The ETA 7750 movement, also known as the TAG Heuer Calibre 16, is perhaps the most successful automatic chronograph movement ever produced. While it has become fashionable to regard the 7750 as a generic, “common” movement, the calibre is easily able to meet COSC Chronometre standards (in top spec) and can be found in a range of high-end watch brands, including IWC, Tudor, Panerai, Hublot and, of course, TAG Heuer.
But as the watch world prepares to mark the 40th anniversary of the movement in 2014, from a TAG Heuer perspective, the 7750 era is drawing to a close.
The story of the 7750 is one that mirrors the fortunes of the Swiss watch industry- born during a burst of innovation in the early 1970s, discontinued during the quartz revolution of the mid-1970s, only to be revived in the mid-1980s as the industry stabilised.
And by the late 1990s, the 7750 was the most popular automatic chronograph movement on the planet. Not bad for a calibre that should have died in 1975, if not for an act of corporate disobedience.
Developing the 7750
The 7750 was developed by Valjoux, a legendary movement maker that was part of the giant ASUAG conglomerate. Created in 1931, AUSAG consolidated many of the independent movement makers in Switzerland. By the early 1970s, AUSAG included several watch brands, such as Certina, Edox, Eterna, Oris and Longines. The origins of the 7750 spring from another famous name from the past, Venus, which became part of Valjoux in 1966.
Many of the world’s best known automatic chronograph movements were developed in the arms race of the late 1960s. Between 1969-1974, there was a golden age of innovation, with the Heuer- Breitling- Hamilton Chronomatic (1969), Seiko 6139 (1969), Zenith El Primero (1969) and Lemania 5100 (1973) all being launched.
Although Valjoux was the leader in manual-wind chronographs, it was slow to the self-winding party, appointing Edmond Capt to lead the development of a new movement in the early 1970s. Based on the manual-wind Valjoux 7733 (itself a descendent of the Venus 188), the 7750 was first available in watches in 1974, having been one of the first movements to be designed with the aid of a computer.
A reliable, cost-effective calibre, the 7750 is relatively thick and large compared to its contemporary competitors. There is also a sonic signature: the sound of the rotor. The 7750 is mono-directional (only winds in one direction), and so has a relatively large and heavy oscillating weight that can reach high speeds when rotating in its non-winding direction. Because it free-spins in one direction, you can sometimes feel the movement “wobbling” on your wrist. It’s alive!
The first versions of the Valjoux 7750 came in two frequencies- 21,600 bph and 28,800 bph, each with 17 jewels.