IWC Ingenieur History

In the early 1970s, freelance watch designer Gerald Genta was taking a walk on the shores of the Lake of Geneva when he noticed a diver, whose helmet was secured to his diving suit with screws. This tiny detail inspired him to adopt a modernist, distinctly technical approach to form that was to revolutionize watch design. Instead of concealing the screws or functional bores, he left them plain for all to see on the bezel. For IWC Schaffhausen Gerald Genta designed the legendary Ingenieur SL, reference 1832. Five rudimentary bores could be seen in the bezel. These engaged with a special tool during manufacture to bring the bezel into position for securing with screws.

The crown and case back were screwed tight to make the watch pressure-resistant to 12 bar. The Ingeniuer SL had its market launch in 1976. Its eye-catching design stood for masculine values: it was rugged and sporty with a distinctly technical appeal, and has influenced the appearance of the Ingenieur watch family to this day.

The Ingenieur watch family’s success story, incidentally, dates back to the 1950s. It was a time of economic boom. An increasing number of technical appliances were making their way into ordinary … Continue reading...

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Vacheron Constantin History: Pioneers of Precision

Even in the traditional Swiss watchmaking industry, it’s something truly special when, like Vacheron Constantin, a manufacture can look back on more than a quarter of a millennium. Using new sources, we trace Vacheron Constantin’s unique business history.

When Jean-Marc Vacheron founded his business in 1755, the world had not yet begun to feel the icy, metallic touch of the Industrial Revolution, whose dawn lay a few years ahead. The craft of watchmaking still proceeded at its accustomed, leisurely pace.

Approximately 800 horological craftsmen were active in Geneva at this time. Geneva, together with the Neuchâtel – Le Locle region and the Vallée de Joux, were the cradles of the watchmaker’s art. The watchmakers were called cabinotiers in honor of the well-lit “cabinets” on the top floors of the houses in Geneva’s Saint-Gervais neighborhood where they worked. Their tasks were assigned to them by établisseurs, manufacturers who bought and assembled all the parts needed to produce complete watches. Under the steady scrutiny of a master watchmaker, as many as eight cabinotiers labored in each atelier.

According to accounts of the time, a typical cabinotier was an artist, a learned man and a bohemian all rolled into one. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who … Continue reading...

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History of Cartier: Jeweler of Kings and King of Jewelers

In 1847, Louis-François Cartier took over the helm of his master, Adolphe Picard’s, Paris workshop at 29 Rue Montorgueil, and the jewelry house of Cartier is born. It did not take long for Cartier’s designs to attract high wattage customers, with Empress Eugénie, wife of Emperor Napoleon III, becoming a Cartier client in 1859, soon to be followed by many of her aristocratic peers.

In 1874, Alfred Cartier, son of Louis-François, takes over the Cartier business from his father, and continues to build the Cartier brand, developing the first women’s bracelet watch, in 1888, effectively merging his interests in both jewelry and watchmaking. To make room for the expanding business, Alfred moved the workshop to the house’s current Paris headquarters at 13 Rue de la Paix, sparking a trend of other jewelers and luxury brands moving into the area.

In 1902, Pierre Cartier, the second of Alfred Cartier’s three sons, opens a Cartier branch at 4 New Burlington Street in London. Edward, Prince of Wales, orders 27 Cartier tiaras for his upcoming coronation. He later issues a royal warrant, making Cartier an official purveyor of jewels to the crown, beginning Cartier’s long relationship with the House of Windsor. Fourteen … Continue reading...

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Longines History: Elegance, Tradition and Performance

Based at Saint-Imier in Switzerland since 1832, Longines’s watchmaking expertise reflects a strong devotion to tradition, elegance and performance. With many years of experience as a timekeeper for world championships in sport or as a partner of international sports federations, Longines – famous for the elegance of its timepieces – is a member of the Swatch Group Ltd, the world’s leading manufacturer of horological products. The brand, known by its winged hourglass logo, now has outlets in over 140 countries.

In 1832 Auguste Agassiz entered the world of horology when he joined a trading office established in Saint-Imier. He soon rose to become the manager and the company took on the name Agassiz & Co. At the time, he was producing timepieces under the “etablissage” system, whereby watchmakers worked at home and supplied their products to the trading offices. Auguste built up a network of commercial contacts, which enabled him to sell his watches on other continents, in particular North America. During the 1850s Auguste’s nephew Ernest Francillon took over the running of the office.

When Ernest took on this responsibility, he considered ways of perfecting the manufacturing methods used in watchmaking in the area. He concluded that it would … Continue reading...

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The History of Tudor

“For some years now, I have been considering the idea of making a watch that our agents could sell at a more modest price than our Rolex watches, and yet one that would attain the standard of dependability for which Rolex is famous. I decided to form a separate company, with the object of making and marketing this new watch. It is called the Tudor Watch Company.” – Hans Wilsdorf, German watchmaker and founder of Rolex, 1926

Wilsdorf registered “The Tudor” as a trademark with Veuve de Philippe Hüther, a watch dealer and maker and acquired the exclusive usage rights. The first watches bore a simple TUDOR signature on the dial, with the horizontal bar of the T lengthened above the other letters. On some rare pieces, the name Rolex also appears. Rolex would effectively guarantee the technical and aesthetic quality of TUDOR watches until the brand attained autonomy in this field.

The watches were mainly rectangular, barrel-shaped or with beveled sides and were initially delivered exclusively to the Willis company in Australia which was entrusted with distributing them to the best jewellery shops in the country. Wilsdorf knew that the time had come to expand and give the brand … Continue reading...

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Breguet: History Makers

Breguet, an extraordinary 241-year watchmaking heritage, from 1775 to 2016. The founder Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823) was born in Neuchatel Switzerland and set the standard by watch all fine watchmaking has since been judged. He spent most of his productive life in Paris where his career started with a series of breakthroughs: the development of the successful self-winding perpetuelle watches, the introduction of the gongs for repeating watches and the first shock-protection for balance pivots.

No aspect of watchmaking escaped his study and his inventions were as fundamental to horology as they were varied: the Breguet balance-spring, his first carriage clock, the sympathique clock and its dependent watch, the tact watch, and finally the tourbillon, patented in 1801. Breguet became the indispensable watchmaker to the scientific, military, financial and diplomatic elites of the age. His timepieces ruled the courts of Europe. For his most celebrated clients, Breguet designed exceptional timepieces.

For Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples, he conceived, in 1810, the world’s very first wristwatch. Louis XVI and his Queen, Marie Antoinett, were early enthusiasts of Breguet’s watchmaking. Each watch from his workshops demonstrated the latest horological improvements in an original movement, mostly fitted with lever or ruby-cylinder escapements that he … Continue reading...

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Aircraft Clocks

In today’s world, watches are often used as a fashion statement or piece of jewelry, although they find their origins in being tools. Just as on ships, they play a vital role in the navigation of aircrafts, especially the older aircrafts, while in bombers, they also served to time the bombraids.

The earliest watches in airplanes were pocket watches that had an enlarged winding stem, so that they could be clicked onto the control panel on the plane. An example of this is the Gallet Mark V that was issued to British Royal Flying Corp (RFC) Pilots during WWI. These watches where amongst the most precious equipment supplied to the pilots and, in case of a crash, pilots were obligated to retrieve the watch so that it could be re-used. Of course, this was only the case when both watch and pilot survived.

Airplanes developed fast, and it wasn’t long until their clocks where also specifically built for use in aircrafts. The Waltham XA is one of the earliest examples of such an aircraft clock. Issued to US Army Air Service Signal Corp (ASSC) in 1916, which would later turn into the US Army Air Corp and is now known … Continue reading...

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A Little History Of The Chronograph

When talking about the birth of the first chronograph, there are many authors and spread rumours to be addressed. With regards to this, various watch Manufacturers ostentatiously rolled out dates and models with such a meticulous exactitude to leave even the most rigorous historian bewildered. Whereas, a few noted horology chroniclers alongside a handful of other experts were pointlessly pursuing that one date. In any event, we can be definite on one point: from its very beginnings this complication has been able to magnetise the attention and the passion of the world.

A few years ago, the history of watchmaking was rewritten due to the discovery of a pocket watch, which turned out to be the first chronograph ever made. In 1816, Louis Moinet, a French watchmaker and painter, completed what he called the “Compteur de Tierces”. This extraordinary instrument, which literally means “conter of thirds”, measures events to the 60th of a second indicated by a central hand. The elapsed seconds and minutes are recorded on separate subsidiary registers and the hours on a 24-hour dial. Moreover, it is powered by the first mechanical high-frequency movement that runs at an incredible speed of 216,000 beats per hour and features … Continue reading...

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