#TBT Venus Big Date Movement Trio Calibers Venus 211, Venus 216, and Venus 221 by Tomas RosputinskyJanuary 16, 2020 MIN READ#TBT Venus Big Date Movement Trio
Allow me to celebrate my first year with Fratello by sharing the story behind my completion of the late fifties Venus Big Date movement family.
It’s no coincidence that I chose and planned this article for today. At this time last year (January 10th to be precise), I wrote my first ever article for Fratello Magazine. As a vintage watch nerd, my first piece happened to be #TBT article. To mark the occasion, I wanted to write about something special. After quickly scanning my collection, I decided to delve into a non-traditional date chronograph from Bucherer. I found this model particularly interesting because of its movement. Not only did it feature a flyback chronograph mechanism, but it also boasted a big date. And when I say a big date, I really (really) mean it.
Venus Big Date family
From my research into the Venus Big Date family, I was aware three variations existed. In addition to the chronograph I covered last year, there was also a classic three-hand set Venus 221, and a going seconds sub-dial variant powered by the Venus 216. With an article from Balazs in mind, titled the Holy Trinity of vintage Angelus watches, I imagined how cool it would be to put all the Venus Big Dates together. Well, a year ago I didn’t have them. But I am happy to say that’s no longer the case. I succeeded in acquiring them, so you (and I) can enjoy a Fratello Holy Trinity vol.2, this time featuring the Big Date movements by Venus.
Time and tenacity
What makes me especially happy is that I managed to line them up in such a short time. Being able to shine a spotlight on them for you a year after introducing the first Big Date Venus 211 is a real Pleasure. This endeavor taught me one thing: Watch collecting is about far more than money. Tracking down little-known models like these takes time and tenacity. And a whole lot of luck.
Under scrutiny, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Venus Big Date movements. They are simply criminally under-reported on watch appreciation sites. This kind of movement is a watch collector’s dream. Under the hood, an under-the-radar classic is beating away. And best of all, it can be had for a fraction of the price of similar technology from a better-known name.
Under the hood, an under-the-radar classic is beating away.
And truth be told, Venus has put out plenty of movements that rival the quality of classic Lemanias and Valjoux calibers. You just have to know where to find them.
Big Date movement rarity
Whether or not a chronograph needs a date is a discussion for another day. In this article, we’re celebrating one of the finest examples of date integration I’ve seen so far. The date is a much-loved complication and one some uses simply demand to see on their wrists. And so finding ways of presenting that information in a novel and balanced manner is a challenge, not all brands are up to.
The charm of the big date idea was rediscovered in recent years with some big-budget brands like A. Lange & Söhne that dusted off the concept again in 1994. It didn’t take long for smaller brands to follow. To mention one of the latest releases, check Carl F. Bucherer Heritage Bicompax Annual.
The Big Date charm
First and foremost, it’s the size of Venus Big Dates. The double-digit window spreads over the size of two typical date window apertures. Isn’t it too big? Well, I’d say that’s the point. While a typical date window is integrated into the time track around the 3 o’clock marker, the Venus Big Date moves the playground into the center where it doesn’t compete for your attention while reading the time. Its positioning gives it space to breathe without interrupting any other element on the dial. The Venus 211 puts it above six, while the Venus 216 and 221 display it on the premium 12 spot below.
Landing Cornavin Venus 221
As you already know, the first Big Date I landed was the Bucherer chronograph with a Venus 211 movement. Last summer, I met a Swiss collector who specialized in restoring vintage Omega Speedmasters. His collection contained some rare candy. A quirky dead seconds Tourist piqued my interest, but it was the NOS (new old stock) Cornavin Geneve Datocor in his collection that stole my heart. After our meeting, this cute 32mm Big Date was no longer part of his collection.
Cornavin Geneve Datocor
If I tell you that Datocor was one of the most recognized models of the brand, you will immediately understand why you’ve never heard of it before. Datocor was introduced around 1955. That’s a solid four decades before the A. Lange’s 1 Big Date reincarnation. The dial is quite small, but with the amount of wording on it, it easily challenges any Submariner. Although half a fairy tale is printed on the glossy black dial, it still feels very tidy. The relatively chunky case with unusually long lugs ensures that the Datocor doesn’t get lost on your wrist despite the small diameter.
The Datocor boasts what is about as close to a perfect dial as I have seen. What seems like a modest dress watch is given an extra spark thanks to the short but wide hour and minute hands filled with luminescent material. Over time, it has become a pleasing pale sandy tone and perfectly fits the lume dots at the hour markers. The more I wear it, the more it grows on me. The silver minute track, triangular markers, and Arabic numbers engagingly play with light. Most Venus Big Dates come with light-colored dials, so finding a black one isn’t easy. I’ve seen only a few black chronographs with the 211 movements, and the same is true of the Venus 221 and Datocors.
A steel case
If you expected a chromed case, you would be as surprised as I was. A steel case at that time and of this size was not common. Considering the asking price for a Datacor in 2020 is still only around 300 to 600 euros for one in pristine condition, a steel case seems too good to be true. But watch out for after-market crowns! An original winding button should look like the one on the photographed model. The big belly on the crown adds to the overall chubby image and should be signed with a big ‘C’ letter. By the way, most of the Datocors are gold plated and often very worn, so if you see a solid example, don’t hesitate.
On the side of the case at the 2 o’clock mark, there is a pin for setting the date. In comparison to the Bucherer or Fortis that I will soon get into, this function on the Datocor is better. Yet on the other two watches, the date changer pin is less visible and hence not as distracting. The Cornavin Datocor doesn’t try to hide it. In fact, it’s rather prominent. Some will enjoy form so blindly following function; some will question the necessity of it. Large as it is, you don’t need to be afraid of unintentionally pressing it as a sturdy toothpick (or equivalent) is required to engage the jump mechanism.
Big Date Trio completed
Were it not for a fellow watch collector that knows about my affection for early date watches, I would not be writing this article today. @justmywacthes spotted the last Venus I needed to complete the set, a Big Date with a sub-second. I was astonished to learn that the movement I sought has been calling a 37mm Fortis home for the past few decades. I’d never seen or heard of this movement in such a large case. But it works exceptionally well. The proportions are superb and fit the movement surprisingly well. And it is the first time I have seen or heard of the movement in a Fortis, which was a nice surprise.
Image source: eBay
Fortis Big Date Venus 216
In terms of the size, the Fortis Big Date is just spectacular and shouldn’t feel inferior when compared to any contemporary dress watches. I’m not a huge fan of the so-called “spider lugs”, but aside from that, I believe it to be an almost perfect dress watch. The lugs do give it a dash of vintage flair that I might prefer to see replaced by stronger, sportier lugs for a more contemporary feel, but it is an excellent example of a watch of its time.
Big Date Holy Trinity together
To see all three of them resting next to each other on a soft leather pouch evokes genuine joy in me. Especially with the unique 37mm Fortis, the gang exudes extra charm. All of them need some help when the date jumps from 31 to 32. But advancing the date up to 39 and over to 01 is part of the reason why I am so under their spell. It’s so different and reminds me that a bit of manual work won’t kill or discomfort me. I won’t deny that sometimes I do not advance the Venus Big Date, and I walk around with a 33 or 00 peaking from the dial, attracting curious glances of people puzzled in a ‘What the hell is it on his wrist?!’ kind of way. None of these watches has disappointed me. If you get the chance to pick any of them up, I’d be first in line to encourage you to pull the trigger. Happy hunting!
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About the author
During the day time, Tomas is an entrepreneur in the advertising, automotive and IT software industries. At night he turns into a watch enthusiast searching for quirky movements or vintage pieces with strong stories behind. Tomas was born and bred… read more
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