1969 the year that changed watchmaking 4ever

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1969 the year that changed watchmaking 4ever

Post by koimaster » June 24th 2019, 3:21pm

In the history of the 20th century, few years are as loaded with cultural weight as the year 1969. It’s defined in our collective memory as the year of Woodstock and the Moon Landing, but it’s also a year of great significance for watches.

The last truly significant development in the world of mechanical watches came in the same year that mankind reached the moon, pioneered supersonic passenger flight and invented the internet. It was also the year that nearly heralded watchmaking’s permanent downfall.

By Chris Hall

Waking up on the morning of 1 January 1969 and – perhaps somewhat blearily – winding your chronograph for the day ahead, it is unlikely you would have given much thought to the effort involved in that everyday habit. If, on the way to work (New Year’s Day would not become a UK national holiday until 1974) you had been in a mood to contemplate the future, it’s more likely you would have hoped for 1969 to deliver a more uplifting year than the one just ended and be a year when the news would be dominated by something other than war and protest.

For six men, however, if the year ahead entered their thoughts on that day it would almost certainly have been with reference to the future of the chronograph. Jack Heuer, Willy Breitling and the CEOs of Hamilton-Buren and Dubois Depraz were involved in a three-way race with Zenith CEO Leonardo Butscher and Itiro Hattori of Seiko to bring out the first automatic chronograph. It was a race a long time in the running; Heuer began toying with the idea in the Fifties, while Zenith had begun work in 1962, hoping it would be ready for the company’s centenary in 1965. Seiko, for its part, reportedly developed its chronograph in just two years.

That it would be occupying the thoughts of Leonardo Butscher on that morning, there is almost no doubt. Nine days later, he would hold a press conference to unveil the provocatively titled “El Primero”, an automatic chronograph movement developed by Zenith following the acquisition of its chronograph supplier, Martel Watch Company, in 1962.

https://www.qpmagazine.com/long-reads/a ... g-forever/


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