Many of the trendsetting and innovative brands we’ve covered throughout this series have been responsible for a number of “firsts” in the industry — the first wristwatch, first diver, first modern pilots’ watch, first automatic chronograph, first supercompressor, first watch in outer space, to name a few. Horology is one of those vocations that has accompanied mankind through all our accomplishments and failures, glories and catastrophes. Yet, if a watch brand has been out of production for a while, its earned spot in the history of watchmaking can easily get lost and forgotten in favor of newer and currently available models.
Gallet is one of these brands. The Swiss company was the first to produce a waterproof chronograph, a watch with an rotating bezel, a watch with an additional 24-hour GMT hand, and, significantly, a watch with a 28,000-vph escapement. In the brand’s more than 550 years of clockmaking and watchmaking since 1466, and especially in the past century, it has provided the industry with no shortage of innovations.
This year, the brand has brought itself back into the conversation — riding the waves of both its own rich history and of the vintage-revival trend — with the release of the “Heritage Edition” Racing Chronograph. The watch, inspired by the famous MultiChron “Jim Clark” edition (above, courtesy of FratelloWatches), so named for the legendary Forumla 1 racer who often wore it, is Gallet’s reintroduction of itself into the contemporary market. The vintage watch it’s based on was produced from 1952 to the early 1970s and was characterized by a three-register chronograph dial, black with white accents, and an overall no-nonsense aesthetic meant to appeal to those valuing functionality over fashion. The modern watch (below) channels many of these original style choices, but now adds many new layers of design to place itself firmly in the luxury category.
The “Heritage Edition” comes in a 40-mm brushed and polished steel case with sharp edges, simple pump pushers, and hex-screw lug bars meant to assist in changing and securing the watch’s strap more easily and more reliably. Its black dial, clearly developed with visibility in mind, uses an outer tachymetric scale; large, printed Arabic numerals for its hour markers; and three subdials for running seconds at the 3 o’clock, 12-hour chrono counter at 6 o’clock, and 30-minute counter at 9 o’clock. Powering the watch’s vintage-style, syringe hour and minute hands and red lollipop-inspired chronograph seconds counter is the automatic Gallet Swiss Caliber 550, produced in collaboration with Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier. The movement— visible through the watch’s sapphire caseback— has a 50-hour power reserve, uses a “low-mass 28,800-vph variable inertia balance” system that claims to “transcend gravity,” and among many other features takes advantage of ceramic ball bearings underneath its rotor for decreased resistance. The watch is currently available for purchase for $12,500 through the Gallet website, and will be limited to 500 pieces.
Comparing the modern watch to its vintage forbear, the family resemblance clearly shows through. With a curvy steel case, pump pushers, straightforward dial, and parallel dial features, there’s no question which historical watch the “Heritage Edition” draws its inspiration from. Some key similarities are seen in the use of primarily black and white details for the dial, syringe hour and minute hands, the three registers, and the prominent Arabic numerals. Even the general ethos of the two watches is relatively similar, with Gallet describing the modern piece as both ergonomic and “indestructibly built,” designed to “run accurately for over 100 years” — this being a claim similar to that made for the utilitarian and built-to-last quality of the original “Jim Clark.”
Gallet is clearly looking to make a splash with this new piece, and to justify the $12,500 price tag, thus it has made a number of design changes that go beyond channeling the look of the original watch. Aesthetically, the case is 2 mm larger in diameter compared to the 38-mm case used on the original, with larger and sturdier-looking pushers and crown; there is a clear and noticeable focus on luxury finishing, as seen through the case’s sharp and curvy edges. Also, the lugs now use the hex-screw system rather than the traditional spring-bar mechanisms, differentiating the watch not only from its vintage counterpart but from the mass market in general.
On the dial, the vintage piece offered both a tachymetric and telemetric scale on its outer flange, while the modern piece features a tachymeter only. Besides the obvious modernization in manufacturing the design now uses two red accents for its contemporary lollipop seconds counter and for the “MultiChron” script over the 6 o’clock subdial. Most importantly, the modern watch uses an excellently-built new movement (likely most of the reason for the high price) — a significant upgrade from the hand-wound Valjoux 72s or Excelsior Park 40 movements seen in the vintage models during their production years.
Overall, while the price of the watch is relatively high in comparison to many other historically important chronographs on the market today, the piece nonetheless does an excellent job of paying homage to the vintage original in the context of modern luxury. Whether or not a modern consumer would use the new piece as cavalierly as the historic MultiChron is another question, but on pure presentation alone the new watch offers an interesting new take on one of the most prominent vintage-style chronographs in production over the past 60-plus years.
For the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which we explore the Bell & Ross Vintage BR V1-92 Military’s historical inspirations, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first learning about horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field, and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.