In an effort to find an inexpensive, vintage chronograph, I’ve been hunting on Ebay for Sorna watches. The Sorna brand, which was once a relatively powerful figure in the mechanical industry – laid to waste, obviously, by the flood of cheap quartz pieces in the 1980s – is now being used to flog those selfsame cheap quartz pieces that I had no interest in. The only other Sorna piece I could find, then, was a nasty world time watch that looked like Captain America had just gotten over some constipation. Therefore, I was stuck with considering Jacky Ickx bullhead chronos. Instead of a Jacky Ickx, however, I just picked up just an “Icky” Sorna chronograph that has a certain, if dubious, charm.
At first glance, it’s a fairly plain watch in a unique configuration. The chronograph minutes register is at 8 o’clock while the constant seconds hand is at 3 o’clock. When engaged, the center seconds hand and the hour hand are activated, using power from the sweep seconds hand.
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The movement, which was apparently used in Heuer watches back in the day, is a charmer. The first thing I did was open it up and oil it a bit and found the strange “pitchfork” holding down the chronograph transmission quite charming. When you press the button at 1 o’clock, the chrono movement engages and the second hand begins to move. When you press the same button again, it pauses the chronograph. Then, when pressing the 11 o’clock button halfway, you can restart the chronograph or, pressing it down completely, reset it to zero.
The date register at 12 o’clock is quite unique. It changes when you turn the crown left or, more correctly, in the same direction as the winding mechanism. Turning the crown right will set the time. This strange behavior aside, the movement is a 17-jewel throwback to a simpler time and it is clear that this movement was the last of its breed, an inbred and strangely primitive solution that predated our digital age.
The case is black plastic and the crystal is acrylic. The back plate is a pressed sheet of stainless steel that is press fit to a PVD coated rim of metal. The outer bezel is gold-colored and there is an inner chapter ring and the words “Swiss Made” at 6 o’clock.
On the wrist it’s not an unattractive piece and, at the price, this mechanical chronograph is a welcome addition to a new watch lover’s inventory. Is this a great watch? Absolutely not. It is the missing link between antiquity, the quartz revolution, and todays mechanical renaissance and, as such, it’s a charming and thought provoking piece.
— John Biggs
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