desperately seeking info

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  1. #1

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    desperately seeking info

    As a young boy my love of wristwatches developed from the time my father use to let me sit on his lap and press the stop start buttons on his watch. when he died 15 years ago I was left the watch in his will. recently i showed my boys their grandads watch and let them press the stop start buttons like i use to. then one asked where did grandad get his watch? the only answer i knew was he won it in a wager in post war germany while serving with the british army. this question has led me to this forum. having googled with no result i was hoping someone could shed some light on the make, country of manufacture and any other details. i have added a picture for help and have the make or model is called Argus and i can just make out the letters
    TELEMETRE or TELBMETRE i am not sure that is the total letter as the one of the dials overlap. the only other info i know was that my father won it in Hamburg 1948.
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  2. #2
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Re: desperately seeking info

    Hi -

    This is a tough one.

    Regarding Argus: The love affairs of gods never bode well for mortals; there were times when they caused nothing but suffering even for some of the nymphs. Io, the beautiful daughter of the river god Inachus, fell prey to the passion of Jupiter, who - in order to hide her from his jealous wife - turned the girl into a cow. The wily Juno talked her husband into giving her the fine-looking animal and had the hundred-eyed Argus guard it. Jupiter gave Mercury the task of killing the wicked guard. The inventive god (the Greeks called him "Hermes dolios", the schemer) approached the meadows, herding some goats which he had stolen along the way, and played songs on his pipe. The guard was charmed by the new and masterful melodies.

    Argus was then beheaded by Mercury. Ouch.

    But getting back to the subject, there *was* a Swiss watch company called Argus. However, the history of the company is, at best, obscure and I have failed to find any really meaningful information beyond the fact that they made pocket watch movements, but rather pedestrian and not of very high quality (I found one on eBay's archives, and it fails to impress: very few jewels (I counted only three!) and minimal finishing.

    That said: the watch you have is a classic 1940s-era chronometer. Without opening it, it is impossible to say what is inside it, and I would bow to the greater wisdom of others here who know their vintage chronometers better than I do...

    Now, it is most obviously an heirloom of enormous sentimental value for you.

    Have you had it serviced recently? A watch of this age and vintage is a masterpiece of mechanical precision, but does require some significant care if it is going to survive over the years so that your kids can show their grandchildren the watch and tell them how their great-great-grandfather acquired the watch.

    If not, then please, please, please don't wind it up or use it before it is worked on by a *qualified* watchmaker. The dial of the watch is in rather nice condition for the age, with virtually no wear/markings/etc., and you really shouldn't let anyone talk you into redoing the face. But the watchwork as such should have a disassembly, cleaning and oiling and of course reassembly to ensure that this lovely watch - and it really is a very, very, nice example of a classic watch from the 1940s - remains healthy and hale for the next generations of your family. The watch case needs some work on it - simply cleaning should do - but please do get it to a watchmaker, a good one, who will take care of it.

    Great watch, great story.

    Sorry I can't help you out more on information on the watch. Searching on the internet is hard for this brand name, as there was a British warship with the name Argus and of course the Argus cameras tend to obscure any other references to Argus the watch company...

    JohnF
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  3. #3
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    Re: desperately seeking info

    i would guess that the innards of your chronograph (not chronometer ;p) is a Venus 170 .. the whole watch looks very similar to my Dorex .. which is another "brand which is not a brand" ..
    i've seen a couple of Dorex watches on Ebay, but my guess is that, as was common in the '40s, the watches would be branded as the reseller saw fit .. so Dorex would probably be the name of some company of jewellers, and not a watch manufacturer.
    If you look at the photo of my Dorex (i'm reattaching it) you will see that it is very similar to your watch ..

    regarding the 170, my comment is that it is not the most long lived of movements due to some parts of the design which are inherently weak (particularly the keyless works, ie. winding mechanism) .. when mine arrived, although the ebay seller said it worked fine, it was sticking .. a $30 service later it's working fine & keeps reasonably accurate "vintage time" .. within about 30 secs a day. I'd attribute the inaccuracy to the fact the watch doesn't run at the same rate in all positions - this would be due to worn bushings - i've read that some important moving parts of this movement are not jewelled and tend to wear out. The chronograph part of the movement works fine though, and is a pleasure to use .. (and 30 secs/day inaccuracy isn't an issue on a 60 year old watch really ...)

    take your watch to a good watchmaker and have it seen to .. i have a feeling that the service I get for $30 here costs $300 in the states, so do get a quotation before doing anything.

    Value-wise my watch cost $300 + $20 shipping, from ebay, above which I paid 18% EU VAT (aaaarghhhh) + $30 to get it repaired + a strap .. I think it was a pretty good deal for a solid 18k watch .. from following ebay I would guess that $200-$300 is the going rate for a working-condition Venus 170 chronograph, unless it's badged Breitling, in which case it would be $800 or more (for more or less the exact same thing!)

    as John said, do not get a redial .. it will never look as good as the original, and there's nothing wrong with your dial to begin with!

    I really enjoyed reading your long post & story & wish you many future years of service from your lovely watch! (and your kids too!)
    My Watches .. click here!

    incoming .. Seiko DX, Seiko LM, two almost identical Seiko Bullhead chronos

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  5. #4
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    Re: desperately seeking info

    ah .. i forgot the photo ..
    Attached Images Attached Images

    My Watches .. click here!

    incoming .. Seiko DX, Seiko LM, two almost identical Seiko Bullhead chronos

  6. #5

    Join Date
    May 2006
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    Re: desperately seeking info

    A superb watch! Those are typical of watches sold to enlisted men in the British army during World War 2.
    Often, families would break the communal piggy bank to buy one of those for their sons going to the front.
    As a result, those had usually suffered quite a bit by the time they made it back.
    Argus is one of hundred of Swiss companies that sold to the British market.
    The movement is more likely that not a Venus, which makes it rarer and hence more sought after than the ubiquitous Landeron.
    These are some of the best movements made although the cases tend to be rather poorly made.
    Yours seem to be in extremely good knick and I also would recommend you get the movement serviced. The rest should stay as is, other wise the watch would lose a lot of value, both financialy and historically.
    Typically, you can pick up one of those from 250 to 500 quid (yes, quid!) depending on condition and who you buy it from, although I have seen some of them going for up to a 1000 with the right credential, paperwork, etc.
    I brief, you have a rare, valuable watch. Old, but 100% functional and that deserves to be passed down for generations and generations.
    I hope this helps,
    best, redjack.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alecm View Post
    As a young boy my love of wristwatches developed from the time my father use to let me sit on his lap and press the stop start buttons on his watch. when he died 15 years ago I was left the watch in his will. recently i showed my boys their grandads watch and let them press the stop start buttons like i use to. then one asked where did grandad get his watch? the only answer i knew was he won it in a wager in post war germany while serving with the british army. this question has led me to this forum. having googled with no result i was hoping someone could shed some light on the make, country of manufacture and any other details. i have added a picture for help and have the make or model is called Argus and i can just make out the letters
    TELEMETRE or TELBMETRE i am not sure that is the total letter as the one of the dials overlap. the only other info i know was that my father won it in Hamburg 1948.

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