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Lemania, established in 1884 by Alfred Lugrin, is perhaps one of the most recognizable names in the vintage chronograph market. At Jaeger-LeCoultre and at his own manufacture, which he ran under his own name, Lugrin gained a reputation for expertise and the soundness of his èbauches, particularly chronographs. After his death, it was under his son-in-law Maurice Meylan's leadership that the manufacture became Lemania and moved to L'Orient. In 1932, Lemania joined Omega and Tissot to form SSIH (Société Suisse pour l’Industrie Horlogére SA). It was this relationship--particularly with Omega--that would result in the creation of some of the most iconic calibers in horological history, like the Lemania 1873 (or Omega Caliber .861) found in the legendary Omega Speedmaster.
Like many manufacturers, Lemania also equipped watches to the world's militaries, including those of Sweden, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. For many collectors, they encapsulate the essence of "tool watch" in their most elemental form--if for no other reason than that they were built to be issued to sailors, soldiers, and airmen and brought into some of the harshest environments possible. Their stark, no-frills designs were universally practical and rugged, intended for maximum utility.
Within the range of military-issued timepieces, aviator's chronographs are among the most desirable, with some--like the Zenith A. Cairelli--becoming nothing short of legendary. Starting in the 1950s, Lemania issued a monopusher chronograph to the armed forces of the United Kingdom. These watches, with the backs of their asymmetrical 40mm steel cases stamped "6BB-944-3306" (6BB signifying that they were property of the RAF, and "944-3306" indicating "wristwatch"), were initially issued to navigators in the Royal Air Force and later to sailors and submariners in the Royal Navy.
Earlier executions issued to the Swedish military lacked chronograph subsidiary registers. The presence of these on the execution issued to the British don't take anything away from the stark legibility of the dial. Because, like its larger counterpart, the Cairelli, the Lemania 6BB-944-3306 was intended to fly, and thus has tritium hour plots and markers, easy to read in a darkened cockpit.
At the heart of this watch beats the Lemania Caliber 2220, in which all functions of the chronograph mechanism--start, stop, and reset--are engaged by a single pusher. Almost exclusively used in military chronographs, the Caliber 2220 was based on an earlier pocket watch movement, the Caliber CHT 15. The Caliber 2220 took the basic design of the CHT 15 and added extra shock protection. For a movement intended for military use, the Caliber 2220 is quite elegant to look at, with the same artful symmetry as the dial. Also, the construction of the Caliber 2220 echoes the outside: the balance--with a Breguet overcoil--is large, the levers and springs fashioned from sheet steel, all brushed for optimal functionality.
Versatile and reliable, the Lemania 6BB saw twenty years of service before being discontinued in the 1970s. Ours, with the case back designation "662/56," was the 662nd issued in 1956. Strapped on a genuine military issue NATO strap, it has seen combat, and will weather the battles of civilian life just as faithfully as it did in wartime.
Steel case is approximately 40mm (excluding crown and pusher). Lemania 2220 Manually-Wound Chronograph Movement. Circa 1956.
Overall Condition: Case is in fantastic condition throughout showing light signs of wear from age and military use. No glaring marks or signs of over polishing. Lugs remain very sharp. Dial is in excellent condition with even patination to the luminescent elements of the hour plots. Hands have been professionally relumed, likely under contract. Case back bears military markings "6BB/924-3306 662/56." Unsigned crown.
Includes one 19mm genuine military-issue nylon strap and two 19mm nylon straps from Crown & Buckle