The creation of automatic chronographs led to a resurgence in mechanical watchmaking, and new calibres followed even as the Quartz Crisis was gathering steam just over the horizon.
Once the race for the automatic chronograph was over, and their popularity led to a resurgence in interest in chronographs, others began to follow and invent their own calibres. Following the pioneers was Lemania, which had attempted to build an automatic chronograph back in 1947 and in fact made a prototype, though it supposedly never left the factory.
Seiko continued to expand on its integrated column wheel, vertical clutch chronograph offerings, adding the 701X series in 1970, shortly after its 6139. The movement really built on what its predecessor had achieved and for some time, stood as the slimmest automatic chronograph with a vertical clutch in existence. In fact it held that title up till 1987, when Frederic Piguet’s calibre 1185 made its way to the top of that list. Quick fact: all of Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak automatic chronographs are still powered by the 1185 (aka AP Selfwinding Calibre 2385). Seiko’s 701X was made by the Daini side of the family and was unique in that it did not have a seconds hand and stood just 6.4mm high, significantly slimmer than the 7.9mm of the 6139 just a year ago.
Lemania and Omega began to jointly develop a cam-switched automatic chronograph that was unveiled in 1972 as the calibre 1340. Omega’s was the 1341, named as their 1040/1041 calibres. The Lemania movement was quite unusual and notable for a chronograph of its time: centrally-mounted hands for both the chronograph seconds and minutes, 12-hour totaliser at 6 o’clock, small seconds and day/night indicator at ‘9’ and date window at ‘3’. The design made for an unusual and deliberately unbalanced dial layout, accentuated by the blocky, tonneau cases popular during the era.
The calibre 1340 was replaced by the 5100 after a couple of years. This was a more sophisticated successor to the 1340 in terms of design, as a 24-hour display was added at 12, separating the day/night indicators from the small seconds counter. The movement had a long-lived and popular history, finally ending production in 2002. Given Lemania’s reputation as a chronograph manufacturer, the calibre 5100’s success was unsurprising.
Right on the heels of Lemania was another Japanese watchmaker, Citizen. The calibre 8100 and 8110 lines began their development in ’73 and were released a few years later. The 8110 in particular stood out for its advancements. It had a two-register flyback chronograph with 30-minute and 12-hour totalisers, a 40-hour power reserve on a 4Hz movement, an integrated column wheel, vertical clutch chronograph and most notably, unlike some of its predecessors, it could be hand-wound and automatically wound. It stood at 6.9mm thin. What’s remarkable is that these specifications would not be out of place in watchmaking today.
Check out the other article in our series commemorating the 50th anniversary of the automatic chronograph: