Bifora "Unima" Chronometer

According to Fritz von Osterhausen in "Wristwatch Chronometers", the vast majority of wristwatches certified as chronometers in West Germany were tested at the Watch Testing Agency of the State of Baden Wurttemburg which initiated services in 1955 and terminated them in 1967 when Jungans stopped submitting watches. During this period Jungans was responsible for an overwhelming portion of the tested watches, almost certanly accounting for well over 90% of the estimated 130,000 cumulative total. Bifora, the brand used for watches produced by the J. Bidlingmaier firm, appears to have certified perhaps an average of 100 watches per year, or a bit over 1000 in total. The German Federation testing followed established Swiss values very closely, although periodic revisions were sometimes enacted years later. Nonetheless, it seems clear that overall standards were comparably high, unlike those of Soviet East Germany at this time.

The present watch is 14k gold and 35mm diameter, and the dial features applied gold stylized Arabic numerals and markers, and elegant luminous-filled hands. The highly domed crystal lends a rather dated look, but the overall design is simple and classic. The real charm here is of course the Caliber 120 movement, 12 1/2 lignes (about 28mm) diameter, and almost entirely gilt. It looks almost nothing like its Swiss contemporaries, the obvious feature being a huge, arching bridge supporting the center and indirect seconds wheels. This bridge is responsible for the relative chunkiness of the Unima's case, and a detailed inspection reveals that the entire construction is quite robust, even the swan's-neck regulator is unusually thick. Overall finish is workmanlike and very clean, but not decorative at all. The screwed compensation balance is mono-metallic, and stops when the crown is pulled to the setting position.

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February 27. 2003

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