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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Dive watch enthusiasts would say that the foundation of the dive watch was the Blancplain Fifty Fathoms. Others might call it some iteration of an early Submariner. Arguably of course, but that's only for comparison's sake and beside the point. What I'm after to read about (and maybe acquire) is the pilot's chronograph by which many others have been inspired.

I've long since done plenty of reading on the original pilot fliegers, or Observer style watches from Laco and Stowa used in early air combat, but it's the chrono in which I'm most interested. While Laco (for example's sake) continues to make very true-to-form replicas of their original flieger, who would you say is still making the original pilot's chrono, or some faithfully re-created derivative?

Granted these are modern designs (not looking for a vintage watch) but I've always loved the apparent classic styling of the Sinn 103:




...but was also recently turned on to (and subsequently impressed by) the history of Fortis, who also seems to have a pretty timeless chrono designs in the B-42, Flieger, and Cosmonaut Chronos:







As mentioned, these are all forms of a singularly derivative design (arabic numerals with fonts that closely resemble each other, stick or traditional flieger hands, sub-dials at 6, 9, and 12, and day/date window and branding "boxed in" at 3) but it had to come from somewhere. I know the 'modern' Sinn (with the argon capsules and tegmented steel, etc.) is not the Sinn that was once under Helmut (with vintage chronos coming out in the 1960's), so maybe the design is his?

On the flip side, Fortis has been making watches for over 100 years and has seemingly accumulated a pretty impressive history along the way. Maybe it's theirs from somewhere along that line? I've seen other variations on this chronograph style repeated on purely modern brands looking to capture the same aesthetic, so it's at least clear to me that it's a distinctive enough design worth copying almost to a tee. Case in point:



When even the font for the arabic numbers is similar, someone has to be following someone else's design. Other famous chronos from Tutima, Glycine and even Omega come to mind, but I'd love to read up on the heritage of the originals. So who came first?

And on a side note, how come Fortis seemingly doesn't get a lot of love around here? Or have I just not been lurking for long enough?
 

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A very interesting question! I'm no expert in horological history but I think the examples you quote are relatively new ones. For example, the Omega speedmaster was introduced in 1957 and you can find examples of "pilots chronographs" going back to the late 1930's. Have a look at this WUS thread:

https://www.watchuseek.com/f2/oldest-watch-here-wus-39295.html

Another starting point for reasearch could be this interesting site about the development of the first automatic chronograph:

Project 99 -- Parts One and Two

I'm sure there are others here, or on the Vintage forum, that know far more about chronograph history than I......
Good luck.
 

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Interesting question indeed. Flieger chronographs were made by Hanhart in 1939. They had subdials at 3 and 9. Tutima made the same design from 1941 and makes it now (called Tutima Fliegerchronograph 1941). Maybe this is the modern version of the "original pilot's chrono"? Breguet had a pilot's chronograph in the 1950s, the type XX, but it had subdials at 3, 6, and 9. I look forward to seeing the first one with 6-9-12 subdials.

109_tutima_783_01_cmyk_a4.jpg
 

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Unlike dive watches that are all fairly similar in concept, there are many types of aviator style watch. The earliest were pretty much standard wristwatches with no special features. Then came versions with a rotating bezel (pre-dating dive watches for this feature - although they had just a single minute marker or "bug" with no numbers). As aircraft became more capable the watches became more specialist with the B-Uhr watches which were only used by the Navigators specifically for astronavigation - never worn off the aircraft and not given to pilots either, they had one function only, which was to be set to an accurate time source and then keep as precise a time as possible - as astronavigation requires this. There was only one country during the second world war that used chronographs widely - Germany. They had Hanharts and Tutimas on general issue to certain roles in Artillery, Navy and Airforce units. The watches were all essentially the same design but with a specialist scale for artillery issue. They were not actually a special design for pilots but featured the rotating bezel from earlier designs and the chronograph movement was probably taken from a design originally intended for sports use but found to be useful - I don't know. They were replaced after the war by Heuers and then a more modern design by Tutima as issued watches to the Luftwaffe and are in reality the only real issued "pilot's chronographs". The quartz seikos and pulsars and mechanical CWCs and Lemanias issued by other airforces were/are generally issued to navigators.

After the war a number of new designs became popular including the Chronographs we all know about today like the Omega Speedmaster (originally made and sold as a motor sports fan's watch), the Breitling Navitimer (originally made for private pilots to use in light aircraft) and the Rolex GMT (originally designed to be used by airline pilots and navigators - the 24 hour function was useful for astronavigation but also great for working out timezones). IWC had made a number of accurate non-chronograph watches for the militaries during WW2 again for navigators to use for astronav but during the 1980's made a chronograph version with the classic black face and arabic numerals. It was never military issued and not technically anything more than "in the style of" a navigator's watch but by some qwerk of myth and marketing, that style has now become known as a "pilots watch". Fortis and other companies made their own variations of the theme.

The major problem with chronograph watches that use subdials is that pilot's can't really use them as they are too small to read reliably whilst carrying out other tasks.
 

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My vote does not go to Sinn, Kobold or Fortis but to Hanhart and Tutima. Try to google the Glashütte Tutima Flieger chrono.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
My vote does not go to Sinn, Kobold or Fortis but to Hanhart and Tutima. Try to google the Glashütte Tutima Flieger chrono.
That's an excellent tip — I'll check out Hanhart and Tutima!

As for Sinn, Fortis, and Kobold, I almost consider those three in the vein of the Helson Skindiver, which is a modern and direct (and pretty unapologetic) homage to the original Blancpain 50 Fathoms:



I'd love to find one that is "in the lineage" so to speak, and not just an homage. For reference, here's the "modern" 50 Fathoms from Blancpain:

 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
It seems that in the same vein of Laco and Stowa pioneering the traditional combat Flieger, it was indeed Hanhart and Tutima who made the first Fliegerchrono watches, starting in the late 1930's. Love how both of these brands continue to manufacture modern versions of those originals (replete with coin-edge bezels!), but man the hands just kill it for me.

Going back to the design in question, Fortis introduced its B-42 series (and requisite chronos) in the early 80's, but I swear I've seen earlier versions of this dial layout from the days of Helmut Sinn — perhaps as early as the late sixties.
 

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Hanhart?
 

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+1 Hanhart or Tutima

Also I don't like the flieger cronographs i.e. Fortis and the like, because they mix B-uhr design elements (hands, triangle at 12) with cronograph feature, so it's an hybrid that was never a historical pilot crono.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Also I don't like the flieger cronographs i.e. Fortis and the like, because they mix B-uhr design elements (hands, triangle at 12) with cronograph feature, so it's an hybrid that was never a historical pilot crono.
So when did these weird "hybrid" dial layouts start making an appearance? Was reading this morning that Fortis manufactured their first chronograph in 1937. Quite a bit longer a span than I'd expected.

Tried on the Tutima Der Flieger Chrono today, and while beautiful, it's a little bit too "precious" for me, I think.
 

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The earliest references in 'A Concise Guide to Military Timepieces' (Wesolowski) are:


  • Tutima Glashutte (1939)
  • Hanhart (circa 1940)
  • Lancet (circa 1940)

It is a concise guide though, and he only makes these references in general discussion. There were previous military chronographs used by the German army.


Edit: I've since come across a one-button Hanhart from 1935, described as a Luftwaffe chronograph.
 
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So when did these weird "hybrid" dial layouts start making an appearance? Was reading this morning that Fortis manufactured their first chronograph in 1937. Quite a bit longer a span than I'd expected.
That's a good question. I'm no Fortis expert, but the vintage chronograph models I saw from 60's, 70's and 80' did not use lozenge/b-uhr hands, so I guess it's probably a design of the 90's but I may be wrong.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
That's a good question. I'm no Fortis expert, but the vintage chronograph models I saw from 60's, 70's and 80' did not use lozenge/b-uhr hands, so I guess it's probably a design of the 90's but I may be wrong.
You're mostly right. It seems like those hands were popularized by Sinn, in the mid-eighties. I have a feeling that many of these modern watches are using the Sinn 141 or 142 as inspiration — as this model is widely acclaimed by Sinn as it was their first watch in space in 1985.



These "space watch" chronos seem to be of an entirely different timeline and heritage as the military aviation chronos from Tutima or Hanhart.
 

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Personally, I'd say that this beautiful Sinn watch and the others mentioned above have their heritage more in the early '70's Omega Speedmaster "Mark" watches than the original pilot chronographs of the late '30s and '40s. The late (great) Chuck Maddox has a page with lots of information and pictures of these Speemaster variants here:

Omega Speedmaster "Mark" Series of Chrongraphs
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Personally, I'd say that this beautiful Sinn watch and the others mentioned above have their heritage more in the early '70's Omega Speedmaster "Mark" watches than the original pilot chronographs of the late '30s and '40s. The late (great) Chuck Maddox has a page with lots of information and pictures of these Speemaster variants here:

Omega Speedmaster "Mark" Series of Chrongraphs
Whoa, this might have been the answer I was looking for. Especially with regards to the Speedmaster c.1045 with the same Lemania movement, but dated to the seventies, as mentioned above.

 
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