The story of Paul Perret is quite unusual: He was famous not for one single accomplishment but for three different ones: He revolutionized watch adjustment, registered the very first Swiss patent, and contributed to the only watchmaking-related discovery to win a Nobel Prize! Perret was incredibly controversial in his time, vilified and then embraced by his peers, yet there is little record of his life. Read on and discover why Paul Perret deserves to be remembered!
The annual Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève ceremony took place on Thursday night, and it was a night of surprises. This year the jury trumped the fixed categories, and, as always, the overlooked nominations were maddening. Still, the GPHG remains the gold standard for watch awards, driving sales and press like no other.
In an industry as full of folklore and puffery as watchmaking, it is refreshing to uncover first-hand knowledge. As I was researching the history of Zénith, Universal, and the Martel watch factory I stumbled on a real gold mine: A 1991 interview with Charles Vermot, the watchmaker who saved the legendary El Primero watch movement from the scrap heap, and a look at how the watchmaking profession was viewed in 1991, as the industry was just recovering. I enjoyed the video enough to translate it and present it here for my readers.
La Chaux-de-Fonds is sometimes called “Watch City” because it is home to so much watchmaking history. It is said that “Chaux-de-Fonnier” factories produced half of the world’s watches in the first half of the 20th century! It’s no surprise that some historic sites are forgotten, but the Palais Invar deserves a closer look: It was one of the most recognizable buildings in La Chaux-de-Fonds for most of the 20th century, housing brands like Montre-Invar, Alpha, Venus, Le Phare, Sultana, and Jean d’Eve, and it was home to the first Salon Suisse de l’Horlogerie in 1933.
The pattern of high demand, over-production, and collapse is common in all industries, but especially in the history of Swiss watchmaking. We see it repeated throughout the 20th century, from ebauches to complete watches, but all of these efforts trace their roots to a crisis focused on the humble balance spring. Surprisingly, this very first attempt to create a cartel was also the most successful and disruptive! This is the story of Société des Fabriques de Spiraux Rèunies, which cornered the market for balance springs in 1895. The FSR was the template for Ebauches SA, ASUAG, and the Swatch Group, and we would be wise to study the lessons of this “cartel crisis”!
Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, died on March 24, 2023. Although many touching tributes are currently being published to this titan of the technology industry, most overlook what Moore himself called his greatest mistake: Intel’s attempt to corner the digital watch business. Intel bought Microma, a hot Silicon Valley startup, in 1972 but gave up the business just six years later. Moore continued to wear his “$15 million watch” for decades as a reminder of this failure – and to stay out of consumer products!
There are few names in the golden age of watchmaking as revered as Vénus, which produced some of the best chronograph movements of the 1940s. But the history of this small Swiss company is not well documented, and the story reveals the surprisingly-connected world of watchmaking at the time. Vénus rose and fell in just a few decades, but the legacy of their chronograph movements, especially the legendary rattrapantes used by Breitling, lives on.
Although it is located in a tiny village of less than 1,000 residents, the factory in Fontainemelon looms large in the history of Swiss watchmaking. The oldest and largest ebauche factory in the country was established there early in the 19th century, and Fabrique d’Horlogerie Fontainemelon (FHF) was a founding member of Ebauches SA 100 years later. Even today, the Fontainemelon factory remains a cornerstone of the Swatch Group. Let’s look at the history that made Fontainemelon the dominant supplier of ebauches in the 19th century.
The Naked Watchmaker just announced its collaboration with Frederique Constant, the Slimline Perpetual Calendar Manufacture. Although I’ve enjoyed recent collaboration models, this one misses the mark in some important ways, emphasizing the mechanics at the expense of utility and beauty.
Naoya Hida & Co. is a Tokyo-based independent watch atelier producing a small number of classically-inspired watches. The company recently released their 2022 line for application. This article gives an overview of Hida, the watches, and their movements.