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RobbieG

Lemania 2310 / Venus 175 / Seagull ST-19

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Introduction:

I was going through some old PM's and emails, etc. with some questions from newer members and other discussions regarding handwind chronograph movements and thought since I haven't done a major contribution in a while I might do a post to clear up some common misconceptions about the best known column wheel chronograph movements as they relate to replica watches. This is not meant to be an exhaustive reference or anything, nor am I a qualified watchmaker or expert. But I am a big fan of these movements and have spent a fair amount of time studying them and their history.

Before I start with the breakdown let's first distinguish between the column wheel chronograph like the movements discussed here and the cam lever / heart plate style designs such as the tried and true ETA 7750 we are all so familiar with. The column wheel design allows a slotted wheel to rotate via pushers. When doing so the slots between the pilars of the column either admit or reject the beaks of the two (or more in the case of flybacks, etc.) levers which control the functions of start, stop and reset. If the reset is depressed and the chrono is stopped, the reset lever is admitted to a slot on the wheel which clicks into place when rotated by the pusher. The same action will reject the start lever and it will stay out of the wheel. If the chrono is now started, the start/stop lever will drop into a slot instead and the reset lever will be rejected. Finally when the running chrono is stopped but not reset yet, neither lever will be accepted to the wheel.

columnwheel1.jpg

By contrast the Coulisse-Levier design developed by Valjioux uses a three plane cam system known as a heart plate as opposed to a rotating wheel shown here.

7750heartpiece.jpg

The operation of this design is a bit tougher to explain, and in the interest of time I will leave out a detailed description here. But suffice it to say the the heart piece limiter type system is not as smooth as a column wheel and the pusher force varies with each function and as such, they are not quite as precise. It is for this reason that the highest end manufactories generally choose column wheel designs for their flagship timepieces and while more expensive, they are widely regarded as being the superior design by high end collectors.

There are many excellent replicas on the market which use the principle column wheel chronograph manufactered in China by the Seagull company. More on that later, but we need to first clear up a common misconception created by replica factories. In many of the dealer websites, the Seagull ST-19 is incorrectly called a Lemania movement or a Lemania clone movement. Of course the first statement is not true as genuine Lemania movements are expensive and not found in replica watches, but to say it is a Lemania clone could be deemed both correct and incorrect depending on how you look at it. Again, more on that later, but first a little background on the genuine Lemania movement model most closely connected with our replica column wheel chronograph.

Lemania:

The Lemania 2310, it's variants, and it's upgraded versions are widely regarded as one of, if not the highest quality column wheel chronograph movement available. It beats at 18K, uses a screw balance and needle index (the upgraded 2310 adds a swan neck regulator. Nouvell Lemania, which is now the movement manufacturing arm of Swatch, was founded as A. Lugrin in 1884 in Vallee de Joux as a dedicated movement supply house speicalizing in high quality complications including minute repeaters, perpetual calendars, and you guessed it - chronographs. The tradename Lemania was adopted in the 1920's and was branded into many watches all the way into the 1960's. In 1932 they initially joined Omega and went on to develop the very famous Moonwatch Caliber 321.

321.jpg

The 321 is the hand wound chronograph certified for space by NASA in 1957, which remained available for many years in pretty much it's original form, a few small upgrades aside.

moonwatch.jpg

moonwatchmovement.jpg

This movement was simply an extention of the very earliest version of the Lemania Caliber 2310 initially developed in the 1940's.

1940slemaniaback.jpg

Here, this early version was actually part of a complete watch from Lemania from the early 40's.

1940slemania.jpg

Throughout the years many high end Swiss manufactories continued to use the 2310 and it's variants as ebauches in the most raw form as bases for its flagship handwind chronographs. This has been made continually possible since Lemania was officially united with Breguet under Swatch in the 1990's. To this day, 2310's (upgraded to 2320's which include swan necks and others based on the original) are seen in the highest possible form of decoration, as well as adorned with addtional in house complications modules, as the engines of some of the most complicated and expensive timepieces in the world. Famous watches featuring these movements include...

Breguet's 5237

breguet5237.jpg

breguet5237back.jpg

Patek's 5070

patek5070front.jpg

patek5070.jpg

And the Vacheron Malte Chronograph (more on the rep later) which has been discontinued and replaced with the similar Patrimony Traditionelle Chronograph introduced at SIHH in 2009.

patrimonychrono2.jpg

patrimonychrono2back.jpg

Venus 175:

So now that we have Lemania out of the way, let's discuss another very similar column wheel chronograph movement which is more closely connected with the clone found in our replicas - the venerable Venus 175. The history of Venus is no less interesting, but instead of going into great detail as I thought was necessary for Lemania to lay the foundation, I would rather focus on the 175's transition to Seagull and hence the replica clones. But just a brief bit of history is that they were originally designed around the same time as the Lemania 2310 and produced at the former Fabrique d'Ebauches Venus S.A. in Moutier between 1940 and the mid 60's. Like the 2310 it is a 17 jewel handwind column wheel chronograph beating at 18K. Absent is the screw balance found on the 2310 (& 2320). The 175 was seen extensively in chronographs of the 40's and 50's and was used especially extensively by Breitling in the original Chronomat and Rodania single button chronographs. The 175 is no longer available new, other than stock piles of NOS movements that may be held by some manufactories and individuals, but both remanufactered and NOS movements keenly decorated are seen from time to time as well - such as this one from Maurice Lacroix (which as shown has been modified to include a usually absent screw balance and swan neck).

venus175a.jpg

Perhaps the most interesting item in the Venus 175 history is ironically how we came to be the recipients of its clone via Seagull in relatively recent times. Around 1957, a factory in Moscow started producing a copy of an earlier Venus Caliber - the 150. This was the legendary 'Strela' movement. A few years later Venus was planning to reduce the number of movements they offered and were planning to offer an upgrade of the 175 - the 180. But they realized they needed money to do so which they would generate by selling some redundant tooling they didn't need. They first tried to sell it to the Soviets (who had already shown an interest in copying them) but they were happy with the Strela and turned them down. But it just so happened that at the same time the Chinese Airforce was in need of a pilot's chronograph and for political reasons could no longer buy Strela's from the Soviets. So Venus offered them the 175 by selling them all the tooling to make the movements. Here is a picture of an early 175 seen in a Chinese military pilots watch. It was only in production for military purposes for a time and then was eventually released to civilians as the Seagull ST-19 in more modern times.

seagulst19airforce1963.jpg

Modern Seagull ST-19:

So now you know the not-so-secret- which is that the handwound column wheel chrongraph found in our replicas is actually not a Lemania or a Lemania clone but rather a Venus 175 clone. In fact, one might even make the case that it is a Venus 175 really, since it is manufactered using the original tooling - or at least was at one time. Of course blued screws are laquered and not flame blued and the final finish, decoration, and assembly is how shall we say, "all China", but the function and robustness stand. In fact, many watchmakers have given a sort of seal of approval to the ST-19 as one of the best movements to come out of China. Even the dirty versions seen in our watches always seem to hold up well, but if you take the care to have it serviced, there is no reason it couldn't last for many years or even a lifetime.

venus175.jpg

I didn't want this article to really get into talking specifically about available replicas with this movement so I will limit the discussion to a brief overview of just one - the Vacheron Constantin Malte Chronograph that I once owned. Without going into great detail let me just say that the rep is extremely accurate despite being of a Lemania 2310 (2320) based gen. The reason as you can see by now is because the Lemania and Venus movements are very close to each other in looks. Absent of course is the high level of decoration and the raised gold lettering on the bridges, but in a pinch it will pass. After all, who would really know or examine it that closely? The one thing I will point out is the subdial spacing on the gen, which is Lemania based is closer to the center than on the 175, so the rep's subdials are a bit further apart. Other than that, the dial is quite accurate as well.

Malte27.jpg

Malte9.jpg

Beyond the Malte, there are many other replicas using this movement from Breguet to Omega and beyond, and you will find many of them quite accurate (all things considered) to their usually very expensive genuine counterparts.

So I hope you have enjoyed this article and learned a bit along the the way. I also hope that the new found knowledge may make you seek out and appreciate more reps and gens using these movements, and that you find them as fascinating and beautiful as I have over the years.

EDIT ADD:

I have already recieved a couple questions which I left out, so here goes - and if I get any more I will try to answer them here at the end if I can.

The first question is what are the sizes and retail prices of the gen watches using the Lemania ebauches I mentioned...

-The Breguet 5237 is $28,900 in WG and is 37MM

-The Patek 5070 is $47,300 in WG and is 40MM. However Patek is shrewed and limits supply of these. Availability is so tight they are like the SS Daytona in a sense. Collectors really desire them and they routinely sell for $65,000 or more and as much as $110,000 for the platinum version new with box and papers. Ouch!

-The Vacheron Patrimony Traditionelle Chronograph is new this year at SIHH and is 42MM. It is new and retail pricing is not out yet on it. But the Malte Chronograph it is replacing retailed for $41,500 in WG last year and was 41.5MM

The second question is which movement is better, the 2310 or the 175...

The answer is a subjective one, but most agree that the Lemania 2310 and variants is the better movement. One reason is the 175 uses a longer push rod which tends to break when it gets brittle and the Lemania uses a much shorter one. Another is power reserve. Depending on the model, Lemania handwinds are capable of 60 hour reserves or more. Finally, the 2310 is the slimmer of the two (also smaller in width) by about 4% which makes for slimmer, more elegant casing.

The third question is since the movements look almost identical, why is the subdial spacing off on reps of gens built with the Lemania as opposed to Venus movement...

The answer is simple. Size. The 2310 is 27.5MM wide and the 175 is 31MM wide. Doesn't seem like much, but in micro mechanics it is huge. Since the 175 clone in the reps is so much bigger, what happens is in order to rep the case size correctly they have to adjust the dials accordingly. Since the movement is too big for the case so to speak, it effectively moves the subdials away from the center and toward the edges of the case. So if you look at the dial of the Malte rep for instance you can see that while the cases are very close the subdial spacing is quite different on inspection. The 23(20) in the gen is smaller in width, whereby moving the subdials inward. You can see how they had to adjust the outer indices on the rep to compensate. Notice how the little dots at 9 and 3 are missing. You will of course see a similar reaction on any rep designed around a Lemania gen. But as I said, nobody would ever really notice that in person unless they were really looking for it.

Gen:

VacheronFront92mid.jpg

Rep:

Malte1.jpg

R

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That was really fascinating read.

When the thread has run its course, we have to think a good place to store this article. Very useful information.

Thanks Robbie!

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This is the kind of stuff that makes RWG "the best".

I have owned a few reps with the Seagull ST-19 and it's really great movement. There are some amazing reps (with wrong subdial spacing) that use this fascinating movement. I always feel that they don't get the attention they deserve.

Members are (generally) too anal about the visual accuracy and forget one very important thing... the "WOW factor". All reps with Seagull ST-19 and transparent glass caseback have that effect on non-watch people. :)

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Thanks guys. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for handwound chronographs so it was a labor of love. I have been particularly obsessed with 2310's and 20's for a long, long, time. I can stare at them for hours with a loupe (and have). My favorite AD's want to throw me out some days and probably would if not friends and/or me being a decent customer. Truly a sight to behold when hand decorated by the masters...

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Please note the edited adds at the end. I answered a few questions that I had recieved on two items I either left out or didn't clarify enough. Hope that clears them up...

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Great article, I enjoyed that.

Thanks for making the effort.

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Thanks T and D. I put some time into so I'm glad it is appreciated...

BTW, by other member requests, yes there are lots of good reps with the ST-19. Both the other watches I mentioned - the Patek 5070 and the Breguet Classique Chronograph are repped and are fine for what they are. Priced resonably too. You also might check out the Dubuis Easy Diver and of course the Omega Moonwatches depending on the models, including some of the older versions. I'm sure there are more too that I'm not thinking of.

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Great tutorial about the chronograph specification 1 of the best I read .

1 qustion i have a gen breitling with venus 178 3 register can I use hands from seagull chrono movement ?

I have a navitimer 806 AOPA fist serie and since 6 months I dont find any set of hands for my breitling.

so can help me if I can get others possibility if seagull cal st 19 can help me.

thanks

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Superb review by a superb member! Hopefully this will be archived and used as a reference for future questions/research!!

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Thanks Shundi, but more importantly, congrats on the avatar upgrade - Christ - black eyes over here...

Thanks! I'm just testing it out...not sure if I'll keep it or not...the jogging one is superb...we'll see what the membership thinks.

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Great tutorial about the chronograph specification 1 of the best I read .

1 qustion i have a gen breitling with venus 178 3 register can I use hands from seagull chrono movement ?

I have a navitimer 806 AOPA fist serie and since 6 months I dont find any set of hands for my breitling.

so can help me if I can get others possibility if seagull cal st 19 can help me.

thanks

Yes, I beleive you can as the same tooling was used to build the 178. It just added the additional register and I believe is even the same size as the 175. I would highly doubt the posts are different.

But on the outside chance they are a competent watchmaker could easily broach them for you and it would be totally invisible. I know The Zigmeister can do it, but I have no idea if he does that kind of thing anymore or not - or if only for certain members or what - can't keep up with the boy, but I do know he does perfect broach jobs.

I would bet money that the hand size is the same though...

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Thanks! I'm just testing it out...not sure if I'll keep it or not...the jogging one is superb...we'll see what the membership thinks.

Jogging please B)

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Someone asked my about the Dewitt 1940 Special Edition Academia Chronograph. No, those gens are not Lemania based but rather a rare antique Valjioux 71 handwind movements from long ago which were aquired (just a few) then remanufactured and lavishly decorated - but they aren't Lemania. That said, the Seagull ST-19 in the rep looks fine and will do in a pinch - and they aren't fifty grand either!

Here is an example of the similar to Lemania 2310 - Valljiox 71 handwind chronograph from 1945...

Valjoux71.jpg

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A great read.

Historical technical stuff like this is very interesting. It is amazing how a good technical movement can last decades and end up in a variety of watches, all over the world!

Thanks!

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A great read.

Historical technical stuff like this is very interesting. It is amazing how a good technical movement can last decades and end up in a variety of watches, all over the world!

Thanks!

Yeah isn't it though? There are a few standouts and the 2310/20 and 175 are very high on that list if not at the top even. I just thought it would be interesting to introduce a few that are not as well known as the 7750 and 2892 in that regard.

Some people are unaware that the whole world really only started revolving around ETA in the 80's and before then there were some amazing robust movements that stood the test of time and continue to this day. I didn't go into it in the article, but the 2320 is also the base for some very complicated calendar chronographs and repeaters as well.

I don't know what it is about handwind movements and especially handwind chronograph movements, but they are just so elegant and perfect. I have a real soft spot in my heart for them. But I'm not particularly fond of the pocketwatch style handwinds adapted to wristwatches. Cool enough I suppose, but I'm more into base calibers that were made from scratch to be in wristwatches - especially the ones sized for special cases and the ones made especially thin and such - really specialty stuff as opposed to the more chameleon pocketwatch movements like the 6897's and on up. Nothing worng with them, just a personal preference.

Also of note is Vacheron has developed its first new base handwind caliber in some time - the 4400, which is interesting in that the others have been smaller twin barrel designs and this time they made a movement to fill a 38MM case instead of a 32MM case with a single barrel and 60 hours of power reserve. So cool. Handwinds are "it" n my book. Plus, where is the fun with a watch if you don't get to set it and wind it I say...

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I was asked today if there were any other handwound column wheel chronos that really knocked me out. The answer is yes - just two others and they are both of German and not Swiss heritage. By contrast, they are more complex in design and both carry the tradmark of German movement making which is to jewel pretty much all parts instead of just the necessary ones so to speak.

This "overdoing it" rarely shows up in Swiss movements. In contrast to the 2310/20 and 175 which are each 17 jewel movements, both of these exceed 400 parts and are 40 and 47 jewels respectively! Also plainly obvious is that many of them are fitted with triple blued screw gold chatons (Swiss movements tend to use press fit chatons only). So without further explaination, here are my two other favorite handwound chronograph movements.

The first is the Glashutte Caliber 99 seen in the Senator Rattrapante Handwound Chronograph. Of note the second column wheel used to control the Rattrapante or split seconds function...

caliber99.jpg

The second is the A. Lange & Sohne Caliber L951.1 seen in the Datograph Chronograph and as the L952.1 base for the Datograph Perpetual which adds the calendar functions. The latter has 556 parts and 45 jewels BTW! Also of note is that the bridges of the 951/2 and all Lange movements are made of untreated German silver which has a unique color to it when new and eventually ages into a deep gold patina over time. And note the balance [censored] which is completely engraved by hand with each movement having a one of a kind design to the engraving...

lange951.jpg

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