Meeting Recap: The History of Chronographs, From the Beginning Until 1980

Dr. Sébastien Chaulmontet – Head of Movement Design for Manufacture La Joux-Perret, Arnold & Son and Angelus Watches, Switzerland
September 12, 2016

HSNY's first Fall meeting of 2016 was held on September 12th at the General Society Library on 44th Street. A large audience was present to hear Dr. Sébastien Chaulmontet discuss the development of the chronograph watch from the 19th century to the present. Showing many slides of various models produced over the last 150 years, he emphasized that the chronograph was not a single invention, but the result of collaboration. It was the next step in the evolution of complicated watches made previously, such as repeaters and stop watches.

The early chronographs were pocket watches, mostly in gold cases. Many were made by the Swiss who dominate the market to this day. However in the late 19th century several American companies made their own versions using mass production. Pilots found them indispensible as did other professionals, particularly when wrist watches became popular around 1930. Swiss manufacturers such as Valjoux, Landron and Venus made movements used in famous brands from all over the world. Longines, Movado and some other high end makers made their own calibers, some with special features. Movado introduced modular assembly, which is now standard for most chronographs. Breitling and Heuer added self-winding mechanisms and other technical improvements.

These specialized watches, although produced in large quantities, are not as easy to find as regular watches; they are eagerly sought by watch collectors. Mr. Chaulmontet cautioned that buyers should look for consistency in the condition of the movement, the dial and the case. We thank him for this informative presentation.

Submitted by Walter Pangretitsch, Recording Secretary

Photos by Atom Moore