So you think you know watches right? You know your Tag’s from your Omega’s, your Breitlings from your Hugo Boss watches? Well, we’re here to educate you further, here are some brief histories of some of the most famous brands around.
Baume & Mercier
Amongst the very long and illustrious history of Swiss watch making, it takes a lot to stand out. Baume & Mercier are one of those. It all started when the Baume family settled in the Swiss Jura mountains in 1542. In 1830 the watch making house was founded, and in 1842 they chose to move the operation to a major European city, London. Having set their motto as ‘Accept only perfection, only manufacture watches of the highest quality’, they changed their name to ‘Baume Brothers’ in 1851. In 1880, the second generation took over the business and were instrumental in the building of a railway past the factory. This really opened up international trade for the company. In 1890, they entered the Kew Observatory chronometer competition and received the highest grade ever given, 91.5. In 1912, businessman Paul Mercier became involved with the company as account manager, and within eight years the company was called Baume & Mercier.
Omega watches have one of the most illustrious histories of all the watch makers. Whilst they might not be the oldest company, Louis Brandt founded the company from a small workshop just over 150 years ago. He was joined by his brother some years later, and in 1885 they produced the most accurate movement of the time. In 1892, in partnership with Audemars Piguet, the first minute repeating wristwatch was created. With the success of this and another new watch with interchangeable parts, the company’s name was changed to Omega. Since then, Omega have been leaders in their field, and have managed to rack the following impressive list of firsts:
– Official watch of the Royal Flying Corps and the American Army (c1915)
– First watch in space/ on the moon (Neil Armstrong)
– First divers watch
– First and only certified marine chronometer
– Most records for accuracy (including a chronometer that when tested had daily timing variations of only two thousands of a second, tested over two months)
The Early History Of Chopard
Chopard watches are another fine Swiss manufacturer, and part of the Qualite Fleurier Foundation. Founded in 1860 by Louis Ulysse Chopard, he initially developed and produced innovative luxury pocket watches and chronometers, although there are few records of the beginning years. In amongst the epicentre of watch making in the Swiss Jura region, Chopard had to find something that set him apart, and it turned out to be quality.
He spent the long winter evenings developing beautiful, innovative and beautiful quality movements, and was soon regarded as the best in the village. With the onset of the industrial revolution, the demand for luxury watches dwindled, so Chopard went travelling around Europe. He managed to forge a successful career selling timepieces to the elite of Europe, and even as far afield as Czar Nicholas II. The company settled in Geneva in the 1920’s, and have been there ever since. In the 1960’s, the company teamed up with a jeweller, Karl Scheufele III, and eventually the company was left to him. Today, Chopard has come to represent a fantastic manufacturer of watches and jewellery, and are part of the Qualite Fleurier because nearly all parts including the movement are made in house.
Hublot watches were founded in 1976 when Carlo Crocco left the Binda Group, a company famous for running brands like Briel and manufacturing high end watches. Crocco was preoccupied with his own design work whilst at the company, and struck out on his own to create Hublot. He then shocked the watch making world in 1980 with the first combination of a gold bezel, gold surround and a black rubber strap. Crocco had an innate sense of style having grown up in a watch making family, and the elegant, modern watches really took off. It took over three years to develop the rubber bracelet. A natural rubber had to be specially developed that would be long lasting, strong and also soft and comfortable enough to wear every day. The technology proved so good that a slight variation of it is still used today. In the 90’s, rubber straps became more popular, leading to the Hublot model being branded a ‘classic’. Into the new millennium, Crocco hired the then president of Swatch to run the Hublot business. This lead to the big success of the ‘Big Bang’ watch in 2005, winning multiple international prizes.