Last month saw the simultaneous release by two competing German brands of a new chronograph calibre with central minute hand. This particular display replicates a function of the legendary and sadly discontinued Lemania 5100: namingly, a central minute counter allowing a more natural reading of measured time than the ubiquitous 30 minutes subdial commonly found on chronographs.
I guess the demise of the Lemania 5100 can be attributed to a somehow related string of facts: Lemania’s lack of focus on low-cost movements prior to the Quartz Crisis made them ill-prepared to facing competition and to undergoing restructuration. No matter how good their movements from the 1970’s might have been, those did not match with the Valjoux 7750 in terms of modularity, scalability and profitability, which spelled their doom. My essay titled Modifying the 7750 to substitute the 5100 out tries to explain in details the reasons that led to the demise of the Lemania 5100:
Designed by legendary Swiss movement manufacturer Lemania in 1978, the calibre 5100 enjoyed a great reputation amongst military watch manufacturers. However, the course of events in of the following two decade following its birth would lead the Swatch Group to decide to phase out this remarkable calibre on its 23rd birthday. Ten years later, two competing German watchmakers (who seem smart enough to share intellectual property) are about to release a worthy successor of the 5100, which is ironically based on the very calibre that spelled its doom: the Valjoux 7750.
Brief introduction of the players
Founded by German pilot and flight instructor Helmut Sinn in 1961, Frankfurt-based company Sinn Spezialuhren GmbH gained respect amongst military and civil aviation professionals thanks to its functional designs, direct marketing prices and outstanding quality.
In 1994 Mr. Sinn sold the company to Engineer (of applied sciences) Lothar Schmidt, who had previously been responsible for manufacturing titanium watch for Porsche-Design in the 1970s and rebuilding the brand A. Lange & Söhne.
It was also at that time that Sinn’s management agreed to manufacturing watches for two your French entrepreneurs: M.M. Carlos A. Rosillo and Bruno Belamich. Their fresh brand Bell & Ross had an exclusivity on the French market, therefore forbidding Sinn from arvertizind and selling its products in that specific territory.
After selling his first watch company, Herr Sinn eventually set up a new watch manufacture, Guinand, which enjoys a solid reputation in Japan for their military designs and mechanical complications.
An aviation parts manufacturer turned watch manufacturer in 1994, Damasko Uhrenmanufactur founders Petra and Konrad Damasko rapidly made a name for themselves in the watchmaking realm with their high-tech military mechanical watches mostly distributed through direct manufacturing. Besides their functional design, Damasko has taken the habit of redesigning parts or components of their watches to improve durability. Instead of resting on their laurels and using mass-produced technology, they invest time and resources in finding ways of improving existing components.
Both Damasko and Sinn have been making mention of a similar calibre, and the rumor is it has been in the works for the last 5 year. I’m not sure about the nature of their competitiveness, but its seems that the two brands are clever enough to share intellectual property like the Diapal escapement, which was patented by Damasko.
Ironically, the easiest way to obtain a central minutes counter like on the Lemanias 1340 and 5100 consists of modifying the very caliber that spelled their doom: the Valjoux 7750. The main 3 reasons being that:
- All patents covering the Valjoux 7750 have fallen into public domain after 1995
- There are nowadays more than half-a-dozen ebauche makers capable of producing clones of the 7750
- The Valjoux 7750 has proven to have an architecture that is well-suited to modifications
I would thus expect either watches from the two respective manufacturers to come close in terms of specifications. The main differences are in dimensions: for their EZN 10, Sinn chose to fit the calibre in a 46.5 mm titanium case. Damasko opted for a more reasonable diameter of 42.0 mm for their DC 86.
Both watches are announced for early 2012, so I will try to supply the reader with detailed informations on the calibre as they become available.