Throwback chronographs are everywhere these days with pricing all over the map. At the upper end, there are truly iconic pieces like the Breguet Type XX and Rolex Daytona. A wide variety of brands offer more affordable options for us common folk – the Hamilton Intra-Matic Automatic Chronograph and Longines Avigation BigEye come to mind. Delma recently introduced an intriguing, vintage-inspired chronograph that harkens back to its 1960’s bicompax models. Available in a surprising amount of dial and case colour combinations, the new Continental Chronograph is a value proposition for those seeking that mid-century vibe without breaking the bank.
Delma is among the increasingly rare independent, family-owned brands with a history going back almost a century. Founded in 1924 in Lengnau, Switzerland by brothers Adolf and Albert Gilomen, the company was originally called Thuya. The Delma name was first used in 1933 for pocket and wristwatches and became the brand’s official name in 1966 following a takeover. Ulrich Wüthrich and Fritz Fankhauser took control that year without disrupting operations, and continued the company’s legacy of successful chronographs and dive watches. Twenty years earlier in 1946, the first Delma chronograph appeared under the Midland name, one of four names used by the company at the time – Thuya, Midland, Delma and Gil.
In 1954, an aggressively designed racing chronograph debuted with a stainless steel cushion case and angular sub-dials in a tri-compax layout. Luminous hands and the design of the tachymeter completed the sporty vibe, and Delma had established itself as a bona fide player in the racing scene. A few years after the takeover in 1969, the brand released the Periscope, its first automatic dive watch. Although a bit lacking by today’s standards, it marked the beginning of Delma’s expanding aquatic collections. By 1975, two more dive watches debuted, the Shell Star and Quattro, and the brand had now found success in both land and ocean sports. In 2017, the Oceanmaster series merged the two with an extreme sailing chronograph, inspired by the brand’s collaboration with the IMOCA Ocean Masters (racing class of 60-foot Open monohulls) with added features for nautical navigation.
The 1960s was a decade of innovation and change for Delma, with popular bicompax chronographs and ultimately new ownership. It was a “golden age” of watch design and technical achievements with bold experimentation coinciding with the rise of modern motorsport. The new Delma Continental Chronographs pull from this era to recreate some of the brand’s best sports timers, throwing in a healthy dose of colour options for a wide audience.
The Delma Continental Chronograph
The 316L stainless steel case of Delma’s Continental Chronograph is 42mm in diameter and 15.2mm in height and either polished and brushed or two-tone with yellow gold PVD. The polished, sloping bezel is narrow and gets out of the way for an all dial aesthetic, giving a real presence on the wrist. It’s a sizeable watch as the measurements attest, but both comfortable and very wearable. There’s also a Ronda quartz variant that trims the height down to only 11.8mm and it’s a noticeable difference. Of course, all of us at MONOCHROME prefer the mechanical option, a Sellita automatic in this case.
The lugs have a polished chamfer on the outer edges and are on the thinner side overall, but the wide 22mm lug width balances things out. The crown, pushers and bezel are gold on the PVD versions, leaving the rest of the case uncoated for a nice two-tone look. The signed crown screws down for a water-resistance of 100 metres, making this a versatile sports watch. The domed crystal is sapphire with an anti-reflective coating, but the exhibition caseback has mineral glass. That’s fine as it’s always against your wrist, but take care if setting it down against the steel bracelet – a well finished seven-link design with polished and brushed elements, and a butterfly clasp with pushers.
There are five sunray-brushed dial colours to choose from – black, silver, blue, green and brown – and the PVD gold versions have gold hands and indices, technically pushing this to seven dial variants. The brown dial is exclusive to the gold PVD case, while blue and silver are available for both. That’s quite an unusual variety and very appreciated. You have panda and reversed panda options, and the two large sub-dials have a subtle guilloché pattern (more of a snailed look, actually). A 30-minute counter sits at 3 o’clock with the small seconds at 9 o’clock, and the chronograph seconds hand is red on all models. The hour, minute, sub-dial hands and applied indices are either silver or gold, depending on case option, and all but the chronograph hands are filled with white Super-LumiNova. A bevelled date window sits at 6 o’clock and the internal tachymeter is black on the silver and black dials and white on the rest. All dials are classic with excellent legibility, and you’re likely to find one that suits your taste.
Although there’s a Ronda Z50 quartz option, we’ll focus on the Sellita SW510 automatic. This is a cam operated chronograph movement with 27 jewels, 28,800vph (4Hz) and a 48-hour power reserve. A clone of the Valjoux 7750, this calibre is a proven Swiss workhorse that’s well suited for a series in this price range. Functions include central hours, minutes and chronograph seconds, 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, sub-dial seconds at 9 o’clock and date at 6 o’clock. Seen from the exhibition caseback, the movement is nicely finished, but unadorned save for the custom rotor with Côtes de Genève and the brand name and logo engraved.
This piece reminds me of Hamilton’s Intra-Matic Automatic Chronograph, a similarly priced, vintage-inspired chrono that pulls from late 1960s designs. There are a few things that the Delma Continental has going for it, such as an exhibition caseback, multiple dial colours and a two-tone gold option. I’m also a fan of the steel bracelet, which has a flattened-out Jubilee vibe, although a leather strap would also look great. Delma might not be a familiar brand to many, but there’s no denying its almost 100-year Swiss history and innovative designs – a microbrand this is not. If you’re looking for a simple, well-executed and affordable Swiss chronograph with plenty of options, Delma should be on your shortlist.
Price and availability
The Delma Continental Chronograph sells for EUR 2,800 for the standard models and EUR 2,900 for the two-tone yellow gold PVD variants. For more information and to make a purchase, visit Delma’s website.