There are a few adjectives one can use when describing watch lugs, from; flowing, angular, modest, industrial, long, short and so on. In my experience – certainly with my watches, I have not really been able to say “beautiful” – until now!

Let me set the scene: Some time ago I was invited to a themed evening event which necessitated dressing up in 2nd WW style – either military, black tie, or smart civilian. I decided on the latter as firstly I had no military kit (and frankly could not be bothered to hire same) plus secondly I knew there would be a raft of evening dressers. I could however, bizarrely, muster what I required from my usual wardrobe! In terms of a timepiece, although I had a Helvetia from that period, as it had been issued to the Wehrmacht I felt this was a little inappropriate as I was attempting to look British! I also needed something a little posher to complete my ensemble.

So, as usual, internet scanning commenced, and I quickly came across Watches of Lancashire based in Darwen. They specialise in older watches and had a fair number of really vintage items. I determined my requirements, including my budget, and all this this led me to two watches from the ’40s – one an Eterna and the other a Longines. In some respects they were quite similar, being; the same price (¬£1,500), made of gold, having running seconds, decent sized, and with interesting cases. As I used to live not that far from Darwen, and still go over that way most months, I felt a smidge of an affinity so gave them a call. After a brief chat I arranged a time to call in.

A month or so ago the day came. I was greeted by Ian and Dan – the former being a qualified watchmaker of some repute, and as such the business also repairs and services watches. In fact every watch sold is fully serviced. Anyway, I looked at both watches, but frankly could not make up my mind, so we did a deal for both! The presentation is first rate, with a quality zipped travel type pouch provided, along with a credit card type document – in addition to a receipt of course. Oh, and an impressive 2 year warranty – unusual, but reassuring!

Just a simple and pretty dress watch.

Before moving on, it is perhaps worthwhile just providing a little history on Eterna. The business roots started in Grenchen, Switzerland in 1856, when a Dr Joseph Girard joined forces with Urs Schild to set up an ebauche factory. The name was simply Dr Girard and Schild and was seemingly¬† quite successful. After a while, Schild’s son Max got involved and went to the USA to drum up business and bring back any useful manufacturing inventions. Regarding the latter, this included machines to automate production. However, this apparently did not go down that well – possibly with the workers, so in frustration he more or less left the business, handing over to his brother Theodore in 1888. By 1900, Girard appears to have bowed out and the business was now called Schild Freres. By the early 1900s they were making ladies wrist watches, adapted from small pocket watches. In 1905 the company changed name to Eterna. By 1914, the first ever alarm watch went into production and was very popular. By 1932 Eterna had set up a subsidiary company, ETA (now owned by Swatch. Ed), which made movements for itself and other brands. At about this time Theodore retired and the business was taken over by his nephew Rudolph. In 1938 their first automatic movement was produced, then later in 1948, a revolutionary design – the Eterna-Matic was born, having a rotor that operated with special bearings, as opposed to having a bushing or jewel. At about this time a fair amount of good publicity was obtained from the famous Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl, who, along with his crew, wore Eterna watches during their epic 1947 voyage from Peru to Polynesia aboard the reed boat Kon-Tiki. This in fact spawned a model range of the same name that was very popular and could be viewed as an early tool-type watch. Alas, like so many, company fortunes waned in the 70s/80s during the Quartz Crisis, and after 1982 the company changed hands several times. Eventually in 2012 it ended up in the ownership of Citychamp Watches & Jewellery Group Ltd (of Hong Kong) and that remains the position. Eterna still lives and makes a limited range of decent and affordable watches – including a re-issue of the Kon-Tiki.

Coming back to the present, what did I buy? Well, an 18ct gold-cased Eterna manual winding dress watch – probably from the war years. It is, for the day, over-sized at some 36 mm x 8 mm. In terms of model, in common with many pieces back then there is no name, but there is a reference number on the case. At the moment I am not certain if that is a model reference or a serial number – but I think the former.

From the side the lugs appear lozenge-shaped, with one step.

The striking thing about the case however is the simplicity. The bezel seems to be part of the case – either in two parts or machined to look like it. A pretty standard type unmarked crown is present – possibly not original – but not incongruous. The lugs, well, they are generically known as “fancy” in shape, and more specifically “teardrop” or “lozenge”. They are, as first alluded to, quite beautiful – both in design, delicacy, angling and position. One has a tiny hallmark outboard even. Usefully they are of a spring bar type too.

Very similar looking Patek 1509 – but not the price! (Image credit: Expert Watches)

I have to say at this point Рand quite by co-incidence, whilst researching Eterna and this model I came across an image of this lovely 18ct Patek Philippe from 1942 Рthe date confirmed by the firm incidentally via an archive extract. This is a Calatrava Рref 1509, and as can be seen has very similar lugs. In fact the whole watch is really similar to the Eterna and so it is clear that this general style was in vogue at the time. One big difference though is the price, with the Patek being offered at around £15,000!

From the top, the small “pip” like lugs come straight out. Clean and elegant dial

Coming to the dial, the disc itself is of a simple plain silver/champagne finish and is perfect – but for one tiny speck which you barely notice in the flesh. Outboard is a minute rail track in black. Inside this – at the four main compass points, are applied Roman numerals in gold, with spear-head shaped batons in-between. Under 12 o’clock, in capitals, is the brand name. At 6 o’clock is a recessed running seconds dial with a simple gold hand. The main hands are also in gold, being of a slim feuille (leaf) shape. As one would expect with a dress style watch from this period, there is no lume.

Turning over, there is a simple solid gold case back, with just the model reference stamped on it. Inside the case-back are the various usual hallmarks to be found in a wholly Swiss-made watch.

Clean and well-running manual 520H caliber

Regarding the movement, the caliber is in-house of course and is reference 520H. The dimensions are modest at 26.5mm x 4mm. There are 15 jewels, a vph of 18,000. and a power reserve of 42 hrs. Eterna’s own shock absorber system is also present. This caliber was used in the 40s and 50s. Not much more to say, but it is nice and clean and runs very accurately. The serial numbers on the movement and case differ, but that may just be the way Eterna did things back in the day.

Lastly, the watch came with a new good quality crocodile (or effect) leather strap with pin buckle. The chestnut colour of the former, and the latter’s gold colour, all match/suit the watch very well. Needless to say the watch is a very comfortable wear – a given really bearing in mind the size and slimness.

At 36mm the watch wears a little larger, but is very comfortable and still quite practical today.

My conclusion is that this is a really usable (for it’s age), classy, simple looking and discrete watch. All aspects are of pretty high quality I feel – from the gold case and those lugs, to the dial and then movement. Compared to the earlier mentioned Patek, the Eterna seems remarkably good value, or the Patek far too dear!

Oh, and finally, I did go to my military-themed do with my recent purchase. This passed off fine – aside from the fact that one of my jacket buttons burst off out outset, hence my somewhat pensive and protective stance!

The 2nd WW spiv. “I’ve only got one watch, honest officer” comes to mind!

 

 

Words & Images: The Writer (unless noted otherwise)