A hidden world of watches in Waldan
You may never have heard of Oscar Waldan, but the watch world knew his name well. He designed for almost every great watch brand, worked with the watch industries most famous names and saved the mechanical chronograph from extinction.
The heart of a Waldan watch
The heart of a Waldan watch is a mechanical complication based on the most reliable and legendary Swiss movements, from El Primero to Valjoux 7751. This ‘insiders’ brand makes only 100 to 250 a year of any model and currently produces only 6 models, although Oscar’s son Andrew is expanding the line.
This model 0181B Oscar Waldan Astronic shows Oscar’s gift for maintaining an elegant look in a watch packed with functionality. The three subdials, for date, tachymeter and moonphase, are well-balanced with the day/month apertures, and a date window that tucks nicely into the 4:30 slot. The movement behind this miracle is a Zenith “El Primero” 3019 PHF.
The iconic Waldan
If you want the absolutely iconic Waldan, go for the Ref 0195 Chronograph Chronometer. COSC certified, 25 jewels in an 18K gold case. The movement is Valjoux 7751 with 6 complications: day of the week, date, month, GMT, rotating moonphase and chronograph. The 195 has a 38mm case and comes in a variety of dial colors, including this gorgeous British racing green.
A watch steeped in history
Oscar Waldan’s first-hand knowledge of the watch industry began when the Nazi’s invaded his native Poland. He was sent to Buchenwald and later Theresienstadt, where he chanced to meet a watchmaker known only as Manek. Oscar shared his fascination with watches, and under his tutelage, helped repair watches for the guards, an ability that helped him survive.
The land of opportunity
Upon Liberation, Oscar moved to New York. He got by repairing watches, but was soon bored, so he went back to Europe to study horology in Switzerland and Germany. In 1953, he started work at the first of many fine watchmakers – Charles Tissot. He was soon creating his own designs, under the tutelage of renowned designer Roger Haas. It was during this time that he created the Tissot Navigator, with 24 time zones.
With his American connections, Waldan was able to expand Tissot’s presence in the U.S. Next he sold watches for the Holzer Watch Company and then was hired by Universal Geneve in 1959 as both a sale executive and VP of Merchandising and Styling.
Learning from the masters
At Universal, he worked with master designer Gerald Genta who became a great friend. Through that relationship, he was granted access to the Rolex/Wilsdorf collection. The time he spent studying these masterworks sparked his love of complications
Relationships were important to Oscar, and he kept up a correspondence with industry legends, including Adolphe Vallat of Omega, Hans Homberger of IWC Schaffhausen and Rene Denten of Rolex. Their conversations about the watch industry and the insights they shared about watch production influenced Oscar’s thinking and consequently, the future direction of the industry.
By the mid-seventies, he was well-regarded for the breadth of his knowledge. He offered his services to Vacheron Constantin, to expand their US distribution, but they declined. Stung, he struck out on his own, founding Waldan International in 1979. He established a factory in Bienne, Switzerland and an office in New York. On his own at last, he focused on creating classical chronographs using only 18KT gold and platinum.
Bucking the revolution
Waldan’s greatest legacy was his unending faith in the beauty of a mechanical watch. When the quartz technology revolution upended the watchmaking world in the 80s, Waldan saw a chance to double down on his passion. Major Swiss manufacturers were panic-selling off swathes of stock movements and parts. Betting against the tide, Waldan used his past connections to purchase gold chronographs from Universal Geneve and 100 retro Valjoux 88 movements.
He used the parts to produce a limited edition for Tiffany & Co, Verdura, Asprey and Tourneau. The watches were met with great success and he went on to produce the renowned “El Primero 3019PHF column wheel chronograph” for Ulysse Nardin.
Soon after, Waldan found out about thousands of abandoned Zenith 2522PC automatic chronograph movements. He loved the quality of these moonphase chronograph movements and scooped them up. He drew up designs and production plans, but lacked the capital to go forward, so he turned to Ebel, which produced his design in 1980.
Then he collaborated again with his friend, Gerald Genta, on the design of a wrist repeater. A small hammer rings the time at regular intervals – hours, quarter hours and minutes – on the inside of the caseback. Today these are collector’s items.
The return of the mechanical chronograph
He shared his idea to reprise a mechanical chronograph with his dear friend Diether Kubel Wilsdorf, of Rolex. Wilsdorf used Waldan’s ideas to bring back the Rolex chronograph using a Zenith movement. That led to the relaunch of the chronograph with Rolex and other Swiss brands, fueling the post-quartz boom and the mechanical watch craze that continues to this day.
Waldan watches are unique hybrids of the best complications and unique, refined designs.
The family-owned business continues to attract collectors with an insider’s appreciation of the quality, functionality, and craftsmanship they represent.
The next generation grows
Oscar’s son, Andrew, worked with his father practically from the cradle and today is slowly and subtly updating the line. This Chronograph Chronometer, ref 3986R has the heart and soul of the 195 and a chunky 42mm case.
He’s even broken the gold/platinum tradition with this sporty titanium Ref.3986S!
Who wears a Waldan?
Andrew Waldan has said that he hates walking into a room and seeing 10 watches just like his. That’s the Waldan point of view in a nutshell. A Waldan watch is an insider’s watch, a limited, private luxury made for individuals with a strong sense of quality, value and iconoclasm. Little wonder self-made men are drawn to their exclusive appeal.
To see our current selection, go to our Ebay store.