New acquisitions - Exhibition from 9 May to 4 September 2022
Yellow gold pocket watch with movement from Excelsior Park, St. Imier, Switzerland, ca. 1900.
On 21 March 1891, the Bureau Fédérale de la propriété intellectuelle (Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property) issued a patent to the company, Albert Jeanneret et Frères, for its “Excelsior Park” chronograph movement. The Jeanneret family had already been in business since 1866 and specialised in sports watches and chronographs. This unsigned pocket watch from St. Imier functions not just as a chronograph, but also as a pulsometer. This practical chronograph function emerged around the turn of the century: after 20 pulsations, the large hand on the dial shows the heart rate in beats per minute. The pocket watch could therefore have originally belonged to a doctor, nurse or midwife. Not only the pulsometer was extremely practical, but also another detail. On a bridge there is the inscription in Spanish, “debajo de este puente hay piezas de recambio” (below this bridge there are spare parts), so in the event that the watch became damaged or needed servicing, the wearer could find a remedy for the problem here.
Silver trench watch by Omega, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, 1910s.
This watch from the 1910s has a grille over the dial that was specially made to protect it in turbulent times. Like many early men’s wristwatches, this timepiece has military origins. It was probably worn by a soldier during the First World War. The lugs are very delicate and may also have been soldered onto a pocket watch in order to be worn on the arm, so as to be able to read the time more easily during warfare. The strap is not original and was replaced at a later date. The protective grille can be removed, and underneath, the early watch has a simple dial with small seconds bearing the Omega brand signature, which can also be found on the movement.
Stainless-steel wristwatch, “Incabloc”, from Empire, Switzerland, 1930s.
Besides the rectangular, curved “Curvex” shape of the case, the dial of this wristwatch from the 1930s is also striking: two separate, superimposed displays show the hours and minutes (above) and the seconds (below). At the time, this display was typical of the so-called “doctors’ watch”. It was intended to make it easier for medical staff to take a patient’s pulse. A mechanical quality feature of this wristwatch is the shock protection, which gives the movement more stability – without doubt an advantage when worn during the wearer’s hectic everyday working life. The shock absorber was originally invented by the famous watchmaker, Abraham-Louis Breguet, who called it a “parachute”. A very appropriate name, as it was intended to protect the delicate balance pivots from becoming damaged if the watch was dropped, for example. This wristwatch features the Incabloc shock protection system, or “Incabloc” for short, which was introduced in 1934 and is still in use today.
Yellow gold and stainless steel wristwatch, Accutron, from Bulova, Switzerland and USA, 1970s.
With the “Accutron” model, exhibited here, the Bulova brand launched the first wristwatch on the market with a so-called tuning fork movement. The transparent dial gives a good view into its interior: in the upper area, directly under the brand logo, the tuning fork wrapped in reddish wire catches the eye. This not only gave the watch its name, but also determined the Bulova logo, which likewise resembles a tuning fork. In an effort to make mechanical timekeeping more precise, similar and other electronic watches were developed from the late 1940s onwards, most of which were later replaced by high-precision quartz movements. In the case of the tuning fork watch, a battery sets the fork, which is wrapped in ultra-thin wire, in motion and its impulses are transmitted via the wire and an artificial ruby to a tiny gear wheel. That is why the movement is also said to be electromechanical. This new way of working not only affects the appearance of the watch: as it is regulated differently than the classic mechanical timepieces with spring, balance and escapement, it does not tick, but hums! The vibrations of the tuning fork, which is invisible to the eye, produces a humming sound – which led to manufacturer Bulova, which operated in the USA and Switzerland, advertising its innovation with the slogan, “The watch that hums”.
Yellow gold savonette watch from Waltham Riverside, Waltham (Massachusetts), USA, 1899.
Inscriptions on antique watches often provide important clues about their history. This watch is particularly forthcoming in this respect, as it has several inscriptions. On the dial are the words, “Benedict Brothers New York”, the so-called dealer’s signature. It reveals where this timepiece was sold. The watch and jewellery shop, Benedict Brothers, was a tradition-steeped family business and traded in New York for over 100 years until it closed at the end of 1938. On the movement, we can find the maker of the pocket watch: “A. W. W. Co. Riverside Waltham Mass.” The American Waltham Watch Company in Massachusetts was an important and large US manufacture that specialised in railway watches, among other things. This watch belonged to the First Officer of the largest German passenger ship at the time, the “S. S. Auguste Victoria”, which sailed from Hamburg to New York. An article in the New York Times dated 1 November 1899 documents the incident that led to the watch being given as a gift. According to the article, First Officer J. Eckhorn rushed to the aid of the Danish steamer, “Polarstjernen”, when it was in distress at sea. Despite the high seas, the officer set out in a lifeboat to rescue the crew of the steamer and bring them back to his ship. However, the crew did not want to leave the “Polarstjernen” and it finally had to be towed away by another steamship. Nevertheless, the passengers of the “Auguste Victoria” honoured their First Officer for his willingness to help. On the case back of the pocket watch we can read the dedication: “To 1st Officer J. Eckhorn, from the passengers of the S. S. “Auguste Victoria” to commemorate his gallant conduct in boarding the disabled Danish steamer ‘Polarstjernen’, October 26 1899”.
Unsigned, gold pocket watch from Ad. Laux with Box, Zurich, Switzerland, ca. 1900.
Chronometrie Beyer is considered to be the oldest clock and watch shop in Switzerland. From 1850 onwards, it had a shop in Zurich’s Niederdorf quarter, with a display window looking onto Limmatquai. Sometime later, when Beyer had already moved to Bahnhofstrasse, the Zurich jeweller’s shop, Ad. Laux, was doing business at Limmatquai 8. According to an advertisement in the magazine, “Nebelspalter”, it sold Geneva pocket watches, jewellery and watch chains. This watch is driven by a chronometer movement with a lever escapement and bears the dealer’s signature, “Horlogerie Ad. Laux Zürich”, on the case back. The accompanying box is original, as is also the inscription, “Ad. Laux, Horlogerie-Bijouterie, Zürich 1, Limmatquai 8”, inside the lid.
Yellow gold wristwatch, Centenaire “61“, from Eterna, Grenchen, Switzerland, 1961.
A special feature of the movement of the Eterna-Matic watches is the typical winding mechanism with a ball-bearing rotor. You can see an enlarged model of this mechanism in the museum’s reception area. The rotor is very flat and therefore particularly suitable for small wristwatches and ladies’ watches. The ball bearings from the rotor were also the inspiration for the Eterna logo with the five dots. Another attractive feature of this object is the date display at 3 o’clock. This “Centenaire “61“ de Luxe” wristwatch also bears the dealer’s signature, “Beyer”, on the gold-plated dial. It was sold in the Beyer Chronometrie shop in July 1962.
Yellow gold wristwatch from IWC, Schaffhausen, Switzerland, ca. 1951.
This simple wristwatch from IWC Schaffhausen dates from 1951. A year later, in February 1952, it was sold in the Beyer Chronometrie shop to a customer from Italy. The dealer’s signature, “Beyer”, on the silver-plated dial directly above the small seconds bears witness to this. IWC, then still known as the International Watch Co. Schaffhausen, was an important partner brand for Beyer even then. Right until the 1960s, it was customary to record the dealer’s signature on the dial, as the dealer was often better known than the brand. Seventy years after it was sold, in 2021, the watch returned to Beyer and was added to the collection of the Beyer Clock and Watch Museum.
White gold wristwatch, Princess, from Rolex, Geneva, Switzerland, ca. 1926.
The narrow dial of this elegant ladies’ watch with a rectangular case is adorned not only with the brand name, “Rolex”, but also with the dealer’s signature, “Beyer”. With important partner brands, it was customary through until the 1960s to name the dealer, as at that time the dealer was often better known than the brand itself. We therefore know that this watch was sold in the Beyer Chronometrie shop in the 1920s. In addition to the dealer’s signature, this timepiece stands out as a result of its lunette decorated with ten glittering diamonds. On the movement, the model is described in more detail: “Princess”, a highly modern design at the time, which Rolex launched at the same time as the top-quality “Prince” men’s watches. The brand advertised it in 1930 with the following slogan: “Rolex – Précision – Princesse – Elégance”.
Unsigned enamel pocket watch, probably around 1760 with stingray leather outer case, place unknown. Box and key not original.
This pocket watch is richly decorated with ornate enamel paintings. Its owner wound it with a key, which has not been preserved. The date and origin of the watch are unknown. A special feature is the outer case made of stingray leather, a very rare material that was only used in Europe from that time onwards. It protects the delicate enamel case when the watch is worn. When the outer case is removed, the case back shows a scene featuring a girl with a basket of flowers and a smaller boy. On the side of and inside the case is a rural scene with a red-roofed house. The round box and the key are from a later period.
Unsigned yellow gold and silver pendant watch with chatelaine, Switzerland, ca.1900.
As was customary in earlier times, this pendant watch was worn on the body by ladies of high society. Featuring a holder made of two pins, it was attached to the dress like a brooch. The chatelaine, a short chain decorated with diamonds and sapphires, matches the back of the case perfectly. To read the time, the watch is turned to reveal a simple white enamel dial with chiselled hands. The movement of the small watch, which dates from the turn of the last century, is wound by hand.
Yellow gold pocket watch from Maurice Ditisheim with box and watch chain, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, ca. 1890.
The semi-open Lépine watch has a gold case. The small seconds are displayed on the dial, which is decorated with floral ornaments. The finely chiselled hands are set with small stones. The former owner kept the pocket watch in a wooden box with a blue lining. His name is inscribed on the lid: “Bendicht Steimann”, which also appears as a monogram, “BS”, on the back case lid. The chain belonging to the watch is made of human hair. Jewellery made of hair was typical for the fashion of the Biedermeier period and the 19th century. Some of these chains were braided by women for their husbands, but they could also be bought ready-made. The Ditisheim family in La Chaux-de-Fonds produced a number of talented watchmakers. Maurice Ditisheim, the creator of this pocket watch, founded the company, Maurice Ditisheim, in 1858, which later merged with Ditisheim & Frères SA and specialised in marine chronometers.