A Closer Look At The Delma Heritage Chronograph LE
A vintage-inspired, limited edition pays tribute to the family-owned brand’s first chronograph, a classic bicompax from 1946.
Indeed, the company, which still operates out of the same building in Lengnau where it was founded in 1924, has developed quite a reputation for designing and producing sports watches over its nearly century-long existence.
But it was only in the late 1960s that Delma began to make dive-grade timepieces. In the decades before that, the company established its credentials as a sports watch brand, thanks to its line of chronographs.
It was in 1946 when Delma launched its first chronograph, a two-pusher, hand-wound, bicompax (two-counter) model in 18K yellow gold dubbed the Midland. The brand then followed it up nine years later with an updated version geared towards motor racing.
Throughout the 1960s, Delma continued to make a range of popular bi- and tricompax chronograph models. And, in the modern-day, chronographs are still very much part of Delma’s offering, with models like the Klondike and the Continental providing a choice of styles for all tastes. However, its most recent chronograph is a throwback to the piece that started it all 75 years ago: The Midland.
Paying Homage to the Original
The new Heritage Chronograph LE pays tribute to the Midland through an almost like-for-like reinterpretation of the original’s functionality and 1940s design.
For a start, it is a two-pusher bicompax with central hours and minutes and small seconds at 9 o'clock, plus central chronograph seconds and a 30-minute counter at 3 o'clock. But the small date window at 6 o’clock is a welcome addition that the 1946 Midland never had.
Something the original did have – faithfully replicated on the LE – was a tachymeter on the outer ring and telemeter on the inner ring along the periphery of the dial, plus three elongated lines on the chronograph minute counter.
Back in the day when the Midland was launched, the tachymeter would have been useful for – and this is just one example – calculating the speed of something, in units per hour, based on travel time over a known distance.
The telemeter, using the knowledge that the speed of sound is about 340 meters per second, helped measure the distance between the timepiece and a visual element that is associated with a sound – like a bolt of lightning and its clap of thunder. Telemeters also had battlefield applications, like helping to determine the distance of a position from enemy lines.
Finally, on the minute counter, the elongated lines at the 3, 6, and 9-minute markers were used to monitor the length of phone calls at payphones because you would get three minutes of talk time before being cut off. That is unless you inserted more money for another three minutes of talking time.
These three elements add to the nostalgic feel of the Heritage Chronograph LE. They evoke the Midland’s usefulness and practicality during an era when the analog had not yet become supplanted by the electronic.
A Touch of Modernity
While the Heritage Chronograph LE definitely carries off the vintage chronograph vibe with aplomb, it also harnesses contemporary watchmaking practices.
So, while the hour numerals are displayed with a classic typeface and the hour and minute hands are syringe-shaped, they are filled with the nontoxic Super-LumiNova that, in daylight, is just pale enough to recall radium dials of a bygone era.
Rather than manual-winding, the movement is now automatic, namely the Sellita SW510, which features a customized Delma rotor visible through the transparent caseback. Housing it is a 43mm x 15.7mm case that is no doubt a lot larger than that of the original Midland, but the domed sapphire crystal ensures it slips under a cuff pretty easily.
Pricing and Availability
In recognition of the Midland’s 75th anniversary, the Heritage Chronograph LE is available in three 75-piece limited editions complemented by a black, brown, or blue leather strap featuring a folding clasp with pushers. The yellow or rose gold PVD-treated stainless steel versions with an off-white dial and blued hands are CHF 2,500 ($2,850). And the polished stainless steel model with a black dial and stainless steel hands is CHF 2,400 ($2,750).