I have to confess that when I saw my first early Wittnauer Electro-Chron, I had to have one. I had no idea what movement was driving it; I didn’t care…those hands just did it for me!
All the Electro-Chrons use the first Swiss electric movement; the early ones had the Landeron 4750 while the later ones had the Landeron 4760. There is also a much rarer Landeron 4751 movement that is sometimes found in these watches. All three movements are virtually identical apart from a hacking facility on the 4751 and 4760; read about this here.
The early Electro-Chrons seem to be characterised by:
- Those wacky hands that everyone loves.
- Dial markers at hour and minute intervals
- “ELECTRIC” on the dial (started to change to “ELECTRO_CHRON”)
- Cases with removable backs. Most seem to take the large WD-5 battery on the inside of the case back but I’ve seen at least one early Electro-Chron that took the smalled WD-4 in a small battery compartment on the outside of the case back.
- Landeron 4750 non-hacking movement.
Below is selection of photographs of these early Electro-Chrons. Even in this bunch, there is variation: it is thought that those dials marked “ELECTRIC” are earlier than those marked “ELECTRO-CHRON”. The black dialled version is quite rare; most that you see for sale are white dialled.
The late Electro-Chrons seem to be characterised by:
- The wacky hands have been replaced with standard hands.
- Dial markers at hour, minute and half minute intervals
- “ELECTRO-CHRON” on the dial
- One-peice cases without removable backs. They still use the WD-5 battery but it is now fitted by removing the movement through the crystal; the battery is clipped onto the back of the movement.
- Landeron 4760 hacking movement.
In the group of four photos below, the watch is being described as “the new thin Wittnauer Electro-Chron“. The reduction in thickness has been achieved by the switch to a one piece case, however I wonder what the consumers and jewellers thought about having to remove the crystal and movement just to change the battery…and all for a reduction of a mere 1.5mm in the overall thickness.
A real rarity; in the last ten years, I think I’ve seen only four or five of these: they always seem to be steel cases, while dials and the 4740 movement:
In the early 1960s, the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees baseball teams used Wittnauer Electro-Chrons as presentation watches to past players in much the same way as many companies used Hamilton Electrics for employees.
Because of their association with famous baseball players from the 1940s, these watches have become very collectible…and at least one has fetched a significant sum at auction (see below).
Bob Lemon, Cleveland Indians
The following Wittnauer Electric was presented to Bob Lemon on the 23rd June 1963 as part of the 1943 Anniversary Game.
Bucky Walters, New York Yankees
The following Wittnauer Electro-Chrono was presented to Bucky Walters on the 28th July 1962 as part of the Old Timers’ Day.
The Joe DiMaggio Wittnauer Electro-Chron
At the same event that Bucky Walters received his Electro-Chron, Joe DiMaggio was also presented with one. Unlike most watches on my website, I don’t own (!) this Joe DiMaggio watch and nor is it ever likely to pass through my hands, but I thought I’d include a little about it here…especially as it is identical to the Bucky Walters one above.
The watch came up for auction at Christie’s on 24 April 2008 in New York with an estimate of between $2000 and $3000…..when the hammer fell, it fetched $13,750.
From the Christie’s website:
“The present watch was presented to Joe DiMaggio on July 28, 1962 at Old Timers’ Day. This long-standing Major League Baseball tradition, most commonly associated with the New York Yankees, was initially conceived in the late 1930s as a day to celebrate the lives and accomplishments of baseball greats, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. However the first official New York York Yankees Old Timers’ Day was not held until 1946 and has continued each year since. Given the enduring greatness of his career, it is only fitting that Joe DiMaggio was recognized with this accolade.“