Le Cheminant Master Mariner (Valjoux Cal. 92)…
Here’s a great vintage chronograph and another new name on the blog, a Le Cheminant Master Mariner from the 1960’s.
(Click pictures to enlarge)
Le Cheminant (French for ‘The Wanderer’) were founded in 1822 and have been in constant production, though there is very little information to be found on the origins or early years of the company. In the late 1950’s Gordon and Iris Betts bought the Le Cheminant brand name along with a chain of jewellery shops, and from that point, Gordon – who sounded like a bit of a character – began to promote Le Cheminant wristwatches with vigour and did all he could to increase awareness of the brand.
Using his contacts in the industry in Switzerland, watches were produced under the Le Cheminant name and distributed in the UK through a number of outlets based mainly in the south, the flagship store being in Wigmore Street, London. Production continued throughout the 1960’s and 70’s under the stewardship of Mr Betts until he sold the company to Mappin & Webb in the late 1970’s, after which the story goes quiet once more.
Looking at the watches that Le Cheminant produced during this period they had no trademark style or allegiance to any particular movement manufacturer; almost as though the watches were created from any case/movement combination that was available at the time. The result is an eclectic back catalogue with some of their watches being very similar to other manufacturers – the watch in this post is almost identical to models made by Lator and Rotary. ( Here is a similar Rotary chronograph that I restored last year).
Another model that caught my eye was this diver which is almost identical to the now very collectible Heuer Monnin.
The watch in this post is from the Master Mariner range, not used as the name would suggest just for diver’s watches, but also for dress and chronograph models too. Here is an advertisement showing the watch from 1967, when it could be bought for the princely sum of £22 – for reference, the average weekly wage in 1967 was £10.
For more information about Le Cheminant and to see many more of their vintage models, check out this excellent site.
The watch in this post is still in the possession of the original owner who purchased it new in 1965 and used it as a daily wearer for almost 30 years. The watch was serviced routinely to keep it in good order, but was damaged by a watch repairer who attempted to replace the crown. Rather than send the watch elsewhere for repair, it was ‘retired’ to a drawer where it remained for the next 19 years.
The owner contacted me earlier this year to enquire whether his watch could be repaired, and when the watch arrived I could see that there was something seriously wrong with upper pusher as it was completely loose in the case. Once removed it was obvious that the case tube for the pusher had been snapped off and the pusher screwed back into the hole – not good.
With no exposed metal to grip it proved quite difficult to extract the broken shaft from the case, the only option being to drill out the remaining metal until it was thin enough to fold out of the case threads. Once that was done, new pushers were ordered and the rest of the work could continue.
Having serviced several similar watches now, I fully expected the movement inside to be a Landeron calibre, but was pleasantly surprised to see a Valjoux cal. 92.
Although in a reasonably scruffy state, the movement needed no more than a good clean and a new mainspring to bring it back to life, so then it was on to the cosmetic issues.
One area that definitely needed to be addressed was the lume which had deteriorated throughout, especially on the dial where the lume was almost black. With the dial cleaned and all the old lume removed from the dial markings ready for re-luming, things were already looking promising as all the original dial print was still intact.
With the movement serviced and re-luming completed, the case was cleaned and buffed, a new crystal and gaskets fitted, and the bezel markings repainted. Here’s the watch all back in one piece and ready for new adventures.
** Many thanks to David Skill for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **