Ulysse Nardin Peseux 260, by RGM

Just about ten years ago I was introduced to the world of competition chronometer-quality wristwatch movements. These were not ordinary C.O.S.C. certified movements, rather they were designed and finished to excel in the rigorous world of Observatory Competitions, as conducted in Geneve and Neuchatel in the years 1944 through 1967. Most designs fell into one of a few categories: modified versions of high-production calibers (Omega, 30T2(SC)rg), limited production (Zenith, Cal. 135), or unique movements (Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet--Valjoux 90).

Apart from these, Peseux supplied an ebauche exclusively for the Competitions, much the way some automobile manufacturers (Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Renault and Ford) have supplied racing engines to F1 racing teams. This was the Caliber 260, produced in just over 3300 examples during the entire 23 years of wristwatch Competitions. Apparently available for simple purchase, many manufactures chose the 260 as a base for their Competition entries; often, even unaffiliated adjusteurs would purchase a movement to promote their skills. My introduction was by way of a watch privately constructed years later in a series of just five pieces, from unsold Cal. 260 movements, the Be-Ba Competition Chronometre.

A couple of years later, I came across another Peseux 260, this one finished and assembled by Ulysse Nardin, and still in its aluminum testing case. It is a beautiful movement, with all the best contemporaneous features for accurate and consistent running: Guillaume balance, blued overcoil hairspring, and a fine regulator. The finish is both technically and aesthetically excellent, a watch to be displayed and enjoyed.

Alas, while I could check it out on my desk, and study it under a loupe, I really wanted my treasure to be made into a wristwatch, a mate for the beautiful Be-Ba. Here is the original watch:

Eventually, I found a watchmaker who agreed to make my dream a reality, RGM Watch Company of horologically-saturated Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. This was to be not an easy road, and considerable time passed, but in the end I was returned a unique and beautiful, and very wearable wristwatch. Roland Murphy, Richard Baugh, one of the RGM watchmakers, Benoit, and their company truly extended themselves to prove their competance, and their confidence.

Their recommendation was to use a case from their 151 Pilots' line, a straightforward modern design with curved lugs, 38mm diameter. This would be large enough to adapt to the 30mm Peseux movement, and Roland felt that a titanium case would provide the best protection for the rather delicate, non-shockproofed movement. RGM would need to fabricate a custom movement ring, and a display back specific to the application. Also, the watch would require a new stem, sized to the case. Since the original testing case was much smaller, the dial and hands would also be new; here was the opportunity to design a very special look. Much to my delight, RGM has even provided documentation of the process, pictures we all can enjoy.

The making of my watch

Preparing to mill the movement spacer ring from brass:

Almost finished:

Ring in place. Note the notch at top for the stem:

Movement, ring, case:

Turning the back bezel from titanium:

Finished piece:

The major parts: case, dial and bezel, movement and spacer, back bezel:

Fabricating a new stem:

Finished and blued stem:

Preparing to polish the cap for the top escape jewel:

The keyless works:

Parts for the timekeeping train:

A simple movement:

Halfway home!

Working movement:

Happy watchmaker:

Ready to assemble:

Finished watch from the back...

...and from the front:

The Presentation

Nice stitched leather case:

Inside view:

Special goodies -- two extra dials, original chronometer case with dial and hands, spare hands, pocket knife with case-opener:

Everything but the movement. Notice what has filled the cut-out for viewing the bottom balance jewel:

A very special gift!

The Watch!

Click the pictures for even larger!

The dial is just off-white, with a sunken sub-seconds and glossy, raised printed numerals:

Very traditional blued chronometer hands:

Custom back with full-size window showing the movement with formal Swiss finish:

This view highlights the exceptionally smooth, rounded and polished bridge anglage, delicate escape mechanism, and beautiful polished steel parts. Guillaume balance and overcoil blued hairspring were state-of-the-art:

Two Peseux 260s. Distinct from the Ulysse Nardin by RGM at left, the Be-Ba sports an entirely technical finish; not particularly better or worse, just different:

On the wrist:

Please check out the rest of my watch Articles and pics:

I hope you enjoyed this!

Spetember 8, 2010

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