Sometimes you may think you really know a watch brand only to uncover a vintage gem that shows you an entirely different side of the manufacture. This is one of those times. The Bovet chronograph we have here is a restrained dress watch that perfectly embodies the 1940s and shows a rarely seen, understated side of the brand.
Bovet traces its history to the early 19th century, 1822, to be exact, when it was founded by the three Bovet brothers in Fleurier, Switzerland. After one of them took a trip to China, the manufacture began specializing in producing ornate gold watches, highly decorated with engraving, enamel, and gems, specifically for that expanding export market. The brand faded out of existence for a bit after the quartz crisis of the 1970s and '80s but was recently revived and is making watches in that same over-the-top historic style to very high standards.
That's the Bovet you thought you knew, though. This here is a very different Bovet.
Instead of dragon motifs, we get a basic, two-button chronograph with a highly legible dial and a slick profile. The 40 mm stainless steel case is thin, and the shape is accentuated by the rectangular pushers set into the side. That width might be middle of the road by today's standards, but in the 1940s it would have looked like a dinner plate.
Considering the steel construction, the size, and the telemeter scale on the dial, I wouldn't be surprised if this watch originally sat on the wrist of an officer during World War II. The strap is actually original, too, and comes with a white gold Bovet-signed buckle even though the watch is steel.
Opening the caseback, you'll find a very basic chronograph movement. Everyone during this era was buying movements from suppliers such as Valjoux and Landeron, instead of making their own, and Bovet was no different. This Landeron isn't decorated much, but it is large and fills the case properly, with only a small spacer around the edge. Bovet had patents for its own monopusher split-seconds chronograph movements, but this is a much more basic (and much less expensive) style of chrono.
What makes this watch truly special are the little details of the case and dial. The lugs are the Cornes de Vache (cow horn) style, like a number of historic Vacheron Constantin watches, and they're complemented by a large onion-style crown that you might find on a pilot's watch. The combination of dressy and sporty features are unusual but work here.
The dial has the gold numerals and hands against the soft-brushed silver dial, and the inky black printing is offset by the bright red telemeter track. And that signature at 12 o'clock? Don't even get me started. It's so charming it hurts.
This Bovet Chronograph is available from Roy & Sascha Davidoff and is priced at 15,000 Swiss francs (approximately $15,175).