40th Anniversary of the first Automatic Chronograph
It was 40 years ago… the first automatic chronograph
40 Years ago, on 3 March 1969, the first automatic chronograph movement was introduced. This movement, nick-named Chronomatic, was developed by a joint venture of Heuer, Breitling, Buren and Dubois-Depraz. The Chronomatic was used by Heuer, Breitling and Buren under the name of caliber 11.
It actually started with the development of a HMS (hours, minutes, seconds) movement that got it’s power from a micro-rotor! Buren patented a micro-rotor winding system, that was called planetary rotor, in 1954. However it took them untill 1957 before it saw production and later, in 1962, the design was refined into caliber 1280.
The new caliber 1280 had a slightly larger swinging mass than the earlier caliber and the swinging mass now swung over the center of the movement. This caliber, also called Intramatic, won the Prix d’Honneur at the 1964 Swiss National Exposition in Lausanne. A year later the micro-rotor was further refined into three movements; calibers 1320, 1321 and 1322.
In order to create the first automatic chronograph Heuer, Breitling-Leonidas, Dubois-Depraz and Buren used the Intramatic. They needed a good power source and the Intramatic was exactly that. This movement offered the opportunity to use it upside down (rotor towards to dial) and put a chronograph module on top. The base movement with micro-rotor features the 8510 chronograph module by Dubois-Depraz, that was attached to the backside of the movement hiding the micro-rotor entirely. This ‘merger’ of a micro-rotor movement and a chronograph module became world’s first automatic chronograph, the Chronomatic.
The caliber 11 automatic chronograph was used by the brands who developed it in some of the most famous wristwatches ever created. Just think of the Heuer Monaco, Heuer Autavia and Breitling Chronomatic. TAG Heuer and Breitling both have released re-issues of these ground breaking automatic wristwatches chronographs. Last week i blogged about a few of the new releases of TAG Heuer, including a limited edition Monaco Original Re-edition, using a caliber 12. One of the remarkeble features of the calibers based on the Chronomatic, is the crown on the left side of the case and the pushers to operate the chronograph are positioned on the left side.
Not only the caliber 11 Chronomatic celebrates it’s 40th birthday, but also the release of the Heuer Monaco is 40 years ago. The old Heuer advertisement is for the automatic chronograph featured in the Heuer Autavia and Heuer Monaco. Here’s a photo of my own Heuer Autavia 11630 with decompression bezel. This Autavia features a further refined movement, called caliber 12.
You can read more about the Heuer Autavia at OnTheDash, a website dedicated to vintage Heuer Chronoraphs. At OnTheDash you can also download a full copy of the 2nd edition of the 1969 Swiss Watch and Juwelry Journal, reporting about the release of the first automatic chronograph. I can also recommend to read Project 99 – the race to develop the wolrd’s first automatic chronograph, a very intersting article by Jeffrey M. Stein.