Excelsior Park Monte Carlo
Here we have a stunning looking Excelsior Park Monte Carlo chronograph… looks familiar, looks vintage, and let’s face it, it looks stunning. This is a watch, greater than its parts, and that is literally what it is, a mish-mash of cobbled-together parts!
Well, many collectors are familiar with Excelsior Park; they were a well-established (founded 1866) and famous watchmaker that produced and sold their own watches. They also built and supplied movements to Gallet, Zenith, Girard-Perregaux and Breitling, to name but a few.
Excelsior Park, like so many other traditional watchmaking companies, were struck down and made bankrupt by the insurgence of Quartz technology. They just didn’t adapt quickly enough, and they were forced to close their doors in the early 80s.
The brand remained dormant until one of EP’s suppliers, a German watch tool supplier, called Fume, tried to resuscitate the brand, and acquired what remained of the company in 1986.
Fume are excellent Tool Makers for the watchmaking industry and are still plying their trade, very successfully, today. However, I suspect toolmaking is totally different to watch making, and perhaps Fume had bitten off more than they could chew.
Assessing what they had bought, they discovered numerous watch parts in their possession. A stock of Breitling branded Valjoux 7740 movements, along with NOS watch cases that were remarkably similar to both the Zenith Cairelli CP-2 Italian military chronograph that was issued in the 1960’s, and the Bulova Marine Star of the same period.
Fume hatched a plan; they would produce a small run of watches using the parts they had. The Breitling logo was milled off the movements bridge (a common feature or “tell” for original movements of Monte Carlos, is this milling).
Two dial variations were made, a Black and a White. Finally, two case back options were offered, one solid and the other, a sapphire crystal “movement presentation” display case back.
This Monte Carlo sports the matte black dial and the sapphire crystal display back and doesn’t it look superb!
It’s a familiar design architecture… think Zenith, or perhaps even Heuer’s Bunde. Similar, but different.
The Stainless-steel case, which was considered large in period, at 42mm diameter, 52mm lug-to-lug, and 13.5mm thick, still fits the modern narrative perfectly. It is in great shape and looks fabulous on the wrist.
And again, there is a niggling feeling of familiarity, this time think, Zenith Cairelli CP-2 and Bulova’s Marine Star, both watches of the 60’s but here is their Doppelganger, from the early 90s!
The matte black dial is in amazing condition, it’s original and unmolested, with the lume on both the dial and hands having mellowed to a lovely cream colour and patina. A date display at 4:30 is a useful feature.
Wait, a date display at 4:30, that has echoes of Zenith’s El Primero!
Through the case back, the just-serviced, Valjoux Cal.7740 is proudly displayed and what a sturdy, functional movement it is. It may not have fancy engraving or finishing, but still fully deserves to be centre stage. These are rare movements, only made for a few years and are an adaption of Heuer’s Calibre 11/12. It’s ticking away perfectly, and all functions are working correctly.
Hold on, I thought the movement looked familiar; it’s a Calibre 11/12, but not. Hmm?
Finally, the bezel smacks once again of Zenith’s Cairelli CP-2, although the CP-2 was printed rather than the aluminium insert seen here.
Ooh, there goes that familiarity gland again, an aluminium insert, with a large red triangle. Does that strike a chord too?
You might not be surprised by now but take a look at Rolex Watch Company’s Submariner 5508 “James Bond”, from the late 50s to early 60s… the Monte Carlo’s bezel feels, so so similar in style, but when compared side by side, it’s not!
Nobody is sure as to how many Monte Carlos were made, but rumours abound of their only being, 50 maybe 100 or so, of each colour. Personally, I think there must be more, as it wouldn’t make economic sense to produce so few, but nonetheless they are very, very rare.
So, there you have it. All the familiarity, hints, and overtones of iconic ’60s watches; presented in a watch from the 90s; coupled with a rare Valjoux 7740 movement…
And a great story to boot!
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