Measure speed with Paul Garnier #vintage #chronograph

By | March 17, 2021

In the old times when smartphones and smart watches we’re not invented yet people had to rely on beautiful machines to aid them in making quick computations that are not ready and natural to do.

I am fascinated by watches from the same reason I like modern technology. It enhances humans, making them better, gives us super abilities.

The following is one of my favorite watches, a Paul Garnier Marine chronograph pocket watch. Amazingly enough this guy Paul Garnier invented a “computer”.

In 1843 the French watchmaker Jean-Paul Garnier (known as Paul Garnier) obtained a 6-years patent (see Brevet d’invention No. 15915) for a computer. See

Even today is an impressive machine can measure speed up to 800km/h. That is impressive for a piece of technology build almost 100 years ago. The watch was build probably between the first and second world wars.

The dial is a very special speed calculator. The way to determine the speed is very easy. :
1. In a train station, port, airport or national road usually there are some set fixed distance markers. For example on modern motorways there are markers for each km of the motorway.
2. Start the chronograph counter when the measurement target object passes one km marker and stop the counter when the target gets to the next marker.
3. The speed will be indicated by the position of the chronograph indicator.

The engine that powers this machine is a Valjoux 6-KF according to this source.

Some properties of the movement:
Frequency : 18.000 A/h (2.5 Hz)
Manual winding
Charge Reserve: 32 hours

The watch movement is not a standard one as the “modele depose” indication from the dial is pointing out. It is a patented changed movement from Paul Garnier. The reason is the modified minute counter that is counting 10 minutes and then jumps back at the 0 position. A nice non standard feature.

An interesting production date for the watch can be inferred from the dates when the mechanism was in production.
According to looks like to be a 100 year old watch.

The following is a video of the movement in action:

The back of the watch has two cases, one that indicates in a nice inscription that the watch is a “Horloger de la Marine”. Usually this was more like a marketing trick in bragging that you are a supplier of the marine corps. There is no official military/marine marking on the watch (present or scratched) to make this a real marine issued watch.

I will end up with a small video of the movement with the chronograph started. You can notice here that more gears are in motion (look at the central ones).

In the videos you can here the background noise of my servers rack. Obviously this old tech sounds nicer 🙂

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