Mini Review: 1960’s GP Gyromatic
(some large scans)
Posted by Ed Hahn on February 16, 2000 at 13:13:40:
TZ Classics Forum Number: 1119
Posted from Host: gatekeeper-w.mitre.org (126.96.36.199)
This stainless steel watch was a gift from my mother to my father when they got married in 1962. My mother received a tiny (~ 1 cm diameter!) manual wind GP ladies watch from my father in return. My parents lived in Korea at the time, which was recovering from two major wars and a 30 year occupation by Japan. Even though these were mid-grade, working people’s watches by 60’s standards, and probably equivalent to a low-end mechanical of today, they were expensive by Korean standads, and probably had a 100% duty on them. (My parents may have gotten them from an offshore source without paying duties. The Grey Market predates the Internet by a long time!)
My father gave me the watch about a year ago in non-working condition. The watch had not been worn since the late 60’s, but was in pretty good cosmetic condition. I sent it away to Tom Gref in Rhode Island for a full restoration, even though the dollar value of the watch on the used market was probably less than the cost of the restoration.
As you can see, the watch came back in pretty good shape!
The watch is small by modern standards, maybe 35mm in diameter, and 8mm thick (although more on this later). It is also very lightweight.
The movement in this watch (AFAIK) is an in-house bi-directional winding automatic with 25 jewels. The earliest Gyromatics had 19 jewels, with some special chronometer versions having 39 jewels. I have no information about when GP production shifted to this bi-directional 25 jeweled movement.
As can be seen in this photo, the movement is based on the Eterna dual-click-wheel automatic design. The click wheels are about twice the diameter of the ones found in a modern ETA 2824, but function the same. Unlike the Eterna, however, the rotor is not mounted on a ball-bearing hub. Despite this fact, the watch seems to have no trouble staying wound, even on a winder where the forces are small compared with arm motion.
Note the use of a standard click on the ratchet wheel, rather than the system used in a modern ETA movement.
The hairspring is flat, and appears to use a variant of Nivarox, along with a Glucydur balance. Note also use of Incabloc shock protection and the simple geared-pointer regulator.
All in all, the movement finish is maybe comparable to a modern Oris, with allowances for aging and perhaps some not-quite-up-to-snuff servicing in Korea.
Case, Caseback, Crystal, and (ugh) Bracelet
The case of this watch is of thin stainless steel, with soldered stainless steel lugs. It is representative of the watches of its time, being simple and unadorned, with a low profile.
The caseback inside has some circular graining (not perlage) left over from finishing, and is adorned with an interesting GP company logo:
This eagle, shield, and anchor logo has recently been revived by the GP factory, and adorns the new Foudroyante Rattrapante case. Reports indicate that it will now be used on all future production GP watches.
The crystal on this watch is a plexiglas job, with an interesting low-profile cyclops:
Rather than glue an extra blob of plastic onto the top surface of the crystal, it instead has a concave area of material removed from the underside of the crystal. Since my father’s watch didn’t have an original crystal on it when I received it, I do not know whether this is an authentic feature. It’s pretty slick, however.
I’ve also noticed that vintage watches tend to look much thinner than today’s watches, and I think I’ve discovered why. Instead of having a case band and bezel which is more or less the thickness of the entire watch, the case band on vintage watches appears to be about half-height. The doming of the plexiglas allows the hands and curved dial enough room, and accounts for the other half of the overall watch height.
While sapphire crystals can be domed, I do not think that they could be made in such a complex curve, and thus, the case bands and/or bezels must stand a lot taller. Interesting effect.
Oh, about that bracelet. Well, my father long ago discarded the rotten leather strap which the humid summers in Korea had destroyed. He replaced it with a Speidel Twist-o-flex. Urgh. Anyways, I couldn’t stand the affront to the watch, and replaced it with an inexpensive Hadley-Roma Croc strap, and SS EOT Deployant buckle. Sorry, no pics.
This watch obviously is important for sentimental reasons. However, it has aged much more gracefully than my father’s Seiko 5’s which replaced it, and I think has a real nice classic look.
I tried to give this watch back to my father last Thanksgiving. He initially took it back, but gave it back to me when he realized that he would have to wear it every day to keep the date correct (no quickset date!). He then gave it back to me, and was content to keep wearing his steel/gold quartz Omega Constellation.
My father is a little taken aback by my watch collecting hobby – when he was my age, he was working hard as a newly immigrated chemist with the Goodyear company to keep me and my brother in diapers, and had no time or money to collect watches. However, he really admired the Co-Axial DeVille, and I get some hints from my mother that maybe he’s proud that I’m able to afford this hobby.