Well, a lot has changed since my last post. The pandemic hit, I moved into a new (smaller) home and I’ve spent most of the past year and a half working from that home. I also lost my workshop as a result of the move and am now setup in the garage; sadly, I’ve found the summer heat in there to be unbearable and thus my hobby now needs to wait until late fall or winter.
But all this hasn’t kept my mind off horology and I’ve managed to accumulate a few more timepieces for tinkering. I’ve picked up a few junkers and a few gems- all which require a bit of work. One such watch, a piece I’ve been on the hunt for a while, is this Jardur Bezelmeter 975 from the early 1940’s.
Jardur’s moment in the sun coincided with general aviation taking off. Their watches seem to have been popular amongst the early aviators and this may have been due to savvy marketing but I think more likely it was the quality of their watches that caused the pilots to snap them up.
The first Bezelmeter probably dates to the late thirties or early forties and has a lot practical features that were quite unique at that time.
One such feature is the case, which is made of stainless steel. Stainless steel watch cases did not become commonplace until the 1950’s. The hard material was difficult for the manufacturers to work with and may not have been practical to the owners in the days before tool watches were common.
Second, the Bezelmeter is water resistant. Rolex had famously released their Oyster case by the time Jardur came along but waterproof chronographs were still few and far between. Jardur utilized a case design similar to the Taubert cased Movado I worked on earlier. Like the Movado, the tubes for the Bezelmeter chronograph pushers are sealed with cork as is the pendant tube. The caseback is threaded and is sealed with a lead crush gasket.
Finally, and probably most importantly, the movement is shock resistant with jeweled Incabloc settings for the balance wheel. This feature alone was quite unusual in the 40’s, but if you consider the rough and tumble early years of aviation a durable timepiece would have shock protection. Open cockpits were still a thing back then and I would imagine a pilot’s watch received a lot of bumps and bruises during its lifetime.
Back to my Bezemeter- I picked it up non-running, as so many of my pickups are. It looked fantastic though with the original “Cathedral” hands and a very busy dial under the prominently yellowed crystal. The watch is surprisingly large, quite large for its age, and it measures 39mm across which makes it about the same size as the Omega Speedmaster Professional, introduced about nearly twenty years later.
Housed inside is a Valjoux 71 movement. Later Jardur Bezelmeters were powered by the smaller, and now quite collectible, Valjoux 72 movement; either will get the job done through. I had held out for the earlier Valjoux 71 Bezelmeter because the case is a little larger and the cathedral hands a bit more intriguing.
As a result of the my earlier move, the pandemic, and all the rest of it, I had the watch in hand for several months before I got around to servicing it. It turns out there wasn’t really anything wrong with it other than the hands coming loose.
Inside, there were two service marks scratched into the caseback which suggests the watch was serviced at least twice before. The last service appears to have occurred in 1969. I think whoever owned the watch probably stopped wearing it when they stopped flying.
Strangely, the movement of the watch and the caseback are inscribed “Pilgrim Electric Corp” which is an entity I’ve never heard of before. The Jardur company specialized in tools and materials for general aviation purposes (you can still find their flight computers for sale on eBay) the affiliation with the Pilgrim Electric Corporation is a bit mysterious.
The dial on the Bezelmeter is impressive. In addition to what you would normally expect to see on a chronograph dial, such as the tachymetre and the thirty minute & twelve hour subregisters, there is a circular ring of degrees from 0 to 180. This represents the Standard Rate of Turn which is important to a pilot, especially when flying by instruments.
The Standard Rate of Turn is three degrees per second. Using the cockpit Turn and Slip Indicator, a pilot can execute a turn and measure the number of degrees the airplane has deviated from course based the elapsed time. Sixty seconds being required to execute a 180 degree turn.
Jardur seem to have been the only ones to put this metric on their dial.
With the movement out of the case it was time to pull the hands. I always get a bit nervous when pulling the hands from an old timepiece as they’re often irreplaceable. If I damage either the dial or hands I’ll be left angry and impotent and with radium painted hands you need to be extra careful. The radium paint shouldn’t be inhaled or ingested but when it’s decades old the binder fails and the radium paint and can be blown about with a bit of carelessness.
In the past I’ve used stripper to remove the old paint. This time I opted to keep things as original as possible so I applied a bit of lacquer to the back of the hands to keep any more radium paint from crumbling away.
Underneath the dial there was some interesting oxidation on the main plate but not a bit of rust in sight and that’s exactly what you want to see when you pull apart a non-working movement.
Since I’ve serviced a Valjoux 71 movement in the past, I know my around but if parts are needed I could be in a bind. Valjoux stopped producing this movement in 1974 (before I was born!) so New-Old-Stock parts are hard to come by today. Happily, no replacement parts were needed this go around.
The topside of the Valjoux 71 movement looks a lot like the Venus 178 housed in old Breitling Navitimers. The two movements are roughly the same size as well (31mm) but the Valjoux 71 seems a bit chunkier and when you wind it up it up the ratchet sings. You can really feel the tension in the mainspring too.
The normal wear and tear one would expect from a seventy year old movement was apparent but as I worked my way through it, everything seemed to be in order.
The main plate has been decorated with pelage under the dial. It wasn’t much to look at before cleaning as the silver plating had oxidized effectively hiding such decoration.
It’s unusual to tear down a movement of this age and not find rust in the keyless works (the mechanism to wind the mainspring and set the time) but that’s just what I found here. Apparently those cork seals do work.
I found the going train in good repair so I’m not really sure what was keeping the movement from running. There was a bit of debris in the movement which may have been caught up in the leaves of of the pinions but I’m just venturing a guess here.
The ratchet wheel had a ring etched on its surface which is a sign the bearings for the barrel arbor are worn causing the mainspring barrel to tilt under load. However, the wear on the underside of the barrel bridge did not tell the same story. I think the wrong screw was used when assembling the chronograph mechanism and it pushed through the plate and touched the ratchet wheel.
It’s easy to confuse the screws for the various chronograph springs and levers. Most have shoulders of differing sizes and mixing them up can really create a headache during assembly. I’ve learned though. I make it a habit to replace all screws immediately after removing the assigned spring or lever so that this never happens.
Inside the barrel the mainspring was one of the old blue style and probably dated to that 1969 service.
Disassembled, the entire mechanism got the usual treatment in the ultrasonic bath then my reliable old watch cleaner; the plates also received a silver dip which removed any lingering oxidation; they came out looking great.
The movement sprang to life as soon as the balance wheel was reinstalled.
The timegrapher reading was good with a bit over 300 degrees of amplitude and running a little fast. I adjusted the regulator so that it would run a hair slow (movements will generally pick up a bit of speed as the amplitude drops).
I was careful to not disturb any of the eccentrics used for adjustment when assembling the chronograph. With the excellent reading from the timegrapher lingering in my head, I had a feeling most everything in this movement was already setup properly by the previous watchmaker and I didn’t want to undo any of their good work.
And my hunch proved correct as all the chronograph functions worked without fail. Often I’m not so lucky.
Even the hands went back into place without issue- I must be very lucky! The minute hand is slightly bent and has lost some of its radium paint but I’m okay leaving it as it is. I wanted to preserve much of the patina. For a time, I even considered reusing the yellowed crystal but chose not to as it was a slightly loose fit.
The case got a good scrub but not the usual ultrasonic bath. I think this probably would have ruined the cork gaskets and finding replacements would be impossible.
I also needed to clean and reuse the lead crush gasket too. I cannot trust the case to be waterproof but then I would have to be a fool to go swimming with such an antique on my wrist anyway.
Re-casing the movement is always a thrill to me. I think I like the look of the movement in the case more than the dial under the crystal. I guess I just love the engineering.
In the end you cannot deny the new crystal was the way to go.
The Bezelmeter really is a stunner, but again I’m struck by what an oddball it was for its era. The closest analogue I can think of would be the Type 20 commissioned by he French Navy in the 1950’s (they, by the way, are much more collectable than the venerable Jardur here). Large watches with rotating bezels are all the rage today but in the 1940’s they weren’t. The Rolex GMT and Breitling Navitimer didn’t even appear until the 50’s.
There is some evidence that Jardur watches were desirable to US pilots during the Second World War and I can certainly see why. They would be a valuable tool for the pilots in the service and could be more useful than a standard military issued A-11 which was not a chronograph. Jardur knew this and tailored its advertisements during the war years to the enlisted men and their families.
How many of their Bezelmeters actually saw service has been lost to history but I do know of one service member who owned a Bezelmeter– General James “Jimmy” Dolittle. Of course my understanding is that he was gifted the watch following the Dolittle Raid but still- it’s a nice watch.