One of my more pleasant past-times is to mooch around antique shops/centres, and, calling into one near me the other day, I noticed a few watches in a glass cabinet. Of particular interest was an Avia chronograph of probably mid-sixties vintage. I was particularly drawn to the very appealing dial, seemingly reasonable condition, and size. Intrigued, I asked to have a closer look. Although it seemed to running OK, the stopwatch function was a little off in that when it resets, the sweep hand went beyond 12. Not always but usually. Other than that it seemed in decent condition, so I decided to have a crack at buying. I duly spoke to the staff member on duty and explained the issue, and as such I could only offer £250. She called the owner, but the offer was declined. However, as he was the overall boss too, he would come in the next day to take a look. So, we met up and got on OK. In the end a deal was struck at £185.
I have now had the watch for a week or so, and have given it a good clean/polish and it looks great! The main time function is actually very good, and on popping (well, unscrewing) the back, it all looks very pristine. However, that stopwatch function remains a dubious so I will have to send it off to be inspected.
So what is the watch? Well, I cannot identify any model name as such, but the reference is 15017 (seemingly the same for S/S and gold plate models) and it would be from the 60’s. Unfortunately, as Avia are really no more (being sold to Fossil some years ago and with no discernable current production), potential information from the once large and important Swiss brand has gone too.
Anyway, the case is some 36 mm x 11 mm so is a decent size for an old chronograph. It is gold plated – as are the pump-type (mushroom) pushers, and for the year (there are some tiny scratches here and there) I can see no wear. The crown is in steel and sports the A insignia. The case back is in stainless steel and of a screw type. The domed glass is in plexi-type plastic.
The main hands are obelisk in shape and gold plated, with some tritium infill towards the ends. The rectangular applied batons are gold too. A nice touch is that where the two registers impinge, the four affected batons are shortened and angled. The dial is pretty good (aside from a little deterioration at the extreme edges in a few places) and has a mainly sunburst brushed silvered finish. There are two registers (seconds to the left and 30 minutes to the right) having concentric engraving. Their hands are blued steel as is the sweep seconds needle. The periphery of the dial is marked with numbers and although (unusually) there is no actual reference to usage, they are tachymeter in nature.
On opening the back, there is a quite lovely Landeron 149 manual wind cam lever movement, and, in appearance at least, is in nice condition. This calibre has 17 jewels, a mono-metallic balance, and Incabloc shock absorption. It beats at 18,000 vph. Power should be good for some 44 hours. Landeron was a major maker of chronograph movements from the late 30’s until the early 70’s when the name disappeared after being absorbed by ETA. This movement was used by a fair number of brands including; Rotary, Favre-Leuba, Gallet, Vulcain and more. According to my research, this movement was quite respected and prolific despite being a poorer cousin of the more expensive column wheel type.
Lastly, the watch has an after-market leather strap in a conker-like brown. It suits the watch, but then a gold plated bracelet or a crocodile type strap in black or brown would also look equally at home. Although only 36 mm, the watch wears larger and is very comfortable.
In conclusion, I really like this watch! I had in fact been after a nice gold 60’s chronograph for some time and in recent months had the possibility of buying either Zenith or Universal Geneve chronographs (albeit with three registers). As these were both solid gold their prices were north of £3k, I dithered, and in the end could not make my mind over which one, so did nothing! I know the Avia is only gold plated and needs a little adjustment (hopefully), but in terms of appearance, functionality and value it actually makes much more sense. Did I make a prudent investment? Well, when working 100% – and hoping any work will be inexpensive, I reckon around £800, so definitely yes! As the piece has, I think, edged into my “keeper” section, money aspects are a little academic. Oh, and finally, I changed the strap for a dark brown calf croc effect one which I think suits better.
Words/Images: The Writer