9ct gold Eterna-matic Centenaire automatic wrist watch.

What an absolutely stunning vintage watch is this 9ct gold Eterna-Matic Centenaire automatic! The black dial, which is in amazing condition for a timepiece dating to 1954, is perfectly paired with the rich, warm shade of tan brown of the leather watch strap. Unfortunately, it had sold before I discovered it, but this is the sort of watch I would have bought without question, based purely on appearance.

9ct gold Eterna-matic Centenaire automatic.
9ct gold Eterna-matic Centenaire automatic.

The Eterna Watch Company

Eterna is a well-known Swiss watch company, which traces its origins back to 1856 when Josef Girard and Urs Schild founded the company in Grenchen, Switzerland, under the name “Dr. Girard & Schild.” Initially, the company specialised in finishing ébauche movements, although they gradually expanded into wristwatch production. The company quickly became a reputable manufacturer of ebauches.

Throughout its history, Eterna has had a number of horological innovations. In 1908, the company introduced the “Eterna 8-Day Movement,” which boasted an extended power reserve of eight days, a significant achievement in the industry at the time.

Eterna-matic

Another notable contribution to horology came in 1948 with the introduction of the Eterna-Matic, a revolutionary self-winding mechanical movement featuring a rotor system. It featured a ball bearing system, which used five ball bearings to reduce the friction on the automatic winding system, an innovation quickly adopted by fellow manufacturers.  This innovation was probably Eterna’s most enduring contribution to horology and was so successful that Eterna adopted the image of the five ball bearings as its corporate logo.

Eterna’s reputation for reliability was enhanced in 1958 when they supplied watches for Thor Heyerdahl’s KonTiki expedition across the Pacific Ocean. Despite facing extreme conditions during the journey, the Eterna timepieces performed admirably well. This earned the brand widespread recognition for its exceptional quality.

Over the years, Eterna experienced various ownership changes and restructurings.

Eterna 1428U Eterna-matic movement

The watch has an automatic movement, Eterna calibre 1428U. This is apparently working well and keeping time to within 2 to 3 minutes per day. The Eterna-matic movement was launched in 1955/6 to mark the centenary of Eterna. It is an automatic movement with a central rotor and 21 jewels. It is a stem set, with a sweep second hand and is 12.5 ‴ lignes (28 mm) in diameter. There was a similar version launched at the same time, the 1438U which included a date complication.

Eterna-matic Centenaire 1428U movement.
Eterna-matic Centenaire 1428U movement.

Dial and dimensions

The watch measures 33mm in diameter, excluding the winding crown and the lugs. The case is 9-carat gold with hallmarks inside the case back for London 1964 together with the Eterna name. The case is in good condition, with just a slight indentation to the back which is barely noticeable. The winding crown is a later replacement. This is a slight detraction from originality, but generally acceptable for a vintage watch of this age. A purist I might beg to differ, in this case, I’m glad the watch was sold, so I didn’t have to make a difficult decision. It is such a stunning vintage watch, that I think I would have bought it, original crown or not. The lens is in good condition.

Eterna Centenaire

The dial is signed Eterna-Matic Centenaire (French to English: Centennial) along with the five ball bearings logo. It is in a dark blue finish, although it appears more black than dark blue. To the naked eye, the dial looks good with just minor markings. If viewed closely, there is marking and wear to the finish on the outer edge of the dial and a couple of small indentations.

It has the original Dauphine-shaped hands and a centre seconds hand (with some light marking). There appears to be some traces of lume on the hands, which clearly would not be working after 70 years. I would have expected the dial to display “T Swiss Made T”, perhaps this is an indication of a redial? In which case it would have less appeal to collectors. However, it is still a stunning vintage watch, I’m not sure I could have resisted if I had the chance!

Summary

Stunning vintage watch, which I would have bought given the opportunity. However, in some respects, I’m glad I didn’t. Although it looks fantastic, there are some concerns over its originality, which might deter a future buyer. That said, as a vintage watch it looks great, keeps good time and would look great on my wrist. I am pleased for the current owner of this vintage 9ct gold Eterna-matic Centenaire automatic watch.

Related content

Eterna at Wikipedia.





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