Certina was founded well over a century ago in 1888 and knows a thing or two about mid-century watches. When it comes to vintage-inspired chronographs, the brand is well versed with pieces like the 1940s-inspired DS Chronograph Automatic. The latest chrono looks back at a 1960s model and brings the case and movement to 2022 standards. That’s not to say that the vintage model was lacking; it was state-of-the-art in its day with its 200-metre water-resistance rating and Valjoux movement. The latest Certina DS Chronograph Automatic 1968 improves on this with modern touches.
Certina became a subsidiary of Swatch Group almost 40 years ago, in 1983, when it was still the SMH Group. This has allowed the brand to leverage the resources of a large conglomerate, and the new model really demonstrates this benefit. Not many affordable Swiss chronographs have an anti-magnetic silicon balance spring, for example. With open access to movements and component suppliers, Swatch Group allows Certina to innovate and revive classic models at affordable prices. At less than CHF 2,000, the new chrono is a value proposition for sure. It’s a versatile watch that can go just about anywhere, combining the benefits of a mechanical timer with a dive-ready case and rotating bezel. And let’s not forget that Certina was independent for almost 100 years, so pulling from mid-century classics within its historic portfolio is certainly not a gimmick.
The stainless steel cushion case of the Certina DS Chronograph Automatic 1968 has the same design as the model that inspired it, the 1968 DS Argonaut (ref. 8401 002). It’s 43.5mm x 43.5mm, which is larger than the original model but well-sized for a contemporary diver. The unidirectional rotating bezel has a sapphire insert with a black ring underneath and a contrasting white print. The case itself comes in two finishes – regular stainless steel or a black PVD coating. There are sapphire crystals front and back, with the latter displaying an impressive Swiss automatic.
Water-resistance is rated at 200 metres, which is the same as its mid-century predecessor. That’s adequate for all but professional divers and shows how well equipped the original piece was. The screw-down crown is unguarded, and there are simple chronograph pushers at 2 and 4 o’clock, and all match the original’s aesthetic. Strap options include a black NATO with twin silver stripes (steel case) or black leather with white stitching and butterfly clasp (black case). The latter comes with quick release levers, while the NATO is made from recycled #tide ocean plastic.
There are two dial options, depending on the case finish. The PVD black case comes with a black dial and mostly white elements, including the hands, sub-dials and inserts in the silver indices. The regular steel case has the same dial layout, but the indices are a punchy orange, along with the brand’s logo at 12 o’clock and a curious “45” within the 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock (which is a subtle grey on the black PVD model). The hour and minute hands and all applied indices have white Super-LumiNova inserts. The small seconds sub-dial sits at 9 o’clock, and a detailed minute/seconds track spans the outermost perimeter. Like the original model, there’s no date.
Powering the watch is an ETA A05.H31 automatic, which is based on the ETA/Valjoux 7753. As mentioned earlier, this movement has a silicon balance spring for magnetic, temperature and shock resistance. It has 27 jewels and beats at 28,800vph (4Hz) with a 60-hour power reserve. Functions include central hours, minutes and chronograph seconds, 30-minute counter and small seconds. There’s also a date complication, but it’s not used in this case. Seen through the exhibition caseback, it’s relatively simple and undecorated but nice to look at nonetheless.
The new Certina DS Chronograph Automatic 1968 retails for CHF 1,930 with the steel case and NATO strap and CHF 1,970 with the black PVD case and leather strap. Not bad at all for a retro Swiss diver with a respectable water-resistance rating and silicon balance spring. It’s available from June 2022. For more information, please visit Certina’s website.