Delma Pioneer Chronograph

The Delma Pioneer Chronograph is available in a selection of variants, however, Angus Davies recently plumped for a becoming blue dial model. Its handsome dial, attractive case and ETA Valjoux 7750 movement promise much for a comparatively modest sum.

Delma Pioneer Chronograph

I have never hidden my affection for haute horlogerie. Complications, finissage and métiers d’art provide a heady cocktail I find hard to resist. However, like most people, the cost of a minute repeater, tourbillon or grand complication is beyond my financial grasp. Even those horophiles with the means to taste the sweet delights of haute horlogerie are unlikely to wear their most valuable timepieces on a daily basis.

A special watch is best enjoyed in a reverential setting. It is sacrilege to expose a peerless creation to the rough and tumble of riding on public transport. Likewise, repeatedly dragging a pristine watch against a desk or keyboard is likely to evoke trauma in any self-respecting perfectionist.

This preamble brings me to the Delma Pioneer Chronograph. It does not masquerade as the last word in haute horlogerie, however, it does fulfil the daily requirements of many well-heeled and fastidious connoisseurs, seeking a robust watch for daily use. Indeed, it will sate most requirements and provide an array of attributes which bestow ownership delight.

The dial

Delma offer the Pioneer Chronograph in a choice of dial colours as well as some bi-metallic case/bracelet options. Recently, I was drawn to a model pairing a blue dial, steel case and coordinating leather strap. After making a couple of phone calls, a press loan arrived a few days later and my three week courtship ensued.

Delma Pioneer Chronograph

Nothing quite prepared me for the tone of the dial. The pictures I had seen beforehand failed to convey the profundity of the blue canvas when viewed on my wrist. The dial is embellished with a fine sunray motif and enriched with deep blue tones which morph in the light from cobalt to indigo.

Silver-toned leaf-shaped hour and minute hands articulate the prevailing time clearly. The hours are shown with Arabic numerals, sans serifs. While the hands exhibit a classical appearance the indexes are more contemporary, however, both elements co-exist happily without a trace of dissonance.

The tri-compax layout includes a 30-minute chronograph register, a 12-hour chronograph register and a small seconds display. Each of these subdials is snailed and they share equal dimensions. Two apertures sit adjacent the crown, revealing the day and the date. Both indications use black letters and numerals set against a white backdrop, imparting meaning with impressive lucidity.

A chemin de fer frames the periphery of the dial and proves useful when reading off the minutes or elapsed seconds.

The case

The Delma Pioneer Chronograph is a horological behemoth measuring 45mm in diameter. Its immense scale may prove off-putting to some prospective wearers, however, I didn’t find the model’s dimensions to be a problem. Those seeking a smaller watch are suitably served with an array of alternative Delma models. Personally, I appreciate the proportions of the Pioneer Chronograph as it provides a large dialscape capable of displaying much information in an impressively legible form.

Delma Pioneer Chronograph

Delma has expended a significant number of Swiss francs on the case. The bezel, case band and case back are highly polished. However, the upper section of the lugs features a satin finish. Whenever two contrasting finishes are placed in close proximity, the manufacturing costs inevitably rise. It necessitates both skill and time to juxtapose two different forms of surface treatment while keeping both finishes discrete. I have painstakingly scrutinised the case with a loupe held to my right eye and I was unable to find anything remiss.

The lugs do not project far from the main watch head and taper sharply downwards. This design invites the strap to project downwards at a perpendicular angle. This small detail heightens wearer comfort and makes the watch seem smaller than its specification sheet would suggest.

The case back is another interesting design element. The sides of the case back slope towards a pane of mineral crystal which in turn grants sight of the movement. By imbuing the case back with sloping sides, the wrist can flex more readily, aiding comfort and fooling the wearer into believing the watch is smaller than its stated diameter.

Typical of most chronographs, the pusher at 2 o’clock starts/stops the stopwatch function, while the lower pusher at 4 o’clock resets the central chronograph seconds hand and the aforementioned registers. Where Delma has ventured off-piste is with the addition of a red circlet on the start/stop pusher. This detail draws the eye to the most important pusher when timing events as well as introducing an eye-catching flurry of ebullience.

The watch is supplied with a sumptuous leather strap featuring prominent white stitching. The strap is paired with a deployant which proved comfortable and secure at all times. Considering the modest price of the watch, I am surprised Delma did not elect to use a pin-buckle and enjoy the cost savings this would inevitably have provided.

The movement

The Delma Pioneer Chronograph is equipped with the venerable ETA Valjoux 7750. This cam-actuated chronograph movement was launched in 1973 and has become the darling of the watch industry. It is incredibly reliable and by eschewing costly components, such as a column-wheel mechanism, using simpler stamped components, rocking pinions and wire springs, ETA is able to deliver functionality and reliability for a comparatively modest cost.

Over the years a multitude of brands have used the ETA Valjoux 7750, including Breitling, IWC, Longines, Omega and TAG Heuer. The ETA Valjoux 7750 has earned its place in horological history and its esteemed reputation is well deserved.

Returning to the Delma Pioneer Chronograph, the oscillating weight has been personalised, sporting both Côtes de Genève motif and the brand’s logo. The movement has a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz) and the rate is regulated with an ETACHRON system. It also features 25 jewels and the power reserve is 54 hours.

Closing remarks

The dial of the Delma Pioneer Chronograph delivers impressive levels of readability. Furthermore, it exhibits a beguiling vibrancy which is hard to ignore. During my time with this watch I repeatedly stared at its dial, flexing my wrist, enticing the blue epidemis to flirt with the light. Its appearance never failed to evoke a smile of appreciation on my face.

Whether someone is an oligarch or a lesser mortal, there is always an argument for an affordable watch that exhibits an agreeable dose of Swiss luxury while proving suitable for daily use. Having worn this watch for a three week period, I have discovered its many virtues and appreciated its combination of practicality, good looks and value. Indeed, the Delma Pioneer Chronograph makes a compelling case for ownership.

Further reading

Technical specifications

  • Model: Delma Pioneer Chronograph
  • Reference: 41601.580.6.042
  • Case: Stainless steel; diameter 45mm; height 14.7mm; water resistance 10ATM (100 metres); exhibition case back. 
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; day; date; chronograph
  • Movement: ETA Valjoux 7750; automatic movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 25 jewels; power reserve 48 hours
  • Strap: Blue leather strap paired with a steel deployant
  • Price: £2,125 (RRP as at 8.1.2020)

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