This Guide briefly examines most of the Swiss Automatic Chronograph movements currently in production today.
First of all, you do not need a “name” watch to get a very good timepiece. Many lesser-known manufacturers use the exact same movements as the Name Brands. The only difference may be of refinement–the higher-end the watch the more the manufacturer may refine, polish and decorate the movement. All the movements here are chronometers, or are capable of a chronometer rating. “Chronometer” is the Swiss Government’s highest rating
Valjoux 7750 This is by far the most common Swiss Chronograph movement in production today. An integrated–designed to be a chronograph–25 Jewel workhorse, this is a highly durable, proven movement. Franck Muller uses it on occasion, as well as IWC, Baume&Mercier, Cartier, etc. An ETA (the largest Swiss movement manufacturer) product, it vibrates at 28,800 vph and is available in many configurations. The 7751 features a Moon Phase and Triple Date; 7753features 9-6-3 Subdials with Date at 4:30 or 6:00.
ETA 2894-2 ETA also produces this movement. The 2894 is cutting edge, vibrating at 28,800 vph with 37 Jewels. This higher jewel count is mandated because this is a Modular Movement–a piggyback chronograph module is positioned on top of the 28 series movement, itself with 21 Jewels. A remarkable 12.25 ligne in width. These movements are showing up in more and more chronographs. Also available in a variety of configurations. Tag-Heuer, Chopard, Omega, and Baume & Mercier, among others, use this movement.
Zenith El Primero This is probably the most famous chrono movement of all time. Zenith originated it around 1963-4, and it is, with minor improvements, still in production today. It is an integrated 31-Jewel wonder vibrating at 36.000 vph–the world’s fastest mechanical chronograph. Rolex used this in the Daytona until 2000, when it premiered it’s own movement. Also used in the Tag Heuer Calibre 36, Panerai, Roth, Ebel, etc. If a watch other than Zenith contains the El Primero, it will certainly be advertised as such.
Lemania 1350 Ebel is the prime user of this 30 Jewel movement vibrating at 28,800 vph. Breguet uses a customized version of this in their Type XX. A very tough movement with a reputation for durability and lack of variance. Lemania also makes the 5100, a movement used by Sinn and Tutima.
Rolex 4130 This new Rolex Chronograph movement replaced the El Primero in the Daytona in 2000. At 44 Jewels with a vph of 28,800, this movement has already won praises for it’s toughness and accuracy. Elegant three-column design with a phenomenal 72 hour power reserve. Now Rolex, like just a few other Houses, produces all its movements in-house.
Frederic Piguet 1185 At 21.600 vph, this 37 Jewel movement is used in Audemars Piguet, Blancpain, Cartier Pasha, VC, and Brequet, among others. With its exquisite three-column design, it is a favorite of collectors, who have considered it the finest autochrono movement made. Exceptionally thin at 5.2mm.
Omega 3313 Co-Axial This is Omega’s Showpiece movement, originally based on the Piguet 1185, but now upgraded to include the Co-Axial Escapement (a large leap in mechanical technology). With a large power reserve of 55 hours, 3-column design, 37 Jewels, this movement is now state of the art (28,800vph).
Patek Philippe 5960 PP’s first automatic chronograph movement (2006) is a 3-column design, vibrating at 28,800 vph with 40 Jewels. Complete with a solid 18K rotor and a 55 hour reserve, this is the most exclusive autochrono movement made, and with the Rolex, available in no other watch. Generally available on eBay for less than 80K in platinum case.
Breitling BO1 With 47 jewels and a remarkable 70-hour Power Reverve, the BO1 now joins this list. A Jumping 30 minute totalizer at 3 and a flat Hirpin are among the highlights. Available in the higher end Breitling models, but not in all. Also state of the art.
As of today, Swatch Group of Switzerland owns ETA, Lemania, Valjoux, and F. Piguet, giving it a stranglehold on the Swiss Watch Industry. It will be interesting; new movements by a variety of producers are now in the early stages of production. See an article in Europa Star: Mechanical Movements: the Race for Alternatives, or search La Joux-Perret; Sellita; Technotime. Picture size doesn’t indicate editorial preferences. They are all outstanding movements