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Watch Legends: The Calibre Lemania 5100

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Watch Legends: The Calibre Lemania 5100  Empty Watch Legends: The Calibre Lemania 5100

Post by andrema on Tue 18 Oct 2011, 4:36 pm

This is a portion of the series that Chuck Maddox has on his site regarding the famed Lemania 5100. He goes through the movement's historical aspects as well as notable events. It is a very comprehensive, excellent read!! I do not currently own a watch containing a Lemania 5100, but I will!


Watch Legends: The Calibre Lemania 5100

"Not beautiful but Rare"

The chronograph world isn’t what it used to be. Due to escalating manufacturing cost, the Swiss industry has gravitated toward fewer popular calibres. An example of one such basic and functional calibre is the Lemania 5100. Manufactured since 1978, it was recently rescued from an untimely demise.[color=#ff0000](Unfortunately, due to politics at Swatch Group, this rescue seems to have been short lived, more later)

A year ago, Nouvelle Lemania was planning to cease production of the 5100, a particularly rugged but accurate calibre used mostly in military and space applications. There were two reasons for Lemania’s decision. Foremost was that the simplistic design of the 5100 no longer fitted the manufacturer’s product line and philosophy. As well, the tools for the movement, being 20 years old
(actually closer to 25), were outdated and in need of restoration. However, the needed investment couldn’t be justified by the calibre’s limited sales to its three (remaining) main customers: Fortis, Sinn, and Tutima. (Paul Picot and Alain Silberstein also use the calibre but only in very limited fashion unlike the other three.) At the very least, Lemania would not be able to maintain the calibre’s price.

However, Fortis, Sinn, and Tutima insisted on the continuation of production because the 5100 is the only calibre that met their military requirements. The 5100, due to its construction, is the only chronograph movement that can withstand large shocks without its chronograph seconds hand stopping. This is because its chronograph mechanism is driven directly unlike most other chronographs which use an intermediate wheel. The calibre easily withstands acceleration in excess of 7G without appreciable loss of accuracy. Its ruggedness is legendary; the calibre easily absorbs shocks and blows. The calibre also maintains its accuracy over long periods without servicing. Service intervals from four to seven years have shown to be sufficient.

On the other hand, the 5100’s weakness, at least from a watchmaker’s perspective, is its simple, even anachronistic construction. Like a cheap old mechanical wristwatch or a mechanical alarm clock, it uses a pillar construction. That is, the co@) and bridges are attached to the main plate by thin pillars. In a more conventional design, the co@) and bridges are terrace-like and mount directly onto the main plate. Pillar construction reduces manufacturing cost since parts can be stamped as opposed to being milled. But that’s not all. The designers even dared to use some nylon parts in the movement. The choice of nylon not only lowered production costs but was also deemed, at the time, to be progressive. After all, this was during the time of the Tissot Research 2001, a watch with a movement made entirely of nylon and fiberglass. The day and date wheels of the 5100 and their cams are also nylon. On the periphery of the movement are two gray nylon half-moons that support the rotor and absorb shocks from the rotor in case of hard blows. This nylon “ring” around the movement hides much of the pillar construction from the casual viewer.

Fortunately, Lemania did not cease production of the 5100
(in 1997). However, the wholesale price of the movement nearly doubled from 230 SFR to about 400 SFR to reflect the cost of the new machines and tooling's.

A brief glance over the 30 years history of the automatic chronograph shows that the golden age of the chronograph when a large number and variety of calibres flourished is largely over now.
(Actually there has been a bit of a renaissance lately, but more later...)

Original content and continuation --->>>
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