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The Odd, the Unusual, and the Uncommon
Here is an eclectic selection of timepieces that offer something different in design, technology, function or scarcity. Whatever the category, I venture that none are likely to be seen all too often.
Wyler Incaflex demonstrater.
Here’s a somewhat odd one to start, a Wyler Incaflex demonstration or display piece. It’s quite large, 60mm in diameter, with a chromed case and large acrylic crystals back and front. A wristwatch-sized crown is provided at the 3 o’clock position for winding and setting the hands as per normal. I expect the piece originally fitted into a larger display, but I have yet to see an example.
Paul Wyler invented the Incaflex shock-protecting balance in 1896 and it was patented in 1927. The brand name was apparently first applied in 1932 in Switzerland and registered as a US Trademark in 1949. In 1956 a public demonstration of the effectiveness of the Incaflex system was made when two Wyler watches were dropped 300 meters (almost 1000 feet) from the top of the Eiffel Tower and verified to be running afterward. A similar test took place in 1962 when six Wyler watches were dropped 318 feet from the Seattle tower in Washington USA and verified to be running afterward.
The 1957 newspaper ad below from The Star, Washington, refers to the Eiffel Tower demonstration.
(Image via http://str.stparchive.com)
Here is the display back. The movement appears to be based on an ETA 12 ligne movement from the cal. 1100 family. You can find movements with Incaflex balances in many of Wyler’s watches, but I’ve yet to see another demonstration piece such as this.
The “Incaflex” name relates to the type of shock protected balance-wheel introduced by Wyler. Below you can see a close-up picture of the balance cock and balance-wheel area of the movement. Note that there is no shock protection unit, such as Incabloc, on the balance cock for the balance-wheel cap jewel as you would expect to find on a 1950/60s wristwatch movement. Wyler transferred the task of shock protection to the balance-wheel itself, and you can see the helical balance-wheel arms which were designed to flex and allow the wheel to move on the staff to a degree without damaging the pivots.
The oddest of the tuning fork movements – the Omega Megasonic 720 Hz. It’s really a mix of odd and uncommon – odd in its movement design and uncommon in that not all that many were produced. The watches were introduced in 1973 and the movement was designed by Max Hetzel of Accutron reknown. It differed from his previous tuning fork designs in a number of ways. Importantly, the index wheel mechanism has no physical connection to the rest of the movement. The index wheel is a disc of magnetically polarised material that is housed in a separate sealed “micromotor”. This is magnetically connected to a coupling wheel below and movement is thus transmitted to the gear train. The fork vibrated at 720Hz delivering an accuracy of 30 sec per month, twice that of the Accutrons.
Here’s a 1973 Geneve cal. 1220 example.
(Photo by Rob B).
I don’t think the Megasonic movement would win too many beauty contests but some very innovative thinking and technology went into this design. You can see the micromotor in the image below, indicated to the right of the movement.
The micromotor was innovative engineering on quite a small scale. Below you can see the micromotor (1) attached to one tine of the tuning fork. The asymmetric design of the tuning fork also used significantly less power than previous Accutron-derived models. That’s not a nail next to the micromotor at (2) in the pic below, it’s a normal size pin for comparison.
Rob B fitted this Geneve cal. 1230 (day/date) with a new old stock case of the correct style, the dial and movement already being in very clean condition. It presents as very close to how such a watch would have left the Omega factory in 1973.
(Photo by Rob B).
(Photo by Rob B).
The Bulova Thermatron was a failed venture that used body heat to generate electricity to power a quartz movement. A thermatron is a small thermo-electric generator. As little as 1 degree difference between the body heat and the insulated portion of the movement produced power which was stored in a 1.1V Leclanche storage cell. Bulova touted the Thermatron to last almost indefinitely. Well, it doesn’t look like mine did. The watch is in New Old Stock condition cosmetically, but is not running.
The Thermatron movement was developed in the early 1970s and the watches were first marketed in 1982. This particular watch carries the Bulova date code “P2″, for 1982.
My research indicates that the Thermatron watches proved to be unreliable and were not successful. I have read that the Thermatrons initially sold for $2,000. Bulova sold the technology and equipment to a company called STW who continued to issue the watches with their logo for some time. Power reserve seems to have been an issue with the original Bulova product as STW apparently modified them with the addition of a condenser to permit a longer power reserve and a new caseback with access to the condenser. Wearing the STW version for 6 hours was supposed to store sufficient power for 18 hours of running. Notwithstanding any improvement it apparently wasn’t enough to save the watches.
Seiko also later ventured into the thermoelectric field with their body-heat powered Thermic watches, introduced in 1998. It appears Seiko was more successful with the concept than Bulova.
Voumard 2000 and Bulova Accutron 214.
These watches both share a feature that has been played with by companies over the years but never really caught on – back setting – where the means of setting the hands is transferred from the conventional crown on the side of the wristwatch case to some form of device on the back of the case. There have been design and technological reasons for such placement, it having been used on mechanical as well as electric/electronic and quartz movement watches. It can allow for a cleaner shape to a watch, and there was the belief with the coming of the more consistently accurate technology that re-setting the hands would not be required so frequently and thus this function could be placed out of the way. Whatever the reasons it has been used only infrequently on wristwatches in any major way.
The watches shown are a 1970s Voumard 2000 cal. VM2500 at the top and a 1967 Bulova Accutron cal. 214 at the bottom.
The Accutron cal. 214 tuning fork electronic watches were a notable exception as they were all backset. The Voumard movement is not only backset but also backwound as it is a manual-wind mechanical. The Voumards were also produced in fairly limited numbers compared to watches from major companies.
The image below shows the Accutron crown flipped up for setting, and the screw battery hatch open.
Here you can see the inside portion of the winding and hand-setting mechanism in the rear portion of the Voumard’s case. In the normal position the crown winds the movement. Pulled-out it sets the hands. The 17 jewel cal. 2500 appears to have been of Voumard’s own design.
Jaeger LeCoultre 8-day inline clock.
A vintage Jaeger LeCoultre 8-day clock with their interesting 16 jewel cal. 210 baguette inline movement. This movement was introduced in the mid-1930s and JLC made use good of it a wide range of clock designs into the 1990s. That’s an impressively long use for any movement. This clock measures around 10cm x 12cm, and is wound from the rear, (back of the mainspring barrel).
Citizen Ana-Digi Temp.
Circa-1980 Citizen JG200-59E Aaa-Digi Temp, cal. 8980. The Ana-Digi Temp line were the first digital watches with an integrated electronic thermometer. They were made in a variety of models from 1978 up to the early-2000s. The measuring range of the theremometer is -9.9C to +59.9C or (14F to 139F). I don’t know about you, but that covers my climatic needs pretty well The watch also features an automatic calender covering the years 1980 to 2019, dual time function, alarm and hourly chimes, 1/1000th sec stopwatch, 12/24 hour display switching, illumination lamp and battery life indicator, all in a case measuring 39mm x 33mm. Not bad for 1980. A geek’s delight.
Zenith 8-day dash clock.
Here’s a Zenith 8-day dashboard clock. These were made from around the mid-1920s up to as late as the 1960s and found service in cars, buses, and other forms of transport. The well-finished 11 jewel movement has a power reserve indicator that displays a red dot on the dial when the reserve has 24 hours left. Winding the clock is achieved by turning the bezel and to set the hands the bezel is pulled up and turned – a convenient method when mounted on a dashboard.
(Movement photo by TomG).
This unusual watch was released by Seiko in 1999 but the designer, Matthew Waldman, was apparently not pleased with Seiko’s interpretation of his design and Nooka watches are now offered by a separate company. Seiko didn’t market their Nookas very well and they were discontinued quite quickly. The novel LCD time display consists of a bar display for the hours, large window for minutes, and smaller window for seconds. In this photo the watch is displaying the time 10:12:40pm.
It is quite a large watch, with a stainless steel case measuring 38mm x 36mm, (less lugs and pushers), and is 12mm thick. The leather strap is a hefty 30mm wide with a double tang buckle.
Smiths Sectric tuning fork clock.
This clock had hung on the kitchen wall of my parents’ home for as long as I could remember. It was always there whilst I was growing up and I would occasionally replace the battery in it, and it shows the state of my horological awareness all that time that I never thought twice about it being anything but just another wall clock.
After replacing the battery one time I took a good look at the clock and realised that the seconds hand was moving smoothly, just like an electric clock. However, this was just a battery-powered quartz clock, or so I had thought, and I would have expected it to tick in one-second increments. Then the tuning fork symbol on the dial finally penetrated my thick skull and it dawned on me what this was – a tuning fork clock! Looking closer at the movement, covered in the dust of decades, sure enough there was a big tuning fork humming away. Smiths introduced these Sectric tuning fork clocks in 1971 and over the following years quite a range of different designs were issued. Whilst the movement uses a tuning fork it does not use an indexing system like the Bulova Accutron, but rather has a magnetic escapement.
In the picture below you can see the large tuning fork, the bottom curve indicated at (1). The lower tuning fork tine carries a cylindrical magnet that vibrates within a coil (2). The upper tine carries a horseshoe magnet at the right end that impulses the mu-metal escape wheel, driving it at 300Hz (3). Thus there is no mechanical connection between the magnet and the escapement. As they post-dated Bulova’s patenting of the Accutron there was the need to obtain licensing from Bulova. You can see “Lic. Bulova” on the regulator cover to the right (4).
The movements will not self start but require a slight the movement of the setting mechanism (indicated) to set them in motion. This spins the escape wheel into motion and thereafter it is locked to the vibration of the horseshoe magnet. Obviously, judging from this clock’s sterling performance over so many years (with no servicing), the system works very well.
Vacheron Constantin 222.
A very uncommon watch as apparently only 120 of this steel/gold 34mm model of the Vacheron Constantin 222 were produced, (there were only approximately 720 examples of all 222 models made during their production period of 1977 to 1985). The 222 was VC’s entry in to the “sport luxury” market competing with AP’s Royal Oak, Patek’s Nautilus, and IWC’s Ingenieur SL. At the time (1977) VC had been in continuous operation for 222 years and thus they chose to commemorate this with the “222″ model reference. The 222 lead to the VC “Overseas” line of watches.
The movement used in this 222 version is the VC cal. 1124, based on the JLC cal. 889. The rotor rim is in 21kt gold.
(Movement photo by TomG).
Although often thought to have been designed by Gérald Genta it has been ascertained that the 222 design was actually developed by Jorg Hysek, with a definite appreciation of Genta’s designs incorporated. Nevertheless, below I have pictured the 222 with stablemates of Genta design – an IWC Ingenieur ref. 3521 and an AP Royal Oak.
Audemars Piguet Jubiläumsuhr 1875 – 1995.
The AP Jubiläumsuhr (“anniversary watch”) 1875 – 1995 cal. 2121/3 was released in 1995 to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the manufacturer. A limited edition of only 120 examples were produced, this one being No. 110 as numbered on the caseback. The stainless steel case is 36 mm in diameter. A very elegant watch with a stunning guilloché work dial.
The cal. 2121/3 is based on an ebauche developed by JLC in 1967, (the cal. 920). It’s a very thin automatic movement, measuring only 3.05mm in this version with date display. The rotor rim is in 21kt gold. You can find an article on this excellent series of movements here.
International Watch Company “Jumbo” Ingenieur.
The 40mm “Jumbo” Ingenieur SL models were introduced in 1976. The “SL” stood for “Steel Line”, often later thought of as “Sport Line” as the watches fell into the sports luxury watch field. The design was by Gérald Genta. This example in steel and gold was manufactured in 1979.
An interesting aspect is that the ref. 3003 was a quartz version, but this particular one carries the cal. 8541ES automatic movement. The cases were the same for both the quartz and automatic versions and IWC converted a number of the quartz models to auto due to market demand.
What’s this 1973 Bulova Excellency doing here in the “Uncommon” section? Well, I though we needed some light relief I have no idea how may of these they pumped out and it’s not an iconic model in any respect. It is, however, quite ugly. It’s also a new old stock example and I reckon you’d probably need to look long and hard to come up with another in this condition. I doubt too many have survived the decades. In fact, this one probably only survived in this state because it was so ugly, (even for the 1970s!) that it didn’t sell when new.
The watch came complete with outer cardboard box (not shown) and this elegantly crafted plastic octagonal box proudly extolling this to be one of the “Excellency Collection”. This was a a long-lived line of watches for Bulova, many significantly more palatable in design than this one.
Inside sits the watch with its original leather strap permanently set into a curve from sitting like that over four decades. The hang tag indicates it the model reference is 11530-W and the price tag shows $70.00, which was around average for a Bulova steel watch of the time.
The cal. 11ANAC automatic movement is nicely finished. A very decent movement hidden away in that homely case for all those years.
Audemars Piguet Ultra-thin.
The cal. 2003 ultra-thin movement was developed by JLC in conjunction with AP and VC and was introduced in 1953. The movement had long usage with AP up to the early-2000s. Whilst there were many watches made using the movement the model shown here is quite uncommon.
The movement is only 1.65mm thick. The 10 cent piece is roughly the same size as a US dime.
Watches and clocks from the collections of Rob B, TomG, and myself.