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Delma Continental

The new Delma Continental was inspired by the brand’s models of the 1960s. The bicompax dial layout was always a speciality of the Swiss luxury marque. This latest model references the past while meeting the demands of today’s wearer, courtesy of its 42mm steel case and domed sapphire crystal. Angus Davies visited Delma’s HQ a few weeks ago to view the model at close quarters.

 

Change can be a good thing. It often delivers technological advancement for the betterment of society. It is by tirelessly conducting experiments in laboratories, executing endless mathematical calculations and performing numerous clinical trials that the medical fraternity has achieves progress. Indeed, thanks to progress, some diseases and ailments which once impaired quality of life or even led to premature death have been eradicated or, at least, ameliorated.

However, it seems that sometimes when running towards a new horizon, we lose sight of the virtuous aspects within our midst. Often, while shopping we enjoy a serendipitous encounter with a vintage item or perhaps an object we recall from our youth. It is in that very moment, when our minds are overwhelmed with nostalgic thoughts, that we yearn for those items that somehow got lost during the non-stop march towards an ultra-modern utopia.

Recently, Delma, the luxury watch brand from Lengnau, Switzerland, dusted off its archives and discovered a number of designs from the 1960s. During this period, the brand had a habitual liking for bicompax chronographs. Delma was not alone in making this type of chronograph. Many other brands made two-register chronographs, however, many of them disappeared from view during the ‘quartz crisis’ of the 70s and 80s.

Thankfully, Delma, a family firm founded in 1924, continues to flourish. It has gained a reputation for making robust, well made and accessibly-priced watches. Its latest model, the Delma Continental, a bicompax chronograph, promises to perpetuate the brand’s enviable reputation.

Delma Continental - Bicompax Chronograph

Recently, I travelled to Delma’s HQ and appraised a prototype version of the new Continental first-hand. Carrying my trusty Lumix camera, trying desperately to take images free of annoying fingerprints and dust, I endeavoured to capture the Continental’s physical features. The watch was retail-ready, apart from the movement which was devoid of any Delma branding. Nevertheless, my time with the Delma Continental provided a useful insight into its design and execution.

The model I viewed was endowed with a mechanical movement, but Delma does make quartz versions. Similarly, the Swiss firm offers various dial colours, however, the prototype I viewed featured a blue sunray-brushed dial with silver snailed counters. It is this latter model which I will focus upon hereafter.

The dial

A bicompax chronograph invariably looks better than a tricompax layout, as the symmetry of a two-register composition feels more harmonious. The hour and minute hands are faceted and silver-toned. The central sweep seconds hand is presented in an eye-popping shade of pillar box red. Delma has equipped both registers with silver-coloured hands. Each hour is denoted with a faceted index. Both the hour and minute hands and the indexes feature Super-LumiNova, aiding readability in poor light.

Delma Continental - Bicompax Chronograph

‘To have a date display, or not to have a date display, that is the question?’ This may prove a moot point for watch-loving thespians. I know some watch collectors are averse to date indications, however, in this instance, I think the display at 6 o’clock breaks up the sea of blue and provides a counterbalance to the branding found in the northern region of the dial. A tachymeter scale is presented on the rehaut, ideal when calculating the speed of an Alvis over a measured mile.

The case

While the Swiss marque has looked to the past, it has not ignored the desires of today’s consumer. The Delma Continental is housed in a 42mm stainless steel case which proves larger than the majority of watches from the 60s. This should attract widespread approval from most would-be wearers.

Delma Continental - Bicompax Chronograph

Once again, Delma has not stuck doggedly to the past, eschewing a period acrylic glass in favour of a modern domed, sapphire crystal which should prove less prone to scratching or cracking.

Delma Continental - Bicompax Chronograph

The chronograph pushers exhibit a capstan-like appearance and the crown does not unduly protrude beyond the case. The watch is supplied on a 7-rows stainless steel bracelet. Both the case and the bracelet are executed to a high standard with a tasteful combination of brushed and polished surfaces. Furthermore, appraising each surface with an extended forefinger reveals an impressive degree of smoothness. 

The dorsal flank of the watch head features a pane of sapphire crystal affording views of the automatic movement within.

The movement

At the heart of the Continental is the Sellita SW510 movement. As I stated earlier, the sample I viewed a few weeks ago featured the correct movement, however, it lacked the decoration and personalised rotor planned for the retail-ready version. It is for this reason that I feel unable to comment further on the finishing of the movement.

The Sellita SW510 is a cam operated chronograph. The date has a quick setting feature and the crown allows the wearer to hack the seconds. The frequency of the balance is 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and the movement contains 27 jewels. Assuming the mainspring is fully wound, the movement will run autonomously for up to 48 hours.

Closing remarks

The Delma Continental is a handsome timepiece courtesy of its dial topography, colourway and sublime symmetry granted by the bicompax layout. The Lengnau-based company has infused the main dial area and the registers with subtle details such as sunray-brush and snailing. 

In terms of business, Delma optimises its ‘marketing mix’, using price as a successful means of differentiating its products. However, it clearly doesn’t abandon quality or design. Over the last few years, I have worn an array of Delma models and they have always felt well made, the Continental proves no exception. Put simply, this model exhibits an impressive quality-price ratio and is deserving of numerous plaudits.

Moving forward, I think the brand should consider offering the Delma Continental with a range of leather straps. Like many watch collectors, I always favour the appearance of a leather or fabric strap, albeit there is nothing wrong with the Continental’s bracelet.

In some respects, I confess to being a laggard. I don’t adapt to change very well and I certainly feel detached from today’s youth culture. The Delma Continental reminds me of a bygone era when music was fabulous and life seemed slightly less complicated. The Swiss brand has cleverly taken horophiles back in time without giving up the benefits of modern-day watch ownership. Indeed, the Lengnau-based Maison has shown there is much sense in looking to the past while living in the present.

Further reading

https://www.delma.ch/

Technical specifications

  • Model: Delma Continental
  • Case: Stainless steel; diameter 42mm; water resistance 10ATM (100 metres); sapphire crystal to front; exhibition case back.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; date, chronograph
  • Movement: Sellita SW510, automatic movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 27 jewels; power reserve 48 hours.
  • Strap: 7-rows stainless steel bracelet
  • Price: CHF 2,600 (RRP as at 10.6.2020)

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