Blue dials are currently in fashion; as they were in the 1970s when this great MINERVA Valjoux 7734 chronograph was made. Add the applied baton hour markers, outer seconds tachymetre track in white, subsidiary dials at 3 and 9, date aperture at 6, all encased in a 38mm tonneau case and finished with a very comfortable and appropriate beads of rice steel bracelet and you are wearing a perfect slice of 70s Swiss mechanical chronograph.
Minerva is a watch brand with a wonderful history. Whilst it now sits in the Richemont stable, alongside much larger and famous brands like Cartier, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Montblanc, and Vacheron Constantin (to name a few!) it has always been highly regarded for its technical prowess in producing timepieces with great movements. Which brings us onto one of the key features of this watch; its Valjoux 7734 calibre.
Quick history lesson.
Valjoux was founded in “Valley de Joux” in the mid-to-late part of the 19th century. Valjoux originally made timers (stopwatches) and chronograph movements.
Most chronograph movements today use a cam/lever switch. This cam switching technique was cheaper to manufacture and would go on to be used in the Valjoux 7750, still in production today and perhaps the most popular chronograph movement of all time.
Throughout the 20th century, manufacturers like: Valjoux, Lemania, Landeron & Venus made the vast majority of all chrono movements.
The Valjoux 7730 (14 ligne, 6mm high) was produced until 1967. The Valjoux 7734 is part of the series in the 7730 family. More successful were the 7733 (with 30 or 45 minute sub dials), the 7734 (with date) seen here, and the 7736 (with 12-hour sub dial) made between 1969 and 1978.
Almost 2 million of these movements left the factory, destined to tick away merrily in watches made by such names as Hamilton, Helbros, Le Jour, Memosail, Wittnauer, Breitling and Minerva. Auspicious company you’d agree.
Production of the 7734 ceased after nine years in 1978 but continued to be used in mechanical watches into the 1980s.
Being a hand wound movement, once fully wound the 7734 will retain power for 45 hours. As it’s not automatic, there’s no rotor and it also operates at a slightly slower VBH (Vibrations per hour) than modern automatic movements. This means the ‘ticka ticka’ sound means one thing – vintage!
Any watch lover knows the devastation wrought in the Swiss watch industry by the quartz crisis. In the 1970s, the total number of Swiss watch manufacturers dropped by nearly one thousand companies from 1618 in 1970 to 632 in 1984. Minerva only survived thanks to the recognized quality of its mechanical chronographs. Its capability to produce its own balance wheel and hairspring combined with the mastery of various timekeeping frequencies, enabled Minerva to maintain its reputation in producing technically precise and robust chronographs for watch connoisseurs.
So onto this particular watch. Let’s be honest it’s not in perfect, mint, let alone NOS (a much misused term in the vintage watch arena) condition. The bezel has some nicks and bumps, the tonneau case has some scratches, the bracelet is not original. But isn’t this one of the reasons we like vintage watches? They’re not meant to be perfect?
However, the heart of the watch lies inside. That blue dial under the plexiglass crystal, the hands in a bright contrasting orange are wearing up very well for a watch that is now in its mid forties. Likewise the movement that beats away as strong as ever….
Check out the photos and you will see what we mean.
1960s chronographs have for a few years now been the chronographs to buy. Heuer Autavias, Rolex Daytonas and Universal Geneve Compaxes – anything with a Valjoux movement now goes for tens of thousands at auctions.
Will 1970s chronographs ever reach the (scary) heights of the Daytona? We doubt it, but in the meantime, you can enjoy a watch with a very similar pedigree for an absolute fraction of the cost. Yes, it’s a steal.