PIONEERS IN PROFESSIONAL TIMEKEEPING
A Pioneer Takes Flight to Preserve Timekeeping
Gallet Releases Iconic Watch to Benefit World-Class Museum
by Hugh Dougherty
For most of the twentieth century, one Swiss watchmaker’s timepieces were found on the wrists of more professionals worldwide than any other watch brand. Gallet held a reputation for durability and functionality that was unsurpassed among aviators, sportsmen, doctors, nurses, automotive teams, scientists, and other professionals.
Then came the “Quartz Crisis” of the 1970s and 1980s that nearly devastated many of the great Swiss watchmaking houses. Gallet continued to thrive during this difficult climate by doing what it does best—research, development, and supplying the company’s top-quality timepieces to military, industrial, and professional clients. Among these clients were the United States and Canadian governments, who commissioned tens of thousands of Gallet pilot’s watches, issued under the names “Marathon” in the United States and “Adanac” in Canada. Gallet also enjoyed status as a supplier of timepieces to the armed forces in Switzerland. Ironically, Japan and Asia, the loci of the battery-powered watches that precipitated the Swiss Quartz Crisis, remained as a primary civilian market for the mechanical watches that the company manufactured during this period.
The new millennium brought about changes for Gallet. Walter Hediger and David Laurence became Gallet’s CEO and COO respectively. Bernard Gallet, family patriarch and long-time head of the company, passed away. Then in 2007 a small occurrence led to unexpected events: The company was contacted by a researcher
from the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, Pa., about a watch on loan to the museum from the Harry S Truman Library. The watch was to be included in an upcoming exhibit entitled “Time in Office” that featured presidential timepieces. The researcher was interested in learning more about the watch, a 1938 Gallet Flight Officer, worn by the 33rd president.
08 Dec 2010 - A Pioneer Takes Flight to Preserve Timekeeping ...
Reprinted from an article in the December/January issue of Chronos magazine
Since providing the initial funding to construct the International Museum of Watchmaking in Switzerland, Gallet has been committed to supporting public institutions that preserve horology’s noble history. Gallet decided to sponsor the Pennsylvania exhibit, and this new relationship between the company and the American Museum grew. At the same time, Georg Raytchev, Gallet’s master watchmaker, had finalized the testing of prototypes for a groundbreaking new chronograph movement. Ultimately dubbed the MultiChron Duo-Force Caliber G330, this extraordinary mechanism was engineered to resolve a number of the shortcomings inherent to chronographs. After years of work and millions of Swiss Francs spent on development, the G330 was ready for production.
Inspired by the timing of events and a desire to assist the Museum in offsetting recent budget cuts by the State of Pennsylvania, Hediger and Laurence presented their new friends with a unique proposal--to release a limited series of Gallet’s renowned Flight Officer chronograph as a direct financial benefit to the Museum. By installing Raytchev’s groundbreaking Caliber G330 movement in a contemporary version of the original case, the new Museum Edition Flight Officer was born. The watch worn by Harry Truman and pilots of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II evolved into the most advanced and highly developed aviator’s timepiece of the 21st century.
Noel Poirier, National Watch and Clock Museum’s director, didn’t hesitate in signing onto the plan. He says he realized the watch’s historical significance. “It’s the kind of watch we’d like to collect 50 years from now.” Poirier says the joint project between Gallet and the Museum also “represents to contemporary watch enthusiasts the need to preserve the history of timekeeping. “Plus, it’s an incredible watch, and the Museum is proud that it features our name,” Poirier says. “The most important thing we have is our reputation, and we’re happy to be affiliated with a watch that represents such a significant step in mechanical timekeeping.”
To help the National Watch and Clock Museum immediately benefit from this special event, a unique sales strategy has been implemented. A small series of Gallet’s new Flight Officer chronographs are being offered at significantly less than normal market value. To allow for this special low pricing, order taking is being
The Gallet G330-powered Museum Edition Flight Officer, above, is the world’s most advanced aviation watch.
Housed within the nearly indestructible 42-millimeter case beats a mechanism of unsurpassed accuracy and function. The brainchild of master watchmaker Georg Raytchev and his son George, the totally in-house manufactured Gallet G330 movement is the result of more than five years of intensive development and testing. Its simple outer appearance belies the perfectly integrated complexity of more than 440 individually finished parts.
Resolving many of the shortcomings inherent to previously issued professional wrist chronographs; Gallet’s new Flight Officer performs at impressive levels of certified chronometer accuracy even with both of its elapsed time recording functions activated.
The Museum Edition Flight Officer is a coveted hand-built masterpiece. Unlike any aviator’s timepiece that has come before, this extraordinary wristwatch represents the world’s first integration of 12-hour split recording capabilities, multiple time zone calculation, Silicium escape wheel, and self-winding dual mainsprings with more than 72 hours total reserve power.
The first examples of Gallet’s new Flight Officer chronographs are available in a small series of 1,050 pieces to benefit to the National Watch and Clock Museum. Offered at below market value to help the Museum quickly receive needed funding, this is an opportunity for a select few individuals to wear the most advanced pilot’s watch of the 21st century before it appears in boutiques at normal retail prices.
For this special event, only 250 individually signed and numbered examples will be made in stainless steel, 250 in each of the different solid gold colors, and 50 in platinum. Prices start at $18,500 for the stainless version, about $40,000 for gold, and $89,700 for solid 950 platinum.
Every Museum Edition Flight Officer is built to order in Gallet’s Swiss workshop—a labor intensive process that takes between five and six months per watch as well as the time required for chronometer certification by the COSC (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres), the official Swiss Timing Authority.
handled directly by Gallet, instead of through normal resale channels. After the Museum Edition is sold out, Gallet’s G330 powered Flight Officer will become available through watch boutiques and fine jewelry stores at normal retail prices.
Gallet’s CEO hopes that this event will also help to increase the Museum’s patronage. Hediger, who often visits horological museums in the vicinity of his travels, is outspoken about his feelings when it comes to support of these noble institutions. “Wearing an expensive watch as a statement of personal success is fine,” he says. “At the same time, everyone wearing a fine modern timepiece owes a debt of gratitude to the hard work and sacrifice by the great watch-making pioneers of the past. The best way to repay this debt is by supporting the museums and learning more about what was involved in making this all possible.”
While not the most recognized brand with the general watch buying consumer, the Gallet name is well established with the more knowledgeable watch connoisseur. Advanced aficionados, and those within the industry, are aware of what the Gallet label represents to fine watchmaking, especially in the area of professional timekeeping.
From the very inception of the wristwatch until now, millions of timepieces were produced with the Gallet name on the dial. Most of those watches were built for true professionals. “We have always had a strong commitment to professional timekeeping,” Laurence says. “This is what drives our research and development. Gallet watches are used in every field where durability, reliability, and precision are critical. Unlike some other manufacturers, professional watches were never a sideline with us.”
As an example, he points to Gallet’s status as the first and longtime official timekeeper for the Indianapolis 500. The company fulfilled contracts to supply the iconic racing institution with stop watches and timers that often also featured the logo of Gallet’s co-sponsor, the Champion Sparkplug Company. Gallet’s wrist chronographs were worn during competition by some of racing’s greatest legends, including Jim Clark, Bruce McLaren, and numerous others.
There are many other examples where Gallet supplied its cutting edge timepieces to various industries and professions ranging from rocket production to auto racing to aviation to medicine. Gallet’s dual-split stopwatches were utilized by NAA Rocketdyne in the 1940s during the early liquid propulsion testing that led to the modern exploration of space. Prior to this, Gallet was commissioned by the U.S. Geological Survey to build high-quality stopwatches for measuring the duration of seismic activity and other natural phenomena, followed by beacon timers for the U.S. Light House Service and the U.S. Coast Guard.
A number of innovations found within today’s fine timepieces came about as a result of research conducted by Gallet. The company introduced the first wrist-worn alternative to the pocket chronograph in 1914 with its MultiChron 30 and supplied it to the British Royal Air Force. The MultiChron 30 model went on to become the first chronograph with a waterproof case in 1936. Time zone calculation, a standard feature on many contemporary pilot’s watches, debuted in 1938 with the Flight Officer. The MultiChron Petite, introduced in 1939, was the first miniature wrist chronograph specially designed for enlisted and professional women.
The Gallet MultiChron model 12 worn by Jim Clark, the world’s greatest Formula One driver, when he won the 1965 Indianapolis 500.
The 1938 Gallet Flight Officer endorsed by Senator Harry S Truman for pilots of the US Army Air Force. Truman wore a Flight Officer during his term as 33rd President.
The first chronograph wristwatch with an additional 24-hour GMT directional hand was introduced in 1943 with
the MultiChron Navigator. The world’s first yacht racing stopwatch, pioneered by Gallet in 1920, evolved into the MultiChron Yachting Timer. Introduced in 1950, the Yachting Timer became the first wrist-worn chronograph with regatta countdown function.
The original 1938 Flight Officer was a well-known favorite of President Truman, who recommended it as a requirement for pilots of the U.S. Army Air Forces during WWII. The new Museum Edition Flight Officer joins the long list of Gallet innovations by being the first self-winding, split recording chronograph with dual mainspring barrels and Silicium escape wheel.
Gallet’s classic watch models are highly prized by today’s collectors. As part of the company’s commitment to maintaining a strong connection with its long history, Gallet sponsored a team of volunteers to create GalletWorld.com, a web site dedicated to the company’s past achievements and renowned timepieces. “That was then, and this is now,” Laurence says. “We’re proud of our 545 year tradition of innovation, and we live by our slogan ‘Pioneers in Professional Timekeeping.’ When you wear a Gallet, you’re wearing the real thing. Form follows function. We produce watches that look like a professional’s watch should. Gallet timepieces do not include frivolous bells and whistles added purely for marketing purposes. Instead, our watches incorporate only the very best of what is required.”
Due to Gallet’s status as the world’s oldest surviving watch and clock maker, Laurence believes that the company has a unique responsibility: “Because of whom we are, we have an obligation to advance and also preserve the art and science of timekeeping.” In the company’s long-held tradition, Gallet plans to tie future
Master watchmaker Georg Raytchev, left, with CEO Walter Hediger at the company’s Swiss workshop.
The National Watch and Clock Museum is part of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC). With more than 18,000 members, it is the largest international organization dedicated to the art and science of timekeeping. One of the world’s largest collections of over 17,000 timepieces is housed at NAWCC headquarters in Columbia, Pa. The 45,000 square foot facility contains 19,000 feet devoted to displays that are open to the public. In addition to the museum, the association operates a library and research center containing more than 19,000 horological books, catalogs and periodicals, as well as a 21,000 volume special collections archive containing patent filings, records from several watch companies, and personal papers from famous horologists.
The NAWCC also operates an accredited School of Horology where students learn to become professional watch and clock makers.
More information is found at www.nawcc.org
models to other philanthropic causes similar to the Museum Edition project. “We see ourselves as a corporate citizen of the world at large,” Laurence says. “Timekeeping has always, and will always play an important role in world events. It’s fitting that a company such as Gallet does what it can to assure that those who strive to make the world better can continue their efforts.”
Gallet Watch Group