BY AIR AND BY SEA
The NIVADA Grenchen Chronomaster is given new life as the Chronoking
Nivada Grenchen was founded in 1926 by Jacob Schneider in Granges (Grenchen), Switzerland, and it quickly built a reputation for producing purpose-built tool watches that could handle any environment or situation that was thrown at it. An essential member of the Swiss watchmaking landscape, Nivada Grenchen’s most popular timepieces were the Antarctic, the Depthmaster, the Datomatic, and of course, the Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver, which made its bows in 1963 to become one of the brand’s greatest success stories until the late 1970s.
Called the “tool watch par excellence,” the original Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver was considered one of the best all-around wristwatches of its time, and featured a highly readable dial with purpose-designed hands, an integrated tachymeter scale, an additional hour hand for dual-time zone indication, and a bi-directional rotating dive bezel. Naturally, it was the go-to timekeeper for divers, aviators, and yachtsmen to which it rightfully earned the name, “Super Chronograph.”
The master of all trades, the Chronomaster was resolutely sporting, was surprisingly elegant, and was equally at home on land, at sea, or in the air. It could lend itself equally in both urban and rural settings, and made every adventure its natural environment. Indeed, soon after it was launched, the Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver became the embodiment of Nivada Grenchen’s engineering and styling prowess, and quickly became the epitome of the elegant tool watch. It was, in fact, the absolute reflection of the sporty but elegant European lifestyle and could be used as a racing chronograph, a pilot’s watch, a diving chronograph, a traveler’s watch, or a regatta timer.
After years of dormancy, Nivada Grenchen was recently revived in 2018 by two Frenchmen: Guillaume Laidet and Rémi Chabrat. The former is a watch enthusiast-entrepreneur while the latter is the owner of the watch manufacturer Montrichard Group, and the first item on their agenda was to reissue two of the brand’s flagship references: the Antarctic, and the Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver.
The latter came with the launch of a new Chronoking Aviator Sea Diver in 2021. Looking like it had just emerged from a 1960s time capsule, the refreshingly vintage Chronoking Aviator Sea Diver continued the legacy it began as a not so subtle son to the Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver when it made its bows in the late 1960s. Indeed, the re-issued Chronoking struck a very distinct vintage pose as the heir apparent of the original Chronomaster. Not only did it check all the relevant boxes in the ever-popular classic/vintage category of modern timepieces, it was the faithful re-edition of a Swiss watchmaking legend.
Just like the original model, the 2021 Chronoking Aviator Sea Diver came in the same 38mm stainless steel case with a screw-in caseback that combined go-ahead robustness with avant-garde elegance; the same dial-bezel combination; and a Swiss-made Sellita SW510 Chronograph movement in either manual or automatic forms. Among its many modern features is a new extra-small date window at the novel position of 12 o’clock; a distinctly colored patina of Super-LumiNova, which takes the place of tritium for the dial markers and chronograph counters; “cutting-edge” hands in place of the broad-arrow hands of the original; a 70s inspired bright red central seconds hand; and a black aluminum bezel with particularly large numerals that added personality to its inherent functionality.
This year, the Chronoking is getting an upgrade and this time it has an ace up its sleeve. Unlike the 2021 re-issue, the 2023 version of the Chronoking Aviator Sea Diver forgoes the traditional mechanical movement in favor of something thoroughly modern: a hybrid mechanical-quartz calibre.
Imbued with properties that purely mechanical or purely quartz movements do not posses, the VK64 Meca-Quartz Hybrid Flyback Chronograph movement is a Seiko sourced calibre that has been assembled in Switzerland. It has a battery-powered quartz movement as its base, which has been enhanced with an entirely mechanical chronograph module. This means, even if the Chronoking is driven by a quartz movement the chronograph is still driven by cogs and wheels.
Best of all, this combination allows for the reliable accuracy of quartz while providing the satisfying tactile interaction (that satisfying click upon starting the chronograph and that wonderfully mechanical snap-back of the chronograph hand when reset) that only mechanical chronographs can offer. Indeed, going this “ultra-modern” route has offered many advantages, not the least of which is fulfilling and ensuring the Chronoking’s original promise of being a “Rugged chronograph for everyday use.”
“I wanted to give all Nivada Grenchen lovers the opportunity to acquire an affordable chronograph that doesn’t look like a hockey puck on their wrist,” explains Guillaume Laidet, CEO of Nivada Grenchen. “The battery replaces the barrel, and the quartz replaces the balance. Everything else is gearing. It shows in the thinness of the case, and in the fine price point. The meca-quartz movement was the ideal solution to get the thinnest chronograph possible at an extremely competitive price. More than that, the meca-quartz movement brings together two watchmaking schools, combining the precision of quartz with traditional mechanics, the poetry of cogs in a way. It’s not (just) a watch with a battery, there’s a watchmaking intent and design behind it. And, yes, the fact that the movement is not entirely mechanical made it possible to achieve a truly affordable price.”
The new Chronoking Aviator Sea Diver Meca-quartz is imbued with the same specifications as the mechanical model. This includes the 38mm polished and brushed 316L stainless steel case; the bidirectional aluminum bezel; the double domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating; and functions that include the hour, minute, second, date, chronograph and tachymeter. It is matched with either a brown, or a black leather strap. Best of all, the new Chronoking Aviator Sea Diver Meca-quartz is an extremely limited edition with only 150 pieces being made.