The Nivada Grenchen x Analog:Shift Chronomaster Is One of the Best New Watches of the Year

A reissue of a vintage tool watch with a contemporary twist, limited to 100 pieces

June 26, 2023 9:53 am
Analog:Shift watch

The 1960s and 1970s was a particularly fertile time for tool watches in general, and for chronographs in particular. Back then, it seemed like everyone and their mother was producing their fair share of cool, funky, affordable chronographs designed to do specific jobs: time motor races, time boat races, time SCUBA dives, track second time zones, track production numbers and much more. (Some folks even used them to tell the time.) 

One name that vintage watch aficionados are no doubt familiar with is that of Nivada Grenchen. Founded in Switzerland, the brand’s early water-resistant Antarctic was used during the U.S. Navy’s Deep Freeze 1 mission to the South Pole between 1955 and 1956. In 1963, the brand launched its Chronomaster watch, which combined features for aviators, divers and skippers: A stainless steel case water resistant to 200m housed a chronograph, a count-up dive bezel with a 12-hour scale, and a regatta timer. 

In the United States, phonetic similarity between “Nivada” and “Movado” led to a situation in which the brand was forced to adopt a new distribution name. Settling on “Croton,” its wares were marked with this name in America, though the watches themselves were produced by Nivada Grenchen. In the 1980s, the brand shuttered, dealt a death blow by the onset of the Quartz Crisis and cheap, battery-powered timekeeping. 

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In 2018, Nivada Grenchen rose from the proverbial ashes under the impetus of Frenchman Guillaume Laidet, who, following stints at several large watch brands, used Kickstarter to launch his own marque, William L. 1985, raising $200,000 in several weeks and subsequently selling the company to the Korius Group. Since then, Nivada has reissued several of its classic watches, the Chronomaster among them.

The brand, which mostly operates on an e-comm model, has seen enormous growth since then — in fact, it’s on track to produce 6,000 watches by the end of 2023. In addition to the small, mostly family-owned retailers which carry the brand’s wares in Europe and North America, and Asia, Nivada is now partnering with Analog:Shift — the vintage and pre-owned division of Watches of Switzerland — to expand its distribution in the U.S. market. In celebration of this new partnership, the two companies are jointly launching a very special version of the Chronomaster, limited to 100 pieces, that’s sure to turn heads.

Analog:Shift watch

The Nivada Grenchen X Analog:Shift Chronomaster ‘Big Eye’ Yachting Limited Edition

These days, the Chronomaster is produced in more iterations than you can possibly shake a stick at, including manually wound, automatic, and Mecaquartz versions. Given the partnership with Analog:Shift, which specializes in vintage and pre-owned watches, it’s unsurprising that this new version is of the hand-wound, mechanical variety. 

The first thing you’ll notice about this chronograph is undoubtedly its size: at 38mm in stainless steel, it perfectly mirrors the size of vintage models. On-wrist, it wears like a dream — especially since it’s paired to a wildly comfortable, stainless steel “beads of rice” bracelet with a stamped, push-button clasp featuring a micro-adjust system. Multiple brushed and polished surfaces give the case a sophisticated architecture, which extends from the sloping lugs to the bezel.

The bezel insert is not modern ceramic, but aluminum: executed in a grey color, it takes on the aspect of a faded black “ghosted” bezel that’s seen its fair share of tropical sunlight. Bi-directional, it’s inscribed with both a count-up dive/timing scale, and a 12-hour scale for tracking a secondary time zone. Dual-scale bezels such as these are fairly rare — which is surprising, given how useful they are.

Beneath a domed, sapphire crystal made to look like vintage, acrylic models is a handsome, satin silver dial. Highly legible and accented with pops of color, it’s immediately familiar to Nivada Grenchen devotees, but simultaneously new and distinct. Applied indices are flanked by a 1/5th-seconds scale in black, within which sit dual chronograph totalizers: At 3 o’clock is a “big eye” 30-minute counter with the first ten minutes demarcated in blue and yellow. This scale is made for skippers and sailors, allowing them to easily count down the last ten minutes before a regatta to correctly line up their vessels with the starting line. (You’ll also notice a small “45” beneath this totalizer, allowing you to track an additional 15 minutes, so long as you’re paying attention to how much time has truly elapsed!) 

At 9 o’clock is a running seconds totalizer in black with silver printing, while a lumed baton handset with a bright orange “lollipop” seconds hand occupies center-stage. While the top of the watch is marked with “Nivada Grenchen,” the lower half is signed with the “Analog:Shift” wordmark — a first for the retailer and a nod to the concept of retailer-signed watches from the 20th and 21st centuries. Meanwhile, on the case flank sits a signed crown and dual pump pushers, while the screw-down caseback is inscribed with the watch’s limited-edition number out of 100.

Vintage-inspired without being an outright homage, this is the type of chronograph that’s sure to get collectors’ hearts racing, and for more reason than one: What we have here is first and foremost a comfortable, well sized, highly legible and capable tool watch. Secondly, it celebrates a significant partnership, is signed thusly right on the dial, and is highly limited. Third, considering its specs — it’s powered, by the way, by a manually wound, Swiss-made Sellita SW510 BH B movement — it’s a serious value at $1,995, and even ships in beautiful, vintage-inspired packaging. 

Thoughtfully designed, extremely satisfying to wear, and beautiful, with just the right balance of color and vintage influence, the new Nivada Grenchen X Analog:Shift Chronomaster ‘Big Eye’ Yachting Limited Edition is one of the best watch releases of the year. 

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