Vying for the title of oldest watch on the blog is this Jardur Bezelmeter chronograph from the 1940’s.
(Click pictures to enlarge)
The Jardur Watch Company dates back to 1937 when it was initially founded by Samuel Klepper as the Jardur Import Company. The company specialised in navigational equipment and watches mainly for military use. Their products were distributed exclusively through post exchanges and ships stores, meaning that almost all Jardur watches will have seen military action.
The Bezelmeter 960 was designed for use by pilots and had two unique features, the first being the rotating outer bezel which can be used as a countdown timer. By aligning the total expected flight time with the hour hand immediately after takeoff, the hour hand points to the number of hours remaining on the bezel as the flight progresses.
The second feature is the red degreemeter scale on the dial, which is graduated from 0 to 180 in steps of 15 degrees. Aircraft have control settings to produce a standard turn rate of 3 degrees per second, meaning that the chronograph function can be used to measure the amount of turn. For example, if the pilot wishes to turn his aircraft 75 degrees, the chronograph is started at the initial point of turning, and for each second that passes the aircraft will have turned 3 degrees. So after 25 seconds, when the sweep second hand is pointing at 75 on the degreemeter scale, the turn is complete.
The watch in this post arrived in a non-running state and in pretty poor cosmetic condition as you can see. Buying watches in this condition is always a gamble as there may be parts missing, or worse, rust. The owner was lucky this time as the Valjoux cal. 72 inside was complete and in relatively good condition, and was just needing a service to bring it back up to scratch.
Under the dial things weren’t so promising, the lume had degraded to the point where it had fallen out of the hands, and was in poor condition on the dial too. The picture below shows the dial during early cleaning with most of the old lume removed.
Thankfully the lume hadn’t burned into the dial, and the painted numbers underneath had aged in line with the rest of the dial. Being such a good match a decision was made to leave them as they were rather than re-lume them. The painted hands had aged to a perfect cream colour so they were left untouched too, with just a vintage lume filling applied. The rest of the dial was cleaned and the degreemeter scale and triangle in the minute register carefully repaired.
With the movement serviced and the case cleaned, the final task was to repaint the bezel markings and install a new crystal to finish the job.
If you like this watch then you’re in good company as Robert De Niro wore a Bezelmeter in the 1998 movie, Ronin. The story goes that he needed a watch when filming started in France, and a Bezelmeter was supplied for the movie by a Parisian watchmaker / dealer.
(Click for more movie pics)
Apparently, De Niro was so impressed with the watch during filming that he kept it as a souvenir – like many watch/movie stories this is largely unsubstantiated, but hey, I’ll believe it if you will. 😉
Studying the pictures it would appear to be the earliest Bezelmeter model, the 950, recognisable by the oval pushers and cathedral hands.
Finding a vintage Bezelmeter isn’t that easy these days, but if the style and history of the watch appeals to you then you may be interested to know that the Jardur name has recently been resurrected. A modern interpretation of the Bezelmeter (now called the Degreemeter) has been created, based on the Valjoux cal. 7750, and was produced in a limited run of just 66.
More details on the watch and its history can be found on the Jardur website – www.jardur.com.
** Many thanks to Wessel de Graaf for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **