Nivada Grenchen: A Classic Brand With Cult Status
Since its comeback in 2018, Nivada Grenchen has been producing fascinating remakes of the brand's most successful vintage watches from the 1960s and 70s. The Chronomaster, a diving chronograph with nine functions, is especially popular.
Popular Vintage Designs With Modern Technology
Nivada Grenchen S.A. boasts a rich tradition and an extensive history, dating back almost a century to when Jacob Schneider founded the company in 1926. In the 1930s, the brand was one of the pioneers of automatic wristwatches. Nivada watches were marketed in the US by the company's distribution partner Croton, with the Croton name appearing on the dial.
In 1950, Nivada brought its first water-resistant model to market: the Antarctic. Several years later, the watch found its way onto the wrist of Admiral Richard Byrd, accompanying the US naval officer on an expedition to the South Pole.
In the early 1960s, Nivada Grenchen watches had a reputation for being particularly robust and reliable. During this time, the company released the Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver, a multifunctional chronograph that is water-resistant to 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft). This model proved extremely popular with watch enthusiasts around the world, and was thus a roaring success for Nivada. The "Super Chronograph," as Nivada calls it, offers wearers nine functions.
The Depthmaster is another popular Nivada diver. First introduced in 1964, its depth rating of 1,000 m (100 bar, 3,281 ft) was quite an impressive feat at the time.
The infamous quartz crisis brought Nivada to its knees in the early 1980s, sending the company into dormancy for the period that followed. Inspired by the great popularity of the Chronomaster and several other models from Nivada's heyday, two young French entrepreneurs, Guillaume Laidet and Remi Chabrat, decided in 2018 to restore the Nivada Grenchen brand to its former watchmaking glory. Thanks to a versatile remake of the Chronomaster, Nivada successfully regained its relevancy in the industry in 2020.
From 2018 to 2022, Nivada Grenchen also added various new models to the Depthmaster and Antarctic lines, with the unique Depthmaster Pac-Man deserving a special mention. The mechanical movements powering these watches are from Swiss ébauche manufacturers Sellita and Soprod, whereas Nivada sources quartz movements from Seiko for their remake of the Datomaster.
Reasons to Buy a Nivada Grenchen Watch
- Vintage watches with potential to appreciate in value
- Faithful remakes of older models with modern technology
- Chronomaster: iconic Nivada model with nine functions
- For collectors: limited-edition Chronomaster with NOS Valjoux 23
- Depthmaster Pac-Man with unique dial design
Prices at a Glance: Nivada Grenchen Watches
|Nivada model||Price (approx.)||Features, caliber|
|Chronomaster Paul Newman, ref. 85017 (vintage)||10,800 USD||Reverse panda dial, Valjoux 23|
|Chronomaster Paul Newman (remake)||5,400 USD||Panda dial, Valjoux 23|
|Antarctic Diver (vintage)||4,800 USD||Cushion-shaped case, red and black bezel, unknown|
|Datomaster Chronograph, ref. 87003 (vintage)||4,800 USD||Gray panda dial, Landeron 187|
|Depthmaster Supercompressor (vintage)||4,800 USD||Black dial, stainless steel bracelet, ETA 2452|
|Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver, ref. 8221 (vintage)||4,300 USD||First generation, broad arrow hands, Venus 210|
|Chronomaster Broad Arrow 86001A (remake)||1,900 USD||Black dial, broad arrow hands, SW510 BH B|
|Chronoking (remake)||1,800 USD||Black dial, date at 12 o'clock, SW510 M BH B|
|Chronomaster Orange Boy, ref. 86007M (remake)||1,700 USD||Black dial, orange second hand, SW510 M BH B|
|Depthmaster White Pac-Man (remake)||1,200 USD||Cushion-shaped case, black dial, Pac-Man indices, SW 200|
|Datomaster, ref. 88001Q04||530 USD||White panda dial, Seiko meca-quartz VK64|
How much does a Nivada watch cost?
A new Datomaster quartz chronograph with a leather strap costs around 480 USD. Modern Chronomasters with a manual movement and steel bracelet cost around 1,700 USD. If you're in the market for an automatic caliber, plan to spend around 160 USD more. Limited-edition Chronomaster models with an original Valjoux 23 caliber sold out very quickly and are now hard to come by. Expect to pay around 5,400 USD for one of these pre-owned watches.
Prices for vintage Chronomaster models have skyrocketed in recent years. While a well-maintained Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver with a Valjoux movement from the 1960s once retailed for around 1,000 USD, prices today are north of 2,700 USD. Particularly rare models, such as the Chronomaster Paul Newman (ref. 85017), can run up to 10,800 USD.
New Depthmaster models such as the White Pac-Man with a steel bracelet come in just under the 1,000 USD mark. The sleek and elegant Super Antarctic on a leather strap costs around 800 USD.
Nivada Chronomaster: One Watch, Nine Functions
With water resistance to 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft) and nine functions, the Chronomaster offered great value for money in the early 1960s. Nivada marketed the aesthetically-striking chronograph as a multifunctional watch fit for any occasion. The affixes "Aviator" and "Sea Diver" can be taken at face value: The Chronomaster performs just as well underwater and in the air as it does on land. In addition to telling the time, this Nivada watch also features a stopwatch function, timer, yacht timer, GMT function, tachymeter scale and diving bezel. Nivada advertised its flagship model with two slogans: "Super Chronograph" and "The world's busiest watch – has more uses than ever counted."
The original Chronomaster was in production for roughly 15 years, which explains why there are so many variants with different dial designs and movements out there. That being said, it is pretty easy to spot a Chronomaster, and visual distinctions are mostly seen in more minor details like the shape of the hands or indices. Every model has two subdials, one at 3 o'clock and one at 9 o'clock.
The first generation had mostly black dials. These were later followed by white and silver versions, which Nivada also offered as panda and reverse panda dials. All Chronomaster models have a black aluminum bezel with a diving scale on the outer edge. Closer to the dial, you'll find an hour scale for indicating the GMT time.
Another aspect these models have in common is their 38-mm stainless steel case, which featured drilled lugs up until the fifth generation. The sixth and final generation is the only model without lug holes. Case thickness varies for each model depending on the caliber used, i.e., the Venus 210, Valjoux 92, Valjoux 7733, Valjoux 23, or Landeron 248.
Prices for Vintage Chronomasters
The Chronomaster model with reference number 8221 is the oldest and arguably best-known generation. This model has several distinctive details, namely the arrow-shaped hour hand, black dial, and black subdials at 3 and 9 o'clock. Similar to most of the Chronomaster references that followed, there is a block of red between the zero and five on the minute counter at 3 o'clock.
The line indices are luminous and coated in tritium. The original Chronomaster is powered by the Venus 210, a manual Swiss caliber with a cam-actuated chronograph which was widely used at the time.
You will typically find pre-owned pieces on aftermarket bands without any additional accessories listed on Chrono24. Interest from collectors has caused the price for this reference to rise significantly in recent years, meaning you can expect to pay at least 2,700 USD. If the model is in excellent condition or comes with other original accessories such as a matching stainless steel bracelet, the asking price can quickly rise to between 4,300 and 5,400 USD.
The reference numbers in the subsequent generation start with 105; these watches are equipped with the Valjoux 92 caliber. Prices here are similar, regardless of whether Nivada or Croton appears on the dial. The model with the reference 85004/4076 has also proven very popular among collectors. On account of its orange second hand and orange yacht timer, this watch is aptly nicknamed the Orange Boy. The model has gray subdials paired with a black dial. The obelisk-shaped hour, minute, and subdial hands enhance the overall look of the Orange Boy. The watch is powered by the Valjoux 23 caliber and pre-owned pieces in good condition cost between 3,200 and 4,300 USD.
Prices & Details: Nivada Chronomaster Remake
Unveiled in 2020, the remake of the Chronomaster borrows heavily from its iconic antetypes from the 1960s and 70s, both in terms of size and appearance. You have the choice between manual or automatic stainless steel watches. Nivada Grenchen uses movements from the Swiss ébauche manufacturer Sellita, meaning you'll find the Sellita SW510 M BH B at the heart of the manual models and the SW510 BH B in the automatic versions. Both movements have a power reserve of around 60 hours. The company equips limited editions with new old stock Valjoux 23 calibers from earlier production.
Nivada makes no compromises when it comes to case size. The case measures 38.3 mm – which appears slightly bigger when worn – making the watch an ideal choice for those with slender to mid-sized wrists. Just like the original version, the remake is also water-resistant to 100 meters (10 bar, 328 ft). One difference is that the vintage pieces feature plexiglass, whereas Nivada opts for more contemporary domed sapphire crystal on the newer watches. You can tailor the Chronomaster to your personal style with a leather or rubber strap or a stainless steel bracelet.
Manual-winding and featuring broad arrow hands, the refs. 86014M and 86007M are faithful copies of the original Chronomaster ref. 8221. Like many of the new Chronomaster models, you can choose between white or cream Super-LumiNova. Cream gives the watch a vintage flair.
Fans of light-colored panda dials will swoon over the ref. 86010M. The mechanical version of this timepiece on a stainless steel bracelet has a list price of around 1,900 USD, while the automatic chronograph comes in slightly more expensive at around 2,000 USD.
You can find the Orange Boy under the reference number 86012M for around 1,800 USD on a leather strap.
If you're looking for the best of both worlds, take a closer look at the "Paul Newman" Panda Chronomaster, the Paul Newman Reverse Panda, and the Big Eye with the Valjoux 23 caliber. The first two models are reminiscent of the ref. 85017 and, similar to the Rolex Paul Newman, feature a black or white dial with distinctive elegant Art Deco numerals on the subdials.
The Big Eye is a modern take on the ref. 85006. Its most distinctive feature is the extra-large regatta timer at 3 o'clock in gray, blue, and orange. The orange lollipop second hand rounds off the Big Eye's overall design. The list price for all three Valjoux 23 models is around 5,200 USD.
Friend and Foe: Depthmaster Pac-Man & Jellyfish
The current Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster collection pays tribute to its namesake: The diving watch with the reference number 650 from 1965. Like its iconic predecessor, the modern Depthmaster is water-resistant to 1,000 m (100 bar, 3,281 ft). This was a record at the time, only to be broken by the Rolex Sea-Dweller 13 years later. To ensure the watch remains water-resistant, Nivada equips the 39-mm, cushion-shaped stainless steel case with a helium escape valve on its left side.
Unlike the original with its monobloc case, the new version has a screw-down case back. The plexiglass has also been replaced with a more modern and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. All Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster watches are fitted with a unidirectional bezel made of brushed aluminum. The Depthmaster is powered by the automatic Sellita SW20 caliber, which has a power reserve of around 38 hours.
The defining feature of the Pac-Man models is their eye-catching indices. The watches get their nickname from the shape of the luminous hour markers at 6 and 9 o'clock, which is – you guessed it – very similar to that of Pac-Man, the 1980s video game icon. The rest of the indices are triangular, except for the Arabic numeral at 12 o'clock and a crown/wave shape at 3 o'clock. The dial itself is black.
The Depthmaster Pac-Man is available in two basic versions: one with white hands and indices and an orange second hand (White Pac-Man) and another with cream hands and indices. You can also choose between a rubber or leather strap or a stainless steel beads-of-rice bracelet. The list price for the version on a stainless steel bracelet is around 1,200 USD.
Depthmaster Numerals Date and Jellyfish
Other Depthmaster models bear the epithet "Numerals Date." The dials of these watches feature alternating Arabic numerals and line indices, with a date display at 3 o'clock. You can choose between black and dark green for the dial; the indices are cream in both versions. Prices are identical to those of the Pac-Man watches.
The inspiration for the Depthmaster Jellyfish came from a collaboration between Guillaume Laidet, Nivada CEO, and Romaric André, a French artist. Pac-Man needed an underwater nemesis, and so a mini jellyfish found its way onto the watch, functioning as a second hand. The jellyfish is available in blue, orange, yellow, and pink. Nivada sources this unconventional component from the last-remaining manufacturer of watch hands in France. However, there's a catch: Nivada only produced ten watches in each color, and the Jellyfish watches sold out a long time ago. Of course, strictly-limited editions often increase in value, and the Depthmaster Jellyfish is no exception. While the list price was around 1,200 USD, listings on Chrono24 are priced considerably higher at over 3,200 USD.
Antarctic – For Explorers
The Nivada Grenchen Antarctic was first released in 1950. Just five years later, it traveled as far as the South Pole on the wrist of US naval officer Admiral Richard Byrd during Operation Deep Freeze. After being subjected to rain, snow, and stormy conditions, the watch proved just how reliable and robust it really is. Original vintage pieces are still available today for around 1,100 USD, but they measure just 35 mm across, which is considerably smaller than the modern version. The remakes have a more contemporary yet still modest diameter of 38 mm. The plexiglass has also been replaced with sapphire crystal.
The Antarctic collection is subdivided into the Super Antarctic, Spider, Date, and No Date lines. The No Date has the most extensive range, offering watches with champagne, silver, black, and blue dials. Likewise, there are various options for stainless steel bracelets and leather straps. With such a wide selection, you're sure to find something to suit your style.
The ref. 32019A is the closest copy of the watch worn by Admiral Byrd. This timepiece has a silver dial with a vertical satin-brushed finish. The applied golden indices are teardrop-shaped and punctuated with Arabic numerals at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o'clock. The watch's appearance is topped off by dauphine-style hour and minute hands in a gold tone, as well as a contrasting second hand in blue. The Nivada watch is powered by the seasoned Sellita SW200. It is water-resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft).
The list price for this reference on an Oyster bracelet is approx. 880 USD. Prices for the other colors with a stainless steel bracelet are similar. If you're more interested in leather straps, you'll see the price drop to around 690 USD.
The Nivada Super Antarctic is available in three designs. The only difference is the color of the indices: While the dial is always glossy black, you can choose between cream, white, or green for the Super-LumiNova. Triangular indices mark 3, 6, 9, and 12 o'clock, while the remaining hours feature line indices. The watch is fitted with the automatic P024 caliber from Soprod, which has a power reserve of 42 hours. This Nivada Grenchen watch is water-resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft) and can be combined with a variety of band options.
The list price for the ref. 91412 A with cream indices on a beads-of-rice bracelet is around 950 USD.
The Antarctic Spider ref. 32023A comes with a so-called "sector" dial, which features a reticle that divides the dial into four equal parts. This particular model has four additional lines, lending a spider web-esque quality. The dial also has a silver sunray finish and cream Super-LumiNova. Contrary to the other Antarctic models, the Spider has a magnifying lens above the date display at 3 o'clock. The watch is powered by a Soprod P024 and is water-resistant to 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft). The Nivada Antarctic Spider has a list price of approx. 960 USD on a stainless steel bracelet.
About Nivada Grenchen
Nivada Grenchen was founded in 1926 under the name Wülliman Schneider Nivada S.A. in Grenchen, Switzerland. The company used ébauche movements from Swiss manufacturers since day one and strived to produce high-quality watches at affordable prices. In the 1930s, Nivada manufactured elegant and artfully designed watches, some of which were reminiscent of the iconic Cartier Tank. At the end of the 1930s, Nivada merged with the Croton Watch Company in New York.
1950 saw the release of the Antarctic, which, by virtue of its visit to the South Pole as part of Operation Deep Freeze a few years later, gained huge popularity and became a prominent model for the company. The most important watch in the Nivada Grenchen collection is the Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver. This model was released in the early 1960s and is a true all-rounder.
The Depthmaster in the mid-1960s was Nivada's first real diving watch and offered water-resistance to 1,000 m (100 bar, 3,281 ft). Other successful models include the Travelmaster, a GMT watch for globetrotters, and the Datomaster, Nivada's answer to the Heurer Carrera.
In the early 1980s, the European market was flooded with cheap quartz watches from Japan. Mechanical watches were considered outdated at the time, and demand dwindled as a result. This plunged the Swiss watch industry into what is known as the "quartz crisis," sending mostly small companies to an early grave. In the mid-1980s, the Kim Suk Keun Watch Company in South Korea acquired Nivada, which had gone bankrupt in the meantime. In the 2000s, Industrial Omega SA de CV took over the remainder of the traditional manufacturer.
In 2018, Guillaume Laidet, founder of the watch brand William L. 1985, and Remi Chabrat, CEO of the Montrichard Group, both from France, decided to relaunch the Nivada brand on the European market. In 2020, Nivada returned with a new edition of its flagship watch, the Chronomaster, which was then followed by the Depthmaster and Antarctic.