When there’s one watch brand that has a connection with photography, then it’s Valbray. Their Oculus diaphragm system, that can open the dial to reveal indications other than hours/minutes, could be copied from cameras of yesteryear. Together with one of the most iconic camera brands, Leica, they now present the Valbray EL1 Chronograph, which is a limited edition for the 100th anniversary of Leica.
EL1 stands for Ernst Leitz, who turned a small optical workshop in Wetzlar, Germany, into an optics company of world renown. In 1913 the first prototypes were build at Ernst Leitz Optische Werke in Wetzlar, Germany. It was a compact camera intended to be used for landscape photography. More importantly, it was the first practical 35 mm camera that used standard cinema 35 mm film. The “Ur-Leica”, the original Leica, was introduced hundred years ago, in 1914.
“The collaboration between Leica and Valbray brings together two premium brands that share an identical passion for ultimate mechanical perfection and individually handcrafted products,” says Alfred Schopf, chairman of the executive board at Leica Camera AG, on whose initiative this collaboration is based. Alfred Schopf, a ‘watch guy’ himself, established the contact to Côme de Valbray, the founder of Valbray, who, on his turn, is an enthusiastic photographer, who has used Leica cameras for many years. So, that looks like a match made in heaven.
Like all Valbray timepieces, the EL1 features the unique Oculus diaphragm system, which acts as a cover for the dial and can be opened and closed by turning the bezel. The mechanism is constructed from 16 single blades, integrated on a rotatable bezel of 46 mm. When the diaphragm is fully opened, the blades are hidden in the rotating bezel, and reveal the chronograph registers and its typical dial.
All sub-dials on the EL1 Chrono remind us of the buttons and knobs on vintage Leica cameras. Even the indication of the date (at 3 o’clock) recalls the small aperture on a Leica camera that indicates how many photos have been made. The metallic 4.5, positioned between 4 and 5 o’clock, evokes the aperture of the first Leica.
The Valbray EL1 Chrono watch is limited to 100 pieces in total, of which 50 pieces in sand-blasted titanium and 50 pieces in black DLC coating. Each model will be supplied with two different straps and a special tool that can be used to change the strap. The Leica logo is engraved on the crown and ‘100 Years of Leica Photography’ is engraved on the back. The automatic Swiss chronograph movement, with an open worked rotor, can be seen through a sapphire glass, darkened in a nod to the old-fashioned darkroom (NOTE for readers of 25 years of age and younger: that’s where photos were developed. Check WikiPedia here).
The EL1 Chronograph will be available from Leica Stores and selected Valbray boutiques at a price of € 17,999 EURO. Now I do know that for this kind of money you could buy another high-end chronograph, like a Rolex Daytona, and still have some change left. However if you’re not looking to show that you can own an expensive watch, but just want a very nice timepiece that you like a lot, than this could well be your choice. On the wrist you can choose to wear it in “discrete-mode” with close diaphragm, or “expose” with all chronograph registers and the very nice honeycomb dial visible for everyone to see.
- Case: 46 mm in diameter, Titanium grade 5 (sandblasted or black DLC coated), 16-blade diaphragm integrated on a rotating bezel, sapphire crystal on both sides, water resistant to 50 meters
- Movement: self-winding chronograph movement, 44 hours of power reserve, 25 jewels, 28,800 vph (4Hz)
- Limited edition of 100 numbered pieces (50 in sandblasted titanium and 50 in black DLC coating)
More info: www.valbray.ch