When a 7750 ain’t a 7750 any longer —
Reworking the workhorse Valjoux 7750

Posted by Time Flies (Originally posted April, 1998)
Copyright, 1998, 1999, G. J. Buhyoff

Well, after extensive conversations with IWC I have learned a lot about the Flieger Chrono. What I found was this . The Flieger has had, to date, three incarnations with regard to the caliber contained therein. The first Fliegers were introduced with a c. 7902, followed by a c. 7912 and since approximately last fall, a new c. 7922 has been used in them. The difference are quite substantial, particularly between the two earlier caliber versions and the recent c. 7922. The new c. 7922 utilizes IWC designed and re-engineered barrel and train assemblies as well as a new balance wheel and mainspring, in addition to more extensive finishing of bridges, plates and screws.. So, the basic Valjoux 7750 kit is essentially remade and becomes a 7922. I could immediately tell the difference between the sound and feel of the auto wind in the Flieger and the approximately 10 other Valjoux 7750 based watches I had. It is this experience that caused me to have a conversation with IWC, Winchester, Virginia. IWC buys a 7750 kit and extensively reworks it, where that reworking is that of a substantive nature.

Thus, does the Flieger really have a 7750 in it? Probably not. Is their caliber based upon a 7750 — yes. Are all 7750’s equal — not by a long shot. Does IWC have the right to call it their own caliber — I think yes, given the extensive reworking — for all practical purposes it is a new movement which uses basic design from Valjoux. As a side note, you can tell if your Flieger has the newest IWC caliber in it by looking at the serial number. If the first three digits of the serial number start with 267 or later, then it has the newest caliber.

So, the point of all of this is — why do we have a tendency to say things like — “well all of those watches have 7750’s in them — therefore look for the best price point”. We speak, more often than not, with little detailed information. We group movements by name only and need to seek out more detailed information. I wish the manufacturers were more forthcoming and it did not take Sherlock Holmes to ferret out important clues and details. But, I suggest that this type information is critical. Maybe, this is something that the ‘Zone community could become engaged in. Ask questions, fax, phone, compare notes, ask other experts (many of whom are here on the Forum). With better information and thus, hopefully, more wisdom we can cut to the chase instead of arguing, and worse yet, giving advice, based upon very poor or no information.

This has been an interesting experience for me and if I was not so compulsive, I would have accepted the “old wives tail” that the Flieger Chrono had a Valjoux 7750 in it — yeah, it started with a 7750 but it really ain’t one anymore. This is a akin to the Shelby Mustangs of the 60’s. You bought a standard 289 cu. in. Mustang, shipped it to Shelby and he reworked it. What you got back was not a Mustang anymore… I know, I’ve been there. I guess, we face the same thing with watches. So, folks, let’s try to get smart, pass on the wisdom, and not create “facts” by repeating the same old thing, over and over. I hope we can all get involved in some detective work. This could be one of the best things this Forum could contribute. It probably would cut down on some of the specious information that is passed down and seems to have an unfortunately long “shelf life”.


The author’s comments in this review are his own opinions. The best available facts were used to compile this information at the time of writing. Manufacturers change specifications and some manufacturers do not reveal detailed information about engineering details and manufacturing processes. I cannot be responsible for any inadvertent inaccuracies that may have occurred in the research and writing of this article.

The following comments were posted by a host of individuals in response to the article which appears above and authored by Time Flies. The copyright notice above applies only to the material written by Time Flies.

Excellent post..and I’d like to add a repost
from me..more

Posted by R. Paige on April 16, 1998 at 8:56:29:
In Reply to: When a 7750 ain’t a 7750 any longer?–and other musings. posted by Time Flies on April 16, 1998 at 3:22:50:


The chatter about the Valjoux movement never seems to end, and itís understandable for the watch enthusiasts to ask why so many different companies use the Valjoux movement.

The tradition of Valjoux dates back to the turn of the 20th century in the Joux valley of Switzerland. This is one of Switzerlandís great watchmaking regions. Here the first high quality movements were produced, and then sold to the finest Houses of watches in Switzerland …..Patek Philippe being one.

When the watch wars broke out in the early 1970ís , the Japanese quartz movements threatened to destroy the long tradition of the Swiss watch empire, so the Swiss companies united in a common front to take on the quartz onslaught, this event resulted in many mergers. By 1982 these new companies united under the banner of ETA, comprising many different factories, which produced high quality ebauches, or movements in the unfinished state.

Since the technological design of watches has remained intact from the last century, these ebauches allowed various watch companies to embellish the base plates (ebauches) to their specifications and needs. It would be redundant for all the Swiss watch companies to produce a high quality ebauche, when the Valjoux ebauch had achieved near perfection for the needs of the vast majority of watch styles, and complications. The costs would be prohibitive for most watch companies to produce their own in house movements and still be price competitive in the marketplace. Just envision a market where the Omega Speedmaster costs as much as the Patek Philippe Calatrava.

The ebauches are the cornerstones for the Watch Houses to use to make their particular watch…..by embellishing the movements the watch can be transformed into an IWC FliegerChrono or a Alain Silberstein Krono or an RGM chrono…..all classics…..all have roots in the same family tree.

Let’s celebrate the Great Houses that still produce their in-house movements, names like Patek and Jaeger LeCoultre….but letís also celebrate all the other companies who transform these workhorse movements into watches we all love. Best regards, Richard

Posted by Mycroft on April 16, 1998 at 7:51:08:
In Reply to: When a 7750 ain’t a 7750 any longer?–and other musings. posted by Time Flies on April 16, 1998 at 3:22:50:

Dear Greg,

Congratulations on an excellent post.

I recently acquired my first valjoux 7750 in the form of a PD Titanium Chrono, and I was getting a little depressed from some of the posts about the calibre, hence my recent post to request info on the standard of finish between the IWC made PD and their mainline watches like the Flieger Chrono.

It has always intrigued me that small changes and advancements can make vast differences in the character of the movement, and yet these are seldom advertised or discussed. In my opinion, the blurb that is dished out is often regarding inconsequential information.

Thanks for a great post and a most enjoyable read! Looks like you are THE definitive valjoux 7750 guy, with such a broad range of experience in this calibre!


In Reply to: Will it work any better or last any longer than my Hamilton? posted by wATCHnUT on April 16, 1998 at 7:26:05:

Hi, Watchnut–

The short answer is I don’t know — it is likely that nobody does. You see, you have two things going on here. One is the movement and its modification/finish and the other is sampling theory. You could have a great stock 7750 that made it through the system on the positive tail of the distribution with regard to random events which were postive in its favor — such as fit, proper polish in all the right spots, wonderful assembley (everybody was right on that day) and so on. Your 7750 could be one of those that goes and goes and goes. The highly modified 7750 has a better statistical chance of lasting longer due to the “norm” of assembly being higher and having higher quality components — the intent of the design is better thought out and the standards norm is higher. But for some reason, a couple of the parts barely make through quality control, the assembler(s) feel rotten that day, a quirk here and there, and the “better” movement by definition (higher specs, better components, greater finishing) bums out faster.

You are purchasing on two big items in this regard — the aesthetic of higher spec and aesthetic AND the reduced risk of failure assuming that the particular movement in watch was indeed designed and specific properly and made it out of the factory on a good day.

It is likely a little like the old adage — Don’t buy a car built on a Friday! Of course this assumes that the design was good in the first place. So, the better modified/enhanced movements are by definition likely to have the better design. But, this is never assured since humans design them, and smart humans keep erasers on their pencils!

Thanks for the note.



Posted by Walt Odets on April 16, 1998 at 10:55:26:
In Reply to: When a 7750 ain’t a 7750 any longer?–and other musings. posted by Time Flies on April 16, 1998 at 3:22:50:

I am very much in agreement with Greg.

The tradition of “outhouse” ebauches goes way, way back in Switzerland, long before the Japanese “quartz” threat. ETA was formed in 1932 when Eterna’s movement division joined the previously formed Ebauches, S.A. At the turn of the century, Patek was largely using JLC ebauches. And both Vacheron and Audemars have been using JLC ebauches since the early 1930ís. There was a huge difference between the finished movements of the “trinity” houses and those used by JLC, once JLC started marketing its own (relatively) modestly priced watches. One could hardly recognize the ebauche. For those doubters, I do not think there is any question that the older trinity movements are not only more beautiful but that the polish, alignment, metallurgy, and fit contribute to their longevity. (As an interesting side note, an astute TZíer pointed out in a recent post that there was more than a passing resemblance between the current Patek cal. 177 and the Piguet cal. 21. A call to Patek yesterday confirmed that Patek had, indeed, been using the Piguet movement. But I was assured, as a matter of pride, that “the cal. 177 has been discontinued and from now on, all Pateks will contain Patek movements.” I have owned two, and I liked the cal. 177 just the way it was!)

I believe the important reason that so much attention is paid to the ebauche in TZ discussions is that this is much easier to grasp and convey than the 371 operations performed on the ebauche by the watch manufacturer. The amount and quality of rework is hard to quantify, manufacturers want us to simply rely on the house name for assurance that the movement is superb, and they never expected us to find out about the movement name. As a matter of fact, they donít even want to discuss the whole issue, and often don’t. (Peter Chong and Bryan Goh have spent the better parts of their lives trying to find out what’s in the UN Ludwig. The short answer is that it’s a Lemania of unknown calibre with a calendar plate of still undisclosed origin.)

Patek and IWC are solid companies and I would feel relatively confident of the quality of the product without knowing anything about it. But other companies do little or no refinishing of these rough ebauches, and some charge quite a lot for them. Several years ago when they first came out, I bought a fairly reasonably-priced UN San Marco chronograph with the 7750óif Iím not mistaken, about the price of the Fleiger. When I got home and removed the back, I was shocked at the poor finish of the movement. It appeared to have a good Nivarox, and it had a Glucydur balance, but the rest of it looked like the glove box hinge on a Ford pickup. (I sold the watch).

I have always been a proponent of actually looking at movements and learning enough that a look provides real information about the quality. If lack of experience prevents you from doing this yourself, I think it a good use of money to pay a local watchmaker for a few hours of his time. Have him open some watches, discuss them with you, and note various aspects of finishing and assembly, much of which can be discerned from the top plate. This is money very well-spent for the serious watch collector. If youíre so inclined, also ask him to show you how to open various kinds of backs. And spend $250óabout the cost of one croc strap, plus a decent dinneróon a good set of Bergeon carousel screwdrivers with spare bits, two Bausch & Lomb loupes (4X and 10X), an LG case wrench, and a tube of silicon grease (for gaskets). Really. In the long run, it will save you thousands.

Because we know that not everyone can afford such tools, has the time or inclination, or the motor skills, Richard and I have been working on a couple of regular monthly features for TZ that will do all this for youówith our tools and time (and watches)! These features will be unlike anything available in books: they will include very detailed, legible photographs and illustrations, and text and discussion of particular features of the movements illustrated. These features will provide not only information about how things work, but how they look, and how to develop judgment about the quality of a movement. I think they will make a real contribution to reducing the outhouse problem. In a year, I expect TZíers will stop asking, “Does it have a 7750?” and start asking, “What does the 7750 look like?”

Posted by Watchbore on April 17, 1998 at 1:00:21:
In Reply to: On outhouses and money well-spent . . . posted by Walt Odets on April 16, 1998 at 10:55:26:

: Watchbore is very much in agreement with Walt.

Victorin Piguet, another Piguet in Valais, Cottier in Carouge (where I live), made ebauches, escapements, striking-work etc. for Patek and other companies. Patek’s policy today is to become totally self-sufficient. I am therefore distressed to learn that it is abandoning the Cal 177 movement only so that it can claim to have constructed every movement it makes. The Cal. 177 is a beautiful slim movement, in many ways superior to the Cal 215.In the Patek version it is superb although a couple of hundredths thicker that the original Piguet 175 movement. It is also abandoning the excellent LÈmania chronograph, and is busy constructing its replacement.


A response . . .

Posted by Walt Odets on April 17, 1998 at 8:46:19:
In Reply to: Re: On outhouses and money well-spent . . . posted by Watchbore on April 17, 1998 at 1:00:21:

Walt is very much mostly in agreement with Watchbore.

Between 1890 (or so) and 1932 Patek was almost exclusively using JLC movements. In 1932, the new owners (the Sterns, who has been dial suppliers to Patek) made the decision to go back to Patek’s own movements. The big exception to this was the use from 1970 to 1980 of the JLC 28-255, the thin automatic with which the Nautilus was introduced.

I agree that the 177 was a very nice movement and it’s a shame that PP is discontinuing it. It seems to me that it is as distinguished a movement as the 215, though the latter is a more typically Patek quirky design.

What we see, I think, is a response on Patek’s part to the outhouse problem, which is becoming widespread as watch consumers become more educated. This is probably also a response to Lange. Once again, image (regardless of which way the issue is working) is triumphing over pure quality concerns. Image would be the only reason for PP to discontinue the 177.

Incidentally, it is the overcoil balance spring that makes the Patek a little thicker than the flat-spring version used by Piguet.

Posted by wATCHnUT on April 17, 1998 at 5:50:11:
In Reply to: When a 7750 ain’t a 7750 any longer?–and other musings. posted by Time Flies on April 16, 1998 at 3:22:50:


This is such a great post, I just can’t leave it alone. My question is: Can the 7750 be ordered in various finishes and with standard or “higher quality” parts from the manufacture. Much like a small engine can be ordered from B with a standard or roller barring crank etc. Basically, the question is “Who does this extra work, the watch Co. or ETA/Valjoux?”

Love this post


Posted by Walt Odets on April 17, 1998 at 9:03:40:
In Reply to: Who really makes these so called improvements?…more.. posted by wATCHnUT on April 17, 1998 at 5:50:11:

Certainly, many of the ETA/Valjoux movements can be ordered with different qualities of escapement: Nivarox springs (of various grades) and Glucydur balance. I suspect that most of the rest must be done by the watch manufacturer, and I would include the following obvious matters: change of the escape wheel for a harder, better polished one; change of the anchor fork and pallet jewels; alignment of the wheel train or replacement of the wheels; polish of pivots, gear teeth, and pinion leaves; change of jewels; change of mainspring (there are big quality differences); polishing of the interior of the spring barrel; and aesthetic finishing of wheel surfaces, bridges, plate, etc.

Don’t forget, that an ebauche can be nothing more than the movement plate, with no gear train whatsoever. I believe that that used to be more common than it is today and that now at least the gear train (if not the escapement) is delivered installed on the plate. I am also sure that the movement manufacturer might well contract to do some of the work I’ve listed above.

Posted by Michael Friedberg on April 16, 1998 at 4:58:19:
In Reply to: When a 7750 ain’t a 7750 any longer?–and other musings. posted by Time Flies on April 16, 1998 at 3:22:50:

Hi Greg,

What you’ve written is a VIP (very important post) and one to which I concur fully.

Interestingly, though, the issue transcends that of the movement of a watch and goes to the whole issue as to “what” “makes” a watch. Not only has there been an unfair tendency to equate watches with the same “base” movements, but there seldom is any differentiating relative to the other components in a watch.

I’m specifically referring to such components as cases and dials. It seems to me that many people look at a watch in terms of its movement and its style –and ignore how its made. I’m not sure what the relative percentages are, or even if this should be quantified, but I’m not sure that 50% of a watch is its movement. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a posting on watch dials –the differences among them and the skills in producing them (other than time, my concern is lack of technical expertise).

But the point is that an IWC “7750” is not really a 7750 –not only because of the movement but also because of the whole watch.It may be more difficult to evaluate, or at least quantify, those other features –but they are clearly are there.


Posted by Time Flies on April 16, 1998 at 5:44:46:
In Reply to: One Step Further…. posted by Michael Friedberg on April 16, 1998 at 4:58:19:

Hello, Michael. Thanks for the note of support. I would like to support your call as well. You know how much I respect your opinion, and once again, you have taken some of the thoughts and fleshed them out even further. If we could combine your ideas with some of those I expressed, we could really make some major contributions to the Forum. Genuine, factual information is the goal of these discussions. And, I fully concur that the other half of the watch entails the characteristics you cite. I could not agree more and I hope this Forum can develop and continue a fine tradition of cutting to the heart of the matter, educating consumers, and certainly having some fun along the way. I would hope that you can find some time in your very hectic schedule to compose some ideas for your suggested post. This too would be a very important post, that by default can begin to set one of our agendas for the Forum. Casework, construction and dial execution are as important as the movement. The totality of the watch is what we evaluate. I surely do thank you, Michael, for your support and your excellent addendum to my post.

Best Wishes,

Posted by William Massena on April 16, 1998 at 9:48:27:
In Reply to: When a 7750 ain’t a 7750 any longer?–and other musings. posted by Time Flies on April 16, 1998 at 3:22:50:

Hi Greg,

You excellent post raise important issues about the core of watch collecting. I will go with an in-house movement because I am too dumb and do not understand the process of “transformation”. It is much easier for me to look at a watch with an in-house movement and to rationalize that it is different that to grasp the subtilities in a improved Valjoux 7750. At the end of the day I like each of my watch to have its own particular sound. The noise of the rotor is a big factor in my buying decision. It is not a scientific approach but it my way to rationalize on my ignorance.


Posted by Time Flies on April 16, 1998 at 10:06:43:
In Reply to: I am an ignorant… posted by William Massena on April 16, 1998 at 9:48:27:

William, we know you are not ignorant! That’s for sure. I wish I had your background and experience. You have raised another important issue in this thread. There are preferences for watches based upon many things. Some are diversity of collection, an aethetic preference for in-house movements, greater concern for case and dial work. Absolutely! This is what makes the avocation so much fun and it emphasizes the richness in the watch evaluation and selection process. My original intent was to try to encourage people to investigate, learn and appreciate. I wanted to emphasize that all movements are not created (by design at least, or by manufactured embelishments)equal and that broad brush statements about a 7750 or ETA 2892 most likely do not hold water. We must be open to learning by asking and listening. This is the ultimate worth of a Forum such as this. Your preferences, actually, are not far from mine. But, as we know, preference (which includes affordabilty) plays a major role in how we proceed with purchases. Thanks for the nice note which defines another dimension of preference through understanding.

Best Wishes,


Posted by Ken on April 16, 1998 at 7:23:36:
In Reply to: When a 7750 ain’t a 7750 any longer?–and other musings. posted by Time Flies on April 16, 1998 at 3:22:50:

Hi !!

Excellent and informative post, as always, Greg !!

The one thing I would add is of course the fact that many companies use essentially stock 7750s, rename them as internal calibers, and then pass them off as their own. At best, this is misleading. And at worst, (the Breitling catalogs come immediately to mind) the hubub made about “their” movements serves as partial justification for expensive watches containing cheap mass produced movements, which although functional, are not adding the value that the manufacturers imply.

Thanks for a good read !!


thoughts on the subject. (more)

Posted by Clif Poole on April 16, 1998 at 8:27:13:
In Reply to: When a 7750 ain’t a 7750 any longer?–and other musings. posted by Time Flies on April 16, 1998 at 3:22:50:

I agree with almost everything that has been said, that many 7750 based movements differ substantially from base movements in looks, finish, material, and probably performance. I also agree that while extremely important, the movement is not everything in a watch and possibly not even 50%. One can argue that if it is durable, accurate and you can’t see it, what difference does it make. We certainly take that approach with Rolex movements. There seems to be some feel ing that if a movement is mass produced, it must not be worthy. However, I would quess that Rolex is the biggest mass producer of mechanical movements in the Swiss watch industry.

In spite of all of this, I continue to believe there is a substantial lack of information available to the general public regarding the differences between movements. I believe we are due this information since we are asked to pay greatly differing prices for watches using the same base movements and made of the same materials. We are told by the watch companies that these movements are articulated, refinished, etc., but I don’t know just what this means or how much weight to give these statements when making my buying decisions. In the absence of factual information, I have also grown somewhat skeptical of the highly touted (by the manufacturers) in-house movements. After all, they are all part of the same industry. It’s a little like believing one politician and not others.

The industry needs to do a better job in helping us in this regard. Open their doors, tell us more about just what they do to these base movements. Another source of help would be watchmakers who work on and repair these movements. They see them all every day and must have opinions regarding the quality of various movements and the articulation done to base movements.