Any watch lover who’s perused the vintage market over the last five or so years is likely familiar with Nivada Grenchen. Founded in 1926, the company thrived until the 1980s, when it succumbed to the quartz crisis. Since then, it has become a sweetheart of vintage watch hunters, especially their chronographs, which command hefty sums (whether branded with Nivada Grenchen, the American distributor Croton, or both).
In 2018, the brand was revived with two reissues: the Antarctic and the Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver. Reviewed herein is the dry mouth-inducing Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver Broad Arrow Automatic 86001A. The original Chronomaster (that’s a bit easier, isn’t it?) was released in 1963, but Nivada has brought us a recreation on the verge of perfection.
On the Wrist
The Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster is an incredibly faithful recreation of the original. Aside from a size change to accommodate the modern movement, a sapphire crystal, and updated lume, the watch is almost indistinguishable from its forebear. Thanks to the broad arrow handset and the stark white against the matte black, readability is excellent.
The Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster sits surprisingly well on the wrist, despite the limited case curve and minimal lug slope. Finishing is very good, and everything functions as it should. One of my favorite elements is what I call the outwardly sloped “arena” bezel (you could also call it a cupcake bezel).
The watch comes with an option of leather strap or one of several bracelets, though as you’ll read below, not all of them are created equal. However, the common lug width allows for easy strap changes, and the black-and-white color scheme allows it to carry a wide variety of straps. (Not that you’ll see them in this review, since I got a bit lazy.)
The box sapphire crystal is on full display here with that text reflection. The bezel is bidirectional and stays put, while the bezel markers have a nice frost to them. One of the standouts on the dial is the raised dial text and markers. They aren’t applied, but appear to be embossed. I like it.
I’m usually no fan of broad arrows–they’re too big and often detract from the balance of the dial. Here, I didn’t mind it so much, but I’d likely buy one of the models with baton hands. The 30-minute chronograph dial features what Nivada calls a “yachting scale” for 5-minute countdowns prior to the race start. Additionally it includes 3-minute hashes up to 9 minutes, a holdover from when pay phones (a) existed and (b) required payment every 3 minutes.
You may be wondering about that little L, and so was I. Like the T’s that indicated the use of tritium on old Chronomasters, the L simply denotes the use of Super-LumiNova. Nothing exciting. And probably nothing one needs to make note of on a dial, given it’s ubiquity. But it is consistent with the original so here we are.
Great view of the effect of the blue AR coating here, and there’s no amount of radial subdials that is too much. Thanks to the anti-reflective coating, the white lume on the hands can play slightly purple or blue, but only if the light is just right (or maybe I should say wrong?).
Lume is surprisingly good for how little of it there is. I took out the trash on a sunny day (about 10 paces each way out my back door) and when I came back in it was brightly lit up. I literally gasped. And the lume is pleasingly even between the hands and the markers.
Case, Strap, and Bracelet
Hoooo-weeee! I like these lines. Crispy. As I mentioned at the top, I’m all about the arena/cupcake bezel, with it’s contrasting brushed and polished crenellations. The grip is great. The push-pull crown, however, was a bit stiff when setting the time. A minor inconvenience.
There’s nothing to see here. Move along.
The beads of rice bracelet is the correct bracelet to choose. It’s not the best BOR I’ve had: the finishing isn’t top notch, and the clasp is stamped, which is inexcusably disparate from the quality of the rest of the watch. The male endlinks aren’t ideal, but they slop down aggressively, so the negative effect on fit is limited. And it’s the only bracelet option with fitted endlinks.
The leather option is quite nice, with no break-in necessary, a custom buckle, and quick-release spring bars. On the other hand, the second bracelet I tried was a stretchy “oyster-style” bracelet, which was jangly, stiff, and felt cheap. Skip it. (You can also buy the Chronomaster with one of three Forstner bracelets, which I don’t recommend because there’s no greater horological affectation than intentionally affixing a bracelet whose links are glaringly narrower than the watch’s lug width.)
The Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver offers what many watch enthusiasts wary of the vintage market wish for: a modern version of an old watch. Free from the worries of a vintage movement failing and requiring drawn-out restoration or the concern of whether the piece is all original. It’s the fundamental tenet of all reissues: buy the new watch, get the old look.
And given that the originals often go for as much or more than the new model, it’s quite a deal: you’re getting almost the exact same watch, with improved reliability, serviceability, and specs. And with no significant quality issues, you can buy with the confidence that you’re getting a great watch .
Check out more chronograph reviews on The Watch Clicker
Check out the Nivada Grenchen website
Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Specs
*Height of the watch from the wrist to the top of the crystal