We’ve got a weakness for vintage alarm watches here, and this 1960’s Rodania Datofonic mechanical watch is clearly no exception. We know the Seiko Bell Matic, LeCoultre Memovox, Vulcain Cricket get all the attention, but other alarm watches like the Rodania get ignored – but hey, their loss!
Rodania was founded by the Baumgartner family in 1930 in in Grenchen, Switzerland, a city well known for its watch industry; the company steadily grew in the ensuing decades and gathered acclaim for its slim lines and pocket watches. In order to support the growth the company opened sales offices in New York, Montreal, Caracas, Madrid and Brussels. From 1951, the Brussels branch was placed under the supervision of Mr. Manfred Aebi, a young Swiss immigrant who was suffering from polio. Although leading the Belgian branch was meant to be only temporary, his marriage to Simone Verlinden allowed Manfred stay permanently in the country. The couple had three children - Christiane, Daniël and Belinda - all of whom became employees of Rodania.
However, in a story well known to vintage watch enthusiasts, the invasion of cheaper watches equipped with quartz movements represented a severe threat to the brand, and although the Swiss management fought, business began shrinking rapidly. By the mid-nineties the factory in Grenchen was only a fraction of what it had been, with bankruptcy was imminent. By this point, the Aebi family could afford to purchase the brand, licenses, and all copyrights, ensuring the brand's continued existence. Following this, the Brussels office became the international sales and distribution center – and continues making mechanical watches to this day.
Back to the alarm function – aside from displaying the time, the mechanical movement features a secondary manually-wound spring that when wound and released operates an audible buzzer, alerting the wearer at the alarm time. The Rodania alarm not only makes noise, but uniquely physically vibrates the watch, noticeable on the wrist or when placed on a hard surface - making the watch usable as an alarm clock as well.
This Rodania has two crowns, one at 2 o’clock and another at 4 o’clock. The crown at 4 o’clock, when depressed, can be wound forward to manually wind the alarm mechanism; to set the alarm, pull-out the crown at 4 o’clock and wind the crown backwards to move the alarm hand to the desired time. Keep the crown out to arm the alarm – to silence the alarm, depress the 4 o’clock crown. The 2 o’clock crown is used to set the time, day, and date and to manually wind the timekeeping mechanism.
This Rodania comes with a leather rally strap, second NATO strap, Pelican travel case, and springbar tool.
1960s Rodania Datofonic Alarm Ref. 1897 Mechanical Watch
DIAL: Original signed silver dial, which features crisp writing throughout, with raised/beveled hour markers and tritium lume plots. Original baton hands; date complication at 3 o’clock works as designed. Original black-arrow alarm indicator hand.
CASE: Unpolished original 35mm x 42.5mm stainless steel case, with original legible caseback and good caselines.
CRYSTAL: Original domed acrylic crystal, scratch-free.
BAND: Dark brown leather rally strap, with cream colored accent stitching - a nice vintage compliment to the nature of this Rodania, with stainless-steel hardware. A second strap, “comic-style” nylon NATO strap, again with stainless-steel hardware.
MOVEMENT: Calibre 1568 manual-winding movement, 17 jewels, with well-functioning mechanical alarm and date display at 3 o'clock; 18,000 beats per hour. Alarm complication functions LOUDLY, as designed.
CROWN: Original matching oversized crowns; top crown winds/sets the alarm function, bottom crown winds/sets the watch.