50-Year History of the Automatic Chronograph

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Darksider
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50-Year History of the Automatic Chronograph

Post by Darksider » June 19th 2020, 7:29pm

Fifty years ago, the consortium of Heuer-Leonidas, Breitling, Buren-Hamilton and Dubois Dépraz vied with lone wolves Zenith and Seiko in the race to launch the world’s first automatic chronograph movement. How did these brands keep their developments secret? And how did the watch world change? We searched the past for clues.


While reading his daily newspaper on the morning of Jan. 10, 1969, Jack Heuer, general director of the Heuer watch brand, suffered such a shock that he almost dropped his coffee cup. A short article announced that Heuer’s competitor Zenith had developed the world’s first automatic chronograph and was already showing functional prototypes of El Primero. How could this be true? Jack Heuer’s company was part of a consortium that had been working on this very same task under tremendous time pressure and the strictest secrecy for the past three years. The launch of Caliber 11 was scheduled for March 3. How could Zenith have beaten them to the punch?

This story is one of the most fascinating narratives in the history of the modern watch industry. It took place in a year that, like the entire previous decade, was characterized by technical progress and profound social change, including the first manned landing on the moon, the maiden flight of the Boeing 747 jet and the flower power movement. The whole decade was supercharged by the economic boom, especially in the automotive industry, and by spectacular auto races, whose champions thrilled large crowds. The zeitgeist of new mobility and communication was omnipresent. The world was ticking to a steadily accelerating rhythm: more and more powerful cars rolled off the assembly lines and more and more people could afford to buy them.

https://www.watchtime.com/featured/chro ... 728bd6f117
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