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Map measure of the month: the Minerva Curvimeter C-01

Minerva was the goddess of farming, craftsmanship and science
Minerva was the goddess of farming, craftsmanship and science

The Minerva Curvimeter, model number C-01, is a beautifully crafted Swiss made measure with one of the smoothest tracking mechanisms to be found. This is unsurprising, considering this instrument was made by a company skilled in producing high-quality watches.

Minerva was a brand added in 1887 to others operated by the Villeret watchmaking concern in the Bernese Jura, Switzerland. They have gone through various incarnations since being founded in 1858. Watchmaking originally comprised assembling pocket watches using third party movements. They began producing their own movements in 1895. Production expanded to include their own chronographs and stopwatches in 1908 and the company name was changed in 1923 to Fabrique d’horlogerie Minerva, Robert Frères, SA. The Minerva brand had become associated with high quality and accurate time pieces. Acknowledging this, the company again rebranded in 1929, becoming known simply as Minerva SA, Villeret.  Most recently, Minerva SA were acquired by Swiss luxury goods group Richemont in 2006, who partnered the brand with their Montblanc branch.

The company name "Minerva SA" was created in 1929
The company name “Minerva SA” was created in 1929
front face of Minerva Curvimeter C-01
rear face of Minerva Curvimeter C-01
Minerva Curvimeter C-01 in the hand
Minerva Curvimeter C-01 in the hand

The Minerva curvimeter model C-01 is an attractive item and feels comfortably robust in the hand. The back of the case has a matt finish while the front is polished stainless steel in to which a scratch resistant sapphire crystal face is set. The face of the dial is white with four concentric scales. The two in black are for measuring scales of 1:100 000 and 1:25 000, the two in red measure 1:50 000 and 1:20 000, with graduations included for each. The manufacturer name and country of origin are shown both on the front face and on the rear of the case. There are two black needles, the larger rotates and measures through the four scales, the smaller scale counts each complete revolution of the larger hand, up to a total of 12 revolutions. Pressing the button on the side of the instrument resets each hand to zero.

“indispensable for electrical fitters, central heating fitters, plasterers, painters, technicians, architects, geographers, surveyors, officiers, etc…”

The instrument is used by moving the small tracking wheel at the base along lines on a map, or anything else requiring measuring. This in turn acts on precisely machined internal gearing to rotate both needles. Unlike those found on many other map measures, the tracking wheel lacks any fine teeth. It may be thought that the lack of these would mean that the tracking wheel could occasionally skate on a map, but because the action of this analogue instrument is so smooth, the tracking and recording is faultless and there is no discernible internal resistance felt while in use. This measure is amongst the finest map measures ever produced and is extremely accurate.

1970s advert
1970s US advert for imperial C-01
Card box in which Minerva curvimeter was sold prior to the switch to a polystyrene box
Card box in which Minerva curvimeter was sold prior to the switch to a polystyrene box
Arrow logo on polystyrene box
Arrowhead logo on lid of polystyrene box

The measure could be purchased in various formats. The premium offering was a green or blue card box containing the curvimeter in a zippered leather pouch. It could also be purchased with a brown leather slip pouch. More recently, it was sold in a simple two-piece polystyrene box, not styrofoam!

Branding on the polystyrene box includes an arrowhead logo, one of the original brand recognisers from the earliest days of the Villeret watchmaking concern. This arrow brand was registered on 30th July 1887 however the measure itself is much younger than this. I am uncertain when it first appeared on the market but it was certainly being sold in the 1960s, possibly earlier, through to the first decade of the 21st century. It can still be purchased today, but only on the second-hand market.

Overall length of the Minerva Curvimeter is 97.5mm and case and dished face are 12mm thick at the extreme. The metal alloy handle is 47mm in length with a 32mm ridged section to improve grip.

Catalogue description of the Minerva Curvimeter
Description of Minerva curvimeter from trade catalogue 264. Note the words “tax meter” are additionally shown on the dial face of this instrument. Assigned model number C-01, this may have implied that other curvimeter models were also available from the company. However, in an extensive catalogue showing a myriad of Minerva stopwatches and chronometers, this is the only curvimeter to appear. The only variant on this was a change in the dial face to show imperial measurements.
Minerva curvimeter with scales in feet. Image from eBay
Minerva curvimeter C-01 with scales in feet

Now part of the umbrella Richemont group, Minerva mostly produce watch movements for their luxury goods branches such as Montblanc and Officine Panerai. Panerai have sponsored the Classic Yachts Challenge since 2004 and in 2007 the Minerva Curvimeter C-01 had a bit of a makeover and was released as the extremely limited edition Panerai Nautical Curvimeter, we looked at that lovely instrument here.

Panerai nautical curvimeter with Minerva C-01
Panerai nautical curvimeter with Minerva C-01

There are various differences between the original Minerva curvimeter and the nautical model Minerva produced for Panerai. The measuring scales are obviously different, the nautical measure being designed for use with charts. The dial face is a different colour too, as are the two screws on the front of the dial. The diameter of the tracking wheels on the two measures differ, the Minerva is 6.4mm, while the Panerai tracking wheel measures 7.8mm. While the cases are almost identical, the handles are different. The handle on the Panerai is of a better quality steel with knurling rather than ridges. The slightly ‘top light’ Minerva C-01 is considerably lighter at 54g than the better balanced 64g Panerai. The Minerva curvimeter C-01 can still be found on auction sites however a premium will have to be paid to obtain this fine quality instrument.

Three Points of the Compass has looked at a few more Map Measurers in detail. Links to these can be found here.

German advertising of the various scales found on the Minerva curvimeter
German advertising of the various scales found on the Minerva curvimeter

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