Centuries ago, these firms were already setting the pace for the progress of the watchmaking industry. Admired by Kings, Emperors, prominent artists and Popes, these luxury watch brands have been behind some of the major innovations that allow us to enjoy the incredible timepieces we have today. Get to know three brands that changed the history of luxury watches.
Long before being acquired by the Richemont group, who also owns luxury watch brands like IWC, Cartier and Baume et Mercier, Vacheron Constantin (Va-Sher-Own Cone-Stun-Tuhn) was already making history during the early stages of the watch industry. One of the oldest watch manufacturers, the company was founded in 1755 by Jean-Marc Vacheron. In 1770, he designed the world’s first engine-turned dials, a milestone that established Vacheron Constantin as one of the most respected watch brands worldwide.
The company made it through the French Revolution, after which Jean-Marc’s grandson decided to export their watches to Italy and France. To achieve this goal, he partnered with Francois Constantin, who was responsible for the brand’s name as we know it today and for expanding it worldwide. Constantin was also the author of the company’s well-known motto: “Do better if possible and that is always possible”.
Still today, Vacheron Constantin is known as one of the top Swiss luxury watch manufacturing company, with plants in Geneva and Vallee de Joux. Many notable celebrities have collected Vacheron Constantin watches, including Napoleon Bonaparte, the Duke of Windsor, Harry Truman and Pope Pius XI.
Baume et Mercier
In 1830, Louis-Victor and Célestin Baume founded a watch dealership in Les Bois, Switzerland. Perhaps these two brothers didn’t imagine that their company would become, decades later, one of the most renowned luxury watch brands across the world. Although they did have a very clear goal: to create traditional, high-quality watches, using the latest technological developments in the industry.
The quest for the perfect watch led the company director William Baume to join forces with Paul Mercier, despite their opposite temperaments, in 1918. At the end of WWI, society was facing many changes, and the watch industry wasn’t exempted. Women’s emancipation created a higher demand for ladies’ jewelry and watches, which created the need to miniaturize watch movements.
To overcome challenges successfully, Baume and Mercier divided their roles, the former dealing with the technical aspects and the latter taking care of the design. A year later, in 1919, Baume et Mercier (Baum Ay Mair-Syay) was given the Geneva Hallmark, the highest award for fine craftsmanship in the watch industry.
Perhaps one of the oldest watch manufacturers in history, Girard-Perregaux (Zhee RAHRD PAIR Uh Go) origins date back to 1791, when goldsmith Jean-Francois Bautte produced his first watches. Bautte’s company was the first one in history to manufacture watches in house from beginning to end, soon became renowned among the celebrities of that time, like Queen Victoria and other members of European royalties.
Generations later, in 1852 watchmaker Constant Girard founded Girard & Cie in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The firm would become Girard-Perregaux following his son’s Constant Girard-Gallet marriage to Marie Perregaux in 1906. The company had created in 1880 the first ever wristwatch produced commercially for the public: 2000 timepieces ordered by the German Kaiser Wilhelm I for his naval officers.
Later, in 1970, the company set a milestone in watchmaking history, when they presented the first wristwatch designed with a quartz movement vibrating at 32,768 hertz, which was set as the modern quartz watch movements standard.
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