Frank Berto comments on the 1981 Huret Commander that:
Developing this theme, the Huret Commander is often wheeled out by Europhiles as evidence that the Old World was producing a plausible indexed derailleur long before SIS was even a twinkle in Shimano’s eye. To me this seems like just so much arrant nonsense.
My understanding of the Commander was that Germany was one of the few markets where Shimano’s late 1970’s Positron system had enjoyed any kind of sales success - partly because Germans were used to Fichtel und Sachs Torpedo hub-gears and liked commuting bikes with gear changes that went ‘click’. Sachs were particularly concerned that easy-to-use indexed derailleur systems would take market share from their hub gears. When Sachs bought Huret, in 1980, one of their first priorities was to provide the German market with a workable alternative to Positron.
Positron was a low-end steel system based around the timeless Shimano Skylark geometry. Lo and behold, the Commander is a low-end steel system based around the timeless Shimano Skylark geometry!
When it came out I doubted that the Commander was made in the Huret factory. The Shimano-style design with two sprung pivots, the shape of the hanger, the look of the rivets, the lack of any name at all on the plastic pulley wheels - all of these things are very untypical of Huret. Finally there is no mention of being ‘made in France’ anywhere on the derailleur - and Huret rarely omitted that particularly crucial phrase. My bet would be on a Taiwanese manufacturer being the source.
The actual indexing mechanism works by the cable being wound around a drum that turns a cam that drives a roller to 5 different positions. This is extremely similar to the system used by SunTour on their 1979 SunTour SMS Max.
So the Commander might be an innovative Franco-German work of genius, or it might be a Taiwanese-made design based on an amalgam of Shimano’s existing Skylark geometry and SunTour’s existing cam-based indexing system. I have no concrete evidence either way, but I fear the later is probably nearer the truth.
This example has a 5 position cam (the Sachs-Huret Commander (12900) in this collection is a 6 speed).
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