One movement, three excellent chronographs for $4000
There was a great reaction to Felix’s excellent post last week on three great watches for around $1500 so I decided I’d follow suit but concentrate on one type of watch, the chronograph. I’m a big chronograph fan so it’s no coincidence that three of my favourite watches, the Heuer Triple Date, the Breitling Top Time (which both featured Valjoux movements) and the 6240 Rolex Daytona are all chronographs. Like Felix I have segmented the following three watches by their own unique style, including a dressy option, a sports option and an ‘interesting’ option for those that require something a little bit different.
Yet again there is absolutely no coincidence that all three of the following chronographs are German. The Swiss simply cannot match the value offerings from the German brands at this end of the market. Secondly and most interestingly, all three of these watches feature the same Valjoux 7750 base movement which has been modified by each individual brand. The Valjoux 7750 is a self-winding (unidirectional rotor) mechanical movement with 25 jewels, and a balance wheel which vibrates at a beat speed of 28,800 BPH. Sure it’s a widely used and therefore not very exclusive movement but with that level of production there are key benefits – it is a mature and technically impeccable movement which is constantly added to and developed further.
The modification process varies greatly between brands and much of this depends on the number of components the brand produces in house. Basically it’s like AMG modifying a Mercedes engine, the best possible ETA movement is purchased and then tuned like an engine by each brand. The movement is purchased and arrives in pieces. Often companies will completely disregard certain pieces that other companies use, this is because they develop their own components which they build into the purchased ETA movement. I’ve chosen three models from three brands who all modify the Valjoux 7750 in their own interesting way. It’s important as a watch enthusiast not to be put off by the uneducated disregard of an ETA movement. Get reading online and make an educated decision for yourself, you’ll be fascinated by the lengths to which a movement can be modified and you’ll quickly learn which brands do it well and which ones aren’t worth your time.
Dressy: Meistersinger MM102 ($4100)
Meistersinger are famous for their single hand watches and despite this one having more than one hand, technically it is still a single hand watch, the first to feature a timing function. Personally I think Meistersinger watches are lovely, their designs don’t defer from one another much so it’s a real case of love the brand or hate it. Irregardless of how you view the brand, this is a innovative and desirable watch that puts the Valjoux 7750 to interesting use.
Sporty: Sinn 956 Rallye ($3975)
Sinn make some of my favourite chronographs and I was hard pressed not to share the equally desirable 356 Flieger II. I chose the 956 because of it’s lovely vintage design aspects, durable construction and the awesome power reserve bar that looks like a fuel tank. This watch is also highly functional featuring a double tachymeter scale which encircles the dial to allow calculation of current speeds between 30-60km/h (important for vintage car rallies!) and up to 60-500km/h for modern cars. Sinn never boasts about it’s movements which they modify only slightly, instead they focus on leading through innovative material technologies including their Tegiment hardened steel, anti-shock and anti magnetic cases so the movement is protected and so you know your watch will stand the test of time.
‘Interesting’: Mühle-Glashütte Terranaut I Trail PVD ($3995)
Really it’s a pilot’s watch but what grabbed my attention and thus had me class it as an interesting option was the brand and the PVD case. For some reason Mühle seems to fly under the radar a bit, but across the range they make some of the most aesthetically pleasing watches on the market. The Terranaut is not quite an IWC Top Gun but it’s also less then half the price of one. Mühle-Glashütte installs a number of custom components on this movement which they manufacture, including blued screws, a custom patented “woodpecker” style regulator, custom plates and of course, the custom signature winding rotor. I think Mühle-Glashütte sets an excellent standard in modifying ETA movements and honours the Glashütte German watch making tradition offering one of the best value products on the market today.
As I said way back in the first article I wrote for TVG, buy a watch from a company who is setting a high standard in the industry and pushing innovation, whether that be in movements or materials. I think that individually these three watches hit the mark in terms of innovation and present unbeatable value in today’s market. Finally let me just say that all those prices are RRP, if you put your head down and hit the forums I reckon you could pick up a used one of these in mint condition for a fraction of the price! Happy hunting gentlemen.