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We love a good chronograph here at analog/shift. And, if you've been following us for any period of time, you know we have a strong affection for "no-name, off-brand" timepieces: because, in the world of vintage watches, name isn't everything. While our admiration of the big players in vintage chronos - Universal Genève, Heuer, Breitling - knows no bounds, we also love the off-beat brands that are often passed over by collectors and enthusiasts.
LeJour, a small French distributor, is best known as a European retailer of Heuer-made chronographs. Working under a private label arrangement starting in the 1980, Heuer manufactured an array of watches, in some cases, such as the Heuer Pasadena and LeJour model 7203, used the exact same cases. (Read more about that, HERE.) But prior to 1980, LeJour operated as the U.S. distributor for another well-known/no-name brand, Yema.
A relatively young brand, Yema was founded in France in 1948, quickly becoming popular in its home country. The brand is credited with creating the first automatic chronometers entirely manufactured in France. Perhaps best known for its line of regatta timers, the Yachtingraf, Yema also produced other chronographs - under their own brand name or under their distributor, LeJour - that deserve serious consideration.
Lately, we've been getting inquiries from collectors about what to look for in a vintage chronograph. We present this offering from LeJour as an example of just what we're after:
From the outside in, this LeJour epitomizes sturdy, dependable construction; the 38mm stainless steel with gently tapered lugs is reminiscent of straight-lug "Ed White" Omega Speedmasters (Ref 105.003-64) and is topped with a rotating MH bezel, the hallmark of the Heuer Autavia. The attractive glossy black dial has three registers that provide a lovely balance and counterpoint to the circular luminous hour plots and red 'lollipop' sweep hand.
However, an attractive design isn't enough to make a chronograph great, no matter how much it pops. It's what beats inside the watch can make or break its value. This LeJour Chronograph, like the fabled Rolex Daytona, is powered by a Valjoux drivetrain, a caliber 7736, that is a accurate as it is reliable.
All of these factors make this "no-name" chronograph a strong value proposition, not to mention a stunning historical example of the chronograph's Golden Era, the kind of example that is becoming increasingly hard to find...
Stainless steel case is approximately 38mm (excluding the crown). Valjoux 7736 Manually Winding Chronograph Movement. Early 1970s.
Overall condition: Case is in very good condition overall, showing signs of light wear from age and use, particularly on the left side of the case and case back. Dial is in good condition over all, featuring patination on the luminescent hour markers, and showing some scratches, particularly on the chronograph register at 6 o'clock. Bezel insert shows wear and marks from age and use. Unsigned crown; case back shows some light scratches in keeping with its age and use.
Includes one 20mm black leather rally strap with red contrast stitching and two 20mm nylon straps by Crown & Buckle.