One of my first forays into vintage chronographs was a purchase early in my watch collection. Little did I know at the time, the watch was a seldom-seen Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver (CASD) “Special Logo” reference 0/4076.
This model is particularly rare and collectible for a number of reasons. First, it has a distinct Nivada logo (“Special Logo”) on the dial and crown not seen on other references as well as an exclusive caseback engraved with a stylized penguin. Perhaps the most horologically significant, it’s the only CASD with a “deluxe” gilt caliber (a Valjoux 23 movement). Finally, it’s “No Name” dial (meaning no Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver marking on the dial) is only one of two models without this indication, Ref. 85017/4773 being the other. Orange on the chrono hand and yachting sector on the right subdial make for fantastic details.
After initial concerns of its more diminutive size compared to the watches in my collection at the time, (37.5 mm diameter, 13.0 mm thickness, 44.5 mm lug-to-lug length) it quickly turned into one of my favorites and a keeper. At this stage, 36 mm-40 mm case diameter is my sweet spot. I was naturally very excited to see the return of Nivada Gretchen watches and was able to have a manual and automatic prototype model sent for review and to wear.
Let’s begin with some history, Nivada was founded in 1879 in the town of Grenchen, Switzerland. Nivada’s popularity rose in the ’50s and ’60s but unfortunately succumbed as many brands did, to the Quartz Revolution that moved through the Swiss watch industry in the 1970s.
Nivada Gretchen’s revival is thanks to Guillaume Laidet, founder of watch brand William. L 1985, and Remi Chabrat, the owner of the private label watchmaker Montrichard Group. Their idea was to keep original designs and maintain authentic specifications while offering moderate prices for manual and automatic Swiss watches. The company asked for and received much feedback from the #watchfam after the original designs were shared on Instagram. The objective, they have said, is to create what many Nivada and vintage watch enthusiasts are looking for in modern timepieces, focusing at the present only on vintage re-editions, naming beyond the Chronomaster a Depthmaster, Datomaster, Antarctic diver, and Chronoking possibilities.
Nivada Gretchen has recreated 3 vintage chronograph models. Each is offered in both a manual and an automatic version and strap choices are numerous. Offerings include either a jubilee or oyster stretch bracelet as well as rubber and leather options.
The first watch in for review is the Nivada Gretchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver manual wind (Ref. 86011WM03). It presents nicely very similar to its vintage counterpart with a stainless steel case and black aluminum bezel insert, matte black dial with white color luminous indexes. Hands are silver with white-colored lume. The best part of this model in my opinion is the red lollipop chronograph second hand. Again, it is filled with white luminous material. With the pictured rubber tropic strap for this model is $1,761. On the straight end oyster stretch bracelet option they offer (the way I’d prefer) it’s listed as $1,969.
For this model, the case size/diameter is 38.3 mm with a case thickness of 13.75 mm. The case material is stainless steel with both polished and brushed areas (as the vintage cases were finished). Case lug width is 20 mm and the lug to lug length is 46.5 mm. Less than a millimeter greater in thickness and case diameter than it’s predecessor and very close to the vintage case dimensions described above (37.5 mm diameter, 13.0 mm thickness, 44.5 mm lug to lug length for the vintage). The movement in the re-edition is a manual winding chronograph Sellita SW510 M BH b, sporting a sapphire crystal and a water resistance of 100 meters.
The other model in for review is Nivada’s “broad arrow” Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver automatic (Ref. 86002A01). The case size/diameter is the same as the manual’s, 38.3 mm. The case thickness is 1 mm greater than its manual counterpart at 14.8 mm. The case again is stainless steel with both polished and brushed finishes with a black aluminum bezel insert and a matte black dial. The case lug distance is 20 mm and the lug to lug distance is 46.5 mm same as are the manual re-edition figures. The movement in this particular variance is a self-winding chronograph, Sellita SW510 BH b. It’s adorned with a box-type sapphire crystal and is water-resistant to 100 meters water resistance. The weight of the head only is 69 grams, 79 grams with a leather strap, 95 grams with a rubber strap, 114 grams with a steel Oyster-style bracelet, and 141 grams with steel beads of rice bracelet.
The faux patina cream color on the indices and hands-on this model is done very well in my opinion, confusing more than one well-versed vintage watch collector with my photos posted on Instagram (you know who you are 😜). The hour hand for this model as mentioned, is a “broad arrow”, a popular aesthetic in the brand’s heritage. MSRP with the rubber tropic strap for this reference is $1,969.
With the recent slew of revamped defunct watch brands and both faithful and non-faithful re-issues/“neo-vintage” watches being produced I’ve been eager to see and review as many of them as possible. Both modern pieces wear very well with the automatic wearing with a slightly noticeable thicker feel but well within my comfort zone. I would naturally choose the manual model due to its slightly thinner profile and I prefer to wind my watches for the sheer tactile joy.
To this point, the Nivada Gretchen models reviewed here are some of the best representations in terms of size, wearability, and representation of past brand aesthetics compared to their original counterparts that I’ve experienced.
Learn more at Nivada Grenchen.