Eterna Caliber 852 – 52 Mondayz, week #3 -2020 Eterna’s iconic jumbo with a legendary caliber by Balazs FerencziJanuary 13, 2020 MIN READEterna Caliber 852 – 52 Mondayz, week #3 -2020
I thought long and hard about what watch I should feature in today’s 52 Mondayz articles. Eventually, I decided that it should be my Eterna 852, and here’s why…
I wanted a watch that is clean and simple. Something I can leave on my wrist the whole week, no matter what I’m wearing. I’m into chronographs and that would be my normal go-to style. But this week I wanted something different. This week I wanted a time-only piece that was big enough to satisfy my relatively large wrist. I’m into “jumbo” watches — like my Omega 2505 or the Angelus 216 — and have acquired a few over the years. While customers of the day (back in the 50s or 60s) considered these models huge, they are hardly humongous by today’s standards. And while many refer to Eterna watches fitted with caliber 852 as jumbos because of the reaction to them at the time of their release, I don’t buy into it. To me, these watches have a great aesthetic balance and wrist presence despite their (relatively diminutive) diameter and look great on anyone.
A watch with a light face, 36.4mm steel case, and a leather strap makes for, in my opinion, a seriously versatile option. You can wear it with anything or hide it under a cuff if you need to. And if pale dials aren’t your thing, don’t despair: Not all of these 852 watches came with white (or beige) dials; some were fitted with black dials instead. Finding them on the market, however, is not as easy as one might think. They developed quite a fanbase over the years. Partly because of their elegant looks; partly because of their relatively large diameters (for watches of this era). I had been looking for one for quite some time before luck struck a few months ago. I came across this very watch on Instagram. I immediately sent the post over to my great friend Giuseppe in Italy. He knows a good deal about 852s, so if anyone could tell me about it, it was him. He gave me the ok, and the watch was mine.
The case is steel with drilled lug holes, which is ideal for mid-week strap switches. The bezel is smooth and relatively thick (at about 2.7mm) for this type of watch. The lugs are short and 18mm apart. Overall the Eterna looks and feels sturdy. The exciting part is not the front, though: It’s the inscription on the case back. Search for Eterna 852, and I guarantee you’ll come across a watch with a case back like mine. Even Giuseppe had one. It reads “Johann Müller Für Treue Dienste 1928-1953,” and it would roughly translate to “Johann Müller For Faithfull service 1928-1953”. So, was it a retirement watch? The years indicate 25 years of service. Then how come there are more out there with similar engravings? The answer is much more straightforward than that.
The logo above the engraving says Von Roll, while the text below the dates read “Eisenwerk Klus,” which means Klus Ironworks. Von Roll (-Holding AG) is one of the oldest industrial companies in Switzerland operating worldwide. The predecessor of the company (Eisenwerke der Handelsgesellschaft der Gebrüder Dürholz & Co. (Ironworks of the commercial firm of the Brothers Durholz & Co.) was founded in 1803. In 1810 Von Roll & Cie. (formed by Ludwig Freiherr von Roll and Jakob. von Glutz) took over the business, renaming it Ludwig von Roll & Cie. The rest, as they say, is history. Von Roll has many subsidiaries all over the country. Klus Ironworks was one of them. As a matter of fact, it was one of the oldest ones.
Balsthal, Eisenwerk Klus Photo courtesy of https://www.balsthal-collector.ch/
In 1810, the newly formed company Ludwig von Roll & Cie. received permission to build a blast furnace facility in Gaensbrunnen and Klus. Sadly, due to financial difficulties, Von Roll closed the Eisenwerk Klus in 1994. But back in 1953, the business was booming, it seems. Von Roll was celebrating its 150th anniversary, and I believe it was for this occasion that watches were given out to employees. Probably to people like Mr. Müller who, by that point, had already been working for the company for 25 years. He received this beautiful Eterna 852, and clearly took good care of it. The watch remained intact over the years, and it surely will while in my possession. Eterna’s manufacture was in Grenchen, about 31 kilometers from Klus, so whoever bought the watches likely wanted a local brand. Now let’s move on to the caliber.
Eterna Caliber 852
I could not find any reference number for the watch. Although we are constantly bombarded with evermore extravagant references these days, it wasn’t that uncommon for a watch of this era to be issued without one. Instead, vintage fans, simply refer to them as the Eterna 852. The numeral designates the caliber that Eterna built into these timepieces.
There is no caliber marking on the movement, only the manufacture’s name and a movement serial number.
There are two types of Eterna 852 calibers: The 852 S and the 852 C. These letters refer to the placement of the seconds hand. 852 S watches have a sub-seconds hand; 852 C watches have a central seconds hand (like mine). There is no caliber marking on the movement, only the manufacture’s name and a movement serial number. Both 852 calibers are manual wind. They are fitted with 15 jewels and offer about 50 hours of power reserve, running at 18,000vph. My serial number is 3,6XX XXX, which, according to various Eterna collector sites, corresponds to the production year of 1952. This matches the engraving perfectly.
There is another type of 852, well-known to collectors, but less well-known to the wider world. Made for the Czech air force, these exclusive 852 models differ in a couple of ways. Rectangular cases and a case back engraving that reads Majetek Vojenksé Správy (which means “Military Property”) set them apart from the standard models.
As far as I know, three brands supplied watches for the Czech air force: Lemania, Longines, and Eterna. Out of the three, the Eternas were the smallest but still larger than my regular 852. While my Eterna 852 is no military watch, it is still a very special piece. It is a fantastic watch with a ton of character and history that will serve me well for the next week (and hopefully many more weeks to come). If you’re interested in tracking down one of these pieces for yourself, you shouldn’t have to pay more than €1,000 for an excellent example. As always, buy the best model you can afford, and you’ll love it — I guarantee it. Learn more about Eterna and its modern line-up here.
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About the author
Balázs joined Fratello Watches in 2014 and he has been a fan of watches as long as he can remember. His passion for watches really took off in 2007 when he purchased his first fine Swiss timepiece. From 2007 up… read more
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