1970s Tissot Astrolon (Caliber 2250)

Tissot 2250 Feature

Sometimes innovations do not succeed simply because they are ahead of their time. The Tissot 2250 is a great example of an innovation that was sabotaged due to poor marketing and timing. It came out right as Quartz was killing the middle and lower markets. Most of the technologically advanced pieces killed by quartz that I have written about to date dealt with transitional integration of electronics into timepieces. This watch used polymer technology to overcome one of the most long-standing and unavoidable problems of mechanical watches: lubrication. Also referred to as the SYTAL (Systeme Total d’Autolubrification) it was designed to never need to be oiled. This was as much of a benefit to watchmakers as it was to consumers. Not only is oiling a watch crucial to its proper function, but as with any task that requires a huge amount of diligence and care, some people look to take shortcuts or genuinely don’t care, and invariably screw it up. I cannot tell you how many watches I have opened up to find literally doused with oil, have oil where it shouldn’t be, or where the oil is improperly applied.

Taken out of its historical context, this is a fantastic piece of mechanical innovation, the likes of which would not reappear until just recently with the Swatch Sisteme51. This new innovation (soon to be reviewed here) is the first mechanical watch to be assembled entirely by machine. Additionally it is claimed that it will run for 20 years without need for service. Forgive my skepticism, but this is the same industry that has brought us the “Lifetime Mainspring” which as any watchmaker knows is one of the least true statements in watchmaking history. While somewhat cynical on claims based off of these types of innovations, this Tissot restores some of my faith in the next generation of technology as after more than 30 years it is still running strong and accurately which Is more than I can say about many of the quartz movements of the time that have crossed my bench.

I feel that there are two major problems with this watch, both of which are a result of the plastic construction. There is virtually no weight to the watch making it feel insignificant on the wrist. It is a hard sensation to describe, but it is similar to when you service a quartz movement. The weight just isn’t there to give it any feeling of significance. Additionally the plastic, while certainly innovative, makes the watch look a touch cheap. That being said it is still a fantastic piece and watching the escapement through the back, though it does not have the same significance of watching metal move, still remains a mesmerizing site.

While not all innovations (especially those in horology) become standard or successful even if they are indeed an improvement on the status quo it does not diminish the importance of this movement and the research that went into it. This is most certainly a great oddball piece to add to the collection right next to the electrics, electronics, and Accutrons.

Tissot 2250 Back Tissot 2250 Movement Tissot 2250 Angled Tissot 2250 Movement 2

Tissot 2250 Front

1970s Girard Perregaux Electronic (Caliber ESA 9154)

Girard Perregaux Electronic Feature

My fascination with  short-lived technological transition pieces continues with this Girard Perregaux Electronic. Unlike the original Hamiltons, the electronic movements designed by this maker (ESA) that came out in the 70s were easy to service, robust, and way less temperamental. They also have a much higher beat rate than their predecessor. At 28,800 vph they run accurately and unbelievably smooth. It also comes with a crude but efficient hacking mechanism. One interesting thing about these movements is that the gear train must fit into a seemingly small portion of the movement in order to accommodate the electronics and the coil. It was a relatively straightforward service, but a fully enjoyable one nonetheless.

Generally when I work on a movement for the first time, I try to get one that is in running condition. In my conversations with many hobbyists who became quickly frustrated with the craft, the common thread was that they made the choice to buy broken movements and learn from there. The problem with this approach is that it is difficult to diagnose why something is not working if you have not taken the initial time to learn what makes it work, and how to properly take down, clean, and assemble a movement. The advantage to starting with a running movement is that you know that if you did everything right the piece will tick when you are done. That was my hope with this one.

I bought this watch as just a head in “working order.” Once again, a victim of believing everything you read in an eBay description, I found that while this watch was in absolutely pristine condition externally and on the dial, the electronics didn’t seem to want to work. I also noticed immediately that the circuit insulator had blistering on it from heat. Fortunately the ESA 9154 was a commonly used movement (unlike the super rare ESA 9176 which I am dying to get my hands on) and so I was able to get a harvester movement for at least the circuit insulator.


Next I set about disassembling the movement. While the electronics in these are a bit of a mystery to me, the rest of the mechanism is like any other watch, and so I took it all apart, cleaned everything (other than the electronics of course), gave it an inspection, oiling and reassembly. I then did what I assumed would be a logical step which was to inspect the coil for any defects or dirt. When I found none, I proceeded to put the whole thing back together (with the new circuit insulator) and with a fresh battery it came back to life.

Girard Perregaux Electronic Main Plate Girard Perregaux Electronic New Circuit Insulator

I am unsure entirely why, but I love the balance on this watch. Its construction so perfectly encompasses classic and unchangeable balance elements with modern technology. It feels much more like a balance wheel than the Hamilton electric balances, and is much cleaner aesthetically. The movement of this balance wheel is also mesmerizing.

Girard Perregaux Electronic Balance Wheel



The only odd problem with this movement is the absence of a quick release for the stem. It was quite a procedure to take out the stem, fit the movement in the case and then refit the whole works. Other than that though I love this movement. It runs super smooth and accurately.

Girard Perregaux Electronic Battery Bridge Girard Perregaux Electronic Movement 1 Girard Perregaux Electronic Movement 2

All together it is a wonderful watch from the 70s. The case and dial are in phenomenal condition and the faded brown band helps to complement the watch without further accentuating how gold, clunky, and 70s it is as a gold band would have done. Although this is from a time when Girard Perregaux was not yet the brand it is today, it is still a great looking, well made, and accurate runner and a great piece of Girard Perregaux and horlogical history.

Girard Perregaux Electronic DialGirard Perregaux Electronic SideGirard Perregaux Electronic Angled

Review: Thomas Earnshaw Watches (The Admiral and The Astor)

My experience with Earnshaw watches was Interesting. Within one brand and two watches I found a diversity of design. One represented a modern sports/diver watch while the other was a more simple and elegant everyday watch that drew its design inspiration from a marine chronometer.

The Admiral:

Earnshaw Admiral Feature

As soon as I put it on my wrist I knew the Admiral was not for me. While I liked the dial design, and the overall styling, it was simply too thick for my wrist. At about 14.5mm thick it was just too much. This watch needs to be on a wrist far larger than mine to feel comfortable. While the width of a watch is something one can get used to, the depth is one of those things that either works for you or it doesn’t.

Earnshaw Admiral on Wrist


Beyond my initial resistance to it based entirely on my opinion, there are some good attributes to the watch. The dial is very well designed and while busy manages to be very legible. They opted to have mostly hollow hands with just the tips filled which allows for greater legibility of the functions such as the date and the power reserve. The case is and feels very solid, and has a nice weight to it that you sometimes do not get with watches of this type. The button above the crown activates the date function (the sub-dial in the upper right, and while it seems like a bit of overkill to have such a pronounced design feature just to set the date, it was oddly reminiscent (in a good way) of setting the date on an aircraft clock. It also runs reliably on its Chinese caliber CH-TY2714.

Earnshaw Admiral Dial  Earnshaw Admiral Movement


As with all watches there are some problems. The one-directional bezel feels somewhat puny in construction quality to the rest of the case and the click of its rotation does not feel like it is fitting of the case construction. Additionally, the crown is not centered on the crown guards, which is an odd oversight, but an annoying one at that. Finally, the date changes consistently early (about 4 minutes.)

Earnshaw Admiral Crown


All in all, it is a good-looking, hefty watch that happens to be too thick for my wrist. If you are into larger, sportier watches then this is definitely an option. While the listed retail price at $680 is a very high price to pay for this watch, it is routinely available at much lower price points. Places such as Gilt and Overstock.com have sold out of this watch in the $120 range, which I would say is a fair price.

Earnshaw Admiral Width Earnshaw Admiral Buckle

The Ashton:

Earnshaw Ashton Feature

The second watch I tried was the Ashton. I have very little negative to say about this watch. It is a comfortable wear, has a great weight, and a well executed combination of different design elements from the marine chronometer inspired dial, the porthole styled bezel, and the brushed steel band with polished streaks.

Earnshaw Ashton Side

Earnshaw Ashton Band Earnshaw Ashton Crown


The dial is very legible with the prominent roman numerals and the elegant and simple chapter ring. The Breguet hands fit very well with the style of dial. Built with what looks to be a member of the Chinese CH-TY25xx family it is a solid automatic movement for the price.

Earnshaw Ashton Movement


The problems I found with this watch were that the power reserve continues to move forward past the full indicated 40 hours and can look empty even though running. The Roman numerals while fitting well into the watch design are stamped on the dial as opposed to being made separately and inserted in. This has the unfortunate effect of making the dial look a bit cheap at certain angles. Additionally the band, while well finished on the outside had cut marks on the less seen sides. Finally, the clasp is a bit tough to work until it loosens a bit.

Earnshaw Ashton Buckle Earnshaw Ashton Band Cut Marks Earnshaw Ashton Numerals


I thoroughly enjoyed this watch. It was comfortable to wear, looked great, and is well executed. The listed retail price at $600 is high for this watch, but was listed a while ago at Gilt for $200, and I am sure will pop up again at a similar price. In that range it is a good value.

I think it is worth clarifying that although Thomas Earnshaw was a major contributor to the world of horology with his pioneering in the field of Marine Chronometers, the current brand that bears his name has no resemblance to the legacy of the man himself or his contributions to horology (even though their marketing would indicate differently.) They are instead a modern incarnation that puts out large production watches using mass-produced movements. Judged against the legacy of Earnshaw, one is likely to be let down, but judged as its own different brand, Earnshaw produces some well-styled watches worth seeking out if you are in the market and can find them at the right price.


Universal Geneve Polerouter Jet Microtor Caliber 215-9

Universal Geneve Polerouter Jet Feature

There are few amazing pieces as under-appreciated (and well priced) as the Universal Genève Polerouter Jet. Finally after years in the under-rated pile of vintage watches, it is getting its time in the spotlight. As a fan of innovators and clever engineering feats, this watch was impossible to pass up on when it crossed my path. The flawless and rare dial combined with my desire to work on one of these movements made this restore a fantastic experience.

Universal Genève filed their patent for the Microtor in 1955. While they are certainly the most cited for the pioneering of this type of movement, the real credit actually belongs to the Buren Company (which made the movement that powers some of the Hamilton Thinline series and Bulova Ambassadors, among others) who filed their patent just a year before UG. As a result they were the winners of a patent infringement case that followed. While Buren may have won the innovation race by almost a year, Universal Genève it would seem was taking their time to not only perfect the mechanics, but also the aesthetics of their movement. The iteration they put out was impeccably finished (fittingly with Geneva Stripes) and is absolutely beautiful mechanically and visually.

Universal Geneve Polerouter Jet Movement 1 Universal Geneve Polerouter Jet Movement 2

The original purpose of the smaller rotor set into the movement is that it saves big on the total thickness of an automatic watch. A quick Google of the world’s thinnest automatic watch will bring up the Piaget Altiplano that unsurprisingly utilizes the Microtor technology. A secondary benefit utilized by the finest of watchmakers (such as Patek Philippe, A. Lange and Sohne, and others) is that minimizing the space needed for the automatic rotor increases the room available for complications as well as the display-ability of the movement through a sapphire back. Usually a rotor will eat up about 30-50% of the viewing space at a time but the Microtor requires much less and usually allows for an unobstructed view of the hairspring and the other mechanics.

I got this watch in running condition but in need of a full service. The balance was sluggish and under the microscope it was easy to see why. Sometimes oil just migrates and dries up but sometimes it collects dirt and becomes extra viscous or dries up, creating resistance where it is supposed to be there for the opposite reason. Oil had caked up in the balance jewels and was prohibiting free movement of the balance. A thorough cleaning and oiling took care of the problem and after a slight regulation the watch was running beautifully.

On the wrist this watch is fantastic. It expectedly wears very lightly. The smaller profile comes out on the wrist. The brushed dial is different from the typical iterations of this watch and the rose gold markers and hands it gives the piece an added elegance.

All together, this is a wonderful vintage piece that showcases innovation, timeless styling, and easily one of my favorite movements to work on. If you are a stickler for slim watches but want an automatic, you can’t go wrong with one of these vintage beauties.

Universal Geneve Polerouter Jet Flat Universal Geneve Polerouter Jet Dial Universal Geneve Polerouter Jet Angle Universal Geneve Polerouter Jet Side