About a week ago, we introduced you to a rather cool watch, the Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster, which marked the return of a highly original and important model in dive watch history. What’s even more noticeable is the fact that the name Nivada Grenchen, a niche but cult brand specialized in instrumental pieces, is coming back. Finally, the best news is that the most iconic watch ever produced by the brand, the Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver, has been faithfully re-edited. Let’s have a closer look at this vintage-inspired watch, modelled after what was once named the Super Chronograph.
Nivada was founded in Grenchen (Granges), Switzerland in 1926 by Otto Wüllimann, Hermann Schindler and Jack Schneider. The company remained under the control of the Schneider family until its 50th anniversary in 1976. From the earliest days, the company focused on instrument watches that went beyond the simple indication of the time – among the first to offer water-resistance, automatic movements, or to feature a chronograph with additional functions. Nivada was, as many other brands back in the days, sourcing parts from external suppliers, including movements by Venus, Valjoux or Landeron.
Often associated with the name Nivada Grenchen is the brand Croton, explaining why some of the watches can be found with either one of these brand names or, in some cases, both logos printed on the dial. Founded in 1878 in the US, Croton assembled watches with Swiss and American components. Both companies cooperated as soon as the 1930s, importing watches and parts from Nivada models and renamed Croton for the American market.
However, the watchmaking industry had to face the quartz crisis in the 1970s and Nivada failed to adapt to the demand for electronic and battery-powered watches. However, two watch entrepreneurs decided to bring the name back. The story started in Paris in 2018 during a discussion between Guillaume Laidet, a French entrepreneur in the watch industry (former Jaeger-LeCoultre, Zenith, and founder of William L.1985), and Remi Chabrat, owner of the Montrichard Group (a private label watchmaker). The latter was in business with the Mexican group (Grupo Industrial Omega SA de CV) owner of the name Nivada, and in 2019 they obtained the license to use the Nivada Grenchen copyright. And the adventure started last year, with the successful relaunch of the Chronomaster, the Depthmaster and the Antarctic.
The Chronomaster, the Super Chronograph
If there’s a single watch to remember from Nivada’s glorious days it has to be the Chronomaster. Born in the early 1960s, at a time when the sports and instrument watches were developing at a rapid pace, it made a name for itself by being more than just a simple chronograph. It wasn’t only a pilot’s or a racing chronograph, nor was it a watch only for land. It was actually packed with functions and features. As described in the old brochures, it was the Super Chronograph.
The design of the Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster is perfectly in line with the style of the early 1960s, and is mostly driven by the functions displayed on its dial and bezel. The Chronomaster was presented in 1961 and was produced until the early 1970s. All models, whether marked Nivada, Croton, Nivada Grenchen or Croton Nivada Grenchen, are housed in a 38.5mm stainless steel case and, depending on the year of production, can be equipped with quality hand-wound chronograph movements – Venus 210, Valjoux 92, Valjoux 23, Landeron 248 or Valjoux 7733.
The case, whatever the generation, had a sharp design with straight lugs and equipped with a bidirectional (no click) bezel with double graduation (12h and 60min). While some exceptions are to be noted, most of the dials were all black, including the sub-counters, with luminous baton hour markers, a peripheral tachymeter scale, a bi-compax layout and luminous hands – whether broad arrow or batons.
So, why was the Chronomaster named the Super Chronograph? The best idea is to list its features: a stop-watch/chronograph; 200m water-resistance; a tachymeter scale; a rotating bezel for diving or to display a second time zone; and a sailing regatta countdown. As such, it was a watch that could be used for racing, as a pilot’s watch, as a diving chronograph, as a traveller’s watch or to time a regatta…
If you want to know everything about the vintage Nivada Chronomaster, the authors of Moonwatch Only published an in-depth book named “Chronomaster Only”. All photos of the vintage models are by www.watchfid.com.
The Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver Comes Back
Let’s make things clear: the new Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster is an extremely faithful re-edition of the original Chronomaster, and besides some necessary mechanical updates and the use of modern materials and manufacturing techniques, it shares most design elements, proportions included, with its vintage forefather. As such, collectors of this brand and vintage enthusiasts will be pleased. Secondly, faithful doesn’t mean inaccessible and the philosophy of this newly resurrected brand is to stick to the original strategy of offering robust and functional watches at relatively accessible prices.
Starting with the case, the men behind Nivada have been respectful of both the original shape and, for our biggest pleasure, the original proportions. As such, the case measures a very compact 38.5mm in diameter, something rare in the current market. With a height of 14.80mm in the automatic version presented here, it sits quite high on the wrist. However, a hand-wound version is also available, being 1mm thinner. The lug-to-lug dimension is also refreshingly compact, at around 46mm and the overall watch has an undeniable vintage feel on the wrist. However, don’t think it wears small, it still has a great presence.
Like the original 1960s version, the new Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster is made of stainless steel and its case modelled after mid-life editions of the vintage Chronomaster. As such, the case is mostly brushed with a polished bevel on the upper surface of the lugs. Also respectful of the original watch, the lugs are drilled, which not only adds to the instrumental look but will also facilitate your life when you want to change the strap. In a concession to modernity, the watch is protected by a double-domed sapphire crystal, replacing the acrylic crystal. Water-resistance is now rated at 100 meters. The overall execution of the case is pleasant and retains a certain “tool” aspect.
One of the distinctive elements of the Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster was the combination of elements and features, for instance, the presence of a rotating bezel. The re-edition retains this spirit and comes with a bidirectional, constantly rotating bezel (no clicks), with a coin-edge profile. Easy to grip and to rotate, the bezel features a black anodized aluminium insert that retains its classic double-scale: a 60-minute one for diving; a smaller 12-hour one to display a second time zone.
The old Chronomaster was available in multiple configurations – black dial, black dial with grey sub-counters, white “panda” dial, with broad arrow or batons hands. This variety is still offered by the brand in the re-edition, which even offers you the choice of white or cream Super-LumiNova. For our review, we chose what we believe is the most classic design associated with the Chronomaster; a full black dial with broad arrow hands and, adding to the vintage feel, cream-coloured luminous material. And just like the case, the dial of this new Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver is all about faithfulness.
All the distinctive elements have been reproduced, including the peripheral tachymeter scale, the baton markers, the wide broad arrow hands and the red sector on the 30-minute counter (that can be used as a regatta countdown). Another positive aspect of the reduced diameter is the position of the sub-dials, which are placed almost on the edge of the dial mimicking the style of the vintage watch. Altogether, the brand has produced a dial with great charm.
While the old versions were powered by Valjoux, Landeron or Venus movements, Nivada Grenchen has chosen to equip its new Chronomaster with what could be seen as their modern equivalent. We’re talking about the robust, tried-and-tested and outsourced Sellita SW 510 – a clone of the 7750 – which is available either in automatic or hand-wound version. Running at 4Hz and boasting 48h of power reserve, it is a great match for this instrument watch and keeps the price in check.
The Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver can be ordered either on a leather strap, a rubber (tropic-like) strap, a bead-of-rice steel bracelet or, as presented here, on an ultra-vintage looking Oyster bracelet with straight end-links. Furthermore, just like the 1960s bracelets, it is thin, light, it has rivets on the side, and it is extensible, providing great comfort. Sure, it won’t give you the same feeling of luxury as the bracelet of a modern Rolex or Omega, but again, it adds to the charm and authenticity of this re-edition.
Availability & Price
The Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver is available in multiple versions, which you can see here. Prices start at CHF 1,570 with a hand-wound movement and CHF 1,755 with an automatic movement. Future owners will also receive a copy of the “Chronomaster Only” book. Online orders can be placed here, at nivadagrenchenofficial.com.