Mention you’re searching for the perfect 1970s mechanical tool chronograph, and many vintage watch aficionados will mumble about diminutive-size watches – but not so here.
Atypical for the era, this full serviced 1970s Waltham Ref. B-386 mechanical chronograph measures a healthy 41mm in width and features the bullet proof Valjoux 7733 manual-wind movement. All ensure readability and reliability, both required for tool watch status.
The Waltham B-386 is a great example of Swiss watchmaking during the transitional period between the 1960s and 1970s. The dial design is simple, with a navy-blue color and minimal text to distract the wearer, despite the two subdial registers. Atypically, Waltham chose not to use any lume on the dial or hands – most watches of this era feature tritium lume, and the bottom of the Waltham dial only says, "Swiss Made" indicating its lack of tritium.
The outer chapter ring of this Waltham is adorned in silver, with black hash marks and sans numerals – also an uncommon choice. Many chronographs of the same era featured tachymeters on the outer track. The Waltham’s case also screams 1970s, with its chunky tonneau-shape. Finally, thick applied hour markers and an equally wide handset completes the look this watch is all 1970s at heart.
Founded in 1850, Waltham Watch Company (WCC) – also known as the American Waltham Watch Company – would go on to produce nearly 40 million watches, clocks, speedometers, time delay fuses, and even nearly indestructible compasses used by the USMIL’s Military Assistance Command, Viet Nam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) Special Forces soldiers.
In no time (bad pun, apologies), Waltham would become one of America's premier watch brands. Unfortunately, Waltham would eventually be forced to close its doors in 1981 (after it was first sold to a Swiss company in 1968) as yet another fatality of the 1970/1980s Quartz Criss, brought on by…Seiko. But that’s another story.
However, before Waltham went out of business, it flourished by producing timepieces with easily interchangeable, modular parts (something Seiko would later master with, *gasp* robots), allowing it to expand quite quickly. Waltham would build on this modular success by expanding into different tiers of the watch market, from mass market dress watches and clocks for the masses, to tool watches intended for use by the military (see aforementioned MACV-SOG compasses).
This Valjoux-powered chronograh comes on a leather rally strap, and with nylon strap, rugged travel case, and springbar tool.
1970s Waltham Ref. B386 Valjoux 7733 Mechanical Chronograph
DIAL: Navy blue Waltham-signed non-lumed dial, with correct hour, minute, and chronograph hands, with two subdial registers, one for a 60 second countdown and another subdial to count up to 45 minutes.
CASE: Stainless-steel case measures 41mm (43.5mm w/crown) x 43mm.
CRYSTAL: Domed acrylic crystal, no cracks or scratches.
BAND: This Waltham comes on a brown leather rally strap; it also comes with a dark blue, grey, and white nylon strap.
MOVEMENT: Manual-wind ETA Valjoux 7733 mechanical movement. We have performed a full service on this Waltham chronograph.
CROWN: Unsigned crown, common for this reference.
CHRONOGRAPH PUSHERS: Pushers depress with satisfying click. Chronograph hands snap back and reset to zero with no issue.