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The story of the A. Wittnauer Company--and the man who founded it--is so inspirational that it could, nay should, be a film by Ron Howard.
Albert Wittnauer immigrated to New York City in the 1870s, a lad of sixteen with ambitions as wide as the Atlantic. He came to work for his brother-in-law, Eugene Robert, an importer of fine Swiss timepieces from brands such as Jaeger LeCoultre and Vacheron Constantin. His experiences working for his brother-in-law inspired him to make watches of his own, with the reliability and craftsmanship of Swiss watches at a lower price point to appease the thrifty American public. He established the A. Wittnauer Company in 1885, at the age of only thirty-one.
Around that time, Wittnauer became the distributor for Longines watches in the United States, and would begin producing Wittnauer-branded cases that housed Longines movements. Through the collaboration with Longines, Wittnauer gained a reputation for their excellent aviation instruments and chronographs. Amelia Earhart piloted her planes with instruments made by Wittnauer, and daredevil aviator Jimmy Mattern wore a Wittnauer AllProof in his aborted flight around the world in 1933.
Longines formally bought Wittnauer in the 1950s, and the brand continued to produce exceptional chronographs at a more competitive price point than their Swiss contemporaries. But, like so many watch brands, Wittnauer folded in the face of budget crises in the mid-1980s, causing Longines to dissolve their relationship with Wittnauer. Their watches remain, a testament to their ingenuity and elegance.
Dating from the 1960s, this Reference 7004A Chronograph was marketed by Longines-Wittnauer as a professional-grade timepiece and fitted with the redoubtable Landeron 248 manual winding movement. The matte black dial features twin subsidiary registers (sweep seconds at 9:00, and a 30 Minute Counter at 3:00 with the 5 minutes countdown in red). The rotating outer bezel has aged over the years to a lovely mulberry hue.
The reference 7004A has everything you could want in a vintage chronograph. It captures the look of the classic 1960s chronographs like the Heuer Autavia, but without the price tag that usually comes with an Autavia. With great colors, a terrific movement and a perfectly-sized steel case, you'd be hard-pressed to find a cooler vintage chronograph for the money.
Stainless steel case is approximately 40mm (excluding crown). Ref. 7400A. Manual-winding Landeron 248 movement.
Overall condition: Stainless steel case is in very good, unpolished condition, showing signs of light wear and use in keeping with its age. Lugs are sharp and show some tool marks on both front and back. Matte black dial is in excellent condition, showing no major blemishes, and showing signs of even patination on the luminescent elements. Hands show some signs of flaking on the luminescent elements but are in otherwise good shape. Outer tachymeter ring is in excellent condition, showing no signs of smudging or water damage. Unsigned crown; unsigned case back shows a deep tool mark on the top but is in otherwise exceptional, unpolished condition, showing factory brush finishing.
Includes one 20mm nylon strap from Crown & Buckle.