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When it comes to vintage chronographs, our watch list is filled with names like Wakmann, Universal Genève, and Wittnauer—long-dead manufactures whose products are suddenly enjoying a renaissance in today's market. But every so often we like to go for something truly unique and (relatively) unknown, like this chronograph from Clebar.
Before the Quartz Crisis of the 1970s, when the watch industry (Swiss and Japanese alike) scrambled to adopt the new quartz technology, mechanical watch brands popped up like mushrooms on a rainy day. But at the heart of many of these brands were often small, family-run operations that sought to capitalize on clockmaking legacies. As quartz movements increased in production and distribution, many of these operations were vastly undercut and gradually faded out of existence or were scooped up by larger, more powerful coalitions.
But while those companies disappeared, the watches that they produced remain, unfamiliar names that belie their quality construction.
Clebar is one of those brands.
Though founded in the 1920s, Clebar didn't really take off with consumers until the 1940s when the brand offered a range of high-grade stopwatches and rally timers for racing and sporting events. When they turned their attention to wristwatches, they specialized in beautiful chronographs which they produced and distributed in conjunction with more well known brands. Clebar's watches were distributed in the U.S. by Trauner and Son, the same company that distributed Zodiac, and they collaborated with Leonidas, which was acquired by Heuer in the early 60's.
This Clebar is powered by the venerable Valjoux 7736 movement, a workhorse of a caliber used by everyone from LeJour to Heuer. This movement is versatile and robust, and the fact that it was produced in such large quantities means that parts are remarkably interchangeable. This is a blessing (and a rarity) for collectors of vintage chronographs.
While the Carrera influence looms large in 1960s chronograph designs, these earlier models were a bit more varied and have tremendous character. At 36mm, the case is an attractive size, not too big or too small. The printing on the dial is crisp and clear, and the luminescent elements on the numerals and hands has acquired an beautiful, even patina over time.
For any collector looking for a proper vintage chronograph, Clebar offers great looks and reliable internals at a price that's hard to ignore.
Stainless steel case is approximately 36mm (excluding crown and pushers). Valjoux Caliber 7736 Manually-Wound Chronograph Movement. Circa 1960s.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in very good condition with sharp lugs and no signs of over-polishing. Dial is in excellent condition with no signs of discoloration or hand drag. Luminescent elements of the hour plots have patinated evenly, but the hour and minute hands appear to have been professionally restored. Unsigned crown. Zodiac-signed screw case back shows some signs of wear but is in otherwise very good condition.
Includes one 20mm black leather rally-style strap and two 20mm nylon straps from Crown & Buckle.