#TBT The Vulcain Cricket Calendar Waterproof S1521A
There was one particular Vulcain model that was missing from my Cricket collection — the late ’50s calendar model with the updated 402 caliber. And even after I found one, what a challenge it was to bring it back to its original glory!
Not counting all the weirdos that I’ve presented over the last five years, a mechanical alarm will always be my most beloved of all the traditional watch complications. Nothing beats the moment when that rattling sound explodes out from under your cuff.
The concept that has endured decades
I swear, almost every time, my Vulcain Cricket catches me unprepared, surprised, and confused for that millisecond until I realize it is just my alarm watch. Well, it only does what it was supposed to do — grab your hand (literally!) and pull you out of whatever you’re doing at the moment.
I strapped my Vulcain Cricket Calendar to my wrist yesterday and set the alarm for 9:00 when my morning kick-off meeting starts. I arrived at the office much earlier, around 7:30, and lost track of time doing something else. Right about 9:00, my wrist exploded with a sound that can be pretty confusing to random people nearby. My body jumped on my chair, which just goes to show how (un)prepared I was. My business partner, who already knows my watches, burst into laughter…again. He is not a vintage watch nerd, and the idea that someone still uses a mechanical alarm today is incredibly amusing to him. Well, he and I are so different. I guess that’s probably why we work so well together.
Vulcain Cricket Calendar Waterproof S1522A
Nothing beats the early Vulcain Cricket from the late ’40s. The needle-sharp hands with radium lume that love to age so uniquely, the dial with sectors highlighted in different shades, and the magical blue alarm track with 10-minute intervals are almost iconic.
Despite my happiness with early Crickets (of which I have maybe seven), my heart still longed to try a late ’50s model housing an updated movement with an integrated date. It felt a bit like cheating on my early models, so I didn’t pursue it too actively. But when the opportunity came, I was ready. One popped up at a small auction house with a note that it wasn’t working. Well, that’s not something you want to hear about an alarm watch, but I pulled the trigger anyway.
My first impressions of the Cricket Calendar
What a difference ten years made! Just look at these two watches sitting next to each other and wonder with me. The younger Calendar Cricket is much dressier and “tidied up.” The detail I like the most is the sub-seconds/running indicator. The short, chunky hand rotates slowly over no track. It looks like it was stuck into a mass of white snow. The two thin, crossing lines in the center make it look like a target crosshair. Having no frame around it really helps to keep the dial design light, nice, and simple.
Now comes the problem
The watch didn’t run. And even after it arrived, it didn’t run for another year or so. I took it to my watchmaker, hoping it would be something minor. Well, it was. It was just one little flat part that was broken. The problem was we that didn’t know and could not find the part number. “This winding wheel latch is broken. I tried to weld it, but it lasted just for a week and broke again,” reported my dear watchmaker. Well, I knew that I needed to source another part.
A year-long search
It was a new experience. If you need some parts for the Omega 321-powered “Ed White,” it may be challenging too just because of the desirability of the watch and the value it has. But at least you know the part numbers and people to ask for a replacement. But with the Vulcain 401/402, I was lost in darkness. I reached out to fellow Cricket enthusiast Eric Wind, but he couldn’t help source the caliber diagram or parts list either.
I was so desperate that I thought I would get the replacement part manufactured somewhere, somehow. My watchmaker discouraged me from doing so because the precision had to be perfect. He urged me to keep contacting sellers of watch parts. Eventually, he put me in contact with a seller who had helped him multiple times in the past. And it worked. I sent the seller the picture of a part I was looking for, and he found it…in NOS condition! After a year, I found my part, and I couldn’t wait to get my Cricket Calendar back in working order.
How the movement works
If you look at the pusher arrangement on Cricket Calendar, you’ll notice that it’s opposite to the early models. You can read here how early Crickets with caliber 120 work. Unlike that one, the Vulcain’s calendar caliber 402 has just one barrel to power both movement and the alarm.
To set the alarm, you must push the button at 4 o’clock first. When you pull out the crown at 2 o’clock and rotate it counterclockwise, that puts the alarm hand in motion. After setting it, don’t forget to pull out the button at 4 o’clock. Otherwise, the alarm will not engage. This happened to me a few times until I became familiar with the movement. That’s a major difference in comparison to the early caliber 120. With that one, pushing the button makes the crown pop. Once you set the alarm hand and push the crown in, the button pops back out automatically. With the Calendar model, you must pull the button at 4 o’clock back out yourself. If you want to silence the alarm once it’s on, you simply push it in again.
Practice makes perfect
In this position, the crown turns freely; you can feel it is disengaged, and it makes no winding sound. To wind the watch, you have to push the 4 o’clock alarm button first. To set the time, you first have to pull out that button, then pull out the crown at 2 o’clock to adjust the hour and minute hands. I know it sounds a bit elaborate and complicated, but trust me; you master it quickly, so it will feel natural.
Last thoughts on the Vulcain Cricket Calendar
Overall, the watch is similar but so distinct. The control of early no-date Crickets and the Calendar Cricket is more or less the same with slight differences. The sound of the alarm, however, is not. Early models are loud and almost animalistic, but the Cricket Calendar is more refined. The rounded sides of the individualistic triangular tip of the alarm hand are almost identical and look very Cricket-like. However, due to the lack of an alarm track, that hand’s tip is more prominent and perfectly visible on the Cricket Calendar. I love the date as much as I do the bold frame around it. It got the same treatment as hour indexes.
And my verdict? Well, I didn’t have any ambition to compare them. If you want an original Cricket experience, there is and always will be only one watch. If you have a spot for just one alarm watch (or Vulcain Cricket) in your collection, are hesitant about radium dials, and love having the date, your choice is clear. Happy hunting!