Often wrongly dismissed as simply an American subsidiary of Longines, the Wittnauer brand traces back to around 1866 and a family of Swiss immigrants in New York City. Jacques Eugéne Robert partnered with his new brother in law Albert Wittnauer to develop a line of imported Swiss watches under the brand name Wittnauer. With the aim to sell in this growing market, Wittnauer watches were assembled in the states due to high import costs on Swiss-made timepieces. Longines was not the only brand imported early on, others included JLC, Vacheron, and Piaget. Wittnauer themselves sourced parts to assemble unique watches as well.
Following the passing of Jacques Eugéne and Albert, Martha Wittnauer took over the reins in 1916 becoming one of the only women at the top of the watch world and earning the nickname “Miss Time of America.” She sold the brand in 1936 to Hella Deltah Company. The new owner capitalized on the growing popularity of Longines watches by changing the name of the company to Longines-Wittnauer Company.
The brand went on to change hands a few times over its history but, contrary to popular belief, Longines has never owned and does not own Wittnauer.
Wittnauer’s reference 3256 is one of the heralded vintage options from the brand among collectors. Gear Patrol highlighted a similar example of this reference in an article titled “Found: Three Affordable Chronographs from Forgotten Watch Brands” describing it as “emblematic of the simple designs of early chronograph watches.”
3256 as a reference number was used over at least two decades by Wittnauer and can be confused as being attached to very different chronographs. This example is a part of the earlier run with a “solo dial” of Wittnauer text only at 12 o’clock and an early 12 sided screw down caseback. Later ref. 3256s featured a Wittnauer logo as well as additional, unneeded text and used a notched screw down caseback. Solo dial examples are the ones collectors gravitate to.
Condition of the stainless-steel case is excellent. The twisted lugs show little to no signs of polishing with their sharp lines and the stepped bezel is sharp whereas more polished examples tend to lose these features. The caseback shows no removal tool marks.
In consulting other examples sold around the web, the pushers and unsigned crown appear to be original to the watch or at least reference correct.
The Dial and Hands
Condition of the dial is aged and has developed a beautiful “caramel” patina. Excellent signs are the fully intact radium lume plots at each hour marker and evenness of the coloring. No scratches or marks are seen on the surface of the dial nor the hour markers. The red telemeter track appears in photos to be less visible due to the dial aging; however, in person the text is visible due to raised glossy lettering.
The alpha shaped hour and minutes hands are correct and in excellent condition showing no lume loss. All other hands, the chronograph sweep hand and subdial hands, are correct and in perfect condition.
Renamed by Wittnauer as the 14W, if you don’t recognize the Venus 188 moniker, the Valjoux 7730, introduced later in 1966, is a refined and slightly improved version of this caliber. The manually-wound chronograph movement is as good as any “generics” from the period and is namely better than the Wittnauer 14Y, Landeron 248.
This Wittnauer 14W, Venus 188 is in excellent condition with no corrosion or poor watchmaker marks showing. The watch keeps good time and the chronograph functions. The service history is unknown.
|Location||New York City|
|Movement||Manual Wind Wittnauer cal. 14W (Venus 188)|
|Dial||White aged to “caramel”|
|Case Material||Stainless Steel|
|Band Material||Leather Strap|