In the past, a chronograph was a time-saving (even life-saving) complication. It timed everything from the banal to the crucial, from artillery strikes to your Sunday roast; from the last lap at Le Mans to the breath between heartbeats. But in today's digital age, the passage of time is signaled, more often than not, by the sound of marimbas rather than the stately sweep of a chronograph hand.
Given that most people these days use their phones for all their time-keeping needs, the chronograph could be considered a useless function, or antiquated at best.
But we love a good chronograph here at Analog/Shift, and there's no denying that certain brands do them exceptionally well—nor can we deny the importance that they once held in certain industries or fields.
Breitling first started manufacturing wrist chronographs as early as the 1930s. In 1936 it became official supplier to air forces of the United Kingdom and Canada. While perhaps best known for the Navitimer and Chronomat lines—which were used heavily by pilots of many nations—Breitling also produced scores of other chronograph models that merit consideration, and for some esoteric purposes.
Soon after the brand’s first wrist chronographs were released, they made their way to Sweden. While some ended up on the wrist of the Swedish military, the chronograph we offer here ended up as the property of another entity entirely. We mean the Televerket, a state-owned corporation that owned and operated all the phone lines in Sweden.
We’ve featured chronographs with telephone dials before, that have elongated hash marks in the chronograph registers. In these days of Skype, keeping track of minutes in a long-distance call might be a thing of the past. But in the 1950s, many chronographs like this one featured longer hash marks at those intervals, because in those days, those times are when prices of long-distance phone calls would jump.
This chronograph, a Reference 815, takes that notion even further. Rather than being used by the person making the call, it was used by the person monitoring them: an employee of Televerket who was responsible for timing the switchboards. The engraving on the back reads Tilhörr Televerket or “property of Televerket.”
With a clean dial featuring a triple register layout and central chronograph sweep seconds hand, the 815 model is perhaps most distinguishable by its characteristic triple-register "panda" layout set inside its round, or barrel, case. While some examples were produced in plated cases with gold 'panda' dials, steel configurations like this one are much more sought after. It’s powered by a Valjoux 7736, which was used by numerous other brands of the era, including Clebar and Zodiac.
The telecommunications industry is an ever-changing one, with the switchboards that the employees of Televerket used now obsolete; however, this chronograph remains, a relic of a time gone by, as whimsical as a rotary phone, but much more attractive.
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