Frequently Asked Questions:
I’m a little nervous about buying an expensive vintage watch over the Internet. How do I know that all your watches are absolutely genuine?
This is a sensible and natural concern and one we get asked about a lot. We try to address this in the following manner.
Firstly we do assure you, all of our watches are 100% genuine, authentic and completely original. As you will see, this is clearly stated on every one of our listings. By this, we mean no after-market internal parts or worse, molestation of the movement! All the numbers on the movement are correct, the watch case is properly hallmarked and marked with all the brand and references which match the date of the watch and the watch has the correct dial for the model and year. We take this very seriously and we stand by this with our unique ‘Lifetime Authenticity Guarantee’, covering every watch we sell.
We also issue an Authenticity Certificate with the sale of every watch, certifying that your watch has been fully inspected and is completely genuine.
We are also very happy to speak with you for as long as you wish and discuss any aspects of any watch, or chat about our service, to help you to become as comfortable and happy as possible with your possible purchase!
As we are sure you will wish to know, we source our watches very carefully, buying almost all of our watches from a select group of trade suppliers, whom we have known and trusted for many years. These ‘dealer’s dealers’, are very well established and also have strong reputations to protect. Additionally, of course, we rely on the lifetime of experience of our vintage specialist watchmaker, who inspects and confirms the authenticity of each and every watch we sell.
Our unique ‘Lifetime Authenticity Guarantee’ is provided with every watch we sell. This states: “If your watch proves to be anything less than 100% genuine, authentic and original, we will provide you with a full refund at any time”. We do this not only for your reassurance but so that if we make a mistake, we would prefer to be the first to know and have an opportunity to provide you with an immediate remedy. We take this very seriously so when you buy a watch from Vintage Gold Watches of London, you may have 100% confidence, faith and reassurance.
We also try to provide you with some of the highest possible resolution photographs available on the internet. This is to give both expert and inexperienced buyers alike, the best possible view of each and every watch, from each and every angle! In fact, our photographs are so large, you will see much more detail, including of the movement, than you would normally see if the watch was bought over the counter on Bond Street London or the Burlington Arcade in London W1. Indeed more so, than if the watch was on your wrist or even under a high power magnifying glass…!
To see the highest resolution photographs, click on any photograph to take you to the Product Description page, then click again on any of the rotating photographs to show the large photographs which you can scroll through easily by clicking on the right or left-hand arrows which appear half way down the photo (on the left or right). Now to see the largest sized photograph click on the top right-hand corner of any of these photos to see a giant sized hi-res photo, of which we have seen none larger so far, from any vintage watch dealer on the Internet!
Incidentally, a quick word about fake/copy watches. For a number of reasons it is more difficult and less lucrative to recreate, vintage watches rather than new, or nearly new ones, therefore there are much fewer fake/copy vintage watches made, when compared with new, or nearly new, high end brands. If a fake/copy vintage watch is produced, it is much more likely to be of a particular, very high end watch.
For a little extra reassurance, all our watches are also listed (at slightly higher prices) on eBay, where the founder of Vintage Gold Watches (London) has traded in vintage watches and vintage toys for over 12 years and has always maintained 100% positive feedback.
Please check our 16+ pages of 100% positive eBay feedback at:-
Ok I now feel more reassured about your watches, but who are you?
‘Vintage Gold Watches’ is a partnership, based in Bayswater, London W2. We are very close to the North (North-West) side of Hyde Park and very handy for three tube stops as well as Paddington Railway Station. The two main partners have each over 20 years experience in collecting, buying and selling vintage watches and ‘Vintage Gold Watches’ of London offers a good combination of strong experience and old fashioned values of attention, service & reliability, plus of course, internet prices and convenience. Because we are predominantly an online business, you will benefit from considerable savings when compared with similar vintage watch dealers with expensive retail premises and other large overheads. Indeed there are some excellent London based ‘bricks and mortar’ vintage watch dealers we can point you to with prices double!! and sometimes treble!!! the prices you see here!
Who are the Partners?
Alan is the principal partner who has been a passionate collector of vintage watches for over 25 years. In 2010 he decided to turn his paying hobby into a full-time business by forming a partnership with Brian, another lifetime collector and trader in vintage watches. Similarly in 2012, Martyn a watch collector joined us and in 2013, Louise who handles our accounts. Then there is our genius, independent repairs and restoration team, which includes two watch makers, a watch dial restorer and a watch-case maker. We consider our primary suppliers to be business partners, because we work very closely with them.
OK, I’d like to see a particular watch before committing to purchase. How do we do this?
This is no problem…. The simplest way, is if you like the look of a watch and would like to try it on and see how it feels on your wrist, we recommend you to order and pay for the watch online, or indeed by calling us and paying over the telephone. There is no obligation to keep the watch at this point, because you have 14 days from the date of arrival to decide if you wish to keep the watch. If you decide against, for any reason, simply return the watch safely to us, within 14 days, in the condition you received it and we will provide you with a full refund immediately after the watch has been checked back into stock. We call this “Our 14 day no quibble sale or return policy”.
If you are within the UK, we use Royal Mail Next Day Special Delivery Service for all our deliveries and if you decide to return a watch to us, we would ask you to use the same service which will cost you around £11 including insurance.
Please note we fit high quality, mostly genuine crocodile straps to all the watches we sell and if a watch has been worn and the strap shows signs of use, we reserve the right to charge for a replacement.
If you are overseas, we are sorry but this policy does not apply.
I would really prefer to visit you and view a watch before I pay for it. Can we arrange this?
Yes, you are very welcome to pay us a visit if you have a particular watch in mind and you would like to view it. However, as we are an Internet only business we do not have a showroom as this would significantly add to our overheads and therefore our prices.
If you would like to meet us and view a watch, we will be very pleased to arrange a rendezvous at one of the larger hotels close by where you can relax over a coffee or tea and biscuits on us! And depending if you are using the Tube, Rail, or car, there are three Hilton Hotels within 2 miles radius of us to choose from! Please call us to discuss this with at least 24 hours notice because our stock is held securely at separate premises. We will of course do our best to fit in with your schedule.
Please also note, if we meet you to show you a watch, ‘distance selling’ regulations will not apply. This means if you buy a watch, the sale is complete and the 14 days sale or return policy does not apply. All other terms with regards to our 12 months Warranty and Lifetime Authenticity Guarantee will remain the same.
Will you hold a watch for me while I get the money together to pay for it?
We will do our best to oblige. However if you need more than 48 hours we will ask for a 20% deposit. You may then take some time to pay the balance and we will talk this through with you.
Which kind of payment methods do you accept?
We can accept cash on personal collection, however for your safety and ours, we prefer one of the following payment methods: PayPal, Bank Transfer, (otherwise known as Wire Transfer), Debit and Credit cards in person (Chip and Pin).
If you wish to pay by Debit or Credit card, but not in person, we will send you a Paypal Invoice by email which you can pay with any credit or debit card. Paypal will then clear your payment and pay us, usually immediately, and then we can release your watch. This process is really simple and easy, it usually takes just a few minutes and you have proof of what you have paid for as well as ‘belt and braces’ Paypal and Credit Card Company Protection.
For reasons a little too complicated to go into here, our bank has advised not to accept credit card or debit card payments over the telephone and not to accept any form of paper cheques other than a ‘Banker’s Draft’. For Bank Transfers (Wire) and Bankers Drafts, Photographic ID may be requested. Please allow 2 days for funds to be cleared and for administration and security checks to be carried out.
If you have found the watch you like but don’t quite have the funds at this moment, we are open to a deposit of a minimum 20% and then payment over a few months (maximum of 8). We will not charge you any interest since the date of the sale is delayed to coincide with the date of your last payment. Please see the next FAQ.
Need a little extra time to pay for your watch?
If you see just the watch you have been looking for here today, but it’s just at the wrong time in terms of your cashflow and you prefer to avoid lots of interest on your credit card, then why not use our ‘Layaway’ facility? It is so simple… we take a 20% deposit and provide you with a sales invoice for the watch for the full price. The watch is then marked sold so it is yours, but we look after it for you in our safe while you settle the balance over up to eight months in equal 10% payments. No interest is paid because no ‘loan’ is made!
Why are the prices of your watches cheaper here, than on eBay?
We advertise nearly all of our watches on the eBay website, but we need to add a little extra to the price to cover the costs of selling on eBay. You will therefore save between £50 and £100 by purchasing directly through us. You may also save around 3% by paying us by bank transfer or cheque, instead of by PayPal, Visa, Mastercard or Amex etc. Please call us or send us a message in advance to: firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to pay by bank transfer, requesting this discount and we will be very pleased to oblige.
Which are your favourite watches?
Good question! Beauty of course, is in the eye of the beholder, and so this is of course largely a matter of personal taste! Given that we only buy watches we like, it is perhaps fortunate for us, our customers share our taste! The six brands, or more correctly ‘watch houses’ we follow are our favourites. They represent technical excellence, superiority and often record breaking success but also beauty and style – indeed we have heard our customers proclaiming their newly acquired vintage gold watch as ‘works of art’. There is certainly more elegance in a classic vintage watch from say a 1950s Longines or Jaeger-LeCoultre than a modern equivalent which may cost many more times more.
Firstly we love Rolex Oyster Perpetuals from the 1950s. It is difficult in a few short short words to say why… but simply put, it is the elegance of ’50s Rolex dress watches in general from this period we like best. These are dress watches, as opposed to the sports watches which Rolex are better known for and which perhaps are almost the opposite of a Rolex Submariner or a Daytona. We also appreciate the clear and clean design lines of Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches from the 1960s which has remained almost unchanged over the intervening four to five decades, proving to be one of the definitive premium design of our times!
However, to try to answer the question, 18ct Rolex Oyster Perpetuals from the early 1950s melt our hearts and Pink Gold, when found, is always a bonus. We also love the exquisite dials of some of the larger Omega, Longines and Zenith hand wound watches from the early 1950s, the larger Rolex Precisions, especially the Chronometers from the ’40s, 1950s and early ’60s and the higher end Jaeger-LeCoultre Longines automatics from around the end of the 1950s and the early 1960s. Larger 1950s IWCs Manual and Automatics too, especially in Pink Gold. There are also some beautiful Zenith Automatics of the 1950s. We also like the odd Chronograph from each our watch houses but not the sports watches i.e. only the dress watches.
To be continued….. please call us to discuss!
Ok, my heart is set on one of your watches but my mind is telling me to resist! I’d really like to buy one of your watches but I’m having trouble taking the plunge…. Do please give me some good, sound reasons for spending a not inconsiderable amount of money, on a Vintage Gold Watch?
Because 1950s and 1960s vintage watches look so much nicer than modern watches!
Because these are such great value compared with a new watch!
Because they show my sense of individuality and style!
Because of the “simplicity and truth in the well made thing”.
To own and wear something one can ‘treasure and enjoy’.
Because this is the kind of watch I always promised myself.
Because a vintage gold watch makes such rock solid investment!
Because a vintage gold watch makes the perfect heirloom piece.
To buy a special anniversary or birthday present.
Because no one else is going to buy it for me :- ( !!!
There are many more good reasons besides! In fact our customers give us great reasons all the time!
A Little Problem: – I’ve fallen for one of your watches, but I need to get this past my partner. Any ideas?
The reality is that watches are luxury goods, so the ‘need’ to buy them rarely occurs. That means for many, they naturally fall very low (some say too low) on life’s list of priorities, and most definitely do not out-rank things like kids, mortgages and school fees. Unless your partner shares your passion, I’d gamble and say they don’t think that your wrist darlings are as important as we otherwise might hope. So, the perennially thorny question is: “How do I buy this watch with my partner’s blessing?”
Having thoroughly researched this, it seems there are probably are eight strategies which will get you closer to your dream watch… Word to the wise before reading on: you know your spouse better than we do, so pick the best method that works for you.
1. “It’s an investment, darling” – Telling your partner that a watch purchase will be an ‘investment’, is one of the more popular methods amongst collectors. After all, where better to park your money than a vintage Rolex? Sure, blue chip stocks pay dividends, but they can’t tell the time! Success Rate – Moderate.
2. Passion over price – Our second method, ‘passion over price’, means knowing the watch inside and out. In fact, you’ve memorised reference numbers and movements, dials, hands, straps – everything. Basically, you know this watch better than the watchmakers who made it. The goal here is to blow your partner off their feet. Not only that, you’ll also have a watertight case when quizzed on the price. You’ve really put the effort into researching this piece, so clearly you deserve it. Success Rate – Moderate.
3. Cost per wear – This one’s simple and self-explanatory. The real beauty of this method is that you can fudge the numbers, as most high-quality timepieces are made to last several lifetimes. Do I think it’s unreasonable to assume 50 years of wear? No, no I don’t. After all, who’s to say you won’t live to 125? Calculating your CPW also helps you justify the price you’re paying, in case you’re having second thoughts. Warning: Calculations may come into question if you own multiple watches. Success Rate – Moderate.
4. The Secret’ method (live and breathe the watch) – ‘The Secret’ method relies heavily on the power of positive thinking. Visualise the watch on your wrist, imagine the great wristshots you will take. Picture the endless strap combinations you could play around with. Vocalise all of this. The strategy here is to talk about your grail non-stop, and we mean non-stop – eventually boring your partner to the point of submission (I can personally vouch for this method). Often it goes beyond mere talking — have pictures and reviews at the ready, and litter your phone and computer screen backgrounds. This method takes commitment, and a lot of it. Success Rate – Moderate.
5. One in, one out – This is a very popular model among collectors, who, in order to fund their purchase, must sell a piece from their current collection. Naturally there’s the potential for some overlap between purchasing and selling, but no one’s perfect. When executed properly, this is one of the best methods we can offer, and it is perfect for all you ‘flippers’ out there. Feel free to play around with different inventory methods, whichever you like. Success Rate – High (until they realise a Patek is more expensive than a Seiko).
6. Couples’ watches – Yes, the most successful (and safe) method we can offer also happens to be the most expensive. We’re not saying go out and buy matching Rolex Day-Dates (although that would be super cute) but it won’t hurt the cause by bringing your partner in on the hobby. In all seriousness, this is the most equitable way to make your purchase. Whether it be matching watches or something else, the only loser with this method is your bank balance. You’ll be happy, your partner will be happy. You’ll have great couples wristshots for Instagram — and what serious watch collector wouldn’t want their spouse rocking something respectable on their wrist? The strategic play is to buy a unisex watch you like with an adjustable clasp, for example, the Rolex Submariner, or something that comes on a fabric, or leather strap. For obvious reasons, Success Rate – Very High.
7. Celebrate that moment – A celebratory piece is purchased to mark a very special occasion. This could be an engagement (preferably yours), an anniversary (any anniversary), a push present (totally a thing), a graduation, or even marking something as momentous as a five year no claims bonus with your insurance company (something that clearly calls for a well deserved Lange). This is a terrific way to attach some (priceless) sentimental value to your purchase, reinforcing just how special the piece is. After all, how could you sell that Tudor you bought and engraved with your baby’s birthday? Or the Patek you bought the day your son was born, (which you will never really own anyway)? Success Rate – High.
8. Go rogue – Big Ups to you if you have full discretion over your watch purchases, but for the majority who don’t, our final – and most risky – option is to simply go rogue. Yes, sometimes it’s better to beg for forgiveness (once non-refundable deposits have been paid) than to ask for permission. If you do go rogue, you’ll need to rustle the funds together. Whether it be making small ATM withdrawals to go unnoticed, syphoning off funds from a second account, or organising a payment plan with a dealer (for example). I’ve even heard *rumours* of photoshopping a zero or two off the purchase receipts.*This might work if you collect a relatively comparable watch (e.g. Speedmasters), but don’t be surprised if you get caught trying to pass that brand-new H. Moser piece off as “something you’ve had for years”. Success Rate – Very Low.*
* VGWL does not endorse this method. Thank you Time and Tide Watches, for their selfless dedication in researching this subject.
Ok, we need to talk, when may I call you?
Now!… We will always be delighted to hear from you, 7 days a week, at any sociable hour (GMT). Indeed we will be very pleased to answer any questions you have about any particular watch and answer queries about our watches and service. If you are new to the wonderful world of vintage watches, we are very happy to provide you with as much help and advice as you need. Please call 0207 727 7095 or 07515 949 250 and speak with Alan, Brian, Louise or Martyn.
How much do you charge for delivery?
Delivery within mainland UK is free, as we count this part of our service. We use the Royal Mail Special Delivery, Next Day (signed for) Service including full insurance. For Overseas and International we make a flat charge of £45 which is usually less than the actual cost. We use DHL and Fedex for International deliveries as we find they offer the best service including full insurance.
When may I expect my delivery to arrive?
Orders are sent within one business day of receiving payment. UK orders are delivered next day before 1pm, or before 9am by special request. UK delivery will therefore be made within one to two business days.
For International delivery we use FedEx or DHL International and delivery to most destinations is normally within 3 business days. Certain parts of the world are subject to longer transit times and customs delays. Please send us an email to request more advise on estimated delivery times.
Ok, I like the watch but I would prefer a black… brown…red… blue… larger… smaller… strap.
No problem at all, please let us know and give us a little extra time to prepare your order, and we will do our best to provide and fit exactly the strap you desire, usually free of any extra charge.
We are partnered with Watch Obsession who can be found at www.watchobsession.co.uk They carry the full range of Hirsch straps which are made in Austria and are of excellent quality and so you may choose any from their range free of charge. Just let us know which you would like and we will fit it either from our stock or we will order the strap for you which will usually be with us in less than 24 hours so the delay will be zero or one to two days max.
Do you buy watches or offer a part-exchange or a buy back service?
Yes, if you have a Rolex, Jaeger-LeCoultre or Omega to sell, or any of the brands you see on this site, please let us know. We are happy to buy outright or offer a part-exchange service against a purchase. We will also buy back a watch we have previously sold and offer you a good price. We are also obviously very keen to hear from you if you would like to part exchange a watch we have previously sold.
Do you make proper checks regarding the provenance of the watches listed here?
Yes. Our reputation means everything to us and so we do our very best. Firstly, most of our watches are bought from trusted, reputable dealers. These are people we buy from on a regular basis who also have reputations they are very keen to protect. And when we buy elsewhere we make all the checks we can, to ensure a watch has a proper history and if we have any reservations we simply don’t buy.
Do you offer a guarantee on all your watches?
Yes. All of our watches are offered with a full 12 months warranty and a 14 days ‘no-quibble’ sale or return policy.
Can the purchase price be reduced if I don’t take the 12 months warranty?
Yes. You can save up to £150. Please call us or send us a message to: info@vintage goldwatches.com
All our watches are sent with full insurance cover. We strongly recommend you do the same if you are returning or sending a watch to us.
I’m overseas and outside the E.U., can you send my item as a ‘gift’ or ‘declare a lower value’ for customs purposes?
This is of importance to overseas buyers who are outside the European Union – Customs charges at the point of import are solely the buyer’s responsibility. Please check locally as we will not be able to provide any detailed advice on this. We always provide the correct order value on the customs declaration and insure the item for the full value.
Regarding dials, I’ve heard or read that vintage watch dials should remain untouched and left to age gracefully?
It is true, many ‘old school’ watch collectors express a strong preference for unrestored dials and often state that a good original unrestored dial forms a large part of a vintage watch’s value. They are also amazingly tolerant of staining, pitting, scratches and fading. This however applies to a diminishing fraction of the market and also to very high-end vintage watches costing say £50,000 and above and a small number of specialist markets such as the military watch market. However, most ‘main market’ vintage watch dealers will confirm that the majority of the market strongly prefers fully restored watches and this naturally includes the dial.
Tell me some more about watch dials
Watch dials age gradually due to exposure to light. This happens at a variable rate depending on the level of exposure, the humidity and temperature. While we would all prefer the look of a pristine watch which has been kept in its box and never seen the light of day, such watches are exceedingly rare and unvaryingly remain off the market and in fact – hidden away. A little like vintage cars in museums, there is something a little sad and unfortunate about this. After all, both watches and cars were built to be used and enjoyed. In the case of watches, used with care of course, but definitely not hidden away in a drawer or safe. A 50 0r 60 years old vintage watch which has been carefully used will have a dial which shows some varying degree of deterioration. This may take the form of some gentle fading at one end of the scale, to being almost illegible at the other! This deterioration can take the form of crazing, pitting, fading, local staining and scratches. Now the point is, a typical collector’s tolerance for such deterioration of the dial will be much higher than that of the typical ‘main market’ buyer and so the market for such watches is smaller and here the laws of supply and demand come into play. This tends to even out the price and differences in value. In a nutshell it is perhaps sufficient to say that a quick poll of today’s main market vintage watch dealers will tell you that around 90% of buyers prefer watches with restored dials rather than ones with degradation through ageing.
Note – Dials over a certain age, say approximately 1960 and before, in the hands of the best watch restorer, will be sympathetically restored so that in keeping with a good original dial, it will not look too bright or too new!
Also in passing, many watch manufacturer’s service centres, notably Rolex and Omega have, in the past, routinely refinished or replaced aged dials as part of a major service, so this also is part of the overall picture.
Has this watch been checked over and properly serviced?
Yes indeed, all of our watches are fully inspected, cleaned, serviced and calibrated by a highly experienced professional watchmaker, before listing on our website. This is why we are happy to offer 12 months warranty as standard on all the watches we sell. Most of our watches have also been fully restored, so in addition to a mechanical overhaul, the case and dial will also have been restored. This is highly specialised work which is carried out by expert craftsmen and we use the best we can find. The watch case is carefully cleaned in a special solution and inspected for any weakness around the lugs, seams and case-back. If necessary , these are strengthened, invisibly, by adding more gold to the inside of the case. The case is then very lightly and carefully polished to bring out the highlights and make it look (almost) new again. Where necessary, the dial will be expertly restored (or refinished) by one of the foremost expert dial restorers in the UK. This is incredibly specialist work which involves very carefully stripping the dial of any paint and lacquer. The dial is then repainted and refinished using the same processes, or better, than the original. In this way, the best-restored dials look as good as new and may well last longer than the original. Vintage watch case and dial restoration at this level is so good it often defies belief. For more information please see Servicing / Repairs / Restoration at the very bottom left of the home page.
So far all of my watches have been battery powered. Please could you explain ‘Automatic’ and ‘Manual’ or Hand Wound Watches to me?
Most high end watches come equipped with an Automatic or Manual watch movement. These movements are not operated by a battery as they are in a Quartz watch. When you purchase an Automatic or Manual watch, it is highly likely that you will need to wind the watch once you receive it in order for it to build up a power reserve to keep time. The automatic watch will continue to keep time through the self-winding mechanism from the movement of your wrist over the course of the day. If the automatic watch has been sitting for a period of days and has not been stored on a watch winder, it may need to be wound to set the time and build up a power reserve. A manual watch will need to be wound by hand and set every morning to keep time throughout the day.
What may I reasonably expect, in terms of accuracy, from my vintage wrist watch?
Please see the table below:-
Type of watch and seconds gain/loss per day: Worst Typical Best
Vintage mechanical Swiss watch in good repair +/-60 +/-15 +/-5
Modern mechanical watch non-certified +/-10 +/-5 +/-2
Modern mechanical watch chronometer certified +6/-4 +/-3 +/-1
Modern quartz watch non-certified (normal) +/-2 +/-1 +/-0.1
Modern quartz watch chronometer certified (rare) +/-0.02 +/-0.02 +/-0.0
Please can you explain to me all about Gold measurement and K, k, ct, karats and carats. And Yellow gold, White gold, Rose, Pink, Red and more?
A Carat (Ct or ct) is a weight measurement in reference to precious gemstones such as Diamonds, Sapphires, Rubies.
Depending on where you are in the world a Carat may also be used in place of the term karat. However the term karat is never used in regards to gemstones
A karat (K or k) is the measurement of the purity of gold. Gold itself is very soft, and like silver, it needs to be alloyed with other metals to make it stronger and less expensive. 24 karat gold is considered pure gold, or 100% gold. While many people think 24 karat gold is the best quality you can buy, the soft metal is less durable and it can scratch or damage easily. To prevent this, gold is alloyed with metals such as silver, copper and zinc. When producing white gold alloys, nickel, copper and zinc are used. So, the karat is measured by the ratio of gold to the alloyed metal.
18 karat ( .750) contains 75% pure gold.
14 karat ( .585) contains 58.5% pure gold.
10 karat ( .417) contains 41.7% pure gold.
9 karat (.375) contains 37.5% pure gold.
10k, 14k and 18k are standards used in the U.S.
9k and 18k are standards used in the UK and Europe
1 karat of gold = 1000/24. So 9 karat is 37.5% gold. Divide the carat of gold you have by 24 and the result is the percentage.
9k 9/24 37.5%
10k 10/24 41.67%
14k 14/24 58.33%
18k 18/24 75.00%
The remaining percentage of the metals are based on the type of gold you have:
Yellow Gold – Copper, Silver
Rose, Red and Pink Gold – Copper, Silver
White Gold – Nickel, Zinc, Copper
Green Gold – Silver, Zinc, Copper
Please could you tell me more about Rolex; Jaeger LeCoultre; Longines; Omega; IWC; and Zenith?
A Brief History of Rolex
The story of Rolex the company and Hans Wilsdorf, its founder, are inextricably intertwined. Rolex, like the modern day Apple Computer, revolves around the passion of one man who drove the company to greatness. Even after the passing of Hans Wilsdorf at Rolex and Steve Jobs at Apple, both of these companies continue to be strong in their respective industries because of the drive, passion, marketing prowess, and a relentless pursuit of detail and perfection. Like Apple computer, Rolex’s history goes back to its initial founder, Hans Wilsdorf. Most of the depictions of Rolex history goes back to the founder because the company’s roots, design and marketing ethos and purpose are rooted in the founder’s life experiences and the story of Rolex is no different.
The start of Rolex goes back to the birth of Hans Eberhard Wilhelm Wilsdorf who was born in Kulmbach, Bavaria, Germany on March 22, 1881. The son a hardware store owner (ironmonger), Wilsdorf was destined to continue the family business, but both his parents died within months of each other when Wilsdorf was 12. Wilsdorf’s mother was a descendent of the Maisel brewing dynasty, so there were expectations that Wilsdorf would continue one of the family businesses, but that was not to be. Wilsdorf and his siblings were left in the care of his aunt and uncle, who went to sell the family hardware business and placed the proceeds into the Wilsdorf Trust until the heirs reached of age. The Wilsdorf Trust, started as a result of tragedy, was the basis for Hans Wilsdorf Foundation started later in Wilsdorf’s life.
From his parents passing, until the age of 18, Wilsdorf went to boarding school in Coburg, excelling in math and languages, particularly English. At age 18, soon after boarding school, Wilsdorf developed an inkling for Geneva, Switzerland through a boarding school friend. Wilsdorf worked at a pearl distribution company learning much of world trade and the jewelry industry. After a stint in the pearl industry, Wilsdorf left and jointed watch exporters Cuno, Korten. Having no watch experience, Wilsdorf worked as a correspondent/translator, being asked to write letters namely in English. It was at Cuno Korten that Wilsdorf wanted to pursue watches and the watch industry. Cuno Korten purchased most of its components from manufacturers in France, Germany and Switzerland. Wilsdorf commissioned three watchmakers to fabricate three pocket watches that were soon certified chronometers at the Neuchatel Observatory. Those watches sold quickly for a profit, which impressed Wilsdorf’s bosses.
After a short compulsory Army stint, at the age of 22, Wilsdorf decided to move to London in 1903 to work in the English watch industry at an unknown watch company while planning to start his own watch company. On his trip to London, thieves had stolen Wilsdorf’s inheritance totaling 33,000 German gold marks. At age 24, Wilsdorf met Alfred James Davis and partnered with him to build their own watch making company. Davis had the money to invest and Wilsdorf had the watchmaking knowledge from his experiences at Cuno Korten. The partnership was further strengthened by Davis who married Wilsdor’s younger sister. Wilsdorf also acquired British citizenship after a battle with the city of Geneva about the confiscation of a plot of land on Lac Leman.
Wilsdorf utilizing money borrowed from his siblings matching Davis’ investment, they each owned 50% of the company. As equal partners, they complimented each other skills and backgrounds. Wilsdorf knew watches and Davis knew financing and international trade. The start of Wilsdorf & Davis Ltd, utilizing ebauches from Jean Aegler based in Bienne. Wilsdorf learned of the Aegler while working at Cuno Korten. Keeping focused, Wilsdorf and Davis only produced two watches; pocket watch and a purse watch respectively for men and women. In addition to these watches, Wilsdorf learned of the utility of wrist watches in the Boer War and decided to specialize in what was then a non-existent market. At the time, wristwatches were small in size, in number, not known to be very accurate, and worn primarily by women. Gentlemen were quoted to say that they “would sooner wear a skirt as wear a wrist watch.” Additionally, the watch industry at the time thought that a wrist watch could not withstand the rigors of human activity. This all changed with the Boer War as the heat prevented soldiers to wear jackets and soldiers found themselves strapping small pocket watches on their wrists.
Wristwatches appeared to be more than just a passing fad and became very popular. In 1912, Wilsdorf returned to Bienne and negotiated with Aegler for a consistent supply of watch movements and was the largest contract ever signed for watch movements at the time. Also, at the same time, trademark and logo styles were an industry trend. The name Wilsdorf & Davis did not have the same sound at Kodak and Coke. Wilsdorf & Davis thought of a company name that does not mean anything in particular, is easy to pronounce in multiple languages, is hard to misspell, and thus settled on the name Rolex. Just as how the name Apple does not have anything direct connection to computers, Rolex had no direct link to watchmaking.
Dispelling the myth that wrist watches are not accurate, Rolex sent its first movement to the School of Horology in Bienne in 1910, one of the early time keeping institutes. Rolex was awarded the world’s first wrist watch chronometer rating. With the rating, Rolex overcame the first challenge of wristwatches to keep accurate time. The other two challenges were keeping wrist watches water tight, and to be autowinding. Further proving the accuracy of well built wrist watch movements, Rolex was awarded the “Class A Certificate of Precision” from the Kew Observatory in England, the first certificate awarded to a wrist watch. The testing involves 45 days in five positions and three temperatures. Prior to Rolex, these certificates were only awarded to marine chronometers. Realizing the value of timing certificates, Wilsdorf insisted that all Rolex timepieces would undergo similar testing and no Rolex should be sold without its “Official Timing Certificate.” For Aegler, Rolex would not accept any movements unless they passed Rolex’s seven day battery of tests. Accepting no less than a timing certificate, Rolex set the timing standard for the rest of the watch industry.
With a consistent supply of watch movements from Aegler, and a registered brand name (in Switzerland in 1908 and England in 1912) that anyone can pronounce, and a product that was in high demand but none of the traditional watchmakers wanted to make, the company was on sure footing. The start of World War I further helped wristwatch demand, but brought anti-German trade restrictions to England. Because of the high tariffs on watch and jewelry components coming into England, Wilsdorf and Davis decided to move much of the production back to Bienne utilizing the partnership they forged with Hermann Aegler. In 1919, Rolex purchased a percentage of the Aegler company and began to call itself Aegler S.A. Rolex Watch Company. Soon after that, Wilsdorf bought out Davis’s share of the company and moved the office to Geneva where he registered “Montres Rolex S.A.” on January 17th. Wilsdorf settled in Geneva in order to let the factory in Biel be entirely devoted to manufacturing watch movements where Geneva would focus upon creating case models that fit cosmopolitan tastes. The movements were manufactured in Biel/Bienne, but the watches are assembled in Geneva.
On May 2, 1925, Rolex trademarked the famous crown or coronet in Geneva, Switzerland. After an expensive advertising campaign in 1926 to raise brand awareness that “Rolex” began to appear on every dial exclusively. The Rolex name quickly became synonymous with quality and distinction.
Also in 1925, Rolex addressed the weak spot in all watch cases, the winding stem and its predilection for leaking water and dust. Wilsdorf heard of a patent filed by Paul Perregaux and Georges Peret for a new winding stem and button/crown. Wilsdorf bought the patent and registered the world’s first waterproof case, the Oyster, on July 29, 1926 in Switzerland, and again in London on February 28, 1927. The term Oyster came to Wilsdorf while trying to open an oyster at a dinner party. Opening Rolexes today requires special tools very similar to opening an Oyster at a restaurant. The sealed crown, combined with a water tight synthetic crystal also introduced at the time, along with a threaded bezel and caseback introduced by Aaron Dennison, founder of Waltham Watch Company, Wilsdorf now had the three main watch deficiencies addressed, the crown, the case, and timing accuracy all addressed.
Despite patent protection, Wilsdorf had to defend its patent from imitators. In 1934, Wilsdorf filed against Schmitz Brothers in Grenchen, Germany. After a 2 ½ years of litigation, the Swiss court agreed on July 8, 1937 that Schmitz Brothers owed compensatory damages to Rolex. Although Wilsdorf had not invented the water proof watch, he was the first to make the idea practical and fabricate using modern industrial manufacturing methods.
With a human-proof watch, Wilsdorf showed his marketing prowess by launching yet another massive advertising campaign to promote the Oyster waterproof watch. Unlike other watches at that time, the Oysterwas designed to withstand the day-to-day elements. On October, 21, 1927 Wilsdorf launched an advertising campaign showing Mercedes Gleitze, a 26 year old London typist who became the first women to swim the English Channel. In her vindication swim, two weeks after her first successful attempt Gleitze was the first to do such a feat while wearing a watch, and a Rolex nonetheless. After her first successful swim, Wilsdorf saw an opportunity to promote the toughness of his watches by having her wear one on a chain around her neck during Gleitze’s second swimming attempt. Wilsdorf realized that advertising alone would not associate quality and reliability in the consumers mind, it had to be proven. The Mercedes Gleitze swim was one of the first instances of using athletes and explorers as first person testimonials for watch durability and reliability. The ad in England’s Daily Mail newspaper on 24 November 1927 boasted of the “greatest triumph in watchmaking” along with Gleitze’s testimonial quote stating her Rolex Oyster “proved itself a reliable and accurate timekeeping companion even though it was subjected to complete immersion for hours in sea water at a temperature of not more than 58 and often as low as 51 [10-14 degrees Celsius.]”
Wilsdorf realized that although the case was sealed, being human was not. Watch wearers would forget to wind their watch, or would leave the crown unscrewed leaving the movement open to dust and water. Wilsdorf’s next technical challenge was coming up with a method for automatic winding. Earlier in the decade, John Harwood introduced the first self winding wrist watch based on a weight swinging from a central point on top of the case, similar to a playground swing, and the mainspring wound by the weight contacting a wheel that would tighten the mainspring. The design was based on a pedometer design from 1770 by Abraham Louis Perrelet. The weight was restricted through the use of bumpers. The technical drawback was that the bumpers proved destructive and was not an efficient use of centrifugal force. Nonetheless, the design showed the utility of having a fully sealed watch that did not require unscrewing the crown to insure its daily function.
Wilsdorf was set on using his existing movement with a modification for auto winding. In 1931, Wilsdorf used an existing Aegler movement and a winding mass placed upon center axis that could turn uninterrupted in both directions and thus a “perpetual” motion. Demonstrating how ingenuity stays in the family, Herman Aegler’s brother-in-law and the technical lead at Rolex is credited with the center-staff rotating weight design that is now commonplace in all automatic watch movements world-wide after the patent expired in 1948. In addition to having a water-tight case, the mainspring is now consistently wound providing a full tank of power that improves watch timing. A full and consistent power reserve allows for consistent timing, which underlies Rolex’s records for accuracy throughout the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. By 1934, Rolex was the first watch company to receive class certificates from all four of the main observatories (Kew, Geneva, Neuchatel, and Besancon).
1931 brought disaster and opportunity. Rolex business flourished, but the British pound was drastically devalued on September 21 as a result of the world economic crisis and the Great Depression. The devaluation caused Rolex prices to rise, decreasing exports by 60%. If Rolex were to survive, it would have to sell outside of the British Empire. Subsequently, Wilsdorf established subsidiaries in Paris, Buenos Aires, and Milan as well as exploring business activities in the Far East. The expansion was successful as the production of Rolex Oysters increased from 2,500 to approximately 30,000 watches a year.
In 1944, Wilsdorf’s wife May died in addition to his long-time business partner and friend Hermann Aegler, leaving Wilsdorf as Rolex’s sole owner. With no heirs, and living the aftermath of his father’s death, Wilsdorf created the Hans Wilsdorf foundation in 1945. The trust was underwritten to provide strict direction on how the company was to be run after Wilsdorf’s death, ensuring that the company would never merge with another company, be sold, or publicly traded. Rolex still runs under the direction of the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation. Wilsdorf specified precise direction on the distribution of dividends. The majority of the money was donated to charity in honor of his late wife. Additionally, dividends were to fund a watchmaking school, a fine arts academy, and business and social science faculty at universities. Wilsdorf Foundation proceeds also fund the Swiss watch research lab in Neuchatel as well as it helped build a language library for the blind and an exhibition pavilion in Lucerne for animal protection. The Rolex Awards today are currently underwritten by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation.
In 1945, Rolex continued to innovate by introducing the date window to mark the firms 40th birthday.The DateJust caliber 740 was the world’s first automatic date mechanism in a wristwatch. Called the DateJust because, well, Date is obvious, but “Just” stands for “just in time,” advancing precisely at midnight without delay. The date window was located on the right edge at 3:00 o’clock because most wearers have their watch on their left arm and the date window can easily peak out from under a shirt sleeve. The DateJust also possessed a central second hand, moving from the subsidiary second hand that was the style at the time. Also, in 1948 the 15 years of the original patent protection on the automatic winding rotor came to an end. Only after 1948, other brands were able to manufacturer automatic watches.
The 1950’s were a decade of post war growth and achievement for Rolex. On May 29, 1953, experimental Rolex Explorers rose to 29,035 ft above sea level on the wrist of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay while in the same year, a specially designed Deep Sea Special was attached to the exterior of Auguste Piccard’s bathyscaphe which reached a depth of 10,335 ft, proving the concept that watches can be as pressure proof as submarines. Also in 1953, Rolex introduced at the Basel watch show the Turn-O-Graph, the predecessor of the Submariner. Following in 1954, Rolex released the Submariner with water resistance to 100 meters as well as the Milgauss and the GMT Master pilots watch, and finally, the Oyster Perpetual Day-Date, the only watch that showed both the day and the date simultaneously. Closing out the decade in 1959 was the introduction of the Submariner 5512, water resistant to 200 meters along with the introduction of crown guards that are prevalent on all Rolex sport watches. Also during the early 1950’s, Rolex incorporated the venerable Cyclops window to the date aperture after Wilsdorf’s near-sighted second wife could not read the date on her watch. Also during the 1950’s Rolex had planted subsidiaries in Bombay, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Dublin, Havana, Johannesburg, London, Milan, Mexico City, New York, Paris, Sao Paulo and Toronto.
It is also important to note that that Rolex’s Public Relations Director, was pivotal in Rolex direction for making true tool watches. Rene-Paul Jeanneret was one of the most important executives at Rolex during the 1950’s and into the 1960’s. Jeanneret was the driving force behind the concept of watch being designed for individual sports or professions. The notion of a watch for divers, for explorers, and for businessmen came from Jeanneret. When Pan-Am approached Rolex for a watch that could track 24 hour GMT time, the timing standard for airline pilots and navigators, it was Jeanneret who pursued the concept of the 24 hour hand on a watch, and a rotating bezel that would allow timing in another timezone.
Taking an existing Turn-O-Graph, and fitting it with a 24 hour hand and using the same bezel technology but with a bright plastic insert, Rolex introduced the GMT at Basel in 1954. Because it was a derivative of the Turn-O-Graph, it did not have crown guards and was significantly smaller than the Submariner also introduced the same year. The GMT was the first sport watch to possess a Cyclops, taken from the Turn-O-Graph model.
1960 was both a high and a low for Rolex. Rolex continued its technological evolutions by introducing the first Cosmograph chronograph model with featured a tachymetric timing ring on a metal bezel. Also, in 1960, Rolex bested it already world record for submersion by attaching a Deep Sea Special to the to the Trieste bathyscaphe exterior while it descended to the bottom of the Mariana Trench at 35,798 feet, a depth greater that Mount Everest is tall.
Shortly after the success of the Deep Sea Special, 1960 also saw the passing of Rolex’s founder Hans Wilsdorf on July 6th leaving Rolex to appointees stated in the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation. Starting in 1963, Andre J. Heiniger lead Rolex throughout the second half of the century until 1992 when his son Patrick took the reins. The 1960’s saw more evolutions of the existing DateJusts, Air Kings, and the sports/tool watch line. In 1967, Rolex introduced the Sea-Dweller, the first watch created with a helium gas escape valve for saturation divers. Standard Submariner watch crystals were popping off during helium decompression for saturation divers. In coordination with Comex, a French saturation diving company, Rolex designed a Sea-Dweller model that was heavier than the standard diving Submariner, and possessed a helium valve that would release small helium molecules that would enter the watch during saturation compression, yet be pressure proof when underwater. Also in 1967, Rolex introduced the Submariner 1680 complete with a date window through the dial like on the Turn-O-Graph and DateJust models.
From the 70’s to present day, Rolex continues in the words of Patrick Heiniger, that “Rolex is evolutionary not revolutionary.” Even with competition from legitimate and illegitimate imitators, Rolex continues to produce new watches, new technologies such as the Paracrom hairspring, Paraflex shock absorbers, and the use of ceramics. Although still very secretive, it is estimated that Rolex produces approximately 2000 watches a day and has been consistently ranked in the top 100 global companies.
Historical Timeline and Listing of Technical Achievement
1905 Founding of “Wilsdorf & Davis.” A distribution company of watchcases and other horological items headquartered in London.
1908 Hans Wilsdorf registers the Rolex trademark located at La Chaux-de Fonds, later moving to Bienne.
1910 Rolex obtains the first Official Swiss Chronometer certificate
1914 Rolex obtains a Class “A” certificate, Kew Observatory in English as the first wristwatch to outperform a pocket watch.
1919 Hans Wilsdorf moves the company office to 18 Rue du Marche, Geneva and establishes the manufacturing company, Montres Rolex S.A.
1926 Rolex patents the screw-down crown, and creates the oyster case with a screw down caseback and bezel.
1927 Mercedes Gleitze swims across the English Channel wearing a Rolex Oyster. The swim lasted 15 ¼ hours.
1928 Rolex obtains a First Class Certificate from the Geneva Astronomical Observatory, the first ever awarded for a 6 ¾” wrist watch.
1931 Rolex invents and patents the “Perpetual Automatic Rotary Winding Mechanism.”
1935 Sir Malcom Campbell breaks the world automobile speed record (300 MPH) wearing a Rolex wristwatch
1939 Rolex introduces the fist chronograph with 30-minute and 12 hours totalizers.
1945 Rolex introduces the DateJust, the first automatic and water wristwatch chronometer.
1947 Rolex introduces the waterproof chronograph with 12-hour totalizer and triple date.
1947 Chuck Yeager breaks the “Sound Barrier” in a Bell X-1 wearing a Rolex Oyster, the same one he had worn throughout his deployment in WWII.
1950 Rolex introduces the Turn-O-Graph, the first Rolex with a rotating bezel and the precursor to the Submariner.
1953 Rolex introduces the Submariner, the first automatic diver’s wristwatch water-resistant to 100 meters.
1953 On May 29, Rolex rose to 29,035 ft above sea level on the wrist of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay
1954 Rolex introduces the Submariner Ref. 6200, water-resistant to 200 meters.
1954 Rolex introduces the GMT-Master, an automatic chronometer with a 24 hour hand for aircraft pilots.
1956 Rolex introduces the Day-Date model, first wristwatch to spell the day of the week as well as the numeric date.
1957 Rolex patents a new Microstella regulated balance in Beryllium
1959 Rolex introduces the Submariner Ref 5512 water resistant to 200 meters
1960 Rolex straps a specially designed Deep Sea to the bathyscaphe Trieste which descended 10,916 meters to the bottom of the Mariana Trench being the first watch to reach such a depth.
1960 Hans Wilsdorf passes away on July 6, leaving Rolex to appointees stated in the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation.
1963 Rolex launches the first Oyster Cosmograph series ref. 6239
1963 Andre J. Heiniger leads Rolex to 1992, when his son Patrick takes over.
1964 Rolex patents a pressure-proof screw-down push button for chronographs
1967 Rolex, in conjunction with Comex , a French diving company, releases the Sea Dweller guaranteed water-resistant to a depth of 610 meters.
1967 Pete Knight breaks Mach 6.72 (4,534 MPH) in an X-15 aircraft wearing a GMT-Master; a record that still stands today.
1969 Rolex releases a Submariner with date and water resistant to 200 meters.
1970 Rolex starts using synthetic sapphire crystals with the introduction of the all gold OysterQuartz beta ref 5100. Rolex started rolling out sapphire crystals throughout the 70’s and 80’s. By 1989, all Rolex watches were fitted with sapphire crystals.
A Short History of Jaeger LeCoultre
Today, the Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso is one of the most famous watches ever produced, but the company actually got its start producing ebauches (unbranded movements) for other companies. A little known fact about Jaeger-LeCoultre is that in addition to producing movements for its own watches, the company has also produced movements for famous watch houses such as Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, and IWC. As a matter of fact, in the early part of the 20th Century, Jaeger-LeCoultre even supplied ebauches to the great firm of Patek Philippe. Then as now, Jaeger-LeCoultre was considered one of the finest watchmakers in Switzerland.
The year was 1833 when thirty-year-old Antoine LeCoultre, son of Vallee de Joux watchmaker Jacques LeCoultre, opened a small factory in the town of Le Sentier. Amazingly enough, the current Jaeger-LeCoultre factory is only a few feet away from the site of the original factory. In any event, LeCoultre soon proved himself to be a gifted watchmaker, but an even more brilliant inventor. In 1844, LeCoultre revolutionized the watch industry with the invention of the millionometer, an instrument with which measurements of up to one thousandths of a millimeter could be made accurately. As a result, precisely finished components could be manufactured, resulting in greatly improved accuracy in timekeeping. Likewise, the metric system became the universal measuring standard in watchmaking, while other systems were rendered obsolete.
LeCoultre’s motto — “we must base our experience on science” – was particularly true when it came to manufacturing precision movements and tools. The artistry came later at the hands of a master watchmaker, who assembled, decorated and regulated the movements. In short order, LeCoultre became the leading supplier of movements, parts and tools to the watchmaking industry in Switzerland.
LeCoultre movements were so highly regarded, in fact, that until 1910, the company provided Patek Philippe with most of its raw movements. It was only in later years that Patek Philippe built its own movements from scratch. In the meantime, other companies had come to rely exclusively on LeCoultre’s products, from which they would create finished watches. LeCoultre’s success was so great that between 1900 and 1919, 40,000 raw movements were produced.
In 1925, the grandson of the firm’s founder, David LeCoultre, merged his company with that of Edmond Jaeger, the exclusive supplier of watch movements to Cartier. This is when the modern company known as Jaeger-LeCoultre first came into existence. Incredibly enough, up to this point, Jaeger-LeCoultre had not sold any watches under its own name. The merger, however, prompted further technical innovations, not the least of which was a case made from stainless steel, as well as the creation of the smallest mechanical movement in the world, which weighed less than one gram.
The year 1931 saw the introduction of the Reverso, a wristwatch that could be turned 180 degrees within the case, thereby protecting the crystal and dial. It was a fantastic creation and one that was enthusiastically received by the public. Unfortunately, the worldwide economic crisis and World War II conspired to prevent the Reverso from achieving its full potential. Changing fashions coupled with the advent of waterproof watches might have forever doomed the watch to obscurity, had it not been for an Italian dealer who visited the factory in the 1960’s and noticed a number of unused Reverso cases sitting in a watchmakers’ drawer. The Italian dealer bought the cases and fitted them with movements. The finished watches were an instant sell-out and the rest is history. Today, the Reverso is by far Jaeger-LeCoultre’s most popular model.
Another interesting story concerns David LeCoultre’s bid for Patek Philippe. In 1932, Patek Philippe was in major financial straits and looking for a white knight. LeCoultre, whose company manufactured movements for Patek, wanted to acquire a majority interest. He came close to finalizing a deal, but the Stern brothers, whose company supplied the dials used in Patek Philippe watches, ultimately acquired the company. Although Patek Philippe has certainly prospered under the Stern family’s management, it is nonetheless interesting to contemplate what effect a Patek Philippe/Jaeger-LeCoultre merger may have had on the Swiss watch industry.
Needless to say, the company has continued to thrive, introducing such innovations as the Memovox, Futurematic, Atmos Clock and strikingly original movements such as the world’s thinnest automatic with a thickness of just 2.35 mm, just to name a few. The thin automatic movement in particular was an incredible success, as both Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet featured it in wristwatches advertised as being the world’s slimmest self-winding timepieces. During the 1970’s and early 1980’s, Jaeger-LeCoultre produced a 36 jewel, self-winding calibre for Patek Philippe. Once again, both companies had come full circle.
On a final note, it is worth noting that Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of the few companies in Switzerland that still produces its own movements, cases, dials, hands, and bracelets. Virtually every single component in a Jaeger-LeCoultre watch is hand-finished, produced in-house, and this in turn results in strict quality control. As a result, Jaeger-LeCoultre watches are recognized as being among the very finest hand-crafted watches available and evidence of this can be seen in the fact that Jaeger-LeCoultre regularly produces such masterpieces as the Reverso Tourbillon and Reverso Minute Repeater. There is also the Master Control series of watches, which boast 1,000 hours of testing and assembly at the patient hands of a master watchmaker.
In any event, if you are contemplating the purchase of a Jaeger-LeCoultre wristwatch, you’ve made an excellent choice. It’s a highly prestigious and respected brand with a long and wonderful history, as well as a proven track record.
A Short History of Omega
Today, seven out of ten people throughout the world are familiar with the Omega watch brand – a truly amazing rate of awareness to which few other watch brands can lay claim. The reason behind this success is said to be the reliably fine quality of every Omega watch. From its modest beginnings in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1848 the assembly workshop created by 23-year-old Louis Brandt gradually gained renown. Louis Brandt assembled key-wound precision pocket watches from parts supplied by local craftsmen.
After Louis Brandt’s death in 1879, his two sons Louis-Paul and Cesar took over control of the business. In 1880, the two brothers rented a floor in a Bienne building to set up a modern watch production unit. Among the names they chose for their watches were “Helvetia”, “Jura”, “Celtic”, “Gurzelen”, and “Patria”. With the introduction of the “Labrador” lever movement in 1885, the watches achieved a precision of within 30 seconds a day. The company’s banker, Henri Rieckel, suggested the name “Omega” for the new watch. The overwhelming success of the “Omega” name led to it being adopted as the sole name for all the watches of the company from 1903.
Louis-Paul and César Brandt both died in 1903, leaving one of Switzerland’s largest watch companies – with 240,000 watches produced annually and employing 800 people – in the hands of four young people, the oldest of whom was Paul-Emile Brandt. The Omega name made its sports debut at the international ballooning contest for the Gordon Bennet cup in 1909. Britain’s Royal Flying Corps decided to choose Omega watches in 1917 as their official timekeepers for its combat units, as did the American army in 1918. Omega had their first victory at the observatory timing competitions in Neuchâtel in 1919 with their chronometers winning the competition. The economic difficulties brought on by the First World War would lead him to work actively from 1925 toward the union of OMEGA and Tissot then to their merger in 1930 within the group SSIH. By the seventies, SSIH had become Switzerland’s number one producer of finished watches and number three in the world.
In 1957, the “Omega Speedmaster” was created. After rigorous evaluation and testing, NASA decided to use the “Speedmaster Professional” chronograph wristwatch in 1965 as it’s official timekeeper. In 1967, the one millionth chronometer was certified. On 21st July 1969, astronaught Neil Armstrong became the first man to step on the moon. As he made the famous steps quoting “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, he was wearing his Omega Speedmaster Professional chronograph. In 1972, Omega received their two-millionth chronometer certificate.
Following the severe monetary crisis and recession of 1975 to 1980, SSIH was bailed out by the banks in 1981. In 1985 the holding company was taken over by a group of private investors. Immediately renamed SMH, Societe suisse de microelectronique et d’horlogerie, the new group achieved rapid growth and success to become today’s top watch producer in the world. Named Swatch Group in 1998, it now includes Blancpain and Breguet. Dynamic and flourishing, OMEGA remains one of its most prestigious flagship brands.
A Short History of Longines
The Longines story began in 1832 when Auguste Agassiz moved to the tiny Swiss town of Saint-Imier and started to work for Raiguel Jeune, a trader in watch parts. In 1847, Auguste Agassiz became the sole owner in the business. In 1852, his nephew, Ernest Francillon, joined the company, finally taking over from his uncle in 1862. In 1867, the company produced its first movement (L20A). Also, Ernest Francillon was awarded a bronze medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris for his novel timepiece, its lever movements being wound and set by the crown. By 1874, the company had already sent out its first circular, warning customers against counterfeit movements. On July 19th 1880, Ernest Francillon registered the original Longines brand and its symbol, the winged hourglass. Since then, the brand has gone on to take ten Grand Prix and 28 Gold Medals that have never been equalled by any other watch manufacturer. At the beginning of the 20thcentury, Longines was amongst the first brands to produce mechanical wristwatches, an innovation that initiated a significant reorganization of watch production systems during the 1920s and the 1930s. As early as 1910, Longines watches began to lose their round silhouette, exploring new rectangular and square-shaped models. Around the same time in 1912, Longines entered the world of gymnastics at the Swiss Federal Gymnastics Meeting in Besel. Here, the Swiss company introduced automatic timing and the use of an electromechanical system with start and finish tapes. The 1920s and the 1930s were dedicated to elegance as was shown in the first Longines advertising campaign in 1927 and its production of watches decorated with diamonds, sapphires and precious stones. In this same year, there was also the release of the first non-stop transatlantic flight made by Charles A. Lindbergh, which was timed by Longines. Just one year before, in 1926, the company had taken part in the first International Horse Show in Geneva. This marked the start of a long and still very much alive, relationship between equestrian sports and the Longines brand. In the 1940s, the calibre L22A was created and, in the 1950s, Longines launched the communication campaign “Science and elegance”, as well as becoming the official timekeeper for the Winter Olympic Games in Oslo. During the 1970s, despite the contemporary quartz revolution, Longines searched for inspiration in its past, producing a series of very important models: Flore Marine (1970), Longines Kleopatra (1975), Longines Volubilis (1978). In 1972, Paris-based French designer Serge Manzon designed a series of solid silver watches especially for Longines. In 1982, two years after the creation of Caliber L960, Longines celebrated its 150th anniversary with a collection of ultra-slim watches called Longines Agassiz, in honour of the company’s founder. In 1982, the Longines’ partnership with the Ferrari Formula 1 racing team began. In 1984, Longines launched its Conquest line fitted with the VHP (Very High Precision) movement developed by Longines. The 1990s were characterised by the steel and ultra-slim watches of La Grande Classique collection, and by the Dolce Vita collection. These years also marked the launch of the advertising campaign Elegance is an Attitude, featuring legendary stars of the silver screen such as Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.
A Short History of IWC
An interesting fact you may or may not know: International Watch Company (IWC) is possibly the only major Swiss watch company whose founder was an American! During the 1860’s, three manufacturers dominated the American watch industry: Elgin, Howard and Waltham. Combined, these firms produced upwards of 100,000 pocket watches. Times were changing in the industry as pocket watches went from being a status symbol that only the wealthiest individuals could afford, to an everyday item available to the middle class. As a result, production methods had to be improved; for example, most parts for watches were still being made by hand. Costs were also high because the pool of available, qualified watchmakers was relatively small. In Boston, Massachusetts, Florentine Ariosto Jones, who had worked in the American watch industry for a number of years, keenly observed the failure of Aaron Lufkin Dennison, a leader in the watch business, whose efforts to move production to Switzerland to benefit from lower wages and Swiss watchmaking know-how, failed miserably. Undaunted, Jones took over the failed enterprise and soon set up his own company in Switzerland. His plan was to assemble watches in Switzerland and import them into the United States, hence the name International Watch Company.
Fortuitously, Jones made the acquaintance of one Johann Heinrich Moser, a watchmaker whose hometown of Schaffhausen was conveniently located near the Rhine. Following Moser’s advice, a dam was built in order to harness the mighty river and generate hydro-power to drive the machines used in manufacturing facilities throughout Schaffhausen. A watch factory was built in Schaffhausen to take advantage of the cheap hydro-power and production commenced in 1868. Despite the company’s unique business plan, the enterprise was doomed from the start. For one thing, Jones had trouble selling the watches in America, due to a high tariff on imported finished watches. An even worse problem: Jones was undercapitalized and encountered technical problems with the machines. By 1875, he was scrambling to find new investors, amid allegations by disgruntled stockholders that the company was on the verge of collapse. Inevitably, the company filed for bankruptcy and Jones was forced to relinquish control of his company.
A Swiss consortium acquired IWC’s shares and put another American, Frederick Seeland, at its helm. Although the company’s fortunes improved somewhat, the improvement was not deemed sufficient enough. As a result, the company was put up for sale again. This time, one of IWC’s stockholders, Johannes Raschenbach-Vogel, bought the company at auction for 280,000 francs. Technical achievements and increased sales soon followed with the production of the first pocket watches with digital time indication, as well as development of the famous Calibre 52 movement, which at the time was quite revolutionary in its concept and construction.
Although the company experienced significant growth, following World War I, the company’s fortunes again hit rock bottom under the proprietorship of Ernst Homberger-Rauschenbach. Fortunately, a major modernization effort paid off when the advent of World War II resulted in increased military demand. It was thus during World War II that IWC created the first oversize anti-magnetic pilot’s watch, followed by the famous Mark X, featuring its new in-house movement, Calibre 83. In 1944, IWC had a close call when the Allies mistakenly bombed Schaffhausen. As luck would have it, the factory narrowly escaped destruction.
In the aftermath of the war, International Watch Company lived up to its name and became a company of international scope. Exports to the United States increased and the brand became best known for its specialty watches, such as the Mark XI and Ingenieur – the first automatic IWC with a soft-iron inner case that protected the movement against magnetic fields – as well as for its elegant dress watches. Needless to say, vintage IWC’s from the 1940’s and 50’s are highly collectible today and in great demand, as they are somewhat under-priced compared to other high-end watch brands of that era.
In closing, the company’s philosophy is best summed up by IWC’s current CEO, Michael Sarp, who recently stated: “We shall produce watches of the highest quality with unique technical and design characteristics and thus continue to experience the pleasures of innovation.” If you should have an opportunity to examine an IWC, you will quickly realize that Mr. Sarp speaks the truth.
A Short History of Zenith
Zenith are somewhat unique because of the rich history that is behind every single watch that is created within the marketplace. It was founded in 1865 by Georges Favre-Jacot, a man that has become almost mythical in terms of the reverence he is paid by everyone that is involved in the industry. Usually a figure from an opposing company is downplayed by members of the competition, especially if that figure was responsible for the creation of an entire node within the framework of the opposing companies. In the case of Georges, however, he had such a major contribution to the overall industry that it is impossible for anyone to insult him.
What exactly was his contribution? He was the first to come up with the idea of a company dedicated to watch making. His idea involved bringing a number of different artisans under one roof to create timepieces with one brand, and at the age of just twenty-two, he became an industry giant. Calling his company a word that indicates the highest point in the universe, the company has continually reinvented the idea of timepieces. By 1875, Georges had nearly one thousand employees, and they were producing both clocks and watches. By 1896, the world had noticed the caliber of his work, and the company began to regularly receive awards for their work. In 1920, the company reached a significant milestone – they had produced two million timepieces. A milestone like that propelled the brand to begin opening offices in every part of the world. By 1969, the company had another huge breakthrough. When they offered the El Primero to the market, they had the very first automatic integrate chronograph. It remains the fastest automatic model in the world as well as the most precise. These days, the company has nearly two thousand awards, hundreds of branches across the world, and some of the most famous styles. Despite the fact that they changed ownership in the late nineties to the LVMH Group, they continue to be one of the most excited companies on the market today.
If there is one thing that the men’s watches and women’s watches created by this company are known for, it would have to be the artistic flair that is added to every single watch. In fact, the company itself makes no bones about hiding that flair and they boldly are willing to make wild artistic decisions that over the course of history have resulted time and time again in new watch fashions coming out onto the market and completely changing the landscape in regards to what is considered the norm in watch fashions of the time. In fact, their website plainly states their goal is to be known for this flair, and they delight in their success at it. Each new model is carefully examined by analysts and critics alike hoping to push forward the boundaries of artistic license.
When this artistic side of the company is taken into account and really examined closely, one finds a number of other things they are known for that stem from the artistic flair that they put into a number of their different products. An example of this would be their novelty products which are usually good for a large amount of admiration from the industry when they are released. This is not to say that every mens watch released onto the market will be a novelty item, but rather it is to say that in general when the company decides to release novelty items, they are received well enough that people eagerly look forward to the next novelty release.
Another thing that Zenith watches are known for is their overall durability. There are many high-end watchmakers in this particular industry that make products that are beautiful to behold and keep time exceptionally well when they are removed from the box. However, all too often those very same products have a very short shelf-life, causing people endless grief when their product breaks down just outside of the warranty date and they have to go purchase another product in order to replace the one that they just lost. With most mens watches that are also high-end products this is not really a problem as the customers are willing to purchase new products every couple of years, but the fact that this company creates durable products anyway is something that has always gained them a lot of goodwill.
Above watch manufacturer information courtesy of CHS – Certification Horologerie Suisse.