The new London Chronograph with a historical, restored Valjoux 88 movement from the 1950s belongs to Speake-Marin’s Vintage collection. Speake-Marin might be based in Switzerland, but it likes to emphasise its British roots and its somewhat eccentric British styling. The latest model to join the Vintage collection is this London Chronograph Triple Date powered by a beautiful vintage Valjoux 88.
Valjoux 88 Calibre
For many, the highlight of this watch is the Valjoux 88 calibre. Inspired by the Valjoux 23 base calibre, the manual-winding Valjoux 88 appeared in the 1950s. A very complete and sophisticated movement, the 17-jewel Valjoux 88 incorporated a column-wheel chronograph, three counters, date, day, month, moon phases and quick calendar corrections. The Valjoux 88 was fitted inside some of the finest watches from brands like Ulysse Nardin, Longines, Eberhard & Co., Paul Picot, Baume & Mercier and Universal Genève. The original configuration displayed the 12-hour elapsed time counter and moon phases at 6 o’clock, the 30-minute elapsed time counter at 3 o’clock, running seconds at 9 o’clock and day and month apertures below noon with a pointer date on the periphery. It was produced up until 1974 when it was replaced by calibre 886. Although it was produced in large quantities (13,218), the Valjoux 88 is a rarity today.
The movement components used for the London Chronograph were stored in a safe for many years and it took time for Speake-Marin to source working pieces. The movement was reassembled, checked and decorated at Speake-Marin’s workshop near La Chaux-de-Fonds. The refined architecture of this Valjoux 88 column-wheel chronograph can be appreciated through the sapphire caseback, including the decorative flourishes applied to the movement by Speake-Marin. Decorated with Côtes de Genève, other details like the polished chamfers on the bridges and the levers attest to the refined level of finishings. Distinguished by its nine-pillar column-wheel structure, the 13 ligne movement beats at a frequency of 18,000vph and can store up to 48 hours of power reserve.
The 42mm drum-shaped case of the Piccadilly, with its straight, screwed lugs and stepped bezel, is crafted in grade 5 titanium with polished finishes on the bezel and contrasting brushed sides. A fluted crown with an engraved ‘topping tool’ motif – a recurring theme of Speake-Marin watches – and two mushroom-style chronograph pushers complete the case for a look that nobody could ever confuse with another brand.
The London Chronograph Triple Date is available in blue or beige. The configuration responds to the Valjoux 88 movement and features the three registers, the two apertures for the day and month and the peripheral pointer date calendar.
Starting from the outermost part of the dial is the seconds/minutes track picked out with black markings and red numerals in 5-seconds/minute increments. Both variants have red hands for the chronograph functions with diamond-shaped counterweights. The next track, picked out in blue or beige, corresponds to the pointer date and features white numerals and is indicated with a black hand with an arrow-shaped tip in either blue or beige. The dial is a silver colour and displays a vertical-brushed finish. The indices, again in blue or beige, are applied to the dial. Below the 12 o’clock marker are two rectangular apertures for the day and month.
The three black sub-dials are snailed and arranged as follows: 30-min counter at 3, 12-hour counter at 6 and running seconds at 9 o’clock. What is striking is the way counters at 9 and 3 o’clock float above the background adding a third dimension to the watch.
Like the original configuration, the phases of the Moon are hosted in the 12-hour counter. A kind of quirky yet ingenious set-up, two static silver discs span the circumference of the counter; the other two silver discs rotate underneath the structure and indicate the current phase of the Moon in both hemispheres. Naturally, the hallmark spade-shaped hands are used to indicate the hours, a feature found across the board at Speake-Marin.
It might have a venerable movement below deck, but the dial displays a sound application of lume on the tips of the hour and minute hands, on the date track and pointer hand, and even on the rotating discs representing the phases of the Moon.
Availability and price
The London Chronograph Triple Date models come on matching blue or beige Nubuck leather straps with a titanium folding buckle. Each colour is limited to 15 watches and the retail price is CHF 20,950 (excl. tax).
More information at Speake-Marin.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.