograph watches to be made and why their history lives on 50 years later. 2019 marks the 50th anniversary for these watches and thus many watch enthusiasts and their correlating brands are celebrating and reminiscing, and thus, so are we.

Zenith, the first-ever integrated automatic chronograph movement.
Zenith El Primero

Here from Zenith and its partner Movado, The El Primero was born. Unveiled in 1969 it had a huge impact on the industry. The first automatic chronograph with a heart beating at a rate of 36,000vph (most working at 28,800vph) enabling the chronograph to measure elapsed intervals to the nearest 1/10 of a second, as well as a power reserve exceeding that of its competitors, it is clear to see how it became a hit. Watch lovers from then and now admire the movement that has become the forefront of the Zenith identity; without it, Zenith may not be around.


The beauty of the movement didn’t just come from its technical prowess but also its dimensions.

With a height of 6.5mm tall and length of 13lignes fitting a movement like this into a 38mm case and still sitting close to the wrist made it a success for pretty much anyone who loves chronographs, and those among us looking for that main wear watch. The range has changed to include the El Primero into various watch case sizes and shapes creating a famously diverse selection.  

The El Primero cannot be mentioned on its own without the name Charles Vermont. In the 1970s, the quartz crisis occurred. Charles Vermot was a Foreman at one of the Zenith manufacturing sites and at hearing the board’s decisions to slow production on automatic movements and focus on quartz production, he took action. After trying but failing to persuade those above him to hold onto the production equipment he hid the core elements to build the necessary components safely away. Shifting presses, technical drawings and specific tools into storage and revealing his insubordination to new management 9 years later, this man singlehandedly saved the El Primero and even the brand. All of this, because of how much passion and love he had for his work and craft and now his name, alongside a famous movement, have been echoing throughout the decades since, and most importantly, will continue to do so.

OMEGA. That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for Mankind.
Omega Speedmaster

We believe our timepieces are part of us and when we make history, they become part of that too. One of the most familiar moments of history is the day three men, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins walked the surface of the moon. These brave men are written in history books. And so is the watch that accompanied them. On that famous day, Buzz Aldrin wears an Omega Speedmaster Professional. A watch designed alongside NASA to suit the extreme journey it had to endure and to specifications that no other watch or human being had ventured.

A manual wind movement, hesalite crystal and extra, extra long nato strap are among the key features of this watch and still featured with the watch to this day.  The reasons being quite simply put, absolutely imperative to space travel. The case back has inscribed,


OMEGA Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional
FLIGHT-QUALIFIED BY NASA FOR ALL MANNED SPACE MISSIONS THE FIRST WATCH WORN ON THE MOON

A manual wound movement seems odd at first, however, a self-winding mechanism with oscillating rotor would have been useless in Zero-G atmosphere. So, a manual wind is most reliable. Hesalite crystal was used for its properties when damaged. It smudges or clouds, as some describe, rather than it’s a stronger and more durable counterpart, sapphire crystal, which could be shattered and cause all hell to break loose on a speeding metal tube in space. The extra-long NATO strap is a little simpler; it was so the astronauts can wear them over their spacesuits. Even though now there are so many different variations of the original, now with sapphire crystal, automatic movements and so on, there is something simply beautiful about the original that visited The Moon.

So many strive for this watch, for its history, it’s beauty and it’s simplicity.

Remarks

Two chronographs on their different paths through history 50 years ago, still relevant to this day are echoing through the ages. This is what watches are for; making history, and this is why we love them.

Thanks for reading,

T. G.