OBSESSIONS

There are two, in the head of "newcomers", that come to mind when reading several forums out there. The "in-house obsession" and the "screw-down crown mania". I keep getting many questions regarding this either by friends new to watches that read too much forums without getting much clarification.

The first, has become a true pathology that is only recently being addressed by only a hand full of forum moderators. I understand that a watch in the 30's range with a Valjoux 7750 is a bit of a stretch. However there are some modifications out there on the 7750 that well justify that price tag. I guess that a good comparison would be a regular production Mustang and a modified version signed by Chip Foose. Big difference.

Don't kid your selves. The reason why 99% of all entry and mid level chronos use the 7750 is because it's a good movement to begin with. Like in the electronics industry, economies of scale are a determining factor here. The 7750 is relatively cheap not because it is a crapy movement but because it has set itself as a standard in the price range. Yes, can't disagree that it is one of the ugliest chrono movements of all time. True, but there is quite a difference between the finishes that different brands apply to this engine. The time spend calibrating, adjusting, polishing and decorating the movement can make a big difference. The finish can more the triple the cost from brand to brand. Should you compare the finishing of a 7750 in a Sothis (the best I have seen so far...) with that of a Fortis you would not believe that both are one and the same movement. The difference is abysmal.

Unless mass produced, an in-house integrated chrono will set you back around 30k. Lange "Datograph" would be my choice. The Jaeger "Amvox2" for around 15 or the Rolex "Daytona" would be one in this category. The second is only in the 8K range (list that is...). Both are mass produced compared to the others.

First of all, most stuff out there has already been invented over centuries ago. The evolution today consists in applying better materials and improve on the base concepts with the help of precision tools and computers. Most movements out there are either outsourced or based on much older movements. All, even the big brands like Patek and AP have non-inhouse movements and modules. In Patek's case the presence of the Lemania in their perpetuals and their manual chrono are pretty obvious. Ironically they are some of their most demanded models, with the chrono being completely sold out. On AP's side there is the ever popular OffShore. Until recently it had a leCoultre 889 base with a Dubois-Depraz chrono module. Nothing wrong with that. The problem was all the voices that wrongly complained about it not being in-house... Bull Shit if you ask me. Why? Simple, the change from the ultra thin with the slightly thicker in-house 3120 has caused the OffShore to loose the soft iron case. This resulted in the OffShore loosing part of its antimagnetic properties. Bet you "OffShore must be in-house" ball busters did not know that. Guess what? The f...ing minute hand still jumps when the chrono is being activated! The true upgrade would have been an integrated movement. What really sucks inside the Offshore is the Dubois-Depraz chrono module and not the base movement. Just take a look at how the minute hand jumps when you activate the chrono (almost half a minute in some cases). The chrono on the Royal Oak does not, it's an integrated chrono... ups, forgot it's not in-house either! Most of the new OffShores like the Volcano, Navy and Safaris with the new 3120 are more susceptible to magnetism. Pretty stupid if we live in a world where this is an ever increasing problem. If you like one of these I would go for an older one and tune it to look like a Volcano or Safari instead. Man, I can't believe I am saying this! Not long ago I would have asked to be burned at the stake for a statement like this!!!

The second obsession it that Screw-Down-Crown mania. Screw down crowns where a very effective solution up to 10 years ago for Automatic Divers. Today with double gasket crowns they have become obsolete. Furthermore, there are triple gasket crowns now that will ensure waterproofness to depths well in the divers range and beyond. Screw down crowns will give you a false sense of security. If not properly screwed it is actually less waterproof than a double gasket seal. The double gasket crown on the other hand will always be ready (unless you leave it completely pulled...). On top of that, they are extremely annoying on manual 2-day power reserve movements. How long do you think a screw-down crown will be effective if you have to screw and unscrew for winding you watch for an average of every day for a period of two years? After 600 times do you still want a screw-down or would you rather have a double or triple gasket crown?

Chip Foose

10 comments:

J. Peter@watchmakingblog said...

I totally agree with the screw down crown comment. They belong on automatics but not on manually wound watches. It amazes me how worn the threads become on a Rolex after 10 years of use. I don't think the threads would last more than a year with daily winding.

Speedmaster said...

Well-said. I enjoyed that. A couple thoughts ...

I think that Hamilton and Sinn might be some of the best deals going in mechanical chronos right now. The 7750 is of course a solid movement and certainly proven.

What does irk me though is when a brand slaps a custom rotor on a 7750 and gives it their own calibre number. Or when a brand charges $8k+ for what appears to be a slightly adorned 7750.

On screw-down crowns, didn't one or two brands in the last 5 years or so make a handwound watch with a screw-down crown? Short-sighted.

Jos. said...

Excellent post, Dario! You speak my mind - over the years the V7750 has become a big favourite of mine, not only because it's simply an excellent movement but also because it turns out to be the world's best platform for adding complicaions. Think of IWC's rattrapante, Jaquet's rattrapante/foudroyante and countless other lovely movements.

One thing though: didn't I read your slamming of Hublot's Big Bang because they claimed using an in-house chrono which happens to've been built exactly like the V7750? (Think it was you - if not, my apologies.)

As I agree completely with your post, it seems to me that the consequence is that we should applaud manufacturers like Hublot if they don't just refinish, but build from the ground up V7750 'lookalikes'. Wouldn't you agree?

Also agree with your 'screwdown screwup' comment, although with qualifications. An exception or instance would be Panerai's Radiomirs. Can you imagine a Rad without a screw down crown? I can't!

KronosClub said...

Hi Jos;

Actually I do remember several comments regarding the similarity of the "in-house" Hublot chrono with the 7750 but I do not believe it was me. My only criticism regarding the Bang is that there are too many things that look like they have been copied from other watches and that claims that that they are the first and only are ill justified at best. Here are all my post regarding Hublot:
http://kronosclub.blogspot.com/2006/02/bang_22.html
http://kronosclub.blogspot.com/2006/03/hublot-mag-bang.html
http://kronosclub.blogspot.com/2006/06/betting-on-wrong-horse.html
http://kronosclub.blogspot.com/2008/01/big-bang-ayrton-senna.html

I recall that my only comment was the PVPing of parts of the movement. In any case if you find please send me a link. Sometimes I say so much crap I can't remember it all!

I agree that a Rad without a screw down crown is hard to imagine. Yet, what I can imagine is that all Rads from now on have 10-days (or more) power reserves ;-D. Unscrewing 36 times per year beats 360 times... In any case, I would not mind a triple gasket crown on my 8-day Radiomir.

Jos. said...

Sorry Dario, I stand corrected. I was too lazy to check when I wrote my comment but I've looked it up now and found it was that other excellent watch blogger, Velociphile, who wrote a well-documented post to that effect:
http://velociphilewatch.blogspot.com/2007/10/silk-purse-balonium-mag-bang.html

My apologies.

The 8-day Rad is something we have in common. I love mine and wouldn't mind a triple gasket either, as long as they hide it carefully and keep the screw down onion. If you want to see what happens if you try to 'modernise' a Rad, take a look at the PAM200 with the Dracula power reserve. Argh!

KronosClub said...

Of course! Forgot to add the line; "triple gasket crown provided the onion and crown look EXACTLY the same as the original..." To be honest, I don't think that this would pose too much of a challenge for them. I would not want to see any changes to the exterior and look of the crown of the Radiomir. Anything like that I would consider blasphemy!

P.s. Velociphile does rock!

Anonymous said...

Nice article but right now my obsession is finding out why KronosClub has not been updated since 30 janvier.

Chris Launder said...

Whilst I agree with your comments regarding the screw down crown , which i have to admit were quite educational , I think there is a big difference between the Lemania used by Patek and a Valjoux 7750 , Patek actually state in their catelogue that its a Lemania movement . The whole inhouse thing is admittedly a can of worms , but i don't think anyone minds the Patek incarnation of the Lemania , or the Audemars incarnation of the superb F Piguet chrono ,( which , if memory serves me correctly , was jointly developed by F Piguet & Blancpain ,) not being strictly inhouse ....
I suspect that a considerable part of the inhouse melodrama also stems , not so much from any perceived improvement in quality , but rather the prestige associated with a company being able to manufacture these things themselves , thus being more ' self sufficient ' .
An excellent and thought provoking post , nonetheless .

KronosClub said...

Hi Chris,

Could not agree more that there is a substantial difference between the Lemania inside the 5070 (a personal favorite) ant the Valjoux yet what a differ is that this does not matter to anybody. The main reason why Patek will have to retire their 5070, probably my favorite piece in the Patek catalogue, is because the Swatch Group want everybody to write on the case or movement that it in fact a Lemania. Patek will not accept doing this (rightfully so) and therefore they will not be supplied anymore movements. If Patek write that it is a Lemania on their site and catalogue it simply is because they have to.

I guess that the main reason for writing this article is with the 5070 in mind even if I purposely did not mention it. Personally I think that the 5070 is a clear example of commercial success. Even considering it is a classic chrono with no date, 30 minutes a poor waterproof rating, not a limited edition... yet it is one of the few watches out there that not only hold value but increases right after purchase. This is quite an achievement in a general "Bling" tendency. Many Patek purists feel another way though. They consider the use of the Lemania movements a sellout. In any case, today the market says otherwise.

P.s. To Anonymous: Yes, I know... but I have so much stuff to update that I am scared to start! I Need a full day to do everything. I will try to make that day Saturday and Sunday, I hope.

Anonymous said...

Dario -
reading some of your earlier posts I came to conclusion that you are not big fan of Zenith - however
in my books 1990s Zenith Chronomaster 02.0240.410 ($6K) not only looks better but it also performs better than any $60K Patek.
ElPrimero cal 410 is fine, low-production, in-house, fully integrated movement that works like magic even with addition of triple calendar+moon.
Unbeatable watch for a true watch aficionado on budget.
Regards, Nick Hacko, Watchmaker (Sydney)