The 5 most influential & important automatics
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  1. #1
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    The 5 most influential & important automatics

    There's no doubt that automatic winding units revolutionized the wristwatch. Several inventions, subsequent improvements, and even specific movements have had a vast influence on the industry. Take a look at the Valjoux 7750 series as a recent example - to say it's ubiquitous is an understatement! Regardless of how many watches are powered by a 7750, it didn't make the list because it didn't break new ground. The top 5 are in chronological order.

    Harwood bumper



    patented: 1924

    This winding system may not have been the most efficient, but it was the first. It spawned similar systems in dozens of brands like Omega, Movado, and JLC. Still used into the 60's (in the JLC Memovox for example), they finally disappeared in the 70's.


    Rolex Perpetual



    patented: 1933

    The list of companies that were influenced by this would be too long to type! It was the first 360˚ rotor wristwatch caliber and spawned a new direction in the industry. Combined with Rolex's trademark water resistant Oyster case, it formed the famous Oyster Perpetual.


    IWC Pellaton



    patented: 1946 & 1950

    Seen as the simplest and most efficient winding system ever created, it is still in use today in the IWC 5000 and 8000 series calibers. While Longines did have a flirtation with a similar design in 1945, they added the Pellation system to their manual winding 8.68N caliber to create the 19A series in 1952 - a very popular movement with the public. Seiko's Magic Lever winding system was based on the concept of IWC's Pellaton excenter technology. Cyma patented a double excenter winding unit even more efficient than IWC's in the early 50's (click HERE for more information from Dr Ranfft's website).


    Eterna ball bearing



    patented: 1948

    Here's the first major improvement to the 360˚ rotor. This system is still used by ETA who supplies the majority of the industry with movements. It was introduced first into ladies watches, and installed in men's versions in 1950. As soon as other companies could get around patent infringement, they adopted & adapted this mechanism to their automatics.


    Buren micro-rotor



    patented: 1954

    When introduced in 1957 inside their Super Slender series as the caliber 1000 and 1001, it was an immediate hit. There was a big push towards thinner watches in that era and this system met the call. Brands like Hamilton, Bulova, and even IWC licensed Buren's products for use in their own watches. Universal Geneve released a nearly identical movement and subsequently lost a patent infringement case to Buren which led to UG's paying of royalties. The Chronomatic Group* used a Buren micro-rotor caliber to make the first automatic chronograph available to the public in 1969. Many high end manufacturers have micro-rotor calibers today including Patek Philippe and Chopard.




    Conspicuously absent from the list (and open for discussion) is the Zenith El Primero. While it was the first integrated self winding chronograph, it shared the spotlight with Seiko's 6139 and the Chronomatic Group's caliber 11 in 1969. It also was a combination of technologies. 36,000 bph calibers had been introduced to the public by Girard Perregaux in 1965 and were sent to the Neuchatel Observatory Chronometer Competition by Longines (the caliber 360) as early as 1959. While the EP is a fantastic movement, it did not change the industry as much as the other 5 on the list IMO. It isn't as influential as the Valjoux 7750 family either.

    *The caliber 11 is also a worthy honorable mention since the Chronomatic Group team of Breitling, Hamilton, Buren, Heuer, and Dubois Dépraz was the first to rivet a chronograph module to an existing movement. They used a Buren micro-rotor caliber 1280 because of it's slim profile and piggy backed the Dubois Dépraz module on top - a practice still used today in a wide variety of watches but now usually attached to an ETA movement like the 2824 or 2892.




    Thanks to Adam, Tony, Andy, Steve, Chin, and Tim for their help with pictures, suggestions, and data.



    Feel free to voice any opinions!
    Last edited by ulackfocus; July 26th, 2010 at 04:56.
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  2. #2
    Member Caraptor's Avatar
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    Re: The 5 most influential & important automatics

    Very interesting, Ulackfocus. Thanks for posting that.
    Caraptor

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    Omega Forum Moderator emmanuelgoldstein's Avatar
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    Re: The 5 most influential & important automatics

    Great article Dennis. Harwood applied for the patent in 1923, but I wonder how long before, he actually created the movement?
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    Re: The 5 most influential & important automatics

    He worked with Fortis and it was shown at Basel in 1928. The first auto to
    go into serial production.
    Quote Originally Posted by emmanuelgoldstein View Post
    Great article Dennis. Harwood applied for the patent in 1923, but I wonder how long before, he actually created the movement?

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    Re: The 5 most influential & important automatics

    Quote Originally Posted by emmanuelgoldstein View Post
    Great article Dennis. Harwood applied for the patent in 1923, but I wonder how long before, he actually created the movement?
    Correct - patent applied for in 1923, granted September 1st 1924, and the first shipment of product was made in 1926 to Fortis. Sadly the Great Depression put him out of business a few years later in the early 30's.

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    Omega Forum Moderator emmanuelgoldstein's Avatar
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    Re: The 5 most influential & important automatics

    Quote Originally Posted by ulackfocus View Post
    Correct - patent applied for in 1923, granted September 1st 1924, and the first shipment of product was made in 1926 to Fortis. Sadly the Great Depression put him out of business a few years later in the early 30's.
    Thanks for that little additional tidbit.
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    Re: The 5 most influential & important automatics

    Excellent post, and no argument from an avowed El Primero aficionado. I have never viewed the El P as advancing the automatic game much, and certainly not as much as the models you chose. From my perspective, the principal contribution of the El P was to chronographs. And it has never been democratized the way the 7750 has -- it has always remained a relatively small volume movement for high end pieces, with a limited influence that is all the more interesting to some of us for being so. Not entirely clear to me why -- expense, general fear of adopting a movement with 36000 BPH beat rate for fear of mechanical failure, tenuous supply, or just poor marketing by Zenith, especially on this side of the pond?

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    Re: The 5 most influential & important automatics

    A great little article for us ulackfocus.

    Thanks for going to the effort of compiling it.
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    Re: The 5 most influential & important automatics

    nice post, thanks for sharing.
    the official canadian time: http://time5.nrc.ca/webclock_e.shtml

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    Re: The 5 most influential & important automatics

    I think that the Omega 550 family is of greater influence than the IWC. Despite Seiko lifting the winding mechanism, the Omega has the distinction of being a movement that was truly mass produced (58 million movements) while maintaining uniformly good quality. The influence upon other manufacturers to offer similar products should not be overlooked.

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