Precista vs CWC Chrono

I was asked by several military watch enthusiasts to take a quick look at the CWC 1970s remake Chronograph, the MWC equivalent and the Precista PRS-5 which are pretty much identical in basic appearance though the Precista is no longer in production. Unfortunately I could not get my hands on all three at the same time which would have been ideal. One thing I should point out before anyone says the Precista and MWC are copies of the CWC is that both the CWC, MWC and the Precista are based on the original Hamilton which is pictured below. That design in turn was originaly based on Def STAN 66-4 (Parts 1-3) which at the time specified a single pusher (as used on the Lemania at that time) chronograph mechanism. Two pushers was later deemed acceptable and an amendment to the Standard was made. The end result of this is that these watches trace their origins back to the 1970s and are therefore a very historic design. 
One thing I found interesting is Hamilton are offering a remake of this model now too although its close to the CWC in price and although it looks nice generally my feeling is that it has a rather busy dial design compared to the original but some people might like this and it is very much in the tradition of these watches this model is pictured below.


The direct descendant of the Precista, MWC and CWC chronographs as well as the current Hamilton above is the original Hamilton model pictured below.This one is from 1975 and was manufactured for the R.A.F. it used a handwinding, cal. Valjoux 7733 movement which is similar to the Valjoux 7760 used in todays CWC model. The original Hamilton is virtually identical to the Precista and CWC in case design but the CWC is 41mm in width including the crown and 47mm lug to lug, the MWC is the largest of the three watches. The original watch from Hamilton was rather smaller at 38,5 mm diameter including the crown than the later models. The Hamilton was itself based closely on the Lemania pictured at the bottom of the page which it replaced.

1975 RAF Issue Hamilton Pilots Chronograph

It is interesting to note that the original 1975 Hamilton, CWC and Precista have significantly differing case finishes although the actual design is very much the same.


Although the CWC, MWC and Precista look similar they are in fact very different although all three are of excellent quality and represent great value for money although the Precista is unfortunately not currently in production. The CWC uses a 29 jewel Mechanical hand-wind, Valjoux ETA 7760 with modification. The Precista uses a ST-19 movement and the MWC uses a modified variant of the ST-19 as well with improvements. The ST-19 is a 19 jewel column-wheel chronograph movement and is very much tried and tested and is directly descended from a Venus 175 movement.

As far as case finish I think the Precista and MWC have the edge, where this gets interesting is when we come to price. The Precista has to be taken out of the equation as I said earlier because it is not in production but the CWC is now £1500 although a friend who lent me his to take a look at swore it was only £899 when he bought it from Silverman's 2 years back and I confirmed this is correct at here you can see it was £899 last year and now £1500 - I wish my earnings went up that quick! In fairness though the strength of the Swiss Franc will not be helping CWC and is one of the reasons MWC assemble in Germany. The CWC on current sale at £1500 can be seen 
here and the MWC is here and whilst all three of these are limited editions the MWC is only £395 so somewhat of a bargain. In my opinion the CWC was not particularly overpriced at £899 and it does have an interesting heritage but at £1500 it might be well beyond the reach of some people but one thing that is apparent from looking at eBay is that used examples tend to hold their price well. Coming back to the watches themselves I can confirm that they are really not that identical but they are visually similar. I measured the watches and the Precista seems fractionally thicker at just under 15mm as opposed to 14mm on the CWC the diameter at 41mm including the crown is the same on both watches, as far as the lug to lug measurement the Precista is just over 1mm less than the 47mm measurement of the CWC. The strap size on both is 20mm but the MWC is larger as I mentioned earlier at 44mm exc crown and 45.5mm inc crown in width with a 22mm band which looks more balanced on the larger case size.

I must say that the sand blasted case on the Precista and MWC models have the edge visually over the polished stainless steel case of the CWC. As far as the action of the movements is concerned all three watches always operated perfectly and I found them to be very accurate over the time they were on test.

It was interesting that when a watchmaker I know removed the case back of the Precista he thought the movement was a Venus 175 calibre movement as I mentioned above which was produced between 1940 and the mid 1960's. I am informed that Seagull bought the original tooling from Venus and that the parts used in the Sea-Gull ST1901 are fully interchangeable. Based on a few parts the watchmaker had in stock for comparison he tended to share this view and further confirmed it when he looked at the last of the three to be test which was the MWC.

This is the spec of the ST1901 Movement
  • Diameter: 31.3 mm
  • Height: 6.25mm
  • 19 Jewels
  • Power Reserve: approximately 38 hours
  • Manual Winding
  • Shock resistance (Incabloc style)
  • Beats Per Hour: 21,600
  • Constant seconds at 9
  • Non Hacking
  • 30 minute chronograph with 2 pushbuttons
  • Chronograph seconds by central hand
  • Minutes counter at 3
  • Column wheel control
  • Blued screws
  • Machine applied ‘Sea-Gull’ Stripes
I noted one point which is that the Precista uses spring pins. Personally I prefer fixed pins but it is no big deal and might be a plus for some people who wish to fit a leather strap. MWC use screw pins which has the advantage of being almost as strong as fixed pins but where they can be removed but its so fiddly I would tend to avoid it.

If I was asked which I would buy I think it would have had to be the Precista (if available) or the MWC because I prefer the finish and price is obviously a major factor but as the Precista is discontinued and other than locating one secondhand the only option is the CWC or the MWC. If you are interested in a more detailed review of this watch check out this URL this review is much more detailed than mine but seems to view the watch just as favourably as I have. In summary I recommend the Precista PRS-5 watch as being excellent value and a nice timepiece for frankly very little money.

Returning to the MWC as I said earlier its a Limited Edition model with a number of detail improvements to improve operation and visibility. MWC had not made this model for some years due to difficulty sourcing a movement to fit the requirements but apparently they recently found a solution by modifying some mechanical movements to enable limited production of this model. Clearly movement issues are why these models tend to come and go as far as availability.

The watch below is my own Hybrid variant of the mechanical model and is almost identical in every way. The use of the Hybrid mechanical / quartz movement suggests the plan at the MWC factory was to produce the Hybrid and then add the mechanical when possible. The hybrid movement is interesting in itself because when you reset the watch its timing functions appear mechanical. The reason is when you push the reset button the chronograph hands are disengaged from the quartz module and snapped back to zero so it behaves exactly like a mechanical model. What this means is that you don't get the sweep back to zero that is typical of most conventional quartz chronographs so the end result is a great compromise between quartz timekeeping with the plus that it looks and feels very much like a mechanical chronograph. When I compared the mechanical model we are evaluating here and the Hybrid model they seemed very much the same apart from the Hybrid having a date window.


Technical Details of the MWC Mechanical Military Chronograph
  • Movement: 19 Jewel Handwound Mechanical movement
  • Case Diameter: 44mm exc crown and 45.5mm inc crown
  • Lug to Lug 49mm
  • Thickness: 13.5mm
  • Dial Colour: black 
Case Material: 316L Sand blasted Stainless Steel
  • Caseback: 316L stainless steel
  • Water Resistance: 5atm (50m or 165ft)
  • Glass: Hardened Mineral Glass



The CWC 1970s Remake Chronograph

As a point of interest the watch below is the Lemania which we mentioned at the beginning which has a a single pusher chronograph mechanism. These watches were issued in the 1950's and 60's. Lemania chronographs were used by the UK forces between 1945 and 1970, during this time the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm were issued with various Lemania chronographs (marked with the the Admiralty arrow on the case back and dial). They were also issued for the Swedish army, South Africa, Australia and probably others too.

RAF Lemania Chronograph

The caliber 2220 pictured below is the shock-resistant, monopusher version of Lemania’s highly-regarded 15-ligne chronograph movement (used in pocketwatches in the 1930s, especially in military wristwatches).