Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Posts Tagged ‘Landeron’

Jaquet-Droz Chronograph (Landeron Cal. 149)…

Another rather tired looking vintage chronograph on the blog, this time from Jaquet-Droz.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Regular readers may have a sense of déjà-vu here as the case on this watch is one that was supplied to a number of manufacturers over the years and I’ve written about two such examples before on the blog, a Rotary and a Le Cheminant Master Mariner. Here are a few more examples of watches which share the same case; values vary and some are easier to find than others.

This is however the first time I’ve seen such a chronograph from Jaquet-Droz. The history of Jaquet-Droz is very interesting but rather than repeat myself, I’ll direct any interested parties to this blog post about another J-D chronograph in which I covered their background.

The watch in this post is still in the possession of the original owner who had it bought for him as a 21st birthday gift in 1968. At that time the brand was enjoying the early years of its first rise from the ashes before the quartz revolution came along and wiped them out, along with many others. Watches from this period are easy to recognise as they all have the ‘arrow’ logo on the dial.

Inside the watch is a Landeron cal. 149, a cam-lever chronograph and one of the few Landeron calibres with a traditional operation ie. the top pusher starts and stops the chronograph and the lower pusher performs the reset. The more commonly used 48, 51, 148 and 248 calibres were designed such that the top pusher starts that chronograph and the lower pusher is used for both the stop and reset functions.

Although the movement was in decent condition, you may have noticed in the first picture that the hand for the chronograph minute register had fallen off and was rattling around at the bottom of the dial.

Once the movement had been disassembled the cause was immediately obvious, the lower pivot for the chronograph minute runner had been broken off. Though the hand may have stayed in place initially, with no clearance above the dial it wouldn’t have taken long to work its way off the shaft in daily wear.

Being the 45 minute rather than the 30 minute version of the chronograph I expected to have some difficulty in finding a new part, but that wasn’t the case (which made a pleasant change .. and even more pleasant, the owner found it for me!), so a replacement was ordered from overseas while I serviced the rest of the movement.

From a cosmetic perspective, despite having had many years of use, the case was still in decent condition but the bezel had lost some most of its markings and the crystal was cracked. The bezel pip was missing too and so was the filling in the minute sub-dial hand, both of which would need to be re-lumed to match the rest of the (original) lume.

Once the replacement minute runner arrived, the movement could finally be rebuilt and regulated/tested. In the meantime, the bezel pip and hand had been re-lumed, the case cleaned and given a light buff to restore the shine, a new crystal fitted and the bezel markings re-painted.

I’ve restored quite a few of these watches now and I’m always impressed with how well they clean up, this one being no exception. With a case diameter of 38mm (40mm including the crown) they may be considered quite small by today’s standards, but with prices still being relatively modest on most models, they are a good entry into the world of vintage chronographs.


** Many thanks to John Dawes for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Rotary Chronograph (Landeron Cal. 149)…

Arriving with its hands damaged and scattered all over the dial, things weren’t looking so rosy for this Rotary chronograph.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Rotary was started by Moise Dreyfuss in the Swiss town of La Chaux de Fonds in 1895, and is still owned by the Dreyfuss family today, making it the oldest family owned and run Swiss watchmakers. The “winged wheel” logo was first introduced in 1925, and since then Rotary have always been a recognisable name in high street retailers. Though they never produced calibres in-house, they built watches around good quality calibres from makers such as Valjoux, Landeron, ETA and A. Schild.

The watch in this post is from the late 1960’s or early 1970’s, and the same model can often be seen with the word “Aquaplunge” on the dial. It arrived in a non-running condition and in poor cosmetic shape, the lume in particular had seen better days.

Opening the caseback uncovered a Landeron Cal. 149 in pretty poor shape, with rust visible on some of the parts.

As the disassembly progressed, it was obvious that the watch had been sitting around with water inside for quite a while as rust had almost eaten right through the shaft of the fourth wheel and the chronograph hearts in particular were in poor condition.

A Jacot tool was used to remove rust from the wheel shafts and pivots, and the chronograph hearts were cleaned, re-shaped with a needle file, and then polished to ensure that they would return the hands properly to zero on reset. The only part that couldn’t be saved, not surprisingly(!), was the fourth wheel, so a replacement had to be sourced.

With the movement cleaned and serviced, it was on to the cosmetic work. The hands and dial were cleaned and re-lumed/re-painted, the case was cleaned, new pushers and a new crystal were fitted, and finally the markings on the bezel were all stripped and re-painted to bring the watch back to its former glory.


** Many thanks to Menno van Rij for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Accurist Chronograph (Landeron Cal. 51)…

With its electric blue bezel, this 1960’s Accurist chronograph had the potential to be a real eye-catcher.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Started in London in 1946 by Asher and Rebecca Loftus, Accurist have always been proud of their British heritage. Creating the “Old England” series of watches in the 1960’s, they spearheaded the idea that a watch should be regarded as a fashion accessory rather than a ‘once in a lifetime’ purchase. The Old England series with colourful and striking designs found favour with a variety of celebrities at the time including Twiggy, and The Beatles.

When the fashionable quartz and LCD watches arrived on the scene in the 1970’s, Accurist were sure to include them in their range and made a series of popular TV commercials starring John Cleese with his “Accu-wrist / Accur-ankle” tag-line. Here is one such example.

As well as commercial success, other achievements have included supplying watches for Concorde pilots and an ultra-accurate Millennium countdown clock for the Greenwich Royal Observatory. A full history of the brand can be found here.

Accurist are still in business today and have a constantly evolving collection, though mechanical watches are no longer included (unfortunately!). If you would like to see their current line-up, you can do so here.

Ok, enough of the history, back to the watch…. The movement in this watch is a Landeron cal. 51, cam lever chronograph. Like many of Landeron’s chronographs, this calibre operates differently to a ‘regular’ chronograph. In most chronograph calibres the top button starts and stops the mechanism, and the lower button performs the reset. With a Landeron chronograph, the top button starts the mechanism, and the lower button is used to stop and then reset.

The cal. 51 is one of a long line of chronograph calibres derived from the cal. 48, the basis for all Landeron’s cam lever chronograph calibres. Rather than repeat a whole section on the history of Landeron and their calibres, I’ll direct any interested parties to this blog post about a Portex Chronograph that I wrote a couple of years ago

As you can see from the picture above, the movement was in a pretty scruffy state and obviously hadn’t been serviced for quite some time. It was running and the chronograph was functioning correctly, but time hadn’t been too kind to the lume on the dial markers and hands, so they would also need some attention to restore this watch back to its former glory.

All went according to plan, the service was straight forward and in addition to tidying up the dial markers and main hands, the sub-dial hands were painted white and the centre sweep second hand given an orange tip to match the orange highlights in the dial.

Finally, the case was cleaned, the pushers cleaned and re-lubricated, and a new crystal fitted to finish the job. It’s a shame that Accurist aren’t making watches like this any more.


** Many thanks to Menno van Rij for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Jaquet-Droz Chronograph (Landeron Cal. 189)…

Another vintage chronograph that I fished out of “the bay”, this time from Jaquet-Droz.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The history of Jaquet-Droz is colourful to say the least. Pierre Jaquet-Droz opened his first studio in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1738 where he specialised in automata, or ‘self operating machines’. He started by adding singing birds to clocks and pocket watches and as his talent grew, he moved on to larger, more technical pieces, i.e. richly decorated bird cages with multiple automated song birds.

A trip to Spain in 1758 proved very lucrative for Pierre. The King of Spain was so enchanted with his automata that he bought his entire collection, enabling him to open a second studio in London and devote all his time to his craft. Consequently, his reputation spread rapidly and his creations found their way into many European courts.

His three most elaborate creations are referred to as the ‘Jaquet-Droz Automata‘ and can be seen at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire of Neuchâtel, in Switzerland – “The Draughtsman” draws four different images, “The Musician” is a female organ player who physically plays the tunes rather than miming to a music box, and the most complex of the three is “The Writer”, who can be ‘programmed’ to transcribe any 40 character message. Here is a short video of the three of them in action.

Pierre died in 1790, shortly after opening a watchmaking factory in Geneve with his son Henry-Louis. Tragically, his son also died the following year while traveling and this had a devastating effect on the company, which ceased trading sometime in the early 1800’s.

The Jaquet-Droz name was resurrected in the 1960’s by a consortium who produced a range of chronographs and diving watches. Unfortunately, the company was hit by the quartz crisis and closed before it really got started. (Watches from this period, like the one in this post, can be recognised by the arrow logo.)

Like a phoenix from the ashes, Jaquet-Droz rose yet again in 2001 when the name was bought by the Swatch group. Since then the company have produced a range of dress watches and chronographs with in-house calibres. You can see their current range here.

Ok, back to the watch. By the 1970’s, whistling birds and other such tom-foolery were no longer incorporated, but removing the caseback did reveal an unexpected surprise, a rhodium plated Landeron cal. 189.

The cal. 189 is one of the rarer Landeron calibres, and was used in very few production watches, the best known probably being the Heuer Carrera Dato 45.

The cal. 189 differs from other Landeron calibres in that it has a date display, and operates like a regular chronograph; the top button is used for start/stop and the lower button resets. On most Landeron chronographs the top button starts the mechanism and the bottom button is used for stop and reset.

Overall, the watch was in relatively good condition but hadn’t been serviced for years, so after a routine service it was back up and running again.

Cosmetically it was still in good condition, but you may have spotted in the first picture that the sweep second hand had been broken off at some time. After that was replaced, there was little left to do except clean the case and polish the crystal.


Portex Chronograph (Landeron Cal. 248)…

Not a brand I’m familiar with, but time has certainly been kind to this Portex chronograph which dates to the late sixties or early seventies…

(Click pictures to enlarge)

I looked for information on the Portex company, but aside from one mention of a ladies watch, and an LED manufacturer called “Pierre Portex”  (which may or may not be related), there was nothing else to uncover. The calibre inside however is not quite so enigmatic, a Landeron cal. 248.

Landeron is a well known name in the chronograph world, their calibres appearing in many different watch brands over the years. Bought by  Ebauches SA. (the company we know today as ETA) in 1921, Landeron went on to produce a variety of chronograph calibres, many featuring one of their most significant developments, the “cam-lever” mechanism, which they patented in 1940.

The cam-lever mechanism controls the start/stop and reset functions the chronograph, and its introduction provided a cheaper alternative to the column wheel mechanism which was more labour intensive and expensive to produce. (I explained the difference between the two systems in a previous post, here if you missed it). The development of the cam lever system was the breakthrough which led to more affordable chronographs appearing on the market.

The ’48 Series’ of calibres were some of the most popular that Landeron produced. The series started in 1937 with the cal. 48 and was revised twice to produce the cal. 148 and cal. 248 respectively. Production of the 48 series stopped in 1970 after making around 3.5 million units, and the Landeron name itself disappeared shortly afterwards.  While researching this post I came across this website which gives an intriguing hint that the Landeron name could be making a comeback… let’s hope so.

It’s also worth mentioning that the operation of Landeron’s cam-lever chronograph is also slightly different. In most chronograph calibres, regardless of type, the mechanism is started and stopped using the upper button, and reset using the lower button. With a Landeron chronograph, the top button starts the mechanism, and the lower button is used for both stop and reset.

The Portex arrived in non-running condition, and the sweep second hand for the chronograph wouldn’t reset. With the caseback removed, the problem was easy to see, one leg of the reset hammer had broken off and was jamming the escapement…

Luckily, a replacement hammer wasn’t too hard to find this time…

… so after a service for the movement and fitting and adjusting the new hammer, the watch was fully operational again. It’s a shame that all watches can’t age this well!


** Many thanks to Peter Rosier for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **