Monday, August 8, 2011

LeJour Chronograph - Valjoux 7734

It really is amazing what you can find on the internet these days. And the ease of finding said wanted information. It never cease to amaze me just how quickly the term “google” has entered the lexicon replacing the more traditional term “search”.

However, this is not a post about the ever-changing nature of modern language.

Wanting to take advantage of the strong Aussie dollar, (not just in the ways of importing books and dvds on the cheap) I've been scouring the online for sale ads for watches. Since the difference (read: savings) will be greater. I do have an ongoing wishlist, which is also ever-changing, as my taste changes. However, I came upon something that I didn't know I've always wanted (to plagiarise the line from Peugeot). It was cheap too, and cheap enough for it to be a 5 minute impulse purchase. (Thanks to the wonders of google, the internet, online funds transfer services, and fast-ish connection)

A quick cursory search around the internet didn't net me much the first time around, but I gained enough information for me to make a kind of a informed decision on what I was getting. (Prior watch/movement knowledge does help a bit) All's I know is that it was something rare-ish, but not likely to gain much in terms of price. But for what it is, the price was reasonable.

So here it is: LeJour Chronograph manual wind, powered by Valjoux 7734

The Brand:

LeJour appears to have been the OEM company for Heuer back in those days for a few models. This was one of them. The Heuer version is badged "Heuer" and it costs a bit more than the version badged "LeJour". That is apparently the only difference between the 2 models and LeJour is often referred to as the poor man's Heuer. The only information I can find online about this one is that the Heuer version is referred to as Ref. 12, and even the Ref 12 is a much rarer bird than the more (in)famous Heuer Pasadena, which is housed in a similar case. This LeJour, then, is even rarer than the Ref 12, making it highly collectable (in my humble opinion).

The reason why all this is quite patchy is due to Heuer being in a state of turmoil and great upheaval, with changes in ownership making record keeping haphazard at best. (A bit like Panerai, eh?)

Unfortunately it would seem that the brand "LeJour" has subsequently been sold to a Asian company, now making el cheapo watches under that brand, at the same time, but still using the "history" of the brand to help sell watches?

The Movement:

Valjoux 7734 is a direct descendant of the Venus 188 manual wind (Valjoux bought Venus when they went belly-up). The Venus 188 was rebranded Valjoux 7730, and was sold for a couple of years before it was redesigned  and became the Valjoux 7733, 7734 (with a date) and 7736 (with a 12-hour subdial). These were produced between 1969 and 1978. Just under 2 million of these went out the door to power watches in many brands (Lejour, Hamilton, Wittenauer, Helbros, etc) and most notably in Breitlings, Tudors (the Monte Carlo), even Lip! It became 7750 (with automatic winding) in the early 80s, and this continues to be produced, albeit under ETA 7750 branding.

The Watch:

It had components of everything I look for in a watch. A symmetrical, balanced dial, chronograph (I'm going through a phase), PVD coated (matches the current trend for "black" watches, extremely legible, simple and not too busy. It's also a very good size and powered by a trusted and reliable movement. From what I can gather, the watch is from very lates 70s or very early 80s. It wasn't in production long. It's also made in France, which is something different.

It seems to keep pretty good time, (haven't bothered to test it) and the funny thing with this watch is that by googling this watch, I can almost trace its history through the various watch for a back a few years. How do I know it's the same watch? the same rubber strap never left it…

I'm thinking of putting it on a NATO strap, but can't decide what colour would match it best. Plus, NATO would add to the height of the watch, and it's already a fairly tall watch at 14mm.

And just to confuse things further, there is also an Arctos version of this watch made…

image courtesy of the internet

So, here you go Google. You can add this to the search results for LeJour, Valjoux 7733, Valjoux 7734, and it's my little contirbution to the world wide web for just that little bit more info on this watch. Well… at least the pictures anyways…

Here are some useful links that talks about Heuer Ref 12, LeJour, and watches from that period…

On The Dash

And… you can see a LeJour Chronograph with full box and papers and original bracelet here!

One Hill Side

Oh... and I did end up sticking it on a NATO...



Anonymous said...

A top article, Sam. I think the watch and the NATO are super. I also love the movement and the excellent explanation of the movement's heritage. Thanks very much for an enjoyable and educational read. Best, Tom.

Anonymous said...

great information on the le jour ref 12 i have the same watch and they are more harder to find then the Heuer Ref 12.these are amazing 7734 movements and the le jour was a top end swiss watch.that the values will just get higher look at ebay ect...thanks

Anonymous said...

Nice information for me . Just acquired a PVD Le Jour 7734 today. The Valjoux movement in mine is Charles Gigandet. My dial is also stamped "Jeep" with their logo next to it. Must have been some kind of promotional gift.