I was asked by a couple of enthusiasts to take a quick look at the CWC 1970s remake Chronograph and the Precista PRS-5 which is pretty much identical in appearance. One thing I should point out before anyone says the Precista is a copy of the CWC is that both the CWC and the Precista are based on the original Hamilton which is pictured below. That design in turn was originaly based on Def STAN 66-4 (Parts 1-3) which at the time specified a single pusher (as used on the Lemania at that time) chronograph mechanism. Two pushers was later deemed acceptable and an amendment to the Standard was made. The end result of this is that these watches trace their origins back to the 1970s and are therefore a very historic design.
The direct descendant of the Precista and CWC chronographs was the Hamilton pictured below.This one is from 1975 and was manufactured for the R.A.F. it used a handwinding, cal. Valjoux 7733 movement. It is virtually identical to the Precista and CWC in case design but i am advise it was slightly smaller at 38,5 mm diameter including the crown. The Hamilton was based closely on the Lemania pictured at the bottom of the page which it replaced.
1975 RAF Issue Hamilton Pilots Chronograph
It is interesting to note that the Hamilton, CWC and Precista have significantly differing case finishes although the actual design is very much the same.
Although the CWC and Precista look similar they are in fact very different although both are of excellent quality and represent value for money. The CWC uses a 29 jewel Mechanical hand-wind, Valjoux ETA 7760 with modification. The Precista uses a Seagull ST-19 movement. The ST-19 is a 19 jewel column-wheel chronograph movement and is very much tried and tested. As far as case finish I think the Precista has the edge, where this gets interesting is when we come to price. This is because the Precista at just £265 is something of a bargain when compared to the CWC at £899. In my opinion CWC is not particularly overpriced at £899 and it does have an interesting heritage but it might be beyond the reach of some people but one thing that is apparent from looking at eBay is that used examples tend to hold their price well. Coming back to the watches themselves confirm that they are more than just visually similar I measured the watches and the Precista seems fractionally thicker at just under 15mm as opposed to 14mm on the CWC the diameter at 41mm including the crown is the same on both watches, as far as the lug to lug measurement the Precista is just over 1mm less than the 47mm measurement of the CWC. The strap size on both is 20mm. I must say that the sand blasted case on the Precista definately has the edge over the polished stainless steel case on the CWC. As far as the action of the movements is concerned both watches operated perfectly and I found both to be very accurate over the time they were on test.
It was interesting that when a watchmaker I know removed the case back of the Precista he thought the movement was a Venus 175 calibre movement which was produced between 1940 and the mid 1960's. I am informed that the Chinese bought he original tooling from Venus and that the parts used in the Sea-Gull ST1901 are fully interchangeable. Based on a few parts the watchmaker had in stock for comparison he tended to share this view.
This is the spec of the ST1901 Movement
Diameter: 31.3 mm
Power Reserve: approximately 38 hours
Shock resistance (Incabloc style)
Beats Per Hour: 21,600
Constant seconds at 9
30 minute chronograph with 2 pushbuttons
Chronograph seconds by central hand
Minutes counter at 3
Column wheel control
Machine applied ‘Sea-Gull’ Stripes
I noted one point which is that the Precista uses spring pins. Personally I prefer fixed pins but it is no big deal and might be a plus for some people who wish to fit a leather strap.
If I was asked which I would buy I think it would have had to be the Precista because I prefer the finish and price is obviously a major factor but it is now discontinued so other than locating one secondhand the only option is the CWC. If you are interested in a more detailed review of this watch check out this URL http://www.watcharoo.co.uk/prs5.htm this review is much more detailed than mine but seems to view the watch just as favourably as I have. In summary I recommend the Precista PRS-5 watch as being excellent value and a nice timepiece for frankly very little money.
The CWC 1970s Remake Chronograph
As a point of interest the watch below is the Lemania which we mentioned at the beginning which has a a single pusher chronograph mechanism. These watches were issued in the 1950's and 60's. Lemania chronographs were used by the UK forces between 1945 and 1970, during this time the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm were issued with various Lemania chronographs (marked with the the Admiralty arrow on the case back and dial). They were also issued for the Swedish army, South Africa, Australia and probably others too.
RAF Lemania Chronograph
The caliber 2220 pictured below is the shock-resistant, monopusher version of Lemania’s highly-regarded 15-ligne chronograph movement (used in pocketwatches in the 1930s, especially in military wristwatches).
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