Let me be absolutely honest from the start. When I first saw the Tutima military chronograph I could not understand what all the fuss was about. I had read a lot about its history and its specifications and found them impressive. Truth be told though, I did not care much for its appearance. It most definitely wasn’t what people call love at first sight.
Fast forward a few months later and I came across a nicely preserved, Bund issued example at a very good price. I thought I could get it, try it and if I don’t like it just flip it for something more eye pleasing. Having spent two weeks with it I have to admit that I have fallen head over heels for it. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t care much for its looks but its expertly thought-out design and functionality manage to win you over in a heartbeat. The watch does everything that was designed to do and nothing that it wasn’t. That’s the beauty of it.
In my everyday life, I work as a mechanical engineer, I wish I could say that during the last two weeks I have used the watch to time total flight times or rate of ascends and descends. I find myself buried in calculations, spreadsheets and project planning much more frequently than I care to admit. The watch has then been utilised for much more peasant activities such as timing assembly and disassembly procedures, monitoring my rest intervals at the gym or even making sure that my steak was perfectly cooked. Well, the fact that it can perform those duties perfectly, while at the same time it can be used to save a fighter jet’s pilot’s life is what makes it so astonishingly versatile, good and brilliant.
The whole design is so unapologetically simple but boy has it been thought out well. Would you put it on to go to a formal ball and expect it to remain hidden? Certainly not. Its sheer size might put some people off but every design decision is justifiable as will be discussed below.
Measuring 42mm in diameter is quite on par with some of the more modern watches and considering that it had to be used under severe stress conditions and while wearing leather gloves it suddenly starts making sense. The case features a nicely done sandblasted finish, it has no sharp edges and its cushion shape does away from using one of the most prominent features of a wristwatch; the lugs. As an engineer I cannot but appreciate an ingenious design feature when I see it. The shape of it not only makes it almost impossible to be trapped between clothes or in different recesses but also safe proofs it against any other injuries that it might inflict. Considering that its operational environment is a hostile, space confined cockpit then every decision was absolutely spot on.
The peculiar shape of the pushers not only achieves the above mentioned prerequisites but also promotes the illusion that they need much less force to operate than their similar push button counterparts found in other Lemania 5100 chronographs. Well the force needed to operate the pushers will always be the same but it is now distributed in a much wider area reducing the pressure that is felt by the operator’s finger. Absolutely genius! Their bigger size, also makes it easier to be operated by a pilot while wearing gloves.
There are so many things that have been written about the Legendary Lemania 5100 movement and I doubt that my contribution will make significant difference. Late Chuck Maddox’s articles can prove to be a valuable source of information. The bottom line is that the movement is an absolute workforce which features the easily distinguishable centre minute sweep hand and it was used by Tutima and other manufacturers such as Sinn and Orfina because it was the only chronograph at the time that could withstand the extreme acceleration and deceleration conditions that were specified by the German Air Force. The use of the 5100 is in large responsible for the height of the case.
Tutima has managed to take what in other watches using the 5100 is considered as a busy dial and make it one of the most legible ones I have ever encountered. The white stick hands rest against a mate black dial featuring flush subdials and black day date wheels. The hour markers are also applied around the dial and the chapter ring has lost the tachymetre scale and is instead graduated from 1 to 12 saving valuable space in the dial and making it decluttered. The chronograph seconds’ hand as well as the 24 hour subdial hand are much thinner than the ones used by competitors and hence don’t dominate the dial as much. The use of orange hands for the chronograph function makes it extremely easy to distinguish and filter relevant and appropriate information even under extremely stressful conditions. I couldn’t believe how many times I looked into the dial and my brain only registered the chronograph information instead of the time and vice versa, depending on what I was looking for.
As I mentioned above, this wasn’t love at first sight but I have fallen for the watch. Everything does exactly what is supposed to do in the most optimal way possible. It is not just down to plain luck that Tutima started supplying the Bundeswehr with watches in 1985 and only stopped in the mid ‘00s just because the movement was discontinued. Such was the success of the design of the military chronograph that Tutima has spent resources, time and money in modifying the Valjoux 7750 to mirror the functions and the dial of the Lemania 5100 and they decided to place it in their flagship model, the M2.
Instead of a conclusion; Are you going to wear it to a ball and sweep her off her feet? Probably not… Would you even want to, just because of the watch? If you are reading this I don’t think so. So if it is good enough for a pilot then it is more than good enough for me.
PS: The watch is not part of my collection any longer. Unfortunately, I had to move it on in order to pursue another piece at the time. I still feel the same about it though!