Watches can be, well, complicated, and not all of the information out there is always accurate or reliable. One of the questions I often see asked is, are all chronographs created equal, and more specifically, what is the difference between an integrated chronograph and a modular one? Over the last couple of decades, there have been two main types of chronographs: the integrated chronograph and the modular chronograph. An integrated chronograph is basically what it sounds like—the chronograph complication is built into the base movement and the two are designed to work together. A modular chronograph is an entirely different beast.
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A few weeks ago we brought you the first in a new series of in-depth articles about the key mechanical movements found in TAG Heuer watches. Today, we look at a mechanical chronograph movement used broadly across the modern range- the Calibre This allows different complications chronograph, power-reserve, moon-phase to be developed from the same base, offering greater efficiency and flexibility than an integrated chronograph- a generalist rather than a specialist if you will.
An easy way of telling whether your watch uses an integrated or modular chronograph movement is to look at the chronograph pushers and the crown. A modular chronograph such as the LWO below usually has the crown sitting below chronograph pushers, reflecting the fact that the chronograph module sits on top of the base movement.
The prevailing view among many collectors is that- generally- an integrated chronograph is the preferred construction. It is often argued that an integrated chronograph was designed specifically for that purpose, whereas a modular movement is something of a hybrid.
There are several examples of famous movements with both types of construction- the Chronomatic Heuer movement is a modular movement, while the Zenith El Primero Calibre 36 is integrated.
But is integrated really any better, or this just a watch snob myth? The was launched in and is a development of the family of Eterna movements that go back to the late s. One of the features of the is its slim 3. Nicholas Hacko is an Australian watchmaker who writes a popular blog taking readers into his workshop.
Earlier this year, Nick wrote a great review of the Calibre 17 movement, which he has generously allowed to be re-printed below. Over the years many watch manufacturers went out of business for the very reason they got into it in the first place: a complex product which required labour and skills in both manufacturing and maintenance was often too expensive for the average watch owner.
The advancement of battery operated watches in late 70s and early 80s brought the Swiss watch industry to the brink of extinction. Only the fittest and strongest of watchmakers survived the Japanese onslaught.
Small guys disappeared, and those in middle who had manufacturing capabilities or provided a unique service to the industry were eventually absorbed by the big players. In the s some Swiss makers ventured into the field of modular engineering.
This was an effort to retain mechanical complexity, yet to make the end product easier to manufacture and assemble — and eventually, easier to service. In reality, the concept itself is as old as watchmaking. More about purists later. And then, there are some which are only engaged on demand — like a stop watch.
Ironically, those blocks which do the least amount of work are often the most complex ones to pull apart, assemble and adjust. Practically, due to functional integration and complexity you hate that word too, do you? So, you may ask and rightly so! It is a self-winding automatic watch with date and chronograph stop watch function. Again, from this view, looks like any ordinarily automatic watch- except for one detail: there is no sign of a chrono unit! The level of modular integration or should I say: modular separation is really amazing.
Unfortunately, the photos above do not reveal much of the complexity — not only each unit contains close to parts, but each module does what it is supposed to do even when completely separated!
It goes without saying that watchmakers just adore the modular concept! If there is no fault in the chrono or calendar unit, a watchmaker can overhaul the watch without even having to remove the dial and hands! A 4 hours job reduced to 45 minutes. Now, by disclosing all this information to you, you may think you have enough ammunition to accuse your watchmaker of cutting corners. In case of fault, ETA would supply a complete module only. So by not pulling it apart, your watchmaker is actually saving you some serious money!
Of course, the base module should be serviced the same way as any other automatic watch. Apart from TAG Heuer, there are number of other Swiss makers who happily use the very same movement — most noticeably, the Omega Speedmaster Reduced automatic chronograph.
There is of course nothing wrong with that — except that such view is based on an extremely narrow minded understanding of watchmaking and horology in general. Also, this would be a great moment to switch to a completely different subject — or even better, leave the room. Watch purists are exactly like that. For a purist, a modular movement is a betrayal of the watchmaking tradition, which, according to them, demands that all components must be placed in layers only above or below the main plate.
Of course, the current trend of the Swiss industry is towards complex, labour intensive, highly branded products designed to please wealthy purists, not an average watch owner or God forbid — a watchmaker. That movement has a layout, the same as the 3-register version of the Calibre Despite that, the Calibre 17 and its family of movements will remain an important one for collectors, especially those who focus on the re-edition series of the early s.
Posted September 29, A few weeks ago we brought you the first in a new series of in-depth articles about the key mechanical movements found in TAG Heuer watches.
Other notable Calibre 17 models are:. Integrated vs. Here is the essence of modular watch technology. The answer is yes — and it is called the ETA There is not much to be seen from the dial side, so here is a photo of the back: Again, from this view, looks like any ordinarily automatic watch- except for one detail: there is no sign of a chrono unit!
On the right, the chrono module houses a very complex but low-maintenance unit. Here is a photo which shows those 3 points of connection: It goes without saying that watchmakers just adore the modular concept!
The answer to this question is: blame the purists! If the critics are failed actors, then the purists are failed critics!
Practical, serviceable and affordable are no longer engineering pre-requisites.
2894-2 - unavailable
A few weeks ago we brought you the first in a new series of in-depth articles about the key mechanical movements found in TAG Heuer watches. Today, we look at a mechanical chronograph movement used broadly across the modern range- the Calibre This allows different complications chronograph, power-reserve, moon-phase to be developed from the same base, offering greater efficiency and flexibility than an integrated chronograph- a generalist rather than a specialist if you will. An easy way of telling whether your watch uses an integrated or modular chronograph movement is to look at the chronograph pushers and the crown.
ETA caliber 2894-2
The similar skeletonized ETA S2 is sometimes found without chronograph functions. ETA launched Cal. Note that because the chronograph bridges and components are mounted directly to the top plate of rite movement, directly behind the dial, it is not considered to be a modular movement. Unlike most second- and third-generation ETA movements, Cal. Very few watch movements in history have a small seconds subdial at The chronograph function is started, stopped, and restarted using the button at