Movado Super Sea Sub
Movado Super Sea Sub , Cal. 146HP , mid-late 1960’s, 41mm
I hold my hands up to having somewhat of a tunnel vision with vintage watches, focusing mainly on Heuers. Sure, I’m aware of other main brands, and some of the more obscure older marques.. but I’d never heard of Movado, or it’s rich history.
This was one of those watches that you see and instantly want – regardless of brand name. Like I say, I’d never heard of Movado, but when I saw it on the Heuer forum I just though ‘I want that’. Just the sheer quality of it, its sportiness yet elegant design, and not forgetting it’s remarkable condition. I even have to say, it has a great name too ‘Super Sea Sub’ – come on, that’s just ice cool.
It was being sold by my friend and fellow Heuer regular Abel, so I felt comfortable ‘going for it’ with very little research. I did a quick search around online, and oddly enough the top results were from another fellow Heuer collector – Paul Gavin, aka Heuerworld. That was good enough for me, and I frantically fired off a ‘yes please’ email to Abel.. but I was pretty sure I would be pipped to the post. The next morning I got a reply, and I had very slimly beaten several people to the punch, and it was mine. It apparently has sat in a safe for years in Germany, hence it’s remarkable condition.
I set about reading up on the watch and it’s maker, and here is my little report. I do apologise in advance if some of the details are incorrect – please feel free to put me right, I’m a Movado novice, and much of the technical details I read over on Heuerworld and other forums.
It’s a Super Sea Sub Chronograph, with a signed manual winding 17 jewel Cal. 146HP movement. It dates from the mid-late 60’s and many will note that it looks very much like the Zenith A277.. which used the same movement too. The case is large for it’s day, coming in at c41mm with stunning elegant 22mm lugs. The dial features a tachy scale, with stunning dauphine hands.. and copper coloured sub dial pins that set it off beautifully. Something quite cool that Paul noticed on his example, is that there is a tiny Movado logo etched into the centre of the crystal.. I checked mine, and there it is!
The 146HP Movement and Zenith connection
Martel were the original makers of the Cal. 146, and it can be found in pre-1960 Universal Geneve chronographs. Zenith bought up Martel in 1960 and started using the movements. Prior to that they had been using Excelsior Park chronograph calibres.
The 146HP was one of the last Movado manual wind chronographs produced prior to the introduction of the El Primero in 1969. Unlike Breitling and Heuer, Zenith stopped making manual chronographs shortly after the birth of the El Primero (some argue this too was a Martel production – designed and manufactured after the acquisition).
The Heuer connection.. Project 99
The race to make the first automatic chronograph wristwatch..
“In retrospect, it seems curious that Zenith joined in the competition to develop an automatic chronograph. Founded in 1865, Zenith had established its reputation during the 1940’s and 1950’s as a manufacturer of chronometers and watches for the military. As a true manufacture, Zenith produced its own movements for its chronometers. Still, Zenith offered only a limited line of chronographs and Zenith sourced the movements for its chronographs from other companies, primarily Excelsior Park. Zenith’s relatively small presence in the world of chronographs is evidenced by the fact that Zenith was not a member of the Swiss association of chronograph manufacturers.
In 1960, Zenith acquired Martel Watch Company, a producer of movements for chronographs and other complicated watches (such as calendar and moonphase watches). Martel was well-known as the supplier of chronograph movements for Universal Geneve and other respected brands. By acquiring Martel, Zenith broadened its offering of chronographs, and enhanced its capabilities in the design and production of chronograph movements. Soon after its acquisition of Martel, Zenith adapted the Martel chronograph movement that had been used in the Universal Geneve caliber 285 to become the Zenith 146 series of movements, featuring the 146-D (a two-register movement, with 45-minute capacity) and the 146-H (a three-register, tri-compax movement with a 12-hour recorder)”
The “P” refers to the different, flat coil (P for French “Plat” = flat). But there are several more differences with the original calibres 146 D and 146 H:
Kif shock protection was used instead of incabloc, glucydur balance wheel, a different regulator. There are more changes/different parts inside.
Movado Potted History
Despite being a ‘fashion watch’ company now, it’s roots lie in high quality watchmaking, dating back to 1881. Born in the workshop of a young Swiss, Achille Ditesheim, in La Chaux-de-Fonds in the Jura region. In 1881 Ditesheim set up in business with six craftsmen to manufacture watches. His small workshop grew quickly, by 1897 it employed 80 watchmakers. It had become one of the largest watch manufacturers in all Switzerland, and was noted for its technological sophistication. Early for its time, Ditesheim’s company used electricity and advanced machinery in place of the simple hand tools of other watchmakers. Achille Ditesheim gave his company the name Movado in 1905, choosing a word meaning “always in motion” in the then flourishing international language of Esperanto.
Movado’s designs also won top awards at the Paris, Brussels, and Liege world expositions. The company became internationally prominent, and by 1920 Movado was making more than 700 different wristwatch models. Two of its most famous watches from the 1920s were the Valentino and the Ermeto. The Ermeto was a handheld watch in a small box, the forerunner of the travel clock. Opening the case revealed the timepiece, and the motion automatically wound the watch.
Movado continued to produce complicated and innovative watches. In the 1930s the company manufactured one of the first digital watches, and as early as 1935 Movado was making water-resistant watches in both round and rectangular styles. In 1945 the company debuted the world’s first automatic winding wristwatch. This was called the Tempomatic. By 1956 the Tempomatic had been retooled into the Kingmatic. This was an automatic watch designed to be extremely rugged, and it was one of Movado’s best sellers in the 1950s and 1960s. Movado’s signature Museum Watch was first manufactured for sale in 1962. An American artist, Nathan George Horwitt, designed the stark, black, numberless dial watch in 1947, and in 1960 Horwitt donated his prototype to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Movado agreed to produce the Horwitt watch in 1962, and it went on to become one of the world’s bestselling dial designs.
A short History of Martel / Zenith
Movement photo courtesy AC.