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Vintage Heuer Discussion Forum
The place for discussing 1930-1985 Heuer wristwatches, chronographs and dash-mounted timepieces. Online since May 2003.
The poll question was whether the Lemania 5100 was (a) Uber Cool, (b) Cool or (c) Un-Cool. Here is a message from Pascal S, a regular contributor on many watch forums:
I think the thing that attracted me the most with this movement, beyond its unequalled legibility and well-documented sturdiness, is the fact that it's the last member of a dying breed. This movement was conceived with only utilitarian considerations in mind. It had to be accurate, dependable, and cheap to make. Lemania managed to combine those three qualities brilliantly before the quartz tsunami redefined the watch manufacturing landscape, and consumer expectations, forever.
Nowadays, nobody would try to make such a movement because it no longer makes financial sense in our era. Quartz is more accurate and way cheaper, and most nostalgics who are ready to buy new mechanically-powered chronographs want something more: aesthetics. As much as it pains me to reach that conclusion, building an automatic chronograph has become a pointless exercise which can only be justified by adding a nice packaging to the core function of measuring time. Be it only thanks to a sapphire caseback, or going further with the addition of so-called "noble" complications such as a column wheel, or some cosmetic enhancements (Geneva waves, Perlage, blued parts, etc), the mechanical movement has been dragged into the limelight from the shadows of backstage. And it is now expected to star while still managing the show!
The Lemania 5100 is the last survivor of an era when extra considerations of this kind were unnecessary or even preposterous, except for a tiny segment of high horology. The calibre 5100 was therefore designed with a true purpose in mind, and that was it. No wonder it proved so popular with the military! This movement therefore encompasses a level of purity and honesty that we will simply not find anymore. It doesn't try to seduce us. It just is the ultimate expression of what it was meant to do given the technical limitations of the time.
The late and much-missed Chuck Maddox, with whom I had frequent e-mail conversations on that topic, indeed liked to describe this movement as the AK-47 of the chronograph world. He also sometimes used another analogy which I like just as much: the Lemania 5100 is the equivalent of a jeep. Rugged, unsophisticated, ugly, but outperforming and outlasting anything that already existed at the time. And to me it is reassuring to see so many people lovingly restoring old Willys MB Jeeps some 70 years after they first appeared because it gives me hope that the Lemania 5100 will enjoy a similar fate. But that will only happen if enough people truly measure its significance as the ultimate mechanical "work chronograph" ever made.
So yeah, this calibre is Über-Cool, and as a result so are most of the watches it powered. Besides, who can argue against such a simple an logical dial layout for a chrono?
Thanks to everyone for excellent contributions to this discussion.