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RobbieG

The Frederic Piguet 1185

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After finishing the recent article on the Lemania 2310 / Venus 175 / Seagull ST-19, I was asked by a member whether there were any other commonly used high end chronograph movements that I thought should need be considered historically, other than the Zenith, Rolex, and/or Valjioux offerings of course.

Specifically, the question was centered around automatic chronographs as oppsed to handwinds. The answer is a big YES with a capital "Y"! So of course I couldn't resist doing another quick article to introduce the other fine chronograph movement that took the "auto" road, while Lemania took the "manual" road.

For some reason, despite its immense popularity, the Frederic Piguet Caliber 1185 column wheel chrono is not quite as well known or recognized as its ETA, Lemania and Venus competition. So in the interest of education, I offer you this article to introduce a wonderful little movement you just might not have heard of. Don't get me wrong, I know most members here are familiar with many of the watches they are powering. But many are not as familiar with the engine and its prominence in the industry.

Because we love pics so much around here, why don't we kick this one off with a shot of an 1185 seen here through the caseback of a Blancpain Leman Chronograph.

1185blancpain.jpg

Frederic Piguet was founded in 1858 in Le Brassus, Switzerland as a movement manufactory, and since inception has made a rapid progression from pocketwatch designs to wristwatch designs. This was because of an underlying passion to specialize in the smallest, thinnest and most complicated Calibers to be used in only the finest timepieces. This specialization has stood them well through the ages, but the key year which effects us all in modern times is 1987 when the Caliber 1180 column wheel chronograph was released. Since then, Frederic Piguet joined the Swatch group (who hasn't right?) as part of the Breguet movement arm which also holds Nouvelle Lemania, the manufactory responsible for giving us that other king of the column wheel on the "manual" road.

While the Lemania Caliber 2310 and variants were quickly emerging as the undisputed leader of the high end handwound column wheel chrongraph market, the Fredric Piguet Caliber 1185 took the reigns as the leader in the high end automatic column wheel chronograph market. But the 1185 wasn't always an automatic. Orginally (and still to this day) the 1185 was known as the worlds thinnest true column wheel chronograph movement. In order to earn that title though, one needs to consider the original version of it, the 1180, orginally released as a handwound Caliber in 1987. Without the auto winding bridge and works the 1180 movement is just 3.95MM thick! Compare that to the Lemania 2310's 5.57MM height! But as I said, Piguet knew that the 2310 was the ruler of the handwind world so almost immediately they released the 1185, which is simple the same 1180 base with the addition of an auto winding module.

1185noauto.jpg

But even with the auto module the 1185 is still thinner than the 2310 at an incredible 5.5MM, despite adding a rotor bearing and eight more jewels! This is even more amazing given the rotor bearing is pressed into the auto bridge instead of in the rotor as in most automatic movements. This can be seen in this pic of the 1185.

1185auto.jpg

Besides the movement height, the basic differences between the Piguet 1185 and the Lemania 2310 are the 1185 beats at a higher 21.6K than the 18K of the 2310, the 1185 has a total of 37 jewels (29 without the auto module) as compared to 17 for the 2310. All those jewels and they still managed to make it so thin!

Also of note is that a year after the release of the original handwound 1180, Piguet released the 1181 which is a handwound Rattrapante version of the base Caliber. Another year after that, they released the 1186 which is the same Rattrapante version, except with automatic winding. This was pure genius really in marketing as they were focusing on offering what Lemania wasn't really, so as not to compete with the venerable Lemania 2310 and occupy their own space. In terms of popularity, most of the Piguet ebauche chronographs on the market are of the standard auto winding variety of the 1185, but virtually all the high end dress chronographs which attempt to be as thin as possible will use the 1180 instead of the Lemania 2310 in order to save space. Similarly, while more rare, virtually all the Rattrapante chronographs we see are based on the 1181 or 1186 ebauches depending on their being handwinds or autos. Here is an example of one such movement. The Omega Caliber 3612 which is based (well, almost...stay tuned) on the 1186 Rattrapante variant.

o3612.jpg

So what are some examples of fine timepieces using the 1180/1181/1185/1186 you ask? The list is vast, but I will try and give at least a few well known examples. And on that note, one can't start that list without offering the most controversial example at the masthead. The Omega Caliber's 33xx seen in many of their chronographs including the Speedmaster Broad Arrow.

broadarrow.jpg

And the Planet Ocean Chronograph.

POchrono.jpg

But many sources often misstate the Omega movements as being based on the Piguet 1185. It even appears as such in certain editions of the Wristwatch Annual. It is simply incorrect to say so. These movements are modified Piguet ebauches and are similar column wheel chronograph designs, just not the 1185. The movements are actually Piguet 1285 ebauches which are manufactured specifically for Omega (which is part of Swatch of course) in three basic versions. The three versions are renamed by Omega as the 3301 (standard finish - for some closed caseback models), the 3303 (highly finished - Speedmaster Broad Arrow), and the 3313 (highly finished with coaxial escapement - Planet Ocean Chronograph). The main differences you will note is that the 1285 movements are both larger and thicker, they have a 28.8K beat rate as opposed to 21.6K, and the small seconds and 12 hour registers are reversed. While both are tricompax layouts, the Omega versions have seconds at 9 and the original Piguet ebauches have seconds at 6. Here is an example basic, non-coaxial Omega Caliber 3303 found in many Speedy and Deville timepieces.

3303.jpg

In both cases, the date window can appear in a variety of positions depending on the manufactory and model. Also of note is the Omega Caliber 3612 which is used in the Deville Coaxial Rattrapante and the Broad Arrow Rattrapante. Remember I told you about Piguet and the Rattrapante specialization in the early days? These movements are based on the Piguet 1286 ebauche, which is Piguets Omega-only version of the 1186 automatic movement again made special for Omega with the higher beat, the coaxial escapement, and seconds at 9. Hopefully, this clears up any misconceptions about this popular misprint that has taken hold regarding Omega and the Piguet 1185 and it's variants.

devillerattra.jpg

Moving right along, some other fine timepieces bearing the 1185 and variants include the original Breguet Marine Chronograph, renamed Caliber 576.

breguetmarinechrono.jpg

The Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph, renamed Caliber 1137, and modified to include a Big Date complication at 12.

VCcoverseaschrono.jpg

The Blanpain Fifty Fathoms Chronograph, renamed Caliber F185 and based on the 1186 Rattrapante (flyback) ebauche.

fiftyfathomschrono.jpg

And finally, you guessed it, The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph, renamed Caliber 2385.

2385.jpg

Please note, the 1185 ebauche appears only in the RO chronos, NOT the Royal Oak Offshore models which have a "standard" 12/9/6 chrono layout (not tricompax) and seconds at 12. The ROO movements are built from JLC ebauches.

royaloak.jpg

Again, this is not an exhaustive list as there are just too many to cite. There are certainly more timepieces using these column wheel chronographs than the Lemania 2310 and variants. The 1185 and variants are no doubt second only to the 7750 and variants in popularity and total volume of timepieces using them. But for some unknown reason still remain less known and more mysterious than the 2310 to collectors, which is why I thought it would be good to do this article. Certainly the popularity of the 1185 in higher end timepieces and the 7750 in middle of the road creations can be at least partially credited to the fact that automatic watches are far more popular than handwinding ones. But the divide is otherwise hard to explain, except that the Lemania handwinds have been around since the 40's maybe so they have had more time to become well known to all. Whatever the reason, personally I love them both. Because as I said in the previous article on Lemania and Venus, I'm just a sucker for column wheel chronographs...:wub:

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OK. I already got a question regarding some confusion as to what movement is in the Omega Speedmaster, a Lemania or Piguet Caliber. The short answer is both, or actually several really. Here is a refresher and extention of the Lemania info as it relates to the Speedy:

The original Speedy Moonwatch was produced from 1957 until 1968 and featured the Omega Caliber 321, AKA Lemania 2310 (which Lemania launched in 1942). You may recall this from the other article.

Omega_321.jpg

The next update for the Moonwatch was produced as of 1968 until 1996 and featured the Omega Caliber 861, AKA Lemania Caliber 1863 (which Lemania launched in 1965). Omega also offered a special moonphase edition in 1985 which they named Caliber 866 based on the Lemania 1866 which obviously has a moonphase complication. Other special editions include a chronometer grade version and a full skeleton version as well. Also of note, the original bridges were plated in pink gold.

omega_c861.jpg

Then yellow gold from 1992 on.

c863db.jpg

Finally, In 1997 the movement was renamed to Omega Caliber 1861 (Lemania 1863) and is still is today. As of 1996 all have been rhodium plated.

1863.jpg

Omega has also continues to offer an updated Moonphase version now known as the Caliber 1866, just like the Lemania Caliber number.

speedymoonphase.jpg

I'm not as fond of the 1863 as it is a cam/lever chronograph like the 7750 and not a column wheel design. Some consider it an updrade though. Other changes include a switch to a smooth balance from a screw balance, which allowed an increase in beat rate from 18K to 21.6K. It also has a flat hairspring and that wonderful U shaped bridge was changed.

c_321.gif

c_1863.jpg

Now that we have Lemania out of the way, the Piguet 1185 movement is also used in Speedmasters, but not the Moonwatches, rather the Broad Arrow models only. The main reason is in the interest of offering automatic, as well as manual versions of the Speedy. Omega also offers a GMT modification of the BA as well, which is also built on the Piguet 1185 ebauche.

broadarrowgmt.jpg

But this, along with the regular Broad Arrow is current limit of Piguet 1185 ebauches in the Speedmaster line. The rest are found in the various Deville and Seamaster watches.

Hope that helps clear up any confusion about Lemania and Piguet ebauches as they relate to Omega Speedmasters. ;)

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Thanks Toad. Hopefully it isn't too tech saavy, but then it kind of has to be to worthy of the RWG knowledge base I suppose. I'm just trying to contribute more and more of what I have learned over the years as a way of giving back for all the vast knowledge I have accumulated from members here over the years from reading posts alot like this one. I hope more and more members take the time to contribute to our knowledge base besides the regulars. I love reading in depth stuff as I feel that is what separates RWG from the rest of the competition.

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Oh and if anyone can think of any of their favorite watches using the 1185 ebauche that I haven't already mentioned, post away. Hint: There are tons of models from alot of brands. More pics is always a good thing so let's see them...

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Great article again Robbie!

Wonder what movements did the original no-date Broad Arrows use? Could it be that they were hand winds a

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Great article again Robbie!

Wonder what movements did the original no-date Broad Arrows use? Could it be that they were hand winds a

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Yeah, the Lemania 2310 is the shiz as the kids say these days. Although I will have mine fully decorated with swan neck (2320) by way of a more modern Vacheron or Patek someday.

Exact same movement of course and just so reliable. Which reminds me, someday I'm going to do another article about why high beat movements have more stresses and friction and only came into use so brands could have an easier time regulating with indexes instead of the balance which is more time consuming. It gets the job done and makes final assembly easier and cheaper. High beats and large smooth balances. But in the end the watches have more stress and shorter service intervals. Meanwhile, all the high end guys are still putting out 18K and 21.6K (which is a good compromise) with screw balances. Less friction, less torque stress, longer service intervals. Movements made to last two lifetimes and beyond...

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The earliest examples from the first couple years command upwards of $20,000 USD at auction. Like this one here from 1958. Love the early smooth bezel shape.

1958SpeedmasterBroad.jpg

It's a small miracle how modern this watch looks even today. Large XXL size, and manufactured 1958!

How many watches that old don't look at least a bit "outdated" today?

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I did not read everything, but be aware that the Omega 33xx movements are so heavily modified that building a franken Omega coaxial chrono won't work with a Piguet 1185. The swapped minute and hour counter and afaik the hand stems have different sizes compared with the base 1185.

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Fantastic Write-Up Robbie...

Much appreciated the time and energy invested...

:thumbsupsmileyanim:

Double T

.

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It's a small miracle how modern this watch looks even today. Large XXL size, and manufactured 1958!

How many watches that old don't look at least a bit "outdated" today?

That is an interesting point BT....Still a model I admire and in keeping with the style of the day today

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That is an interesting point BT....Still a model I admire and in keeping with the style of the day today

Absolutely agreed. Never thought of it that way before. Thanks for the perspective to BT.

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I did not read everything, but be aware that the Omega 33xx movements are so heavily modified that building a franken Omega coaxial chrono won't work with a Piguet 1185. The swapped minute and hour counter and afaik the hand stems have different sizes compared with the base 1185.

It actually isn't modified at all but nonetheless the layout is certainly different. Allow me to clarify (and I realize that you didn't read everything Chef but I covered that in the article). It is a falsehood that the 33xx movements are based on the 1185. It is absolutely untrue, yet quoted as so all over the net and even in the Wristwatch annual.

The 33xx movements are actually a special caliber 1285 made for Omega (for themselves really as Piguet is now Breguet/Swatch and hence Omega). So they don't really modify them, Piguet builds them to spec with their layout. In fact, the 1285 and 1185 are wildly different in other ways. The 1185 beats at 21.6K and the 1285 (33xx) beats at 28.8K. The 1185 is much smaller in height and width as well. The stock 1185 date is at 4:30, the 1285 (33xx) is at 6.

As an aside, the 33xx in fairness to its original is inferior and I'll tell you why. The 1185 as I mentioned in the article is a very thin movement. Typically "thin" and fragile tend to go together in watch movements. It is the opinion of many experts that bumping up the beat rate to 28.8K, using a relatively small balance, and modifying the train for seconds at 9 in the original design has created a "straw that broke the camel's back" situation with the 1285 (33xx). At the higher beat rate there is just too much stress and friction for what the movement was designed to take. As such, the 1285 (33xx) simply isn't the movement the 1185 is and has a pretty high failure rate. It almost reminds me of our Chinese copies and how they push the envelop too much and we have failures. Keep in mind, the 1185 was never as robust as a Lemania 2310 to begin with which is larger and thicker all around, has a slower beat rate of 18K (less friction and torque), etc. The little things really matter when talking about the longevity of watch movements. Sadly the 33xx doesn't quite have the stuff of legends - but for what it is the 1185 certainly does. There will always be a price for being skinny - just ask any model. :rofl:

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Someday I will have a Cal 321 in my collection...great movement

Yeah D, anyway you can get a 2310 is a blessing. Of course the high finished, swan necked modern 2320 bases from PP, VC, etc. are stunning, but if I am to be honest, the plain jane 321's Omega offered are just as cool. I'm specially partial to the pink gold bridged varieties.

You know, this is another thread that I have been meaning to do, but not enough is said or understood about these low beat larger diameter Calibers with good balance wheel proportion. Nowadays you here people spouting off about 28.8K movements as if they are somhow superior and they are in just one way which is a superior rate result out of the box with less adjustment and the ability to really improve that rate with indexing. But they do wear out quicker and parts do break more often and the service interval is shorter. It simply is incorrect to say that high beats are uniformly "better"

But what isn't said enough is praise for the low friction that 18K movements give which greatly reduce the service interval. It is also a big reason why there are so many of them still running with all original parts from sixty years ago. Moreover, the best way to regulate a watch is something that takes skill and should not be done by using an index to effectively change the length of the hairspring. All watchmakers seem to agree that regulation which comes from painstaking adjustment of the free sprung balance alone with screws, etc. as well as a movement design that effectively uses the ideal torque in the middle of the power band of the mainspring is a higher art form. And with great care and the right movement design, very similar rate results can be achieved. Of course, 21.6K movements can provide a nice balance between the two schools.

It all comes down to philosophy really and how manufactories choose to market them. Rolex for example leans toward precision as a selling point whereas Lange leans toward timelessness and how the movements will age over the next hundred years. They each have their place. My solution is I always want to have some of both!

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Very nice writeup!

One quick correction though:

Vintage Omega movements were not plated with gold...the 321 and the 861 were both plated with a beryllium-copper alloy as proven in tests of various movement components

here:

http://watchmakingblog.com/2008/09/10/omeg...-days/#comments

and

here:

http://watchmakingblog.com/2008/10/27/myth-bust-confirmed/

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Yeah, that's right, my mistake. That is one of those facts that I knew, but no matter how many times I hear it I keep thinking rose gold as copper just isn't a material we associate with modern timepieces. Good catch Shundi!

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Yeah, that's right, my mistake. That is one of those facts that I knew, but no matter how many times I hear it I keep thinking rose gold as copper just isn't a material we associate with modern timepieces. Good catch Shundi!

Yes... I'm of the same opinion- I always consider it gold...it's tough to believe that copper shines that beautifully...

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Well it is really a matter of personal preference. I am of the opinion that lower beat rates are more robust movements and I'm kind of old school about that. I'm the biggest fan of all the old 18k beat stuff like my favorite manual wind chrono, the Lemania 2310. And yes, the 1185 is my favorite self winding chronograph movement partly because it doesn't get any bigger by adding the auto module. It is pretty much the same thickness as a 2310 and it is an auto!

And 21.6k is a nice balance in between the bulletproof nature of the 18k movements and the standard 28.8k movements IMO. The Zenith stuff are 36k which is just the complete other end of the spectrum. The idea being that the faster the rate the more accurate the movement will be out of the box. Adjustments are generally made my effectively shortening or lengthening the hairspring. It is generally understood that lower beat movement require more skill to adjust as those adjustments really need to start at the balance which requires much more skill, hence why you tend to see them only in expensive watches nowadays. Indexing isn't going to get you all the way there with a slower rate and smaller balance found in wristwatches. Back in the pocketwatch days, 18k movements were fine with that in that they had really large balances which as size goes up those adjustments more readily come into line as it would be more accurate to begin with all things being equal.

As an aside, people just generally accepting that 28.8k movements and higher being uniformly superior is unfounded. A rumor started by Rolex no doubt. LOL. Higher beat rates have more torque and friction and as such have shorter service intervals and it is more critical that they be properly lubricated or they will break. The Zenith's at 36k it becomes even more critical. If one allows one of those to slip and be neglected it can be disasterous. There is just a lot of torque and friction in those. But accurate? Absolutely, and without much adjustment other than very fine hairpring moves ever being required.

AP, VC, PP, ALS, RD, G&F, FPJ - all the old masters strive to build 21.6k or 18k movements in house and use ebauches of that kind as well. Whereas Rolex, GO, JLC, ETA all mostly stick with the 28.8k side. The "slow" proponents all feel that these movements are more timeless in design, will last longer, and when the required skill is applied can be as accurate as the 28.8k and 36k counterparts. That is why you hear about all the striving in design to be sure to draw torgue from the middle of the curve for consistent power and you see all differnt variations on the screw balance concept on them as well. Trying to get the balance and power source in perfect sync and then it will be accurate. In this way the masters show their skills, wheras the "fast" camp don't have to spend the time and money and they are accurate out of the box pretty much, but they tend to have more service related problems. For some of them that is a pain in the butt warranty wise and in not being able to find enough service techs. Then again, some of them have turned that service need into a whole other profit center - like Rolex has. Just two schools of thought really. Both are excellent in their own way.

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