- Diameter: 40 mm
- Thickness: 14.8 mm
- Lug to Lug: 43 mm
- Movement: Lemania 5100
The Oxymoronic Watch?
None other than legendary watch collector Chuck Maddox coined the term “Valjoux Lemania” to describe this watch. Issued by the Lemania brand in 1993, it commemorated the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Valle de Joux soccer team. This was thought to be ironic because the name Lemania comes from Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) and their competitor Valjoux is an abbreviation of Valle de Joux. The choice of Lemania for the Valle de Joux soccer team is perhaps not as odd as one might think, since the company itself was historically based on the Valle de Joux and its successor Manufacture Breguet is located in Le Chenit, a town in the Valle de Joux. Lemania itself is best known for making the chronograph calibers for Omega including the caliber 321, 861, and its successors which went to the moon. Lately, Wei Koh has brought attention to the fact that the Lemania 2310 (Omega 321) ebauche was used by such companies as Patek, Vacheron, and Breguet in their chronographs as well.
The Lemania Caliber 5100
The Valjoux Lemania falls under the general category of Lemania caliber 5100 watches. A far cry from its glamorous cousins that inhabited the inside of the likes of the Patek 5004, the humble yet rugged 5100 was a product of its time. Starting in 1978 in the midst of the quartz crisis, it was built to be affordable, easy to manufacture, and reliable enough to power the ultimate tool watches. Some of the features included pillar construction, meaning that the cocks and bridges are attached to the main plate with thin pillars instead of screwing directly in. This meant that cheaper stamped parts could be used instead of milled. There was also a substantial amount of delrin plastic used as well which is durable but ugly. Famously, Omega changed the caliber 1861 to 1863 when making a display caseback for the Speedmaster in which the only functional change was to switch the Delrin brake to a prettier but less durable metal component.
The ugly and cheap features of the Lemania 5100 ironically also contributed to its legendary toughness. It became the military chronograph caliber of choice due to its incredible shock resistance, including from the plastic pieces that support the rotor. Reportedly it kept good time and functioned well even when subjected to 7G acceleration with long service intervals of up to 7 years.
In terms of features of interest to collectors, the Lemania 5100 sports a central chronograph second and minute counter hands. The central minute counter hand often has flanges proximal to the tip with an airplane shape to distinguish it visually from the second counter hand, lending the watches their distinctive appearance. This frees up the 6 o’clock subdial for an hour counter. The running seconds subdial is at 9, and there is a day and date at 3. The 12 o’clock position sometimes features a 24 hour indicator, particularly in Omega’s version of the caliber which is the 1045.
The case is fairly simple. It is a squared off tonneau shape with vertical brushing on the anterior face and horizontal brushing on the sides. There is a polished chamfer at the top, bottom, and sides. The crown is unmarked and the pushers are set slightly into the case. The domed crystal is acrylic. The back is marked “F.C.V.J.” for “Football Club Valle de Joux.” In fact, the case is identical to other well known watches featuring the Lemania 5100. The Omega FIFA referee watch in both dial configurations was the first. The second is the second version of the Heuer Cortina (510.513) which sports many similar features to this watch including orange tipped hands and a wavy blue dial. There are also a number of so-called “poor man’s Heuers” made by various other brands using a Lemania 5100 movement and the same case.
The most distinctive aspect of the dial is the logo at 12 o’clock. This depicts a red and white soccer ball at the base, yellow ground with green shrubbery at the sides, a light blue sky and a darker blue lake. The graphics are somewhat crude and some of the paint from the yellow ground for example bleeds into the soccer ball and some of the dark blue lake is speckled into the light blue sky. I examined the F.C.V.J. website using automated translation from French to English and it appears that it is an amateur soccer club. Based on the photos, I think that the logo depicts the field in front of Lac de Joux. Under the logo the text says “1918-1993 VALLE de JOUX.”
The other distinctive aspect of the dial is that it has a herringbone pattern of polished lines across its dark blue background. This gives the dial some texture and visual interest. The Heuer Cortina has a similar wavy pattern but looks more like perlage with a different orientation and less pronounced. The Lemania logo which is wider in the middle and tapers towards each end is discretely placed above the day and date windows with the word “automatic” balancing it below. The hour markers are comprised of lume sticks with 5 minute arabic numerals at their bases except for 3/6/9/12. The dial is not marked as tritium in that it simply says “Swiss Made” but that material would be appropriate for the age. On exam, the luminous material in the markers and hour and minute hands is yellowed and glows briefly then fades rapidly upon exposure to UV light, consistent with tritium. There is a tachymeter on the rehaut.
The dial is completed with a running seconds at 9 and an hour counter at 6, typical for the movement. The hour and minute hands are sticks with a black base and white for most of their length with lume. The central second and minute counter hands are black with orange tips, with the distinctive airplane shaped minute counter hand tip. I appreciate that the hour counter hand in the subdial is also orange so that all the chronograph features are color coded.
In general when I evaluate a watch like this I tend to put it into a category based on the movement. This is particularly true for chronographs since the movements are so distinctive. Overall, I think this is one of the most appealing examples of the Lemania 5100 family of watches. Although the case is not very distinctive, the watch has a colorful and unique dial. Furthermore, the link to a specific year and sports organization gives the watch a story which adds a lot of interest, especially for soccer fans. I have not seen many of these available for sale so it seems uncommon. If anyone knows how many were made or more about the story of these watches, please contact me.