- By Virginie Liatard-Roessli, Head of Sale of Double Signed
The story of the watches that bear two signatures dates back to a time when travelling across hemispheres was not as easy as it is today, and when some local retailers may have had a greater notoriety than some of the Swiss watch brands they were selling. The long-time partnership manufacturers built with their local retailers embodied one of the main values in Switzerland: a win-win situation. In some instances, the manufacturers would benefit from the established reputation of the local retailer in a country where its watches may have had little exposure, and the retailer would be allowed to put its name on a fine, exclusive and precious timepiece, proclaiming itself as official retailer.
It seems that it was Patek Philippe that set the trend of double signed watches thanks to its relationship with the famous New York based jeweler, Tiffany & Co. History goes that Tiffany sold its first Patek Philippe in 1851 and that the two maisons have worked together without discontinuation ever since. On December 22, 1854 a picture of Antoine Norbert de Patek shaking hands with Charles Lewis Tiffany was taken as a testimony of this strong partnership. Patek Philippe also had a very interesting partnership with Brazilian retailer Gondolo & Labouriau.
Between the 1900’s and 1930’s, the Brazilian government enforced a law that prohibited public gambling. Gondolo & Labouriau came up with a visionary idea that would allow them to bypass this ban. They created a club, called the “Gondolo Gang” composed of Brazilian high society members and leaders, each member was required to buy one watch. Clients would pay 10 francs per week until the watch was fully paid for, however Gondolo & Labouriau would hold weekly draws so that the first week’s winner received his watch for free, while the second week’s winner had to pay a minimal sum. This went on until the 79th week, and after that, the remaining members were required to pay the full retail price. This system was not only extremely clever in bypassing the ban on gambling as it was on a private club, but it also increased significantly the sale of watches.
We can also mention Chronométrie Beyer who has been active since 1760 making it one of the oldest retailers in the world having retailed and still retailing some of the most prestigious horological brands available.
These are only a few remarkable examples of these fine partnerships.
However, while putting this auction together, we had the great privilege to discover or rediscover some forgotten segments of horological history, to travel through continents and to learn about great retailers with names that bring us back to a bygone time patinated with glamour and sophistication.
We started by revisiting Switzerland, the country where these watches were produced and retailed through a large network, sometimes by retailers that are very well known, and sometimes by retailers that have disappeared a long time ago without leaving a trace.
Italy, where elegance and fashion tastes are a second nature, had also a great amount of official retailers allowed to add their name on the dial of the best timepieces. Some names like Gobbi, Trucchi, Verga or Hausmann, to only name a few, adorned the dials of Swiss watches from the last century.
Let us not forget the flamboyant post war years of Latin America where panache and sophistication were the trend set by the likes of Serpico y Laino, Freccero, Le Palais Royal or Joyeria Riviera.
This journey has been as interesting as it has been enchanting, revisiting the past but also seeing that this long lasting tradition continues today with modern watches.
On November 9th, 2019, we will be extremely proud to see more than 60 of these fabulous witnesses of their era grace the Geneva Auction room for our auction “Double Signed: A celebration of the Finest Partnership between Manufacturers and retailers”. For some of these timepieces, it will be their first time coming back home after a long journey away from the Swiss valleys. Please join us in welcoming them back home!