New watch brands via kickstarter – there are undoubtedly countless of them. The market is almost unmanageable. However, 99% of most campaigns are in the area of the twelve millionth daniel wellington-style bauhaus knock-off for 179€ plus/minus 20€ or in the area of diving watches. Retro chronographs, on the other hand, are rather rare – and even rarer are those with a sea-gull ST19 gear caliber, which is based on the swiss venus 175 is based on and has an exciting story to tell. The young german micro-brand vintro now occupies exactly this niche with the model le mans 1952, a mechanical racing chrono in classic retro design. what the "made in germany"-quality uhrchen can do, i will show you in this extensive test..
Key data of the vintro le mans 1952 retro chronograph:
- Made in germany (produced in pforzheim)
- case made of stainless steel, optionally coated (yellow gold resp. rose gold)
- curved sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on the underside
- sea-gull ST1940 automatic movement or seiko VK64A meca-quartz movement
- sapphire crystal back, screwed down
- Bicompax dial with tachymeter and telemeter scale.
- case diameter 40 mm, height 15 mm (automatic) respectively. 13 mm (meca-quartz), horn-to-horn 48 mm
- lug 20 mm, the automatic version comes with a free steel bracelet
- weight: 75 grams (automatic) or. 58 grams (meca quartz)
- water resistance 10 bar / 100 meters (suitable for swimming)
- RRP 599€ (automatic) resp. 269€ (meca-quartz), directly at vintro-watches.De
- With discount code "chrononautix10539€ for the automatic version and 242€ for the meca-quartz version
Vintro le mans 1952 vintage style chronograph with seagull ST1940 in test
the mastermind behind vintro is uli baka, who can confidently be called the archetype of a vintage watch collector: in over 20 years, he has acquired more than 1000 (!) vintage wristwatches acquired. that should be copied& starting point for his collecting passion was a mechanical diver watch, the model skin diver 115 with chrome case and manual winding movement from bifora from schwabisch gmund (nice-to-know: bifora is still active today and uses only NOS movements, so original bifora calibers from old stocks from the 60s, 70s and 80s).
against this background, the orientation of vintro (a name created from "vintage" and "retro") is not at all surprising: uli places the focus of the first collection, the successfully funded via kickstarter was clear at chronographs in racing retro design. founder uli is supported by his sister susanne, who is responsible for the vintro-design, as well as her life companion udo.
Let’s have a closer look at the vintro le mans 1952 chronograph..
Atypical: the telemeter scale
most striking design feature of the vintro le mans 1952 chronograph is certainly the central, red telemetre scale, which is the classical tachymeter scale (at the edge in blue) supplemented. a tachymeter scale (also: tachymetre scale or tachometer scale) is the standard feature of any chronograph and saves mental arithmetic: with such a scale, the measurement of units per hour (units per hour) can be carried out by using the time gap between two units is considered. Sounds too complicated? here is a simple example: a classic application is the measurement of the average speed on a defined stretch of road, for example in a car race between two curves. In this video, the tachymeter scale is explained very nicely with some examples:
Rather untypical and very rare to find is the telemeter scale. With the telemeter scale, the sound a crucial role: every child knows the "trick" of counting the seconds between lightning and thunder, in order to conclude how far away a thunderstorm is (because a thunder roll is always delayed, since the sound propagates in sound speed from the lightning). a telemeter scale is a simple solution to this problem: if you start the chronograph when there is lightning and stop it when there is thunder, you can read off the distance of the lightning in kilometers on the telemeter scale. Abstractly speaking, the scale can be used to measure the distance between a visible event and the corresponding audible event measurement. Here is a small explanatory video:
Originally, the telemeter scale but of course not for meteorologists developed& the scale was due to historical requirement of the military in the first world war: at the lighting of the enemy artillery muzzle flash, the measurement was started with the help of chronographs, at the sound of the cannon blast, the chronograph was stopped. So the officers could measure the distance to the enemy quite precisely on the basis of the speed of the sound and even answer with artillery fire for example.
The telemeter scale on the vintro le mans 1952 chronograph is definitely a nice gimmick and especially visually ensures that the retro look is emphasized..
In addition to the telemeter scale, the applied and. Sublime indexes and numerals to discover one. I am a big fan of such plastic elements, because the optics is simply higher quality than with "plates", d.H. Exclusively printed dials. The polished indexes are particularly attractive when the light falls on them. the color of the bicompax dial looks (depending on the angle) partly creamy to matt silver. Great! But see for yourself..
What struck me directly positive about the vintro le mans 1952 is the solid haptics of the case – it is much more massive than for example the case of the popular seagull 1963 pilot chronograph, which also comes with the caliber ST19 (more about this later). One really has the feeling of a beautifully cleanly processed block of steel in the hand to have. Because the case is polished throughout, the whole watch looks quite noble and less "tooly". good: the case is water resistant up to 10 bar, so that nothing stands in the way of a jump into the cool water – this is not a matter of course for a chronograph, often this type of watch is only splash water protected.
With a diameter of 40 mm, the case – as is typical for retro watches – is also suitable for narrower wrists. Normally I (18,5 cm wrist circumference) don’t wear a watch smaller than 42 mm. the vintro le mans 1952 chrono looks a bit bigger, which is (naturally) due to the chrono pushers, which enlarge the surface of the watch a bit. Good: the angular chrono pushers do not stick out too far, which is good for wearing comfort..
also the soft and flexible, very natural smelling vintage-style leather strap contributes to the very good wearing comfort. Practical are also the quick release spring bars, which allow a tool- and thus scratch-free change of the strap.
small drop of work: the band is relative short – during test wear on warm, sweaty days, when the wrist circumference increases quickly, I was with the buckle in the penultimate, sometimes even in the last strap hole. In this regard, I have asked at vintro and I was confirmed that longer or. Shorter straps will be available in autumn.
the vintro le mans 1952 chrono comes standard with a free nato strap (including additional spring bars). As a swabian by choice, of course I don’t say no ;-). However, the spark does not really want to jump over in comparison with the great leather strap – a retro watch like the vintro chronograph simply has to have a leather strap.
there is no lack of choice: vintro offers a variety of straps, including a cognac-colored leather strap or a beige nylon strap with leather underside (here in the picture / the steel strap is a free addition to the automatic version, more on this later):
the inner workings: long-term experience with the sea-gull ST19, the base caliber of the ST1940
ST19 from seagull can almost be described as exotic – (unfortunately) only a few manufacturers use it. most prominent example is certainly the seagull 1963 pilot chronograph, which is extremely popular with watch connoisseurs. The popularity is not by chance, as I noted in a review in 2016.
let’s start with the exciting story behind the ST19: the movement (in all variants like the ST1901 with manual winding or the ST1940 with automatic winding) is manufactured by the tianjin seagull watch group. Tianjin who? well, the company is anything but a small chinese tinkering shop: the tianjin seagull watch group is one of the most important watch manufacturers in the world, next to ETA, seiko and miyota largest manufacturers of mechanical movements at all. More than 3000 employees and 3.7 million mechanical movements produced per year (as of 2010) are a real achievement. for comparison: miyota (citizen-group) builds approx. 1.8 million mechanical watch movements per year, ETA (swatch group) comes to approx. 5 million mechanical watch movements per year (as of 2011). So the chinese manufacturer has a lot of experience in any case.
The special features of the seagull ST19 caliber series, however, are its swiss gene. This came about as follows: the company founded in 1924 in switzerland’s jura region fabrique d’ebauches venus S.A. Seeking buyers in the early 1960s for the machinery and equipment needed to produce the shift chronograph caliber venus 175 were used. In this way, the floundering company wanted to raise capital for further development. And the buyers were found *drum roll* in china. Because: the chinese government conveniently decided in the same period to make itself independent from soviet and swiss watch imports with its own watch industry. The then tianjin watch factory company founded at that time (and now operating as tianjin seagull watch group) took the buying opportunity and built up venus’ machines in its own production. The construction drawings of the venus 175 was of course also included.
the chinese made a few improvements to the venus 175 and promptly started production of the first prototypes, which found their way into a pilot’s chronograph for the people’s liberation army. the chronos with the venus 175 were built in series until 1969. then it was quiet around the chronograph caliber for a few decades. In 2003 tianjin seagull revived the venus 175 however – under the name seagull ST19 it is used, among other things, in the very popular, in-house retro reissue seagull 1963 used.
Then as now, the movement comes with a gearwheel mechanism, which is much more complex in construction than today’s common chronograph calibers with carriage control. ratchet calibers are popular with retro-watch fans, because they were the common construction of chronograph movements decades ago and are hard to find today. Especially the seagull ST19 has built up quite a following in the last years, which is especially due to the seagull 1963 pilot chrono.
in short, the seagull ST19 could be called a living relic, which is still built today by one of the biggest movement manufacturers in the world, based on a reliable swiss construction.
so much for the history of the caliber. with the sea-gull ST1940 in the vintro chronograph, i logically couldn’t make any long term experiences, but i could with the ST19 in the seagull 1963 chrono, which i wore for a few years (before i left it to my father, because i needed space in the watch box ;-)). And i can say with good conscience that the reliability and the stability of the movement values of the ST19 were really excellent over the years.
In the meantime, there are several variants of the ST19 – in the vintro le mans 1952, the ST19 is used sea-gull ST1940 the venus 175, which – unlike the original venus 175 – is not hand-wound, but instead is wound via a self-winding, i.e. a rotor.
The accuracy of the ST1940 is according to sea-gull +/- 30 seconds per day. By fine tuning vintro aims according to its own statements at at least +/- 20 seconds per day from. accuracy fetishists are not tempted by such values from behind the oven. but keep in mind, that many popular calibers have quite generous rates ex works (like the japanese miyota 9015 with -10 to +30 seconds per day). de facto, the movements usually run much better under "normal" conditions. so is the vintro le mans 1952 chronograph i have, which is made with +7 seconds per day a good accuracy on the time scale.
The sea-gull ST1940 is on top of that also a genuine eye candy and can be examined at work through the sapphire crystal caseback – the the blued screws, the pearl finish on the rotor, the gold-colored gears … all this makes a lot of difference:
Nanu? If you look closely, you will discover a "designed in germany" engraving on the rotor..
… on the dial, however, it says "made in germany". yes what now?
This inscription is rather unusual: usually watch manufacturers try to blur the fact that it is not for the 50%-made-in-germany value-added hurdle the automatic winding system by inscribing "designed in germany" on the watch. but on the vintro le mans 1952 chronograph de facto both is true: the watch was designed in germany and produced. To be more precise: the design was created in the swabian town of aalen, the production in turn is in the uhrencluster pforzheim, where established german manufacturers like stowa, laco, aristo and archimede have their headquarters.
the vintro le mans 1952 chronograph is delivered in a fancy leatherette box. the box of the automatic variant is significantly larger than that of the meca quartz variant – a real breaker&
practical: the inside of the box can be removed easily, so that you can use the box for storing bands for example.
the automatic version comes – besides nato- and nylon or. leather strap – also with a free stainless steel strap including strap changing tool. as a swabian by choice, i don’t say no to that either – the quality of the steel bracelet doesn’t tear out any trees, but it’s adequate for this price range. Good: the links are screwed, which should allow even clumsy watch lovers to shorten the strap&
conclusion about the vintro le mans 1952 retro chronograph
the use of the chinese seagull ST1940 automatic movement is a pretty daring move for a freshly launched micro-brand. but it is also a move, which you will not regret as a buyer: the swiss base construction paired with the experience of one of the largest movement manufacturers in the world – so you can easily put aside the shyness of "made in china" movements.
by using the seagull ST1940, Vintro cleverly avoids the dilemma of being in the low-priced micro-brand spectrum otherwise no mechanical movement with chronograph complication worth mentioning there: many micro-brands use either seiko meca-quartz movements (more about this in a moment) or the ubiquitous ETA valjoux 7750 – but then also with corresponding prices of over 1000€ (z.B. Straton watch co. or FORMEX). I would definitely welcome it if more micro-brands would use the seagull ST19 (in whatever variant) – provided that an uncomplicated service and the supply of spare parts are ensured.
Because this is a plus point of vintro: the after-sales service is processed in germany, as uli confirmed to me. the watchmaker in pforzheim has all the necessary spare parts for the ST1940 in stock and of course there will be the possibility later on revisions to have it done by vintro in pforzheim. this definitely sets vintro apart from the mass of micro-brands, which often operate from asia and where services are often connected with international back and forth shipping and customs discussions (this happened to a colleague with his FORMEX essence).
with an RRP of 599€, the vintro le mans 1952 chronograph is no great bargain at first sight – the seagull 1963 retro chronograph, which has a very large fan community, comes with the same ST19 base caliber and also exudes a lot of retro charm – price point: about 300€. Nevertheless, i have to say that the quality of the vintro chrono is in many respects simply better than the seagull 1963 chrono (especially the solid case, sapphire crystal instead of mineral glass/plexiglass, the hands, the straps and the case itself). the scope of delivery). readers of my blog know, that i am more than open minded towards asian brands, but here a difference in quality is simply noticeable.
Nevertheless, I would like to take a look at other micro-brand competition products with the caliber ST19:
- EMG DL63 panda chronograph: equivalent to about 430€ including customs/import tax (shipping from hong kong)
- Mercer lexington chronograph: the equivalent of just under 570€ including customs/import VAT (shipping from the USA) baltic bicompax chronograph: 649€ (shipping from france)
- Vertigo pilot one: 450€ (shipping from italy)
If you reduce the above chronographs all to their inner workings, you have to note that vintro is rather in the upper price range. Note, however, that with EMG and mercer, the after-sales service (repairs, revision) is likely to be rather complicated (shipping from hong kong, resp. USA). All in all, the price of the vintro le mans 1952 chronograph seems to me, in view of the competitors’ prices, to be scope of delivery (steel bracelet, nato strap, leather strap, strap changing tool, spring bars, XXL-box) and the all around successful pforzheim quality of workmanship reasonable. With the discount code "chrononautix10" you can also save 10%, so the price is 539€.
(cheaper) chrono alternatives with telemeter scale
There are a number of chronographs with the design feature of a tachymeter scale on the market, however, these usually come from well-known sizes for 2000€ upwards such as..
- Longines (telemeter chronograph, MSRP 2720€),
- Union glashutte (belisar chronograph, RRP 2570€),
- Junghans (meister telemeter, RRP 2090€) or the
At this point, I would like to focus on more affordable alternatives that have a visual similarity with the vintro le mans 1952 chrono. First of all we would like to point out the meca quartz variant of the vintro le mans 1952 noted: since the other product features are identical to the automatic version (the great case, the elaborate dial, sapphire crystal), the MSRP of 269€ with a view to comparable competitor models (see below) to be called fair. meanwhile the chronograph is also available with 10% discount (code "chrononautix10").
And the meca-quartz-movement at least sprays a touch of mechanical flair: the standard function of the watch (turning the minute and hour hands) are provided with quartz technology powered, while the chronograph functions are powered by a mechanical module triggered. This gives you the pleasure of a creeping, central seconds counter and instantaneous zeroing of the hand – both functions are of course not available with a pure quartz movement.
note that the meca quartz variant of the vintro le mans 1952 comes with a much smaller box and no stainless steel bracelet by default – but the latter can be purchased additionally.
let’s have a look at the alternatives from UNDONE and dan henry – but first of all, it has to be said that with both brands, you have to make some concessions in terms of the key data. a meanwhile well known micro brand is for example the hong kong based manufacturer UNDONE, who also offers high quality with the urban vintage chronograph. however, the glass used is unfortunately only (curved) mineral glass (vintro = sapphire glass). In addition, the dial is nowhere near as elaborately finished as on the vintro le mans 1952 (no applied indices). on the other hand, undone’s stickhorse is also the numerous invidualization options in the watch configurator.
The UNDONE urban vintage chrono starts at around 280 euros (including customs duty / import sales tax). you have to be prepared for a slightly longer delivery time and a trip to customs, as the shipment is made from hong kong. More about UNDONE:
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