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FeatureHow Nivada Grenchen Made A Resilient Comeback By Reissuing Their Top Watches

While Nivada Grenchen is still addressed in past tense on popular search engines like Wikipedia, the brand has been resurrected after 40 years under gallant entrepreneurs Guillaume Laidet his co-founder, Rémi Chabrat, whose modus operandi of reissuing the brand's popular models seems to be working. A brief about the brand and their top models.

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The ‘quartz crisis’ from the 1970s to early 1980s had derailed the Swiss mechanical watchmaking industry, and shut down successful Swiss watchmaking brands, such as Nivada Grenchen. Launched in 1879 by watchmaker Jacob Schneider from Grenchen, Switzerland, the brand had gained repute for producing robust, purpose-built tool watches, namely the Antarctic, Depthmaster, Datomatic, and the absolute star—Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver. While they are still addressed in past tense on popular platforms such as Wikipedia, Nivada Grenchen has been resurrected after 40 years under gallant entrepreneurs Guillaume Laidet, the current chief brand officer, and his cofounder, Rémi Chabrat of the Hong Kong-based watchmaking Montrichard Group. “Nivada Grenchen has no shortage of sleeping beauties waiting to be revived,” Laidet was once quoted saying about their modus operandi of reissuing the brand’s popular models. Read below for Nivada Grenchen history and top collections.

The gamechanger for Nivada Grenchen was (and is after resurrection) their Chronomaster series—Chronomaster, Aviator, and Sea Diver—offering an impressive 200m water resistance. Pictured here: Chronomaster Panda Reverse

A Brief Timeline Of Nivada Grenchen

Nivada Grenchen originated in Grenchen, a Swiss municipality at the foothills of the famed Jura mountains. Four years after inception, the brand became one of the pioneering manufacturers of automatic watches. Their first automatic water-resistant iteration in 1950, a compact 35mm Nivada Antarctic, made a big splash in horological history when the polar explorers of the US Antarctic expedition titled Operation Deep Freeze I (1955-56) to the South Pole wore the timepiece on this expedition. Their gamechanger was (and is after resurrection) the Chronomaster series of three iterations—Chronomaster, Aviator, and Sea Diver—that offered 200m of water resistance. On its heels was the Depthomatic in 1964, which became the first dive watch with the ETA 2472 movement that provided a depth gauge or bathymeter,  water-resistant upto 1,000m. By the time of Nivada Grenchen’s 100th anniversary in 1979, Jacob’s son Max had assumed ownership, while the watches were running on ETA and Phénix SA movements.

One quirky piece of trivia about the brand is the multiple instances they’ve had to change their name. In 1926, Nivada was operative as Wüllimann Schneider Nivada SA in Grenchen. Nivada became Nivada Grenchen in the 1960s after the other Grenchen-origin watch company, Movado, felt the phonetic similarity in the brand names could become a case of mistaken identity among the masses. As the brand’s sole distributor in the US, American company Croton watches insisted on getting recognition in the branding. It is why iterations produced back then feature the signature of either or both brands, such as ‘Croton Nivada’, ‘Croton Nivada Grenchen’, and even just ‘Croton’.

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The 1957 Croton vintage print advertisement titled, 'The watch that went to the Antarctic...'

Then the ‘quartz crisis’ hit, and the brand went kaput. But the past glory of their spearheading collections such as Antarctic and Chronomaster refused to die out in public memory. Four decades later, Laidet and Chabrat took a risk in staking ownership in 2018 and decided on a Swiss-made reissue of the brand’s two heraldic models: Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver and Antarctic. The French duo announced the launch with a book titled Chronomaster Story, a 300-pager on the brand’s history and special focus on the Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver. The Depthmaster was reissued soon after. Having previously worked in the marketing departments of Zenith, Girard-Perregaux and Jaeger-LeCoultre, and on his own brand—William L 1985—Laidet, in 2015, has a youthful, interactive game plan towards marketing Nivada watches by focusing on e-commerce, pre-orders and social media. For instance, after a vintage watch collector reposted a photograph of a rare Nivada Grenchen F77, the brand decided to reissue the model in 2021.

The Nivada Grenchen Antarctic

One of the most robust offerings from Nivada Grenchen is the Nivada Antarctic series, built to withstand high altitude, extreme weather conditions. These self-winding wathces are all water-resistant, shock-resistant, antimagnetic, which is why, it is said that Admiral Byrd relied on this timepiece during the entire tenure of Operation Deep Freeze.

Antarctic Diver

Retaining its vintage, sporty combination, the reissued Antarctic Diver honours signatures such as Super-LumiNova bidirectional, friction-fit ceramic bezel, with patinated cream and 7401C luminous applied indexes and hands, iconic ‘red hairs’ emulating compass markings of cardinal directions with red-tipped seconds hand. A major change: the 316L steel case has jumped up sizes from 36.5mm to 38mm. The date aperture sits at three o’clock, the Nivada Automatic logo at 12 o’clock, and the model’s name in a cursive font at six o’clock. A tiny penguin, symbol for the freezing Antarctic, covers the caseback.

The Watch Guide

The reissued Antarctic Diver honours signatures such as bi-directional friction fit ceramic bezel, iconic ‘red hairs’ emulating compass markings with red tipped seconds hand

The Watch Guide

The Nivada Grenchen Antartic Diver features patinaed cream and 7401C luminous applied indexes and hands

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Nivada Grenchen Antarctic Diver Shop The Collection
Super Antarctic

The new 38mm Super Antarctic and Super Antarctic 3.6.9 (Antarctic iterations with three, six and nine o’clock Arabic numerals as hour markers) retain the vintage signatures, including a matt black dial, Super-LumiNova options in cream, white and green, sword and lollipop hands, and the caseback engraved with gold medallion tribute to the Deep Freeze expedition. There are variations, of course. The Antarctic 35mm Eggshell, for instance, features silver applied indexes tipped with either beige or white 7403C Super Luminous material, and an embossed penguin instead of the Antarctic landscape on the caseback. The models run on the Swiss automatic movement Soprod P024, and features like the screw-down crown help ensure a water resistance up to 100m. All Antarctic iterations are available with a perforated black or brown leather strap with white stitching, rubber tropic strap or Forstner beads of rice/bonklip/rivet bracelet.

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All Antarctic iterations are available in perforated black or brown leather strap with white stitching, rubber tropic strap or Forstner beads of rice/bonklip/rivet bracelet

The Watch Guide

The new 38mm Super Antarctic and Super Antarctic 3.6.9 (Antarctic iterations with three, six and nine o’clock Arabic numerals as hour markers) retain the vintage signatures of previous iterations with matt black dial, Super-Luminova options in cream, white and green

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Nivada Grenchen Super Antarctic Shop The Collection
Nivada Antarctic Spider

The eccentric Nivada Antarctic Spider deserves special mention. It features a spider web motif over the dainty, powdery salmon or white dial in sunray finish that lends the shiny gradient effect. The eight faceted hour markers link to baton hour markers, and their connecting points are illuminated by the studs; the whole scene evoking spidery legs and eyes. This 38mm iteration with brushed steel round case and linear lugs draws inspiration from the 1960s Spider watch.

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The Nivada Antarctic Spider features a spider web motif over the dainty, powdery salmon or white hued dial in soleillée finish that lends the shiny gradient effect

The Watch Guide

The eight facetted hour-markers link to baton hour markers, and their connecting points are illuminated by the studs; the whole scene evoking spidery legs and eyes

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Nivada Grenchen Antarctic Spider Shop The Collection

The Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster

The Nivada Chronomaster is sought after for its high precision and versatility. Most valued is the Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver, first launched in 1961, intended as a robust diving tool. It was at one point known in the market by the most complicated name in horological history due to partnership with the American company Croton: Croton Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver. As the name suggests, the watch is multifaceted, suitable for professions related to the sea and sky: divers, racing drivers, and pilots. The watch manages to combine a chronograph, 200m water resistance, unidirectional rotating bezel, tachymeter scale, and dual time zone. Another quirk is the sheer range of models with diverse hands and dials with fun titles such as Orange Boy, Lollipop, Panda, and Broad Arrow. The the 38mm-duo of Paul Newman White Panda and Panda Reverse deserve a special mention as these are powered by the restored vintage Valjoux 23 VZ calibre. The Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver is powered by the manual-winding Sellita SW510 BH B movement.

  • The Watch Guide

    The the 38mm-duo of Paul Newman White Panda and Panda Reverse deserve a special mention as these are powered by the restored vintage Valjoux 23 VZ calibre

  • The Watch Guide

    The Nivada Chronomaster is sought after for its high precision and versatility. Most valued is the Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver (CASD), first launched in 1961, intended as a robust diving tool

  • The Watch Guide

    The iteration is multifaceted, suitable for professions related to the sea and sky: diver, racing drivers, and pilots

  • The Watch Guide

    The brand at one point was known in the market by the most complicated name in horological history due to partnership with the American company Croton: Croton Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver

  • The Watch Guide

    The Chronomaster impresses for its sheer range of models with variations in hands and dials and fun titles such as Orange Boy, Lollipop, Panda, and Broad Arrow

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Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Shop The Collection
Chronoking

Another famed Chronomaster model is the Chronoking, derived from the original 1970s watch that featured a tonneau case, a Valjoux 72 movement, tan dial counters, and a black dial. The Paul Newman Chronoking—redolent to the late Hollywood actor’s love for Rolex Daytonas, especially the one whose dial was manufactured by Swiss dial maker Jean Singer—sports a bright, orange gradient minute track, seconds hands with coordinated pale yellow hands, hour markers and counters. Chronoking models run on different movements. The orange-and-black Nivada Chronoking is powered by Seiko VK63A meca-quartz calibre, a self-winding movement with quartz precision. The Chronoking Mecaquartz runs on the silver oxide battery-operated SR936SW, offering upto three-year life span, while the Chronoking Manual runs on the SW510 manual-winding movement.

Nivada Grenchen Chronoking Paul Newman Orange Valjoux 72 Seiko VK63 mecaquartz
The Paul Newman Chronoking—redolent to the late Hollywood actor’s love for Daytonas, especially the one by Rolex whose dial was manufactured by Swiss dial maker Jean Singer—sports a bright, orange gradient minute track, seconds hands with coordinated pale yellow hands, hour markers and counters

The Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster

Presenting the ‘Pac-Man’, ‘Mini Panerai’, ‘baby Panerai’, and such nicknames of the watchmaking community, the 39mm Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster. First issued in 1965, soon after the launch of the now defunct Depthomatic—Nivada’s first watch with a mechanical depth gauge—the Depthmaster earned these monikers for its 40mm cushion-shaped case and sub-Luminor/Radiomir dimensions reminiscent to Panerai models. There are three Depthmaster variations, and all feature unidirectional rotating dive bezel with 120 clicks and a 15-minute scale for tracking elapsed time, automatic helium valve, and 1,000m water resistance. Most interesting of the lot is the Pac-Man version powered by Soprod P024 automatic calibre. It features three, six and nine o’clock hour markers shaped as Pac-Man characters, among the art deco-styled triangular markers—all vintage-tinted yellow. The Numerals Date version, available with a green or black dial, features a date aperture at three o’clock and is powered by the Soprod P024 self-winding movement, beating at 28,800vph.

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The dial of the Nivada Grenchen F77 features three, six and nine o’clock hour markers shaped as Pacman characters, while the rest of them are Art Deco-styled triangular markers; all vintage-tinted yellow
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Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster Shop The Collection

The Nivada Grenchen F77

Reiterating the above, Laidet first came across an Insta post featuring a 1977-dated F77; a time when the brand was one of the pioneers in producing stainless steel sports watches. Guillaume ends up buying the featured watch, and later discovers two iterations—deep blue dial and brown tobacco ‘smoke version’. He also discovered that Nivada had issued an entire collection in 1977 named after sports car models such as Nivada GLX, F77, F2 and SP. The present-day Swiss-made reissue features models with a blue or black dial, with or without a smoked glass and a date aperture. These versions carry forward signatures such as the basket weave dial cradled within a 37mm steel sporty case, integrated 316L stainless steel bracelet and octagonal bezel in polished and satin-finished surfaces, baton applied indexes. One design highlight is the ‘F77’ monogram where the ‘F’ and ‘7’ are styled to appear similar; featured on the dial and as engraving on the caseback. powered by Swiss made SOPROD P024 automatic movement, beating at 28,800vph, offering 38-power reserve when fully wound. All F77 models come attached to integrated stainless steel straps.

The Watch Guide

The Nivada Grenchen F77 features two iterations with basket weave dials in deep blue and brown Tobacco 'smoke version'

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A design highlight of this Nivada iteration is the ‘F77’ monogram where the ‘F’ and ‘7’ are styled to appear similar; featured on the dial and as engraving on the caseback

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Nivada Grenchen F77 Shop The Collection

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