Calibre 15TL Chrono

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Thread: Calibre 15TL Chrono

  1. #1
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    Default Calibre 15TL Chrono

    Greetings: New collector here, and while in the process of reading and doing computer searches, my son brought me this watch that he recovered from an apartment storage area in Seattle. Looked pretty battered, but he thought he would like to explore it anyway, as he wanted a Chronograph.

    He brought it to me, and after looking carefully at the dial for a long time, I was able to barely discern the place where a Lemania logo had once been. I sent the watch to my watchmaker outside of New Orleans, and he told me what he found. The photo of what I sent him follows:

    [/IMG]

    It turns out to be an early Lemania 15TL Chronograph with coffin-shaped pushers and a gilt movement. I can't post a photo yet because I'm a beginner and I had to take the piece to my watchmaker to get the caseback off. I'm picking it up soon.

    All the junk floating around under the yellowed crystal is crystal cement from some ham-handed glueing job, and all 4 functions work on this piece. Don't know about accuracy yet. I have to send it to another watchmaker to completely disassemble, clean, and lubricate the piece, but I wondered what else I need to know about this watch.

    Can anyone offer advice? I'm not in collecting for purchase and resale, but to wear my watches. This one is my son's, and he wants to use it in his job as an Emergency Room professional in a downtown NOLA hospital. If I'm getting ready to put money into junk, please don't be afraid to disillusion me.

    Thanks for your time.
    Roger in New Orleans

  2. #2
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    First up, welcome, and thanks for sharing a lovely little watch, although I suspect it is not so little.
    Nice find
    And not junk, definitely (well I would say that, wouldn't I, as a fan of Lemania).
    The 15TL is an early movement (late 30s to 1940 seem to be the estimates for release date), and one that was produced over a long period.
    It can be adapted for flyback (though I am not sure all versions can). This means one can reset the chrono when operating and it springs back to zero and keeps going (sorry if you knew that). Try it on yours (gently).
    It is a movement with a military pedigree, having been used by Auricoste for their version of the Type 20 chrono for the french military (in 1950's from memory).
    It is a movement used by Tissot and Omega, both partners in SSIH with Lemania. And many others too, including more generic "chronographe suisse" models.
    It is a large movement at 15 ligne (just over 33mm), making for a large balance wheel and improved accuracy over many rival movements of the time, even if it only beats at 18,000 bph (not many, if any people were producing faster beat movements at the time).

    Enough about the contents, how about your watch?

    Looks interesting.
    I can't see any vestige of the Lemania name on the dial
    I love the original dial, with very individual silvered round indices (or are those holes drilled into the dial??). Hard to tell the condition though with that crystal cement and the crystal itself.
    Very interesting hand set (no idea if that is original), with what I suspect is not original paint on the hour, minute and chrono-minute hand. It is waaay to blobby on the minute hand to have passed QC muster. It is also a wierd combination of hands to paint, and a strange colour (looking nothing like an aged lume).
    Nice, elegant case, with lozenge pushers (coffins are rectangular).

    Parts are available, and it should be worth re-doing with a new crystal, and possibly with paint removal from the hands (if this can be done without removing the original finish, probably blued steel).

    Do not ever get it near water, there is no way to relaibly seal this watch, and damage will happen if you do. I suspect as an emergency room professional, your son may well have to get his wrists wet, so I would leave it in the locker during work.

    As the watch was free, it will be a very worthwhile task getting it re-done (sympathetically) by someone decent who can be trusted with this age of watch. Al (our forum host) can get it done for you, ask him (if you are willing to have it cross the pond for its treatments). I use Al's technicians for my stuff, and they are good, no doubt.

    Any good to you?

    Dave
    Last edited by DaveS; 26-05-2011 at 07:17. Reason: spelling
    If it's Lemania-powered, I'm interested. Tool Chrono - interested. Dive Chrono - interested. Interesting - interested

  3. #3
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    Dave: Many thanks for your reply, and yes, this was of definite use. Not a lot of Lemania fans here in the USA, and only one person has indicated any familiarity with it.

    The "white space" where the Lemania logo was is indeed there, but it wasn't picked up by the camera. The most prominent feature was the stylized "A", and that's what led me, through a process of deduction, to the fact that this may be a Lemania piece and worth some effort.

    My local watchmaker pulled the balance wheel off to see what the calibre is, and that's how I knew it is a 15TL. And then coincidentally, I uncovered on eBay the identical watch except for being rendered in gold fill--with lozenge pushers, and those odd hands I haven't seen on any other Lemania watches. I had been prepared to decide that they were replacements, but that odd Breguet-like shape on the hour hand can't be a coincidence, can it?

    The eBay piece in gold fill is #250826290568. A bit pricey, maybe a lot pricey, no?

    The dial layout on the eBay piece is identical, even the tachymetre markings, and my local watchmaker says that the dial is really pretty good now that it's cleaned up and the yellowed crystal is off. The only difference in this piece and mine is the gold-fill and the fact that the number registers are those metal points on all but the 12 and 6.

    I didn't know that the flyback function allows the chrono hand to snap back and immediately resume. I just know that the lower pusher snaps the chrono back to reset when it's stopped. I'll try the flyback as soon as I get it back.

    The local guy, although he is recommended by the American Clock & Watchmaker's Institute, says that he would rather entrust this piece to a chrono specialist, so I have to respect his judgement. I'm going to get him to put a new crystal in place and clean up what he can, and there's a watchmaker in upstate New York that might agree to do a disassembly and cleaning. BTW, he also warned me about the intolerance of this piece to water, especially in the area of the pushers.

    If anyone is interested, I'll be glad to post my progress as this project continues. The fact that this was saved literally a half-hour from the dumpster and it might be a classic piece seems to strike a responsive chord with lots of folks, if the WIS's in the States are any indication.

    Best regards, and thanks again.

    Roger

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    Glad to be of service.
    Thanks for the EBay link, that one is very similar.
    However, I would not trust all of the print of the dial on that one, it has been redone. The Lemania on that one may well have been applied at a much later date.
    I suspect that yours has more original hands (note the difference between your two sub-dial hands, and none on the Ebay example).
    I would advise you to stop, once the dial has had a very light clean. Don't try and get it re-painted, or re-signed. It almost always shows up, and doesn't help the vlaue of the piece.

    We'd love it if you keep us up to date with the project, please do.

    Dave
    If it's Lemania-powered, I'm interested. Tool Chrono - interested. Dive Chrono - interested. Interesting - interested

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    Actually, Dave, you point out something that was disconcerting to me, the fact that the hands on the sub-dials on my watch are different from each other. Could that possibly have been intentional by the manufacturer?

    I have to grit my teeth and resist adding back the logo, for vanity's sake if none other.

    I'll have the piece back next week, and I'll shoot a pic of the dial when it's cleaned up and also the movement.

    Thanks again.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by rogernola View Post
    Actually, Dave, you point out something that was disconcerting to me, the fact that the hands on the sub-dials on my watch are different from each other. Could that possibly have been intentional by the manufacturer?
    Yes absolutely.

    It is common enough, sub-dial hands were often differentiated to show which referred to running time (the constant seconds) and which were governed by the chronograph function.

    What is more, both of your hands on the sub-dials are improvements over plain sticks, so it is unlikely that plainer ones were replaced with more elaborate ones in a later refurb or service.

    As you can tell, I have no definitive answer on this as I have no documentation (such as a Lemania catalogue) to show you, but I suspect yours to be more original.

    Keep us posted

    Dave
    If it's Lemania-powered, I'm interested. Tool Chrono - interested. Dive Chrono - interested. Interesting - interested

  7. #7
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    Roge... that is a lovely watch...if it needs some work send it over....!
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    Very interesting Roger (& Dave!), it'll be really good to see how that scrubs up, very well I suspect. Please keep us posted.

    I can't add anything except to comment on the hands and it's probably a bit of a bone comment anyway; I saw a modern watch with a very similar handset to the one you have there, the large circle hour hand particularly. It was, as far as I remember, a named designer in the US who produced a small run but his inspiration was taken from a much older watch which again, had these design of hands...

    ...thing is, I haven't a clue what the name of the designer is, or what particular watch it was modelled on. If I track it down, I'll pipe up.


    It looks like quite a rudimentary relume - local watchmaker, 1950's? I wouldn't have a clue, but it's certainly got a story.

    As Dave says, the different hands for the sub-dials are much more likely to be original than not; it would be perfectly normal to have this mis-match from new.

    Good luck in the project

  9. #9
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    Andy: When I first saw that "circle" hour hand, it immediately rang a bell with me, but I couldn't get a glimmer as to where I had seen it. I remember that I liked the look very much, and I somehow connected it with a precision timepiece.

    If you remember which designer that was, let me know, as that would be a lead.

    Thanks.

    Roger

  10. #10
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    I finally got this piece back from my local watchmaker, and here is a look at the dial after a cleanup and a new glass crystal:


    The hands have been cleaned up, but not to my satisfaction. Plus the movement has a position error, balance wheel stops when the watch is in a dial-up position. (Don't know the proper terminology yet), and the stopwatch function has ceased working. The watch is on its way to a chrono specialist in New York for a ground-up rebuild. Here's a pic of the movement and the inside caseback:


    Even to my untrained eye, that's really spectacular. The movement is in gilt, and is signed Lemania Watch Co., 17 jewels, and Swiss, and a bridge just above the base plate has the number 2159 or maybe 2150. My local watchmaker says the movement is Calibre 15 TL.

    The inside caseback is also signed Lemania Watch Co., Acier Inoxydable and the number 53546. Anybody have a resource I can refer to to look these numbers up?
    BTW, the case is not gilt-colored, that's just a reflection of the incandescent lighting I was using for these shots.

    Polished screws starting to rust, a couple of gears look dirty, but overall not bad for being rescued 1/2 hour from a dumpster. Can't wait to get the piece back.

    I'm still debating whether to redial this piece or not, since the tachy scale is really hard to read, and the logo (camera couldn't pick up the white space where the lettering was, but you can see it) is missing, but that's only ego, I guess.

    The dating on this watch is estimated around 1938, and it was used by many military organizations, including the Moroccan Army, the French Army, the Argentinian Air Force, the Swedish Army Bomb Squad, and the Czech Air Force. I've read the movement was in production until the late 1950's.

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