A Midwestern Unboxing...

Aug 03, 2019,07:46 AM

Fellow Purists,


Hoping you are all having a fine weekend, allow me to suggest this is how a true Midwesterner enjoys a mid-morning unboxing. 



I'm confident you’ll enjoy this moment with me, as well as help answer a couple of important questions a few days’ scrutiny of this newcomer have provoked. I’ve been intrigued by the Pythagore for nigh on five years now—since I began this journey into horology—but always thought I’d hold out for a “classic” model, with Romans and that beautiful silver dial.


But who among us has not given in to impatience in a search, eh? Thus, when I saw this “aviation” model in good shape and for what seemed a fair price I decided the time had come. Some friendly advice from a couple of you was encouraging, and so the deed was done.


But before I get to the serious stuff, all of you must hear of how, besides taking great care in packaging,


the watch’s former owner insured the package for $5K! (For those of you not up on Pythagore pricing at the moment, quite a few $K more than necessary.) Thus, as I live in a small rural community (pop. ~1,700) and the main P.O. for the area is in a town only perhaps twice as large, so impressed were the postal authorities there with such a small and exotic package that they dispatched a special carrier to ensure the box’s safe and timely delivery long before the day’s normal distribution commenced! Shame on those of us who have disparaged the USPS for ineptness in the past!


I knew ahead of time that the watch was coming without papers, with a generic strap and buckle, and that it would come with a wooden box that was not original. This was all part of the reason for the accessible price. But I was unprepared for how nice that little wooden box would be, and for how its size was perfectly suited to the watch, itself.

 So then finally (those more observant among you will have noticed that not a bite of pie had yet been consumed)  I put the piece on my wrist.


A perfect fit! 

Now the nice surprises (as well as pie consumption) could begin: 1) so light! At a mere 9mm thin, a wrist-hugger beside my Speedmaster’s 14mm height, or my Alpinist’s 12. Wearing it around the house (one of the most dangerous environments for any wristwatch, I find) it seemed to nestle into my forearm and disappear as I turned sharply through doorways that might have exacted a toll from a taller piece. And 2) the dial, despite reflections, so easy to read at a glance—almost like having one’s finger placed on the time of day. The small seconds large enough to be read easily, as well. Then 3) there was the movement—the whole reason for the quest—a true delight seen through the transparent case back. Finally, 4) close examination revealed hardly a bump or scrape. I must admit to being no judge of polishing save in terribly obvious “cases.” But this case features a polished back, while the top of the case, including the bezel, has a satin finish. It didn’t appear to have been polished; the lugs didn’t seem excessively rounded. But, then again, I’m not familiar with just how sharp the case lines in these models actually were, hot off the bench. Perhaps one of you will comment on something I’ve missed where this is concerned. There was one thing, though….


Those cathedral hands.

They looked an obvious replacement! Those hands are as white as the printed minute track, and do not at all exhibit the aged look of the numerals. This was not so obvious in the seller’s photos, yet I’ve looked back to consult them and some contrast is there. Could they be a replacement? Their luminosity still functions, if weakly. The seller was doubtful because, as he wrote, these parts are not easily obtainable. Well… someone always seems to have parts squirreled away somewhere. And then, as I was studying the movement, the Minerva logo looked slightly botched, 

as if to suggest… counterfeit? Unlikely. Hand finishing? Equally so. Dirty, worn equipment? A possibility. 


But there, gentlemen, you have the essence of my concerns. What am I to make of these two anomalies? (Or are they anomalies in fact?)


Perhaps we should begin with a timeframe. As many of you will know, specific information about Minerva is not easily come by. So when did this larger (38mm) model, with swan’s neck regulator, come into being? How many were produced? Might this watch have been thrown together during Minerva’s last days, before the Gnutti takeover? Could the lume of the dial’s numerals therefore actually differ from that of the hands due to mismatched parts—dwindling stocks being a reality of that moment? Is the large number on the case back a serial number that might allow me to find a production date on some well-hidden list? And that crudely executed arrow logo… A miss-stamping? Dirty or worn equipment, as I have already suggested? Or an actual mark of individual attention, however poorly done? (A slip of the engraving tool? Now that would be exciting to establish.) I’m hoping that a few of you at least will chime in with opinions, suggestions, and/or hard knowledge.


The bottom line, here, is that the watch turns out to be surprisingly “me.” I like it very much and will wear it often. This was totally unanticipated! I hadn’t a single military-style watch in my collection, and wasn’t actively looking for one. I would vastly prefer hands that matched the numerals, yet is it worth throwing a tantrum over this—or is one even deserved? As the watch has been running an amazingly consistent +7 spd, and in consideration of all of its other pluses, I’m currently disposed to keep it. But so that I do not make mistakes (if I have done, in this case) in future, when far greater amounts of cash are concerned, I do need to learn from this experience. So fire away, I’ll try to be brave.


One silver lining, if the consensus turns out to be what I suspect—that at least one of these two things would be problematic at some future date when I might wish to pass the watch on. While I’ve been attracted to Montblanc’s current 1858 collection (the design of which was taken directly from this Minerva) the smallest piece in that line up measures 40 x 11, has a shorter power reserve, and a movement that—while a workhorse with far more jewels—hardly keeps better time. Instead, I have (hopefully) something original, rather than a modern “heritage” piece, an elegant swan’s neck (and the possibility of even greater accuracy should I decide to go down that road), and an iconic movement, rather than a generic workhorse (no matter how much more robust for its superior materials). 


Perhaps I should simply relax and begin to adjust to those hands….


My thanks in advance for your responses!  HAGWE!    FH

Changed Image This message has been edited by cazalea on 2019-08-03 09:36:53

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A Pythagore?

 By: brauner : August 3rd, 2019-07:52

Many thanks! FH [nt]

 By: halgedahl : August 3rd, 2019-09:45

Nice watch Frederick and that pie looks delicious

 By: Tegis : August 3rd, 2019-09:04
Should have gone with some ice cream or custard with it though. You never know how is looking so posting the box with the full adress is not something i would do.

I fixed the address and have a comparison for you

 By: cazalea : August 3rd, 2019-09:28
I recently repaired this watch for a friend, and in looking at your pictures I thought this looks like the same watch. Then I thought No, Fred's got a Minerva. But Minerva is MontBlanc now. Sort of. Anyway, notice the lume and hands This is a larger watch...  

Yes, well the pie was killing me. If I could have taken it off with Photoshop, I would have!

 By: cazalea : August 3rd, 2019-09:58
Luckily my wife made me s'mores Graham cracker, chocolate, melting marshmallows. These are normally decadent Girl Scout desserts made around the campfire, but in this case kicked up with gourmet chocolate and cinnamon sugar crusted crackers and 30 sec in ...  

Well, my friend, some answers.

 By: amanico : August 3rd, 2019-09:56
I've seem more white hour markers and hands than non matching specimens, true. And sometimes, yellowish hour markers and hands. Not sure there is something wrong here, apart, maybe, the fact that at some time, the hands were changed. Maybe. As for the " b... 

Yes, true. [nt]

 By: amanico : August 3rd, 2019-10:28

I was heavily engaged with Minerva in Norway during the JJ Frey ownership and also at the TimeZone Minerva forum (long time since that existed).

 By: kjell_j : August 3rd, 2019-11:33
This is a re-print/summary of some technical information I contributed at that time - after the Gnutti take-over and might be biased by my relationship with JJ Frey. (I am do not believe that has been shared at this forum, if I am wrong, bear with and old... 

Dear Kjell, How can we thank you enough for this treasure-trove of information regarding the Minerva Watch Company, and Andre Frey's iconic Pythagore, cal. 48? This is golden!

 By: halgedahl : August 4th, 2019-07:48
As I've been a member of this forum for only a few months beyond a year I can't say whether or not we should be concerned about your "failing memory." But I can say that your contribution is exactly the kind of information I'd hoped might turn up. Great t... 

Some points to you question

 By: kjell_j : August 4th, 2019-08:52
I should believe your watch is from the last batch and was shipped during the last year of the “Frey period”. As for the spearhead - all “modern” Pythagorean’s were made from bins with old parts - and imperfections like this was some of the charm of the o... 

So good of you to offer this assessment, Nicolas. I'll naturally wait for more opinions, but at this point my thoughts run along these lines.

 By: halgedahl : August 4th, 2019-07:26
1) It's so unlikely that the watch is anything but an original Pythagore. For it seems to me this watch was never popular enough for anyone to profit from slavish copying. A watch-making sweatshop in Malaysia churning out copies of Minerva Grand Pilots? U... 

I might - just might - be able to source some original papers, box, poster, brochure.

 By: kjell_j : August 4th, 2019-09:02
My associate in the former Minerva business is on vacation, let’s see what I can dig out (watchmakers never throw away anything). To your second point. This movement was made from old parts, except the balance, the hair spring and (maybe) some screws.