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Some long and rambling (¿feverish?) thoughts...

The Lemania 1873 is generally considered to be a better movement than the Valjoux 72 the original Carrera sported, and the Re-Editions were and are well thought of.

hi chuck

Hiya Bruce, Good to see you posting!

are you sure about the 72/1873 relationship as i understood the 1873 is of nowhere near the quality of the 321 (found in pre 1969 speedmasters etc) given that the 321 and 72 were direct compeditors is there really that much difference in quality?

Well, it's not really simple... and I can't really explain it in a sentence or two...

Both the Valjoux 71/72 Series and the Lemania 27 CHRO C12/c.321 movements are venerable movements, and competitors for many years. For the most part, the 27 CHRO C12 (which is the early name for the c.321) was a co-development between Lemania and Omega and was use nearly exclusively by Omega. I'm suffering from a nasty head/sinus/chest cold at the moment, so I'm not at my best, but I can't for the life of me think of a brand that used the "C12" or the c.321 besides Omega and the occasional Lemania branded chronograph. On the other hand nearly every brand save Omega (and Lemania), Breitling, and possibly Tissot used the Valjoux 71/72 family of calibres including Rolex. Thus the v.72 series and the C12/c.321 were natural competitors.

By the mid-1960's, It became apparent to Lemania that it needed to come up with a chronograph that was easier to mass produce in order to meet the growing demand that Omega (and other manufacturers) were making with orders for their chronograph movements. Their first attempt was a movement which was an interesting blend of the earlier C12/c.321 movement and the later 1873... It retained the earlier calibre's distinctive "Arched Bridge" while swapping the Column wheel for a Lever Cam arrangement, and a screwed balance for a smooth balance. Lemania made examples useing this movement for several years, as did Tissot. I happen to own one of the Tissot's (a Seastar) and it's a nice little watch. But the Lever Cam and Smooth Balance were clearly cheaper and easier to make than the older and more complex Column Wheel and screwed balance.

So, Lemania keep working at it and rolled out the c.87x series in or around 1968. I speak more specifically about the differences between these two series in this article:

Speedmaster "Moonwatch" Movements: Background Information

Ok, So Lemania introduced the new c.87x movements in or around 1968. The main differences were the aforementioned switch from Column Wheel to Shuttle/Cam, the Balance Wheel went from Screwed to smooth, the balance wheel change allowed an increase in beat frequency from 18,000 to 21,600, the change in shape of the bridge, and a flat balance spring was utilized.

Now, while 99 out of 100 chronograph collectors will tell you that they prefer the Column Wheel and the looks of an arched bridge, in terms of function there is little if any difference in actual day to day usage. But the c.87x movements are significantly simpler to manufacture and can be produced at a higher volume at a lower cost. However, the fact that a c.87x movement is significantly less expensive to manufacture doesn't equate to it being a lower cost movement any more than a lower cost Macintosh iMac G4 ($1,599 - 2003 Dollars) is a lower quality unit than the original Macintosh 128k (which listed for $2,500 in 1984).

One of the big advantages that the Valjoux 7x series enjoyed was the sheer number of variations it was available in... In addition to the tried and true v.72, I own a v.721 (Seafarer), v.723 (triple-date), several c.724's (GMT Complication), c.726 (Improved c.72), and a c.728 (single register with a center pinion chronograph minute counter (similar to the Lemania 5100 and 1341/2)... The C12/c.321 was never offered in anything other than base three-register chronograph model. The c.87x series had a number of complicated versions, including the c.863 (highly decorated display back version), c.864 (Chronometer), c.866 (Moonphase - Date), c.867 (skeletonized), in addition there were c.910 (GMT Hand/ AM/PM at 9 o'clock Sub-dial), c.911 (GMT - Small Second at 9 o'clock), and the c.930 (which was a two register, date) which were used in the Flightmasters (910, 911), and DeVille/Bullhead (930) Omega Chronographs all based on the same basic movement. These are all Omega Calibre numbers as I'm not entirely certain of the Lemania nomenclature for all of the Omega Variants. But suffice it to say the c.87x was available in many more flavors than the older C12/c.321 movement.

Which brings me back to the Valjoux 72...

The Valjoux 72 is a good solid movement, venerable, and well thought of. However in the most torturous (NASA) testing the c.321 topped the v.72 (and later on the Omega c.861 did as well) consistantly and reliably . Now some will say that it's really hard to blame the failures that led NASA to disqualify the v.72 powered chronographs at the feet of the v.72 (the failures were more along the lines of popped crystals and warped hands), but the Speedmaster held up better, both in the 1960's tests (when utilizing the c.321) and in the tests in the late 1970's (utilizing the later Omega c.861 (Lemania 873)). Since the Valjoux 72 remained in widespread production through the early 1970's there was some overlap when one could buy a c.87x Lemania or a v.72. I'm not sure exactly when Valjoux discontinued the v.72, but Rolex used them in the Daytona before switching to the Zenith El-Primero movement, when that movement was revived from near extinction in the 1980's. It's my experience that most people who have experience with both the Lemania's (c.321 or c.87x) and the Valjoux 72 will typically voice a preference for the Lemania movement.

I own a lot of each of these movements: c.321/c.87x/v.72/v.72x and while they each seem to perform well, the Lemania seem to be sturdier. The Valjoux has a number of very long and delicate levers that the Lemania either doesn't have or are shorter or much thicker, which contribute to the Lemania's reputation for robust movements that can take punishment well. The finish also seems to be better typically on the Lemania's when compared to the Valjoux counterparts.

And to finish back at your question... which was "... as i understood the 1873 is of nowhere near the quality of the 321"... The c.87x is not as costly or as involved to produce as the c.321. But it's not possible to make a 1:1 correlation between cost and quality. The c.861 (for example) passed the same NASA tests as the c.321 and did as well or better than the earlier movement. Most collectors prefer the rarer, less common, more estetically pleasing and "original moonwatch" c.321 movement over the c.861, but quality isn't really the reason.

A side note... I refer to the movement you called the 1873 as c.87x because there are enough variations of this movement, and I'm not as conversant with Lemania's naming conventions as I am Omega's. I know that Lemania makes c.1871, 1872, 1873 and 1874 movements all based on the same basic design. Lemania calls the originally Gilt Plated versions without the initial 1 in the movement number, and added the one for Rhodium plated examples. For what it's worth, the c.321 never went out of production and is currently available (and used by certain high end watch companies) and is known as the Lemania c.2310 and c.2320.

I'm sorry if this reply is rambling or hard to follow. I hope it clarifies rather than clouds. But with the way I'm feelin' I could see it go either way... =) If you have follow-up's please post them, I'll try to clarify further.



-- Chuck

Chuck Maddox

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