Among vintage chronograph collectors, the classic hand-wound Valjoux 72 movement has earned nearly mythic status. This movement formed the backbone of some of the most sought-after chronographs of the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, from early Rolex Daytona and pre-Daytona references to the first-generation Heuer Carrera, Camaro, and Autavia, as well as some of the most collectible examples of the Breitling Navitimer. In short, the Valjoux 72 is a bona fide classic movement, but its place in the modern watchmaking landscape is largely relegated to the history books. Nivada Grenchen, however, has staged a genuine revival of this historic movement, combining fully restored examples of the Valjoux 72 with all-new cases and dials for a genuinely factory-fresh vintage chronograph experience. Developed in partnership with watch media outlet Worn & Wound, the new limited edition Nivada Grenchen x Worn & Wound Chronomaster Valjoux 72 is a spectacular love letter to the golden age of hand-wound chronographs, complete with a fully renovated vintage movement and a playfully offbeat colorway.
At 38mm-wide, the stainless steel case of the Nivada Grenchen x Worn & Wound Chronomaster Valjoux 72 is suitably old-school compact to match the vintage movement within. However, with an overall case height of 14mm including the box sapphire crystal, it should still carry a fair amount of wrist presence. Although the size of the case is noteworthy for a chronograph in the modern watch market, the design itself is even more eye-catching in images. By mixing familiar vintage sports chronograph cues with left-field visual touches, the Chronomaster Valjoux 72 creates a quirky but memorable visual niche for itself. The lugs are a prime example of this, with rapidly tapering polished inverse chamfers that flare outward dramatically as they approach the bezel. This leaves the vertically brushed lug tops with a narrow, straight profile, allowing much of the bulk of the case to virtually disappear in certain lighting conditions. While the broad gear-toothed bezel design is not uncommon for ‘60s and ‘70s chronographs, Nivada Grenchen’s deep maroon aluminum insert certainly pushes it into unique visual territory. As one might expect from a design built around a restored historic movement, Nivada Grenchen tops this case with a sapphire display caseback. Despite this element and the vintage-style chronograph case design, the brand rates the watch for a solidly modern 100 meters of water resistance.
Like the case, the dial of the Nivada Grenchen x Worn & Wound Chronomaster Valjoux 72 melds familiar period chronograph elements with a distinctive, offbeat color palette. Nivada Grenchen refers to the grainy matte dial surface as “fog gray,” but in images, this color appears as more of a desaturated slate blue. The brand pairs this uncommon hue with more maroon on the main baton handset, the 9 o’clock running seconds hand, and portions of the applied baton indices, creating a strikingly unorthodox color combination. The brand then adds even more idiosyncratic color to the mix here, with bright sky blue for the chronograph hands contrasted by dark yellow accents on the 3 o’clock chronograph minutes subdial and sandy tan for the dial text and the “checkered flag” outer chronograph seconds scale. Oddly, although this khaki tan hue is a common faux-patina solution for vintage-inspired watches, Nivada Grenchen does not extend this color to the Chronomaster Valjoux 72’s lume, instead using bright optic white luminous material. Although the Chronomaster Valjoux 72’s colorway is certainly unique and may be a point of contention for some enthusiasts, the dial layout beneath these colors is simple and classically sporty. Elements like the deep-set partial azurage subdials and contrasting checkered-flag outer seconds ring are punchy vintage-style touches, but the forms and proportions are simple and handsomely visually balanced overall.
Naturally, the centerpiece of the Nivada Grenchen x Worn & Wound Chronomaster Valjoux 72 is the new old stock Valjoux 72 hand-wound chronograph movement. Fully restored and warrantied by Nivada Grenchen, this classic movement offers a lateral clutch and column wheel chronograph actuation system, along with an old-school 18,000 bph beat rate. Interestingly, the brand does not specify the length of the power reserve for this movement. The handsome snaking mix of bridges, plates, and levers common to vintage hand-wound chronographs is on full display here. While this movement would rarely if ever be visible in a true vintage watch, the Valjoux 72 is attractively finished in images with sharp brushing for the bridges and levers, frosted finishing across the mainplate, polished anglage, and matching polished sinks. For those who would prefer the authentic vintage experience, Nivada Grenchen also includes a swappable solid caseback as well.
The Nivada Grenchen x Worn & Wound Chronomaster Valjoux 72 is paired with two distinctive strap options. The first of these is a classic stainless steel “beads of rice” bracelet, with sharply brushed outer links contrasting the rounded and polished center links. It’s a suitably retro pairing in photos, with a sporting edge that still offers a touch of flash. Buyers will also receive a shell cordovan leather rally strap from the world-famous Horween tannery in Chicago. This strap is offered in a bezel-matching maroon hue, which should make for a striking look on the wrist.
By pairing a legendary new-old-stock movement with a brand new watch and a boldly unorthodox color palette, the new limited edition Nivada Grenchen x Worn & Wound Chronomaster Valjoux 72 offers one of the most compellingly distinctive chronograph experiences of the year. Only 20 examples of the Nivada Grenchen x Worn & Wound Chronomaster Valjoux 72 will be made, and the watch will be available exclusively through the Windup Watch Shop online sales platform starting at 12:00 PM Eastern time on December 8, 2022. MSRP for the Nivada Grenchen x Worn & Wound Chronomaster Valjoux 72 stands at $6,900 USD as of press time. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.