This watch is a very good representative of what the ‘Hayek-plan’ of the mid 1980s was all about. The lone-fighter attitude of the family owned watch firms had made place for inter-brand thinking, which speeded up development and production processes. By succeeding in rehabilitating the base of Swiss watch industry with promoting Swatch and thus selling relatively cheap watches in the millions, SMH would be able to start reviving and strengthening the mechanical branch of the Swiss watch industry. One first step towards this mechanical renaissance being the reintroduction of a more complicated version of the very successful Valjoux 7750 movement, the Valjoux 7751 in 1986.
Concerning the aesthetic, fashion factor at the beginning of the process, SMH relied on the designs successfully marketed by Rado. Indeed, Rado was the only brand selling relatively high quantities of mechanical watches during the crisis struck 1970s and early 1980s. Casing the watches into Rado -or Rado like cases would ensure that other brands within SMH would profit from Rado’s continuous success. The supply of such cases not being a problem, as Rado joined SMH in 1986 (1). Wanting to impress the end consumer with a highly complex movement, the Valjoux 7751 movement with its 11 dial features was introduced.
ETA/Valjoux 7751 P2 Prototype, 1986 / 87
Prototype category: aesthetic, sample
Description: Stainless steel cased automatic prototype. Screwed case back with brand description ‘water sealed’ engraving and production number belonging to a Rado model normally featuring a Valjoux 7750 movement. Date adjustment button at ’10’. Gold coloured dial with black printing, black Breguet numerals. Black hour and minute hands, small black sub dial hands (30 min counter, 12 hours counter, 24h display, seconds counter), golden, central chronograph hand, golden date hand with small crescent tip. Day and month window at ’12’. Silver coloured rehaut with ‘Pulsations’ display until ’15 min’, Tachymeter scale from ’15 min’ to ’60 min’. Moon phase display at ‘6’. Original mineral crystal. Original stainless steel, ovoid chronograph pushers, Original stainless steel crown with ‘Rado’ logo.
Dimensions: 43mm (without crown), lug – lug: 42mm, lug width: 22mm
Movement: Valjoux 7751, unnumbered, marked VAL 7751 (later versions will be marked ETA 7751)
Additional info: The earliest Valjoux/ETA prototypes (ETA/Valjoux 7751 P1) with their newly developed cal.: 7751 (1986) were cased by Donzé-Baume SA, a small case manufacturer in the Swiss Jura region, which is now part of the Richmond group since 2007. These functional prototypes are hand engraved on their snap backs with internal reference numbers (113-xx). Later, aesthetic P2 prototypes, like the one presented here, were made and ETA made sure to have numerous, differently cased examples used as samples to persuade in-house and later external watch manufacturers to use their new product.
This watch is cased into a modified case for a Rado Ref.: 674.0900.4 model normally housing a Valjoux 7750 movement. The main modification consists in the addition of the date adjustment button at ’10’, as the dimensions of the Valjoux 7751 correspond exactly to the dimensions of the Valjoux 7750 movement (30mm diameter, 7.9mm thick) (2). This sample of a Valjoux 7751 driven watch would have been one of many for internal presentation, thus primarily for watch manufacturers within SMH. The choice for Rado as supplier for the cases is explained above and this shows the very concise strategy of the SMH group using the best suppliers of specific parts within its group and thus controlling design, part supply, development, manufacture and marketing of the complete watch and model range.
As this new movement was one of the most complicated movements built by ETA to date, they also issued test watches for watchmakers which were engraved as being for ‘customer training’.