Who Was Charles Vermot?

  1. LouS
    LouS Pornographe du Chronographe
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     Dec 2, 2012
    For those of you not familiar with the Primero story, Charles Vermot occupies a critical spot in the saga. In 1975, Zenith was owned by american Zenith Electronics who ordered all mechanical movement production stopped and the machine tools to be scrapped. Charles Vermot was the man who saved El Primero from extinction by an act of personal courage and doggedness.

    Zenith has posted an 8 minute documentary video (in french) on its website about M. Vermot. It looks to have been made in the late 80s. It is absolutely worth watching -- I am very glad someone thought to get the man on film while they still could.




    For non-french speakers, a little summary I wrote up -- think I got most of it

    An intro describes the quartz crisis and the return ("resurrection") of mechanical movements as background. M. Vermot appears at 1:08 to comment on quartz movements. The Zenith story begins at 2:03 with the sale to American Zenith. At 2:30 M. Vermot gets introduced as he is pottering in his garden. El Primero gets introduced at 2:44. He was "chef de fabrication des ebauches," "chief of ebauche manufacturing."
    2:47 - M. Vermot tells of receiving the order to stop production of the El P.
    3:24 - he writes a letter to management to request that the machine tools for the El P be preserved. Denied.
    4:12 - the ebauche manufactuiring building is liquidated and sold (interesting that it still has Martel signage on it at the time the video was made - Zenith had bought Martel in 1960).
    4:16 - M. Vermot is asked what he did with the machine tools. He talks about again asking permission to store the material, which is refused in a patronizing way, the way he tells it ("little Vermot from Pont de Martel is mired in his swamp. He has to wake up. It is the electronic era!")
    5:14 - he starts to hide the material in the attic of the company
    5:24 - he tells about the few colleagues who knew what he was up to telling him he was being ridiculous, but insists that he remained confident nonetheless that mechanical movements would one day be popular again.
    The narrator values the machine tools he saved at SFr 6 million.
    6:26 - Vermot describes being told by new management in 1984 that mechanical movement manufacture is going to resume.
    6:38 - the high point of the story (for me) is captured in M. Vermot's choking up, an intense little moment of emotion in response to the question:"Were you happy?" (at the news of the resumption of production)
    6:51 - Narrator: "It was your dream coming true" Vermot: "Indeed" He seems close to tears at the memory.
    7:06 - Vermot apparently kept careful notes about settings and instructions which allowed the resumption of production much more efficiently than would otherwise have been possible. Narrator: "A dream bolstered by some solid work. Not content with having arranged and labeled the equipment, the diminutive chief of manufacturing had consigned to a binder all the instructions necessary to put it back into function."
    7:20 - "Did the new management reward you?" A watch and a banquet.
    Sum up follows -- "All the parts were put back in place, production of the chronograph resumed. Today it is the star product of the company"

    A great story about character, about a man that people dismissed as insignificant and a little dotty who stuck to his beliefs and lived to see them vindicated.
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    3. Last post by LouS Dec 8, 2012
  2. ulackfocus
    ulackfocus Dennis @ ΩF - vociferous quartzophobe
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     Dec 2, 2012
    I love this kind of stuff. Just goes to prove that you should never leave the old ways behind. Craftsmanship over technology.

    Production of the Valjoux 7750 was also halted in 1975, but instead of one man (it's designer Edmund Capt) doing all the work, his entire department did the storing and cataloging in defiance of company orders. Imagine if these two movements were lost because of a lack of foresight!
  3. X350 XJR
    X350 XJR Vintage Omega Aficionado
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     Dec 2, 2012
    Very interesting.

    Different industry but similar story...

    At least Rover in the UK had the good sense to buy the all aluminum Buick 215 V8 (3.5L) in 1963 when General Motors dumped it in a fit of shortsightedness. That motor powered a huge number of British cars and trucks: Land Rover, Range Rover, Morgan, TVR and many others until around 2004. What GM wouldn't have done to have a nice efficient small V8 in the dark fuel crisis years.
  4. dsio
    dsio Ash @ ΩF
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     Dec 2, 2012
    X350 XJR
    X350 XJR said
    Very interesting.

    Different industry but similar story...

    At least Rover in the UK had the good sense to buy the all aluminum Buick 215 V8 (3.5L) in 1963 when General Motors dumped it in a fit of shortsightedness. That motor powered a huge number of British cars and trucks: Land Rover, Range Rover, Morgan, TVR and many others until around 2004. What GM wouldn't have done to have a nice efficient small V8 in the dark fuel crisis years.
    I think they're still in small scale production for racing use in both off-road and track racing, I know there are some replica Ford GT40s made locally in Brisbane that still use new Rover V8s even now.
  5. CanberraOmega
    CanberraOmega Rabbitohs and Whisky Supporter
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     Dec 3, 2012
    Fascinating. I look forward to more horological history pieces!
  6. John Chris
    John Chris Il Duca de Luca
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     Dec 6, 2012
    It should not be forgotten that a significant contributor to the resurrection of the El Primero in 1984 was the mighty Rolex Watch Company, which had never jumped on the quartz bandwagon. At this time the Rolex Daytona Cosmograph, a manual-wind chronograph, was powered by the iconic Valjoux 72. Rolex wanted to go automatic ("perpetual" like its other watches), and so sniffed around Zenith, who'd produced the best automatic movement in the El Primero. They closed the deal, and so Zenith supplied its movements to Rolex for the Daytona from 1985-2000, greatly assisting Zenith in resuming its own production.

    Rolex, of course, had to dumb the movements down from 10 to 8 beats per second (so they could service them), and eliminated the date (Rolex design tolerated a date window only at 3 o'clock, which wasn't feasible due to the minute register). So, for about triple the price, you could get an automatic chronograph without a date and slowed down to mid-century standards. Fools and their money ....
  7. dsio
    dsio Ash @ ΩF
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     Dec 6, 2012
    John Chris
    John Chris said
    It should not be forgotten that a significant contributor to the resurrection of the El Primero in 1984 was the mighty Rolex Watch Company, which had never jumped on the quartz bandwagon. At this time the Rolex Daytona Cosmograph, a manual-wind chronograph, was powered by the iconic Valjoux 72. Rolex wanted to go automatic ("perpetual" like its other watches), and so sniffed around Zenith, who'd produced the best automatic movement in the El Primero. They closed the deal, and so Zenith supplied its movements to Rolex for the Daytona from 1985-2000, greatly assisting Zenith in resuming its own production.

    Rolex, of course, had to dumb the movements down from 10 to 8 beats per second (so they could service them), and eliminated the date (Rolex design tolerated a date window only at 3 o'clock, which wasn't feasible due to the minute register). So, for about triple the price, you could get an automatic chronograph without a date and slowed down to mid-century standards. Fools and their money ....
    I just bought the newer 4130 Daytona (or agreed to buy, deal made next weekend) ;)
  8. John Chris
    John Chris Il Duca de Luca
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     Dec 6, 2012
    Yes - with the new (since 2000) Rolex in-house movement. I'd love to hear what you think of it when you get it!
  9. dsio
    dsio Ash @ ΩF
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     Dec 6, 2012
    John Chris
    John Chris said
    Yes - with the new (since 2000) Rolex in-house movement. I'd love to hear what you think of it when you get it!
    My brother actually owns two, a black and a white, and it was seeing his black one after it was freshened up by servicing that made me really want one. Then a good deal popped up so I had to say yes. Its a 2004 model F series with thin hands, excellent condition, box and papers
  10. cicindela
    cicindela Steve @ ΩF
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     Dec 7, 2012
    dsio
    dsio said
    My brother actually owns two, a black and a white, and it was seeing his black one after it was freshened up by servicing that made me really want one. Then a good deal popped up so I had to say yes. Its a 2004 model F series with thin hands, excellent condition, box and papers
    Weren't we supposed to see photos of Scotty's watch when it got back from service? You holding out? :mad:
  11. dsio
    dsio Ash @ ΩF
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     Dec 7, 2012
    cicindela
    cicindela said
    Weren't we supposed to see photos of Scotty's watch when it got back from service? You holding out? :mad:
    Didn't get to take many shots, he genuinely wanted it back immediately after a 12 week wait, but it looked 90% new again. There were some scratches in the PCL that were too deep to remove, and because of that they looked wavy in the polished finish, and some of the links had edge scratches where they also couldn't go deep enough. It was a very good attempt, as good as you could expect for assembly line style servicing, but frankly, I've seen independents do better work than that.

  12. ulackfocus
    ulackfocus Dennis @ ΩF - vociferous quartzophobe
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     Dec 7, 2012
    Doesn't take long to get sidetracked around here, does it? :p

    Oh, and Charles Vermot also makes great cheddar. ::rimshot::
  13. John Chris
    John Chris Il Duca de Luca
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     Dec 7, 2012
    ulackfocus
    ulackfocus said
    Doesn't take long to get sidetracked around here, does it? :p

    Oh, and Charles Vermot also makes great cheddar. ::rimshot::
    :p My fault for mentioning the R word!
  14. dsio
    dsio Ash @ ΩF
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     Dec 8, 2012
    Incidentally, just to confirm, the Zenith Daytonas were non-hacking, and I believe the older Zeniths El Primeros were too, has that changed at all recently or are they still the same? Also, is it still the same as most other non-hacking movements where some reverse pressure on the crown will do the job?
  15. John Chris
    John Chris Il Duca de Luca
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     Dec 8, 2012
    Answers are yes (El Primeros are still non-hacking) and yes (reverse pressure on the crown will halt or reverse the second hand). I'm no teckkie, but I understand that the Rolex clutch design (vertical vs. horizontal, used by Rolex and others like its main developer, F. Piguet), is more conducive to the hacking feature.
  16. NiklasARvid
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     Dec 8, 2012
    Anyone familiar with the Ebel-el Primero history?

    My understanding is that they were the first to pick up the movement post crisis?

    Wouldn't mind one of those... Had the same case with a world timer, may well be the most comfortable watch i have ever worn...
  17. LouS
    LouS Pornographe du Chronographe
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     Dec 8, 2012
    That's about right. Ebel bought a number of assembled movements that had been sitting in storage at Zenith since 1975 to put into its 1911 chronograph. When that proved to be a success, further orders were placed, providing Zenith with the funds and impetus to unwrap M. Vermot's treasure and put it back into production.

    it was only after that that Rolex came onto the scene.