Whilst I was aware of Chronoswiss, I was not that au fait with the brand. They appeared to be a smallish relatively inexpensive brand, and from what I could see of most of their watches, they were a little quirky with an over-sized onion crown. As these traits did not particularly endear me to them, I had frankly “parked” the brand. This was until a month or so ago, when, trawling through James Kibble’s online shop, I came across a Chronoswiss Delphis from somewhere in the mid 2000s. I had always been interested in a retrograde feature on a watch, but up to then had only really seen this as a date function – say, as per Vacheron Constantin’s delectable Patrimony Retrograde Day/Date. As such I was intrigued by the Delphis, with it’s retrograde minute display, jumping hours window, and more modest crown.
After a little more research and a chat with James, I decided to buy. At around the £2,300 mark it appeared to be a reasonable deal – despite the fact that there were no box or papers. Also, James assured me that it was working fine and was in excellent condition. Since a few previous buys from him have been solid, the deal was done. Yes, OK, I do not usually buy without accompaniments, but in this case I reasoned that since Chronoswiss were still in business, I may be able to obtain at some point.
Whilst waiting I conducted some more research into the brand and their watches. Chronoswiss was set up by one Gerd Rudiger in Munich in 1983. Having worked for TAG Heure previously, he now wished to produce watches with interesting complications at an affordable price, whilst using mainly existing/older calibers modified to suit. Chronoswiss trademark features include a coin edge bezel and onion crown. For the next 25 years or so there was a consistent but fairly limited production of interesting pieces, ranging from chronographs to regulators and tourbillions. Mainly steel cases were used, but on occasions gold and platinum too. A variety of awards were also garnered over the years, reflecting good quality and design. In 2012, Rudiger decided to retire and sold the business to the Ebstein family, who then relocated operations to Lucern.
On looking at the current catalogue, it is clear that that the Ebsteins are keen to move things ahead, but have kept the ethos going. There are various models covering a variety of watch types and price points, with some pieces being of pretty high quality and thus reflected in their cost. On all though the Chronoswiss trademark features still prevail. I am personally not overly keen on that oversized crown that appears on some models – it is a bit overpowering visually and may also not be too comfortable on the wrist. Also, some pieces are a bit too colourful and busy for me. That said, it is just good that since Rudiger departed the brand appears to be in good hands.
Anyway, returning to the present, I have now had the watch for a couple of weeks or so. I have to confess to being very impressed and have been wearing extensively. The watch seems well made and nicely finished. The case is quite round and boxy, with dimensions of 38 mm x 11 mm, but the modest lugs and the coin edge bezel – with it’s almost twin version below, serve to slim the watch. Also, as already mentioned, although there is an onion type crown, here it is is of a moderate proportions.
It is though the dial that really fascinates. This version is in black and has lovely guilloche decoration. Other versions are mainly in silver, but I have also seen a copper-type colour too, So, to the complications; from 9 – 3 there is an outer minute track which is marked in white 0 – 60. A glossy white double leaf shaped hand slowly moves from left to right in this sector. At 12 there is a square window where the analogue hours are shown. Earlier versions had a 24 hr display but this was later changed to 12 hrs – as per this watch. Interestingly, there is no 12 – instead the Chronoswiss logo. One assumes that this was mainly to kept the single digits large, but also a neat little bit of brand personality! At 6 there is a running seconds dial with a similar white hand. Radiating out from this dial is a guilloche sun-burst pattern – with the rays made up of small wavelets almost. There is more, as within this dial is a basket weave pattern. In addition, there appears to be what looks like “stitching” around all the dials, window and text – all a nice touch! Under a loupe all this looks thoughtfully designed and very well executed. Lastly, the names Chronoswiss and Delphis pass horizontally mid-way across the dial, and below the seconds dial is a production number, although most are not noted as limited editions. All is protected by a non-reflective sapphire crystal. So, no date or lume – but sometimes you cannot have everything!
Of course the fun really starts when the minute hand nears the 60 minute marker. When it hits this, one then looks at the seconds dial more intently. Get ready, ready, steady, and in a blink it is all over – as you will see from the videolet below – which in fact has been slowed slightly! The minute hand flashes back to the start and at the same instant, the hour indictor also changes as quickly. It is truly a great performance, and it is only after delving into the records do I discover that when launched in 1996, it was the first watch to have retrograde minutes and jumping hour complications together.
I have discovered two interesting articles on the Delphis on the Masterhorologer and Timezone websites. This was all most interesting, and in particular the latter which goes into some detail on the actual mechanics of the movement, complete with photos. I make no apology for not being overly mechanically minded here, so I shall be very brief! The movement was originally an Enicar 165 automatic (their first) from around 1967. I believe Rudiger obtained a quantity of new/old stock and proceeded to modify as required. In this case the unit was then called calibre C124 and upped to 32 jewels, with Incabloc shock-proofing, Nivarox spring and Glucydur balance. It runs at 3 hz and has 35 hours of power. The real modifications are though the addition of parts to provide the retrograde minutes and jumping hour. These include; jumping hour retrograde plate, jumping hour lever and hour wheel pawl, retrograde spring lever, minute hand pinion and snail cam. I will end there, but as noted a little earlier, the Timezone article actually describes how it all works in detail if you are that minded!
Turning to the reverse, there is a screw back with large window. The movement is dominated but a large skeletal gold coloured rotor with Cote de Geneve stripes and logo. The various plates are decorated with perlage.
Finally, the whole affair is secured with a black pin buckle strap – the latter with a raised Chronoswiss emblem. My watch has a nice Hirsch black calf strap, but the original I think was in patent Alligator. Interestingly, another Chronoswiss trait is that the strap bars are screw versions – maybe not very convenient for switching straps, but I guess more secure!
In conclusion, for the price I think this piece is a bargain. It is well made, and with all-but once unique complications in one watch. I think it is attractive, with great dial engraving and good all-round proportions, plus a comfy wear. In fact I am so taken with it that I am going to seek out another black dial model, but this time in yellow or rose gold which I think looks wonderful. I note from the Chronoswiss website that they also sell some used older watches that have been fully serviced etc, so maybe one will come up. Importantly, there are evidently happy to still maintain their older models. I have in fact already been in touch regarding my watch, and they confirm that it is from 2008.
Words/Images: The Writer