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Horology 101: the 5 Most Influential Automatic Wristwatch Calibers

  1. ulackfocus

    ulackfocus May 22, 2018

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    There's no doubt that automatic winding units revolutionized the wristwatch. Several inventions, subsequent improvements, and even specific movements have had a vast influence on the industry. Take a look at the Valjoux 7750 series as a recent example - to say it's ubiquitous is an understatement! Regardless of how many watches are powered by a 7750, it didn't make the list because it didn't break new ground. The top 5 are in chronological order.

    Harwood bumper

    [​IMG]

    patented: 1924

    This winding system may not have been the most efficient, but it was the first. It spawned similar systems in dozens of brands like Omega, Movado, and JLC. Still used into the 60's (in the JLC Memovox for example), they finally disappeared in the 70's.


    Rolex Perpetual

    [​IMG]

    patented: 1933

    The list of companies that were influenced by this would be too long to type! It was the first 360˚ rotor wristwatch caliber and spawned a new direction in the industry. Combined with Rolex's trademark water resistant Oyster case, it formed the famous Oyster Perpetual.


    IWC Pellaton

    [​IMG]

    patented: 1946 & 1950

    Seen as the simplest and most efficient winding system ever created, it is still in use today in the IWC 5000 and 8000 series calibers. While Longines did have a flirtation with a similar design in 1945, they added the Pellaton system to their manual winding 8.68N caliber to create the 19A series in 1952 - a very popular movement with the public. Seiko's Magic Lever winding system was based on the concept of IWC's Pellaton excenter technology. Cyma patented a double excenter winding unit even more efficient than IWC's in the early 50's (click HERE for more information from Dr Ranfft's website).


    Eterna ball bearing

    [​IMG]

    patented: 1948

    Here's the first major improvement to the 360˚ rotor. It was introduced first into ladies watches, and installed in men's versions in 1950. As soon as other companies could get around patent infringement, they adopted & adapted this mechanism to their automatics. This system is still used by ETA who supplies the majority of the industry with movements.


    Buren micro-rotor

    [​IMG]

    patented: 1954

    When introduced in 1957 inside their Super Slender series as the caliber 1000 and 1001, it was an immediate hit. There was a big push towards thinner watches in that era and this system met the call. Brands like Hamilton, Bulova, and even IWC licensed Buren's products for use in their own watches. Universal Geneve released a nearly identical movement and subsequently lost a patent infringement case to Buren which led to UG's paying of royalties. The Chronomatic Group* used a Buren micro-rotor caliber to make the first automatic chronograph available to the public in 1969. Many high end manufacturers have micro-rotor calibers today including Patek Philippe and Chopard.




    Conspicuously absent from the list (and open for discussion) is the Zenith El Primero. While it was the first integrated self winding chronograph, it shared the spotlight with Seiko's 6139 and the Chronomatic Group's caliber 11 in 1969. It also was a combination of technologies. 36,000 bph calibers had been introduced to the public by Girard Perregaux in 1966 and were sent to the Neuchatel Observatory Chronometer Competition by Longines (the caliber 360) as early as 1959. While the EP is a fantastic movement, it did not change the industry as much as the other 5 on the list IMO. It isn't as influential as the Valjoux 7750 family either.

    *The caliber 11 is also a worthy honorable mention since the Chronomatic Group team of Breitling, Hamilton, Buren, Heuer, and Dubois Dépraz was the first to rivet a chronograph module to an existing movement. They used a Buren micro-rotor caliber 1280 because of it's slim profile and piggy backed the Dubois Dépraz module on top - a practice still used today in a wide variety of watches but now usually attached to an ETA movement like the 2824 or 2892.




    Thanks to Adam, Tony, Andy, Steve, Chin, and Tim for their help with pictures, suggestions, and data.
     
    Edited May 26, 2018
    kjk228, byunjoe, Lbreak and 68 others like this.
  2. ulackfocus

    ulackfocus May 22, 2018

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    frederico and Vitezi like this.
  3. Baz9614

    Baz9614 May 22, 2018

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    Love the history lesson! Nice write up! :thumbsup:
     
  4. JimInOz

    JimInOz "Helpful Hints from Heloise" of bracelet cleaning. May 22, 2018

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    No mention of the Felsa Bidynator?

    :coffee:
     
  5. ulackfocus

    ulackfocus May 22, 2018

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    It was a topic of debate in the WUS thread. As with the Valjoux 7750 and Zenith El Primero, if this were a Top 10 list all of those 3 would probably be on it.
     
    red crowned likes this.
  6. JimInOz

    JimInOz "Helpful Hints from Heloise" of bracelet cleaning. May 22, 2018

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    I suppose it depends on your vantage point.
    Rolex didn't add much to the Harwood principle except to make it 360º (and still uni-directional).
    Felsa developed the first successful 360º bi-directional winding movement, which I consider as important a step as the Eterna rotor.

    My vision is probably obscured by my distaste for the Rolex PR machine and the fact that they had to withdraw their claim regarding invention of the first automatic watch and issue a public apology to John Harwood, although that had to be dragged out of them.

    Even today they still claim an "invention", even though they neglect to say anything about the winding method.

    Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 2.51.32 PM.png
     
  7. Larry S

    Larry S Color Commentator for the Hyperbole. May 23, 2018

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    Thanks for the history lesson!
     
  8. Tony C.

    Tony C. Ωf Jury member May 23, 2018

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    Nice summary, Dennis!

    And oh, by the way, it is both instructive and amusing to contrast the current values of a nice IWC cal. 85x automatic with an Eterna-Matic from the same period.
     
    Syrte and marturx like this.
  9. aap

    aap May 23, 2018

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    Great thread, Dennis. Hoping this could be a recurring series :)
     
    AveConscientia likes this.
  10. ulackfocus

    ulackfocus May 23, 2018

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    Thanks everyone! As I have the time, I'll post new subjects one or two at a time.

    Almost enough to make any Eterna fan a little jealous of IWC, given they were roughly equal quality and status back then.

    It will. Most of the H101 series is about the basics, but there will be a few articles on other interesting topics.
     
    red crowned, aap and Wivac like this.
  11. Rodchop09

    Rodchop09 May 23, 2018

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    FullSizeRender.jpg Here is the very first Eterna-Matic movement 1948, Calibre 1198R. Housed in Eterna's bumper automatic case. FullSizeRender.jpg
     
    loniscup, kjk228, Syrte and 18 others like this.
  12. henrikaa

    henrikaa May 23, 2018

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    This is great write-up!! Keep ‘em comin’.
     
    red crowned likes this.
  13. Wivac

    Wivac Terribly special May 23, 2018

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    Really enjoying these bite sized info dumps.:thumbsup:
     
    red crowned likes this.
  14. Tony C.

    Tony C. Ωf Jury member May 23, 2018

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    Actually, I will be quite happy to continue to snap up nice Eternas, often at what i consider to be deep discounts, until their quality becomes more widely appreciated. ;)
     
    gatorcpa, marturx, ulackfocus and 2 others like this.
  15. sxl2004

    sxl2004 May 23, 2018

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    Ppppsssssstttttttt!
     
    Syrte and Rodchop09 like this.
  16. cristos71

    cristos71 May 23, 2018

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    Very nice to get back to the purity of the hobby instead of reading another of the umpteenth value discussions that seem to be the flavour of the moment anno 2017/18
     
    persco, citizenrich, Syrte and 12 others like this.
  17. hotsauz

    hotsauz May 24, 2018

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    nice i love stuff like this; thanks for sharing.
     
  18. ulackfocus

    ulackfocus May 24, 2018

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    No, you mean SHUSH!!!!
     
  19. sxl2004

    sxl2004 May 24, 2018

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    Different cultural backgrounds: different sounds/noises for the same thing.
    ;)
     
  20. Rodchop09

    Rodchop09 May 25, 2018

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    I agree ☝️Eterna are so undervalued, I know I'm going to perhaps sound biased as I own the Eterna as seen above But as a collector this in my opinion is such a important piece, and the movement has been used ever since and by some big watch houses as well. Could you imagine the price it would be if it had one of the big watch houses names on the dial !! Saying that as I said I'm a collector and for the Horological significance I love this piece, the first 5 ball bearings movement so early in production that they housed it in a cases made for their bumper automatics !!