Watch Legends: The Calibre Lemania 5100
"Not beautiful but Rare"
Original Author is unknown but appeared in April 1998 issue of the German Chronos
Original Translation performed by Roman Hartmann & George Chow in summer 2002.
Hosting, Technical presention, commentary and update by Chuck Maddox
Last updated on 6 September 2007, 20:45 GMT

Host's Note: I recently found this on one of my laptop's hard drive... I had no memory of where it came from or how it came to be on my hard drive. It is more informative than what otherwise is available on the net. Hence I am hosting it currently for the benefit of all who are interested in this movement. I have interspersed some of my comments throughout the text. These are noted in RED type.
Watch Legends: The Calibre Lemania 5100
"Not beautiful but Rare"
The chronograph world isn’t what it used to be. Due to escalating manufacturing cost, the Swiss industry has gravitated toward fewer popular calibres. An example of one such basic and functional calibre is the Lemania 5100. Manufactured since 1978, it was recently rescued from an untimely demise.(Unfortunately, due to politics at Swatch Group, this rescue seems to have been short lived, more later)
A year ago, Nouvelle Lemania was planning to cease production of the 5100, a particularly rugged but accurate calibre used mostly in military and space applications. There were two reasons for Lemania’s decision. Foremost was that the simplistic design of the 5100 no longer fitted the manufacturer’s product line and philosophy. As well, the tools for the movement, being 20 years old (actually closer to 25), were outdated and in need of restoration. However, the needed investment couldn’t be justified by the calibre’s limited sales to its three (remaining) main customers: Fortis, Sinn, and Tutima. (Paul Picot and Alain Silberstein also use the calibre but only in very limited fashion unlike the other three.) At the very least, Lemania would not be able to maintain the calibre’s price.
However, Fortis, Sinn, and Tutima insisted on the continuation of production because the 5100 is the only calibre that met their military requirements. The 5100, due to its construction, is the only chronograph movement that can withstand large shocks without its chronograph seconds hand stopping. This is because its chronograph mechanism is driven directly unlike most other chronographs which use an intermediate wheel. The calibre easily withstands acceleration in excess of 7G without appreciable loss of accuracy. Its ruggedness is legendary; the calibre easily absorbs shocks and blows. The calibre also maintains its accuracy over long periods without servicing. Service intervals from four to seven years have shown to be sufficient.
On the other hand, the 5100’s weakness, at least from a watchmaker’s perspective, is its simple, even anachronistic construction. Like a cheap old mechanical wristwatch or a mechanical alarm clock, it uses a pillar construction. That is, the cock and bridges are attached to the main plate by thin pillars. In a more conventional design, the cock and bridges are terrace-like and mount directly onto the main plate. Pillar construction reduces manufacturing cost since parts can be stamped as opposed to being milled. But that’s not all. The designers even dared to use some nylon parts in the movement. The choice of nylon not only lowered production costs but was also deemed, at the time, to be progressive. After all, this was during the time of the Tissot Research 2001, a watch with a movement made entirely of nylon and fiberglass. The day and date wheels of the 5100 and their cams are also nylon. On the periphery of the movement are two gray nylon half-moons that support the rotor and absorb shocks from the rotor in case of hard blows. This nylon “ring” around the movement hides much of the pillar construction from the casual viewer.
Fortunately, Lemania did not cease production of the 5100 (in 1997). However, the wholesale price of the movement nearly doubled from 230 SFR to about 400 SFR to reflect the cost of the new machines and tooling's.
A brief glance over the 30 years history of the automatic chronograph shows that the golden age of the chronograph when a large number and variety of calibres flourished is largely over now. (Actually there has been a bit of a renaissance lately, but more later...)
“Twenty Years” (closer to "Thirty Years")
Indeed, only a few integrated (as opposed to modular) automatic chronographs remain on the market. Nearly all of these are at least 20 years old.
It started with Zenith’s El Primero in 1969. The El Primero’s strongest rival was the calibre 11/12 from Breitling, Heuer, Hamilton and Buren that was released the same year. However, the El Primero is today, 20 years after the production of the calibre 11/12 ended, still in production.
In 1972, Lemania released the calibre 1340 that lives on today, albeit after a long hiatus, as the 1350.
Today’s ubiquitous ETA-Valjoux 7750 was released in 1973. Five years later, the 5100, the simplified successor to the 1340/1341 and the focus of this article, was released. (Actually, Omega produced Lemania 5100 movement based Speedmasters from 1974. This is exceedingly well documented, so the movement has to date from 1974 at the very latest, and may even have bowed in 1973)...
In 1978, the market for mechanical chronograph was shrinking rapidly. Cheap Japanese LCD quartz watches with stopwatch function flooded the market. However, the Swiss manufacturers did not want to give up the chronograph market. They needed a simple calibre that was cheap to manufacture. Lemania was at the time part of the SSIH whose flagship brand, Omega, still sold a wide variety of automatic chronographs.
Omega’s calibre 1040 in the Speedmaster III and IV was derived from the Lemania 1340 so it was fitting to use the new calibre 5100 (as the Omega 1045) in the Speedmaster Automatic. Like the 1340, the 5100 has a central chronograph minute counter that was easy-to-read, unlike chronographs which utilized subdials. Omega had added to the Lemania 1340 a 24-hour indicator on top of the continuous second subdial at 9 o’clock to arrived at their Omega 1040. This 24-hour indicator now became a standard feature on the Lemania 5100 and is even more useful because it was moved to the 12 o’clock position. As well, if you compare the dial of the 1340 with the 5100, you’ll also note that the 5100 adds a day-of-the-week indicator. In sum, the 5100 provides more functionality with a more legible layout. 

“Antiquated but Reliable”

The Lemania 5100 demonstrates other unusual constructions. The navette-type chronograph mechanism is fitted not as usually between the base plate and the automatic winding system but between the dial and the base plate instead. The rotor winds in one direction only over the reduction gear and runs in a hard iron bearing instead of jewels. The ratchet wheel under the rotor transfers the rotation of the rotor to a reduced wheel. The yoke spring on the rotor doubles as a click. The above clearly shows that the Lemania 5100’s antiquated construction, while simple, is nonetheless reliable and functional. The clutch wheel is also made out of nylon, another tribute to rational production. The large mainspring barrel continues the rugged design philosophy of the movement. The balance is also quite large for a high beat movement running at 28’800A/h. The calibre uses the reliable and space-saving Triovis regulator. Kif-Flector shock absorber was chosen instead of the more usual Incabloc shock absorber seen in ETA calibre. At 8.2mm, the 5100 is 0.3mm taller than the ETA-Valjoux 7750. This makes the 5100 the tallest of today’s chronograph calibre.
“Effective, Precise, and Reliable… In short: Unbeatable”
Because the Lemania 5100 is built for tool watches with an instrument appearance, the height of the calibre is not very important. Sinn was the first to see the potential of this underdog.
Sinn released the Sinn 142 in 1980, roughly at the same time as Omega’s release of their second edition of the Speedmaster Mark IV. The Sinn 142 is a large tool-watch with a highly functional dial.
Orfina’s Porsche Design chronograph in the early 1980s was another functional (and minimalist design) that used the Lemania 5100.
Tutima’s military chronograph was released in 1985 and was chosen shortly after as the official watch for German air-force pilots.
In 1994, Fortis replaced their unpopular Stratoliner model with the very well-made Official Cosmonaut chronograph. The calibre remained the Lemania 5100.
Even Alain Silberstein used the 5100, changing the color of some of the nylon parts in his provocative “Krono Bauhaus”.
Recently, Sinn released their EZM1 (Einsatz-Zeitmesser 1), a novel chronograph design using the 5100 that moves the crowns and pushers to the left side of the case (in addition to removing all subdials and the day/date functions).
“Technical Specification of the Lemania 5100”
Chronograph movement, self-winding with chronograph mechanism between the dial and base plate. Centrally mounted, unidirectional winding rotor. The inner face of the rotor contains a bent-spring click. A ratchet wheel translates motion to a reduced wheel (the wheel with the drilled holes visible in some photos).
The chronograph mechanism is a space and cost efficient navette-type. Despite the relatively high beat rate of 28’800A/h, the calibre has a large Glucydur balance. Nivarox 1 flat hairspring, Triovis regulator, Kif-Flector shock absorber. A large barrel for the Nivaflex mainspring. Large nylon day and dates wheels. The automatic winding mechanism’s reduction gear is also made of nylon.
The calibre’s bridges, plates and balance cock are built as a pillar construction. Two nylon half-moons on the periphery of the movement. Movement height 8.2mm, diameter 31mm, weight 21g. Introduced in 1978.
The calibre 5100 is used in chronographs from Omega (in the past), Sinn, Fortis, Tutima, Alain Silberstein, Paul Picot, Orfina Porsche Design (in the past), Tissot (in the past). Sinn offers the 5100 (for an additional fee) with a COSC certificate.
Characteristic traits of the Lemania 5100: the central minute-counter, 24h indicator and 12-hour counter sub-dial.

This is the end of the document that I discovered on my hard drive. All of my efforts to locate the source of this document have been unsuccessful until I posted this in my webspace and was graciously contacted by George Chow. George had no problems with me hosting it as it seems he was looking to do the same thing I was thinking of doing but didn't get around to it... So I have noted the information in the title as it should be listed.
What follows is my attempt to update the saga to the current situation...
Before I continue on with my commentary and update, I thought I'd mention that there is an extensive gallery of Lemania 5100 (and Omega 1045) movement photographs maintained by Sergio Lorenzon at his very useful WatchScape site. A listing of the pertinent pictures is located below... -- Chuck

LEMANIA 5100 PART 1 2 3


As the situation is currently (31-December-2002):
In the late 1990's there seemed to be more firms who had previously produced automatic chronographs exclusively or primarily with the Lemania 5100 introduced new models with the Valjoux 7750 either in parallel with their 5100 offerings or to replace them. Bell & Ross introduced the Space 3 in two varieties of 7750, Revue Thommen replaced their Airspeed (5100 Based) with a Airspeed II (7750) line, and so on. So while Tutima, Sinn and others soldiered on the long-term viability availability of the Lemania 5100 seemed to be on shaky ground at best. Most of us who watch the currents of the Swiss watch industry while conceeding that some of this was probably attributible to firms wishing to keep their costs down in a world economy seemingly loosing steam since the "Asian Contagion" in 1997 and hence maintaining profits, the more open-minded of us would mention that perhaps the close shave the 5100 had with the executioner's block may have scared off firms who wished to produce 5100's, or perhaps a steady stream of supply wasn't as easy to obtain as the ETA/Valjoux 7750.

As early as early 2001, rumors of the demise of the Lemania 5100 started to surface around the web. Most of the time these rumors were second or third hand with little or no substanciation of any sort. Since the late 1990's the Swiss watch industry had been a story of massive consolidation. Indeed most of the major players in the watch industry (aside from steadfast independents like Rolex and Breitling) had been either purchased (both quietly and as the result of a very public bidding process) by the major consortium's. The largest of these consortiums being Swatch Group, Louis Vitton Moet Hennesy, Richmont and Movado group. While a large number of Independent watch firms still exist, notably 5100 users Fortis, Sinn, Tutima, and Bell&Ross, Lemania itself was acquired by Swatch Group since the original Chronos article.

These rumors were persistant and I personally had the opportunity to ask both Michael Kobald (of Kobald watches) and John Sokol (the Technical Director of ProTime Service the division of LVMH which handles service for watches produced by LVMH holdings in the USA) at a TZ get-together in Chicago in late April 2002 directly on the topic. The consensus was that Nicholas Hyaek (in charge of Swatch Group) had decreed that Lemania movements would only be available to firms under the Swatch Group umbrella, and that since no Swatch Group Firm was currently producing a 5100 based watch, it was effectively discontinued because of this edict. The only exception was the firm of either Sinn or Tutima, which had a contract to supply watches to the German military, was either able to continue to obtain movements for that purpose for the length of that contract or had sufficent stock on hand to continue to offer Lemania 5100 based models, after which it was likely, if nothing changed, that the 5100 would be either discontinued or at the very least put on hiatus until such time that Swatch Group felt like resuming production.

I have no reason to doubt these reports. New examples of 5100 based chronographs from certain manufacturers seem to still be available. Not surprisingly, Tutima and Sinn are the two most widely available. Fortis does not list 5100's on their site any more, nor do Bell&Ross or Revue Thommen. While the sun may not have set on the 5100 movement yet, it is difficult to deny that the sun sits close to the horizon at the moment. Vintage and more contemporary 5100's on the secondary (used) market seem to be fewer and farther between and they seem to draw a premium in most instances.

Adding to the equation is a small renaissance in automatic chronograph movements. Omega has in parallel developed in association with F. Piguet the "Broad Arrow" movement, and a Co-Axial automatic chronograph movement based on the Daniels escapement, Rolex has developed a "clean-sheet" automatic chronograph to replace it's dependence on the Zenith El-Primero movement, and Zenith has become more active, since joining the LVMH fold, in developing elaborations of it's El-Primero movement. However, all of these movements are premium movements with a price tag to match. The least expensive of these has a $4,000 Suggested Retail Price admission fee, and a heavy emphasis on "and UP!"...

It would be a shame to see 5100 production to cease. It is a movement of great utility, durability, useability and economy. It's only competitors in it's price range are the ETA/Dubois-Depraz piggyback chronograph, and the ETA/Valjoux 7750. While not a pretty or fancy movement, the 5100 reminds it's many fans of the most robust of equipment. The Soviet military was a firm advocate of the doctrine of durable, robust equipment that would take any abuse that it was subjected to and continue to function effectively (reference the AK-47 Rifle, T-34 Tank, etc). It would be ashame to see such a useful chronograph movement fade from the scene...

For more on why I like the Lemania 5100 movement, take a look at a piece I wrote on that topic, reachable via this link here: Why I like the Lemania 5100...

February 2003 (Basel Update):

Most recently TAG-Heuer has announced in advance to Basel 2003 a new model called the 2000 Aqua Graph. This model while having a Tri-Compax layout bears a striking familiarity to the layout of the Lemania 5100:

We have a center chronograph minute hand and a 24-hour (military time) subdial at 9 (which is where the 24-hour sub-dial would be if the 5100 was rotated 90 degrees - Bullhead style). TAG-Heuer calls this the Calibre 60 Automatic movement. The only thing the watch appears to be missing over a fully featured Lemania 5100 is the Day-Date feature, and who knows, with some development that may happen too. This watch may eventually develop to be the Lemania 5100's spiritual if not feature successor. But only time will tell. This setup is very similar to the Lemania 5100 in outward appearance, however, it appears that the movement itself is a ETA 2892-A2 with a Dubois-Depraz 2073 chronograph module. It is unknown at this time if the 2073 module is improved any over the previous modules produced by Dubois-Depraz is yet to be seen. Supposedly, Dubois-Depraz purchased the LWO 283 module movement from Lemania, if so and they learned from that transaction it's possible that the new combination is worth consideration. Only time will tell.

I do not claim any rights over the portions of the document that are not mine, and I have tried to graciously honor the wishes of the author/rights holder when contacted. I am hosting this information strictly for educational purposes. Special thanks go to Sergio Lorenzon for his blessing to include links to his library of Lemania 5100/Omega 1045 Movement photos which add greatly to this page... My comments are mine and probably should be taken with a grain of salt, but everyone is welcome to adopt them for their own!


-- Chuck