We want to take the opportunity to highlight some of the great vintage watches. There are many lesser-known brands with very collectible vintage timepieces that have great price/value and are relatively unknown compared to the big brand names (Rolex, Heuer, etc.) that even those who don’t consider themselves watch enthusiasts probably know about. These lesser-known pieces include watches from brands that no longer exist, or have completely changed over the years.
One Company, Different Names
One such case is Nivada, a Swiss brand that was first founded in 1879, though they celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1976, dating them back to 1926 instead. In any case, Nivada began making quality watches and produced a series of successful models, especially after the Second World War. Similar to many other brands, Nivada often used reliable ETA movements and lesser-known Phenix movements.
During the 60s and 70s, the watches were sold under the name “Nivada-Grenchen” Apparently, their original name was too phonetically similar to Movado, which led to the name change. Croton, their distributor in the United States, sold the watches under the name “Croton”, “Croton Nivada”, and “Croton Nivada Grenchen”. Thus, you are likely to find the same watch with different names printed on the dial.
The Chronomaster: A Great Chronograph with Different Versions
For this article we’re going to take a closer look at the Nivada Chronomaster. This watch first saw daylight in the early 60s. It was made in many configurations over the years, though its most common design is the two counter chronograph without a date and with subdials at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions. There are also models made with different layouts including various color combinations and versions with date-display (Chronoking).
The Nivada Chronomaster has an appealing design with a stainless steel case measuring 38 mm in diameter – a great size to wear on your wrist if you ask me. The watch accommodates a fairly standard 20-mm strap between its (beveled) lugs, allowing for a vast choice of strap.
The first model launched had a matte black dial with a 5 minute countdown timer on the 3 o’clock subdial. This yachting scale (as they advertised it) is meant to be used at the start of a sailing race where teams are alerted 5 minutes before the race begins. This way, they can get prepared and try to cross the starting line in the best sailing conditions when the race actually starts 5 minutes later. Later models came in various dial configurations using combinations of black, white, and grey as base colors for the dial and registers. Orange, red, and blue were commonly used for submarkers, details, and hands. However, all of them feature a tachymeter scale on the outer edge of the dial. This allows you to measure units over a time period, speed for instance (if driving constantly), or any average repetition per time span.
On the rotating bezel you will find an inner and outer marking. The outer marking features an increasing scale from 0-60 minutes and is used to show elapsed time from a particular moment. Just turn the triangle towards the minute hand and read the elapsed time at any point. On the inner part of the bezel there is a 12-hour scale which can be used to keep track of a second time zone. Adjust the bezel according to the local time zone when you’re on the road and you’ll be able to read the time at home normally and the local time according to the hour markings on the bezel. The watch is rounded out with a chronograph stopwatch timer and the standard time function.
As was common with various other brands from that period, the hour and minute hands were arrow shaped. These later got replaced by stick hands, though the chronograph hand went through various shapes and colors over the years.
Several different movements were used including the early Valjoux 92 and the more reputable Valjoux 23. The later movement was a popular, quite typical two-register design chronograph movement that was also used in various other high-end Swiss watches from Rolex and Heuer. Later on, the Valjoux 234 and 7765 calibers were commonly used for models featuring a date function.
Discover all Chronographs offered on Chrono24: