Take Charge Of Your Own χρόνος With The Sirius Of Independents: Hands-on With The Chronoswiss Lunar Chronograph
Editor’s note: This in-depth review of the Chronoswiss Lunar Chronograph has been made possible courtesy a loaner watch from Chronoswiss and Avstev Group and is NOT a sponsored post.
Myth of (Lun)Er
The Myth of Er is a definitive Plato work that tells the story of Er, and includes an account of the cosmos and afterlife. The gist is that the ‘soul must be immortal, and cannot be destroyed’.
Chronoswiss was established around a time when the very soul of traditional mechanical watches was under attack. With the Swiss quartz crisis, when most brands were trying to deal with quartz watches and brands like Zenith were destroying their tools, Gerd-Rüdiger Lang decided that the art of mechanical watches cannot be destroyed.
The genesis of the Chronoswiss Sirius Lunar Chronograph we are reviewing today takes place at the peak of the Swiss quartz crisis.
The Cosmos: German ingenuity and Swiss knowhow
You think of Heuer, you think of Jack Heuer’s sporty watches. You think of Monaco, you remember Steve McQueen. You think of the Swiss quartz watch crisis, you appreciate the work of Nicolas George Hayek. You think of Blancpain’s resurrection, you wind up with Jean-Claude Biver. In fact, in the annals of watchmaking and mechanical watch revival post-1980s, the last two names are credited the most for keeping this mechanical art alive.
But there is one name that’s rarely mentioned. One more person, a master watchmaker, walked against the tide, disavowing quartz watches, and creating his own mechanical timepieces at the same time.
Gerd-Rüdiger Lang officially launched the Chronoswiss brand back in 1983, immortalising regulator-style watches. But he created another timepiece a year earlier that was unique in a number of ways: it was to become the world’s first mechanical chronograph with moon phase indication and clear crystal case back.
These days we take the mainstream production of display case-backs, regulator style displays, and skeletonised chronographs for granted. But they all stemmed from the creative mind of Mr Lang, and the Chronoswiss Lunar Chronograph is an embodiment of this legacy.
The Afterlife: old soul, new body
Chronoswiss first released its Lunar Chronograph in a number of references. Somewhat similar in aesthetics to the present day version, it was smaller and thicker at 38 x 15mm with a smaller lug interhorn width of 20mm. The modern-day Sirius Lunar Chronograph is bigger and bolder (though ever so slightly slimmer) measuring in at 41 x 14.8mm — 47mm diameter with crown — with a 21mm lug interhorn width.
They both retain the complexity of the dial that includes four symmetric counters — including one for a moonphase — and a peripheral date arrangement, and in my opinion, the 41mm diameter of the modern version suits the dial style better, allowing it to ‘breathe’ and not look cluttered.
But in essence, both the old and new versions are inspired by the soul of the first-ever Chronoswiss watch made by Gerd-Rüdiger Lang, the 1982 mechanical moonphase chronograph.
Just like the essence of the Myth of Er, the Chronoswiss Lunar Chronograph carries forward the soul of what is represented: a non-quartz timepiece with a cosmic complication.
The Greek Context
Chronos comes from the Greek word χρόνος meaning time. Chrónos in Greek mythology is also ‘Father Time’, controlling the moment, dictating the future. Chrónos had two off-springs, Chaos and Aether. Chaos symbolises the creation of the universe or cosmos and the void that exists above the earth. It is in this void that the moon enchants. Aether represents purity of air, one that is not breathed by humans but is celestial.
The Chronoswiss Lunar Chronograph emerges from a beauty only Greek mythology can describe.
Gerd-Rüdiger Lang started his watchmaking brand based on the philosophy of presenting the best, or the purest, of the Swiss industry. He also started in 1982 with a moonphase watch as his offering.
The choice of the brand name is a combination of the two words, chrono and Swiss. What better distillation of this brand than combining the finest Swiss watchmaking skills with a lunar complication.
Meet the Chronoswiss Sirius Lunar Chronograph, that like the namesake Sirius, is like the brightest star of the independent watchmakers at this price range.
Father Time or χρόνος or Chrónos →→ Kháos and Aether →→ Moon and Purity →→→→ invention of sundials in ancient Egypt some time prior to 1500 B.C. →→→→ 1510 Peter Henlein is credited with inventing the first mechanical watch →→ 16th Century witnesses emergence of pocket watches →→→→ 1970s/80s the Swiss quartz watch crisis hits →→ 1982 Gerd-Rüdiger Lang first watch with a moonphase complication and pure Swiss mechanical watch engineering is released →→ 1983 Lang officially launches brand with retrograde style dial watches and name inspired by the chronos + Swiss = Chronoswiss →→ 1995 laid foundations for the modern Chronoswiss moonphase watch →→ 2009 saw the re-launch of this style in a bigger case and with a face-lift →→ February 2012, Chronoswiss changed hands to be under the ownership of the Ebstein family →→ 2019 saw the introduction of the blue dial Lunar Chronograph CH-7543L-BL we are reviewing today.
Marriage of Greek Myth, English Literature & Mathematics
“In the beginning there was chaos,” said Hesiod, the Ancient Greek poet from the 7th Century BC.
Chaos in modern-day English literature means haphazard or chaotic. It is even more relevant to the Sirius Lunar Chronograph as on paper, the presence of the following point to a very busy, cluttered dial. Or Chaos:
- four sub-dials,
- a moonphase complication,
- analogue peripheral date display,
- three different types of guilloched dial treatments,
- seven hands,
- and a range of differing Arabic numerals courtesy hour markers, date indications, minute track, chronograph counters and moonphase reader
But the watch we are looking at looking today is rather special; its design manages to introduce order to this chaos.
“In all chaos there is a cosmos, and in all disorder a secret order”, said the pre-eminent Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung.
Credit to the brand, the dial in person is legible to the degree of crime, the multiple textures are welcome breaking the monotony of different elements, the big bold time telling Arabic numerals differentiate themselves clearly from the smaller date numerals, the moonphase design with an actual face is welcome and adds to the myth of Greek legends, and the slight use of red in the date pointer adds a subtle burst of enthusiasm.
In short, like the mathematical chaos theory, there is a pattern to the busy dial, a pattern that elevates the appeal on the wrist and makes it stand out amongst a sea of watches.
“Order from disorder sprung,” said the English poet John Milton. The dial of the Chronoswiss Sirius Lunar Chronograph takes this mantra to heart and delivers.
Simply put, Chronos essentially is the personification of time; and the Chronoswiss Sirius Lunar Chronograph its just manifestation.
Before we go into the hands-on experience in detail, here’s a brief rundown of the brand’s various collections.
Chronoswiss’ current catalogue offers a total of 89 models spread across eight collections, namely Tourbillon, Skeltec, Open Gear, Flying, Classic, Sirius, Artist, and Heritage.
They recently added to the Open Gear collection for Watches and Wonders 2021 and you can read our reviews of those here and here.
The Lunar Chronograph we are reviewing today is part of the Sirius collection that features a broad range, combining the hand-crafting art of enamelling, guilloché finish, skeletonizing and detailing.
This model comes in three variations: ref. CH-7543L-BL with a blue dial and steel body, ref. CH-7543L with a solid sterling silver (925) dial and steel body, and the ref. CH-7541LR with a solid sterling silver (925) dial but 18-karat red gold case. These are currently the only three moonphase watches presented by the brand.
The Hands-on Experience
So now that we have placed the Chronoswiss Lunar Chronograph into context, let’s go hands-on with the watch.
Like any object, the appreciation for watches reaches a new high when you get to touch and wear them, and given it appears that it is definitely hard to see these in-person before buying for a lot of local Aussies — which is a shame really because I have found myself falling in love with a brand I knew little about before this Watches & Wonders 2021 — we figured this would be a great opportunity to provide you with a holistic hands-on experience.
We regretfully couldn’t take photos of the actual box, so I can’t give you my opinion on it, but I have seen a couple of unboxing videos online, and it appears that Chronoswiss beauties come in excellent packaging that’s rather unique and luxe.
First Impressions – The Case
My first impression was that it just commands your attention. Besides the dial, the case itself is nuanced and adds a number of visual and physical details, elevating the appeal of the package.
The knurling on the base of the case is thicker at 2.5mm than knurling on the top which sits at ~1mm. I was expecting them to be exact mirrors, but as it turns out, the top bezel is split up in two, spread between a thin knurled layer underneath a thicker polished bezel of about 1.5mm.
The overall thickness — 2.5mm — of this is the same as that of the knurling layer at the lower side of the case, but physically it splits up the case when viewed from the side, visually decreasing the thickness of 14.8mm that helps the watch achieve a more dressy vibe.
In terms of making this watch look slimmer, there is also the presence of a thin — 3mm thick — sloping internal bezel on the inside of the dial, which again visually helps reduce the diameter of the watch by having the dial around 35mm.
When viewed from the sides, it also brings in a sense of multiple surface play, with the presence of a highly polished bezel followed by knurling followed by a handsomely and finely vertically brushed case band followed by a thick layer of knurling.
This nuance and play is extended to the lugs that are highly polished on the top and bottom around the frame but feature strong brushing on the sides. The lugs also have highly polished screws which further enhance the surface play.
When looking from the sides with the pushers, the oversized 7.8mm diameter onion crown is rather eye-pleasing and works well with the knurling on the sides.
A major take-away from this release is that every aspect of the case seems to have been thought through, and that for only 12’700 AUD seems like a bargain.
Coming back to the dial, one of the most fascinating things is the execution of the hands. I absolutely love how the date hand is first bent at the stem to raise it, and then bent back again to almost touch the dial. In the same vein, the central chronograph hand and the minutes hand are curved — it’s all done by hand if I am not wrong — at the edges, thereby enhancing legibility.
Another aspect one notices is that the peripheral analogy date numerals change orientation from the 8th to the 23rd for better readability, though the execution is a bit different from the Oris we reviewed recently.
Under sunlight, the red and shiny moon-face golden disc really pops, bringing a sense of quirky to the dial. Just the amount of detailing there is on the dial, it’s incredible. Once you take it out of the sun, it becomes a dark blue, more mature, more elegant.
Shines As A Package
On the whole, especially with the leather strap, the moonphase complication and that guilloched dial, the Chronoswiss Sirius Lunar Chronograph looks like a serious dress watch but then with the chronograph, it brings in a sense of sporty as well and the big crown and top knurling bring in a sense of pilot’s watch essence. It’s also got a nice heft to it and feels like a solidly built timepiece. Chronoswiss does a great job of combining all of these beautifully and the only thing lacking is a 100m water resistance (along with a screw-down crown and case-back). It’s still nice to have a watch that spans a number of watch genres. Like I said before, it’s really great value for the price.
Even though it was love at first sight, there are a few aspects I wish were a bit different:
- The supple alligator strap has large scales on top that taper down to smaller scales, and I liked that style. I don’t think I have any watch strap that offers this and it feels very premium. But that said, the lug interhorn spacing is 21mm— with the strap tapering down to 18mm — and to be honest I kind of wish they had kept it at 20mm. This way, aftermarket straps would be easier to procure
- I am usually not a fan of truncated numerals, and am slightly bothered with the ‘4’ not being cut but the ‘8’ opposite it is being ‘eaten into’
- I also wish that the oscillating weight was in contrasting gold (or heat blued), but to give credit where due, the screws have been blued
- There also seems to be unnecessary repetition of text on the movement, with both 25 Jewels Swiss written by ETA and 25 Rubies written by the brand
- The movement is decently finished with perlage and Geneva stripes but I don’t think is COSC-certified or has a silicon balance spring
- It doesn’t have a screw-down crown or a case-back, and that’s one thing that’s stopping it from being the ultimate one-watch-collection timepiece.
The Neo-classical Design Elements and the Breguet Influence
There is a quote on neoclassicism by German art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann that goes: “Unity and simplicity are the two true sources of beauty”.
The geometric unified symmetry of the dial and the overall inherent simplicity of the timepiece originating from its chaos makes the Chronoswiss Sirius Lunar Chronograph a manifestation of this belief.
Besides the official acknowledgement of lacquered white “Breguet Losange” steel hands and Breguet Arabic hour markers, there is a fair amount of similarity — or influence — between Chronoswiss and modern Breguet timepieces:
- presence of partially knurled edges and screwed coin edge bezels front and back
- screwed lugs
- a hearty dose of polished and brushed finishing
- Sapphire case-back displaying a decently finished movement that features a skeletonized and rhodium-plated rotor with Côtes de Genève
These are something I chalk in favour of the brand, given Breguet pretty much is my grail or favourite brand.
Inside the Chronoswiss Lunar Chronograph beats the calibre C.755. It makes use of a bespoke Alfred Rochat — added moon phase sub-dial at 3’o clock and adds a central date hand module — on an outsourced ETA/Valjoux 7750 ebauche.
The ETA base is a very widely and commonly used movement across the industry and is based on the Valjoux 7733 manual wind movement. The Sellita SW510 BHa and the Concepto C99001 are clones from other manufacturers.
It is widely used in brands such as TAG Heuer, Breitling, IWC, Hamilton, Tissot, Formex, Sinn, Chopard, Christopher Ward among others.
Last year’s IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser Chronograph launched at Watches & Wonders Shanghai reference IW371617 features the automatic winding IWC calibre 69355 movements which is based on the IWC 69370 which in turn is based on this ETA 7750. On introduction, it retailed for 13’300 AUD and doesn’t feature a moonphase or analogue date display. So rest assured, you are getting a workhorse movement. The ETA 7750 can occasionally be cantankerous but is still a very trustworthy calibre.
The 30mm x 7.9mm movement usually provides an average of 2-day power reserve — anywhere between 42 to 54-hours — beats at the standard frequency of 4Hz, and features 25 jewels. The calibre C.755 provides approx. 46 hours of power reserve
On The Wrist
On my almost 16cm slim wrist, the watch wears very slightly big, but for anyone with wrists 7 inches or larger, this would fit like a T.
But the only 14.8mm thickness, 52mm lug-to-lug spacing and the 101g weight (with the buckle and strap) does help a long way in making it comfortably wearable for someone even with slimmer wrists, and thanks to the lugs curving down and not being absolute straight, they follow the wrist profile and further help the wearability.
The officer’s style case of watches is visible, given it looks like a pocket watch with soldered on straight-ish lugs. I one for love that look as it feels like a direct descendent of the 1510 Peter Henlein pocket watches we spoke about in our Timeline section earlier.
The strap is thick and looks comfortable, but given this was a new watch for retail, I didn’t strap it on, so can’t vouch for its comfort overall. All the photos on my wrist you see have been taken with me holding both the ends of the straps with the other hand. The buckle looks nice, with a tiny bit of branding on it as well.
I like how there is a substantial gap between the strap and the case band, allowing for more give and flexibility.
Another attention to detail I admire is that the deployant buckle features screws just like the screw bars for the strap, maintaining uniformity of design. Given my own personal grail is my Breguet Marine Big Date, it features similar screwed-in bars rather than spring bars and feels more secure and differently alluring.
Back to the dial, it is one of those versatile shades of blue that will be equally comfortable complementing a blue business shirt and suit combo or a tattered pair of blue jeans and a white t-shirt.
On the wrist, it’s got this great vintage meets contemporary vibe, which translates into a timeless offering.
That’s All Folks!
Like I said in the beginning, I found this watch to be a study in Greek myths to English literature (and even mathematics theories). It is one of those timepieces I truly enjoyed putting on my wrist or even simply staring at.
When you get to be around watches a lot, they all seem to blend into one another. But once in a while, you find yourself in the presence of something truly worth cherishing. The Chronoswiss Lunar Chronograph is one of those watches.
I will wrap this up with another quote, this time by Periander of Corinth: “Pleasures are mortal while the virtues are immortal”.
The pleasure of wearing the Chronoswiss Sirius Lunar Chronograph for the short two-week loan period may have been mortal, but its beauty and soul by virtue, are immortal.
To find out more about the new Chronoswiss Lunar Chronograph and other Chronoswiss watches, please head to their website here. All images are ©Watch Ya Gonna Do About It, unless otherwise stated. We would again like to thank Chronoswiss and Avstev Group for sending us this watch to review.