A year in review with my Nivada Grenchen x Time+Tide x seconde/seconde/ ChaosMaster A year in review with my Nivada Grenchen x Time+Tide x seconde/seconde/ ChaosMaster

A year in review with my Nivada Grenchen x Time+Tide x seconde/seconde/ ChaosMaster

Borna Bošnjak

As a lover of vintage watches, but very much a not-lover of their servicing woes that stung me many a time, you’d think Nivada Grenchen would be a brand that’s right up my alley. And, you’d be right. Combine this with the fact that the iteration on the base Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver was the very first limited edition we released since I started at Time+Tide, it made so much sense for me to pick one up. It’s now been around a year since our Nivada Grenchen ChaosMaster series released, and this Sigh of Relief has been with me ever since. Before telling you how I got on with this quirky little number, it’s worth delving into the history of this underappreciated watch just a tad.

Let’s take it back

nivada grenchen historic ads

Nivada’s story begins in the municipality of Granges – or Grenchen, Switzerland if you’re so inclined. Though some form of the brand may have existed in the late 19th century, the trio of Otto Wüllimann, Jacob Schneider and Hermann Schindler operated the company as Wüllimann Schneider Nivada S.A. The brand utilised off-the-shelf movements from the likes of ETA and Phénix from the early days, manufacturing reliable, yet affordable pieces.

nivada grenchen historic ad

The ’50s were an important decade for the brand due to the introduction of the Antarctic in 1950, and its ensuing success. Supporting the Navy’s Deep Freeze 1 mission to the South Pole in 1955, it helped the brand achieve a desirable, rough-and-ready ethos that eventuated into Nivada’s expansion across the Atlantic.

croton nivada grenchen chronograph aviator sea diver
Image courtesy of Brussels Vintage Watches

This plan did not go as smoothly as the brand may have hoped for, however. You’ll note that I’ve been referring to the company as Nivada, rather than Nivada Grenchen up to this point, which is about to change. Already established in the US, Movado felt that the name “Nivada” was too similar to theirs, resulting in a ruling that “Grenchen” should be added – et voila – Nivada Grenchen. I have to admit though, I’d worry for one’s ability to tell time if they couldn’t tell Movado and Nivada apart, but whatever.

That wasn’t the only naming confusion, however. The grandpappy of today’s star of the show, the 1963 Chronomaster, can be found with Croton branding also, owing to Nivada Grenchen’s US-based distributing company. The release of the Chronomaster also marked the brand’s golden years, combining with the Depthomatic to skyrocket exports from 52,000 to 173,000 in just four short years between 1964 and 1969. The arrival of the 1970s, however, spelled doom for many brands, Nivada Grenchen included. They held on for some time, riding on the success of its hits of yesteryear with incremental updates to the design and calibre, but the combined might of quartz with the confusion around naming spelled the brand’s doom. The brand sold its rights to a Mexican-based investment group in the 1980s.

guillaume laidet portrait

Enter Guillaume Laidet. If you’re not familiar with this brilliant young entrepreneur, he’s the man behind the revival of brands like Vulcain and Excelsior Park, and, you may have seen where we’re going here, Nivada Grenchen. With experience from his time with Jaeger-LeCoultre and Zenith as well as his own William L. 1895 brand, he worked with the Montrichard Group and its owner, Remi Chabrat, to revive the once great Granges watchmaker. Come 2019, the pair obtained the naming licenses and got to work. Since then, the brand has been nothing short of a success, with a similar trend following the other two aforementioned revivals. He has even been teasing the idea of reviving Universal Genève. Don’t play with my heart like that, Guillaume…

romaric andre portrait

The other player in this limited edition game is Romaric André. You may know him better as seconde/seconde/, swapping out seconds hands on vintage watches for cleverly designed, pop-art substitutes and the recent Bamford and Excelsior Park collaborations. Delicately honing his craft, making sure each is wittier than the last, he lent us his Banksy-esque touch, distilling the crux of human emotion into the most essential, core of expressions – a trifecta of emojis. What better way to signal your feels when the world finally does crumble around us?

A retro re-issue done right

nivada grenchen chaosmaster sigh of relief 1

Finally, onto the actual watch. Apart from the funky touches we’ll get to in a minute, it’s actually a really faithful reissue, which is in line with all brands revived by Guillaume Laidet. The dial layout did have to be changed slightly, as the counters moved outwards to accommodate a different movement, but otherwise, there aren’t any major differences to report on here – which is a good thing.

nivada grenchen chaosmaster sigh of relief bezel

Considering the relatively small dial, it’s fairly legible despite it being packed with features. The outermost portion is taken up by a tachymeter scale lifted directly from the original, and the same can be said for the simple stick indices. They’re just printed onto the dial, but because they’re made of luminescent material, they puff up above the dial surface ever so slightly, which is an often-revered aging effect in many vintage watches. Unlike many vintage watches, the lume glows strongly, including on the broad arrow hands and slightly phallic 12 o’clock marker.

An often overlooked quirk of the Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver is the number of included measuring scales. There’s the aforementioned tachymeter, a regatta count-down timer hidden in the first five minutes of the chronograph minute totaliser, as well as a count-up and 12-hour scales circling the aluminium bezel insert. Admittedly, I’m one of those chronograph lovers that rarely times anything other than cooking an egg, and as I do not partake in yacht racing, the regatta timer is of little use to me, but that’s not the reason why I like how feature-packed the Sigh of Relief is. Nowadays, the only way we could see so many features in a single watch would be from a microbrand (coincidence, much?) as even the best vintage reissues from the big box brands are often “cleaned up” in an effort to appeal to the masses.

nivada grenchen chaosmaster sigh of relief wrist 2

I’m glad to report that the revived brand didn’t mess about with the size apart from what was necessary. The Sigh of Relief measures 38mm in diameter and 46.6mm lug-to-lug, which are perfect proportions for a sporty, vintage-inspired chronograph. The thickness is less than a millimetre larger than the original, which sat at 13mm, with the modern Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver measuring in at 13.75mm in its manually wound variant.

nivada grenchen chaosmaster sigh of relief dial close up 2

A significant proportion of this height is due to its box-domed sapphire crystal which evokes the plexiglass ones fitted to vintage examples (while being significantly more durable than plexiglass). It’s strange – I’m sure that I would opt for a plexiglass crystal given the option, but I’m so glad that option doesn’t exist, as I’ve knocked this thing onto a doorknob more times than I’d like to admit. Maybe someone should invent softer doorknobs?

nivada grenchen chaosmaster sigh of relief case profile

Anyway, the vintage touches continue in the case design, which is very simply executed. The lugs angle downwards from the midcase to match the back of the caseback at their ends. This means there’s no bulky metal pushing into your wrist, or lug ends floating above it. Furthermore, the lugs are drilled, despite the ChaosMaster coming supplied with quick-release spring bars. Not only is this appropriate for the style of watch, but it’s excellent attention to detail, as the watch is a bit of a strap monster.

The dynamic duo of Time+Tide and seconde/seconde/

nivada grenchen chaosmaster sigh of relief dial close up 1

I was already a fan of the Nivada CASD (the name is a bit long, sorry), but when it was revealed that we’ll be collaborating with seconde/seconde/ for a Time+Tide limited edition, I knew that I’d be adding one to my collection. Unlike Romaric’s usual pixel artwork, the ChaosMaster series went a bit more modern with their pop culture references, using a series of emojis to depict one’s reactions to a seemingly crumbling world around them. For me, the Sigh of Relief was a no-brainer. When shit goes down, I’m just happy to make it out the other end.

nivada grenchen chaosmaster sigh of relief dial close up 5

You’ll also notice that the text doesn’t quite seem to be in order. No, this isn’t a prototype, nor is it a rare misprint that people will pay silly prices for two decades down the line. As Time+Tide indeed hails from the land down under, Romaric wanted to make sure we could read the time properly, as I’m sure you’ll know, everything is upside-down in Australia. Is it a bit gimmicky? Sure. But I hope that we all agree it’s okay to have a bit of fun with watches from time to time, otherwise, what’s the point?

sʇɥƃnoɥʇ ƃuᴉsolƆ

I may be a little more positively biased towards the Sigh of Relief, as it was the very first Time+Tide collaboration piece released during my time with the company. While the sentimental factor surely counts for something, it doesn’t trump the fact that I was a big fan of the regular version of this watch, which made my decision to pick up the collab all the easier.

Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver pricing and availability

The ChaosMaster collection sold out long ago, but you can still find a myriad of regular-production variants of the Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver on Nivada Grenchen’s website. Price: starting from US$1,795 (manual winding).

Brand Nivada Grenchen x Time+Tide x seconde/seconde/
Model ChaosMaster Sigh of Relief
Reference Number CHAOS2
Case Dimensions 38mm (D) x 13.75mm (T) x 46.6mm (LTL)
Case Material Stainless steel
Water Resistance 100 metres
Crystal(s) Sapphire
Dial Black
Lug Width 20mm
Strap Tropic-style rubber, quick-release spring bars, steel pin buckle
Movement Sellita SW510 M BH b, manual winding, cam-operated chronograph
Power Reserve 63 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph, regatta timer
Availability Sold out
Price A$3,295