Swiss Retailers

Beyer - Zurich, Switzerland

Beyer Chronométrie, located on Zurich’s prestigious Bahnhofstrasse, is the oldest clock and watch shop in Switzerland. In the course of 250 years and eight generations, the family firm has cultivated the most beautiful aspects of timekeeping while fostering its traditional heritage.Matthäus Beyer laid the foundations for this impressive family history in the German town of Donaueschingen. In 1822, his grandson, Stephan Beyer, brought the name and the firm to Feuerthalen in the canton of Zurich, Switzerland. His son opened the first shop in the Niederdorf, one of the top locations in the city of Zurich in 1860 and in 1877, Beyer Chronométrie moved to the city’s new epicentre – the Bahnhofstrasse. The company first took up residence in the building of the former Kreditanstalt on Paradeplatz, and in 1927 moved to the other side of Bärengasse, where it has remained until this day. Since 1996, René Beyer has been at the helm of the firm, representing the eighth generation of the Beyer family. Like all his predecessors, he is a qualified watchmaker.

Eisenhart, Bern, Switzerland

Very little information is available on this small Swiss jeweler and watchmaker. Working in the production and distribution of jewellery, watches and precious metal goods, the company F.W. Eisenhart was active in Bern and Interlaken. The company was registered in Bern on 19 January 1926 under the name F.W. Eisenhart-Hiltbrunner and in Interlaken on March 11, 1948. The company also registered the name Exact Time. Although Eisenhart is still registered in Interlaken, the company has been inactive since 2013.

Golay Fils & Stahl - Geneva, Switzerland

Founded in 1837 by the watch and clock maker Auguste Golay-Leresche at 31, Quai des Bergues in Geneva, the family run company specialized in the production of high quality watches for which they won various medals and awards. They quickly became an important asset to Geneva’s economy and were recognized as one the best watch manufacturers of Switzerland, both nationally and internationally. Their products comprised highly complicated watches for special commissions such as an 18K gold openface minute repeating perpetual calendar watch with phases of the moon, sunrise, sunset and equation of time, made circa 1910 for the Maharaja of Patiala of India. In the period from 1860 until 1930 there were two stores, the original in Geneva and one in Paris. At the end of the 19th centruy, it counted King Carol I of Romania among its most loyal customers and the firm became jewellers to the Royal Family of Romania. Other royal customers included Kim Damrong of Siam and the Maharajah of Baroda of India.

Gübelin - Lucerne, Switzerland

Known for its exquisite high-end jewellery, gemstone expertise and as purveyors of some of today’s most sought-afer luxury watch brands, the Swiss family-owned House of Gübelin’s story began in 1854. With the opening of a small watchmaker’s shop in the Swiss city of Lucerne, the business grew over time, moving to ever-larger locations in the city until finally settling in the prime site on the quay that still houses Gübelin’s Lucerne boutique today. Since 1854, the House of Gübelin has always been in the hands of the family and led by a family member. Throughout time the Gübelin family carefully nurtured its traditions, kept the company’s core values alive and passed them on to the next generation which contributed to the success and growth of the Swiss firm. After, Thomas Gübelin passed on the reins to the sixth generation, to his son Raphael Gübelin and daughter-in-law Wilvy Sy Gübelin. The legacy continues.

Rud Niklaus - Berne, Switzerland

Based in Bern, the capital city of Switzerland, Rud Niklaus Bern was a clock maker and an important retailer for Omega, and as such, added its name on the dials of some of the pieces stocked by the boutique, although very few have ever appeared at auction, suggesting this practice was highly limited and reserved only for its finest watches.

Türler - Zurich, Switzerland

On February 5, 1883, the brothers César Alexander and Jean Henri Türler met the watchmaker Türler in the watchmaking metropolis of Biel. Shortly thereafer, the first Türler collections were presented in Vienna and Pforzheim - the first step towards its international activity. At the beginning of November 1907, Arnold Türler, convinced of Zurich’s importance as an international business and commercial centre, relocated his company’s headquarters from the rather tranquil Münsterhof to the already busy and sought afer Paradeplatz in Zurich. In 1995, Franz Türler unveiled the Türler clock “Model of the Cosmos”. After nine years of construction, the most complicated astronomical and astrological clock in the world was completed. In the same year, the Türler clock became the most expensive timepiece in the Guiness Book of Records. Aside from its own production, Türler was also an official retailer for brands such as Longines, Heuer, Audemars Piguet to only name a few. Watches retailed by Türler had the name of the retailer stamped on the dial.

European Retailers

Italy

Gobbi - Milan, Italy

While universally known today as a Milan based retailer, the history of Gobbi actually began in a different city - Modena - in 1842. It was this year that Raimondo Gobbi opened his shop in Portico del Collegio San Carlo. Of course at the time the business was focused on clocks and pocket timepieces and involved both commercialisation and repair. The success was immediate, so much that the Grand Duke of Modena granted him the title of “Royal Watchmaker” (Orologiaio della Real Corte) only 10 years later, in 1952. Raimondo’s son Giuseppe soon entered the family business and thanks to his technical proficiency boosted the success of the company even further, so much that in 1896 a shop was opened in Corso Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. With the advent of WWII, Gobbi was heavily hit both metaphorically and literally, the original shop destroyed by the bombings. This however did not stop the business, and on September 4, 1949 a shop located in Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 15 was opened. This is still the current location, retaining to this day the original furnishing of the time. Today the company is managed by the Gobbi family.

A. Cairelli - Rome, Italy

Watch retailer Cairelli is - together with watchmaking brand Panerai - the Italian brand mostly linked with military timepieces. It opened in 1932 with two locations: a watchmaking and a retail shop both in Rome. The earliest military timepieces co-signed by Cairelli dating back to the beginnings of the company are oversized single-button chronographs with officer-style cases and porcelain dials. One such watch is known bearing an inscription to the back which links it to the first Saharian group of Tripolitania, now known as Libya - at the time an Italian colony. Other noteworthy examples are pocket watches from the early 1940s made for the Hydrographic Institute of the Italian Navy. It is after the war, however, that Cairelli’s most famous timepieces were commercialized: beyond the aforementioned CP-2 watches as well as the elusive split second chronograph model with 24-hours dial. These are the last watches sold by Cairelli as the company discontinued its activity circa 1970.

Giudici - Milan, Italy

Extremely scarce information is available today about Giudici. The only certainty is that it was active for a brief time in Milano in the 1940s, and that Luigi Verga, founder of Orologeria Verga, was its director. A relatively small company, it seems that it was somewhat of a “one-man-show”, with Verga undertaking both management and watchmaking duties. In fact, soon after he left the company to pursue his own endeavour, Giudici’s success rapidly declined until its ultimate closure.

Hausmann & Co. - Rome, Italy

The oldest among the main Italian watch retailers, Hausmann was founded in 1794 in Piombino Palace, Piazza Colonna, in Rome under the name Orologeria Ricci. Master Watchmaker Innocenzo Ricci, active in the mid-1800s, achieved remarkable notoriety and made the company the reference point in Rome for watch repairs. In 1870, Romano Ricci, son of Innocenzo, started a partnership with German watchmaker Ernst Hausmann who would eventually buy the totality of the company in 1881 and change its name to “Hausmann & Co”. By this time, Hausmann had business partnerships with the most important watchmaking houses, such as, Vacheron Constantin and Lange-Söhne. In 1884 the first Vacheron Constantin timepiece is bought by Ricci for Haussman, making the company the oldest Vacheron Constantin retailer in the world. In 1902, Hausmann expanded its reach by opening a shop in Naples and another one in Genoa. Another noteworthy year for the company is 1967, when it began its ongoing collaboration with Rolex. In 1978, Hausmann expanded oversea by opening a boutique on Madison Avenue and 59th, New York.

Trucchi - Naples, Italy

Founded on January 2, 1907, Trucchi is one of the most prominent Neapolitan watch retailers. In fact, the company is still in possession of records from those early days, from which one can immediately establish that most of its clientele of the time was part of Neapolitan aristocracy. Due to the historical changes in Italian society, the second generation of the Trucchi family steered the target market of the company more towards the upper middle class. A noteworthy action in this endeavour is when Trucchi released a Trucchi-branded wristwatch, stimulating the curiosity of Neapolitan collectors. In 2010 the last scion of the Trucchi family - Aldo Trucchi - hired Giovanni Restivo as President of the company. Restivo’s efforts were aimed at preserving the important heritage of the brand and at the same time modernizing its image. The company became official retailer for a number of modern brands such as Hublot, Jacob & Co, Greubel Forsey, De Grisogono, while at the same time preserving the collaboration with the most historical watchmaking brands such as Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Breguet, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Longines.

Verga - Milan, Italy

The history of Verga Orologi is indissolubly linked with the Verga dynasty: four generations which - until today - have worked in and managed the shop. It all started immediately afer WWII. As history goes, on April 29, 1945, four days after the liberation of Italy, an American reporter walked into Orologeria Giudici and asked for a repair to his broken watch. Luigi Verga, at the time Director of Giudici, personally repaired the timepiece and probably realising the breadth and impact watchmaking could have, decided to open a shop on its own. Two years later, in 1947, Verga Orologi was founded, the location still the same as today in Via Mazzini. The name Verga did not appear on the front of the shop. Rather, the three brands represented were advertised: Rolex, Vacheron Constantin and Universal. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s the company kept expanding, both financially and physically and many additional brands were added to the Verga lineup: Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC, Omega, Cartier just to name a few.

United Kingdom

Harrods - London, UK

Harrods is London’s best known department store and is in fact one of the most famous, largest and most exclusive department stores in the world. The building is located on Brompton Road in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to the west of downtown. The company was founded in 1834 by Charles Henry Harrod and relocated to Knightsbridge in 1849. In December 1883, the building was completely destroyed by fire and rebuilt in the period between 1894 and 1903 in its present form. 

Aspey - London, UK

Asprey was established in England in Mitcham, Surrey, in 1781. Founded as a silk printing business by William Asprey, it soon became a luxury emporium. In 1841, William Asprey’s elder son Charles went into partnership with a stationer located on London’s Bond Street. In 1847, the family broke with this partner and moved into 167 New Bond Street, the premises Asprey occupies today. From its central London location, Asprey advertised ‘articles of exclusive design and high quality, whether for personal adornment or personal accompaniment and to endow with richness and beauty the table and homes of people of refinement and discernment.’ Asprey has a great heritage in horology dating back to the 19th century when Asprey’s iconic Regulator clock once stood in the window of the London flagship store so that gentlemen could set their temperamental timepieces by it. In later years, Asprey began to work closely with other esteemed watch and clock makers creating the finest offering on Bond Street including bespoke pieces customised and stamped Asprey.

William & Son - London, UK 

William & Son have a particular and definitively British take on the finest things in life. Founded in 1999 by William Asprey, a seventh generation member of the Asprey family, the company has grown to become Mayfair’s go-to luxury destination for Town & Country living. From the finest jewellery and timepieces, leather goods and homeware, the prestigious company also produces impeccable attire and accessories for the field. Located on Bruton Street, the company is official retailer for some of the best independent watchmakers such as F.P. Journe, De Bethune, Laurent Ferrier or H. Moser & Cie to only name a few.

France 

Hermès - Paris, France

Thierry Hermès was born in 1801. The son of an innkeeper, he decided to become a saddler, setting up his workshop in Paris in 1837. The firm quickly earned a reputation for its quality and the owners of the finest horses went there for their harnesses and saddles. The family firm developed its business using the name ‘Hermès Frères’. In 1912, Emile Hermès had his workshops produce a first wristwatch for his daughter Jacqueline, featuring Hermès’ distinctive poetic, minimalist aesthetic appearance. However, it was not until 1928 that the firm made a long-term move in the direction of watchmaking and started by presenting models produced by Swiss manufacturers. Today, Hermès continues to develop its own watch collection by offering models with a strong creative fingerprint with a singular and playful approach to displaying the time.

Cartier - Paris, France

Regarded as one of the most prestigious jewellery manufacturer in the world, Cartier was founded by Louis-François Cartier in Paris in 1847. In 1899, he handed over the company to his three sons who would establish the company internationally. Named “King of Jewellers, Jeweller of Kings”, the brand was a favourite among the crowned heads of Europe. Quickly Cartier turn its attention to watches and launched iconic models such as the Santos (1904), the Tortue (1912) and the Tank (1919). The Cartier family retained ownership of the firm until 1964. Although the brand is now part of the Richemont group it maintains its headquarters in Paris. Today Cartier designs, manufactures, distributes, and sells jewellery and watches. The brand operates more than 200 stores in 125 countries, with three historical maisons in London, New York and Paris.

Germany

Wempe - Munich, Germany

Gerhard D. Wempe, born on March 26, 1857, is regarded in Germany as a pioneer of the watch and jewellery trade. With courage, creativity, intelligent innovations and good ideas, in 1878 he created the beginnings of a large, international company that still bears his name. With attractive displays and the painstaking decoration of his shop windows, his aim was a to attract clients like no other business at that time. To date, the concept of these displays is still the hallmark of the family business. He earned his nickname “Gülden Gerd” at a very young age and until his death in 1921, he expanded his modest business with great success. His shops were synonym of the best quality and the widest selection of watches. Today, Wempe is an international company with offices around the world and is official retailer for Rolex and Patek Philippe.

North American Retailers

Bailey, Banks & Biddle - Philadelphia, USA

Bailey, Banks & Biddle was a renowned jewellery firm based in Philadelphia, USA. Best known for designing and producing prestigious military medals, such as the Congressional Medal of Honour and Purple Heart medals, Bailey Banks & Biddle co also delivered one of the first distinguished Flying Cross medals to Captain Charles A. Lindbergh, known to watch collectors for his contribution to the development of the Longines Hour Angle wristwatch for pilots in 1927. Founded in 1832 Bailey, Banks & Biddle co was sold to the Zale Corporation in 1961 and the company thrived thanks to its new owner’s extensive distribution network. Bailey, Banks & Biddle co opened stores in more than 30 states across the country, sparking a rivalry with other jewellery chains such as Tiffany & Co, but the company was sold to Finlay Entreprises in 2007. All of the stores were closed two years later, following the financial crash of 2008, but Bailey, Banks & Biddle co has since been relaunched as an independent company.

Baylor - Dallas, USA

“Baylor” was a house brand for Zales, a large chain of jewellery stores headquartered in Texas, USA. The company was founded in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1924 and its headquarters moved to Dallas, Texas in 1946. The Baylor line of watches offered by Zales included a variety of sports and dress watches. Throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s, Heuer was its main supplier. Most of the watches co-branded with Heuer were triple calendar or simple three-hand watches. Zale Corporation remains the largest operator of retail jewelry stores in the United States with more than 2,300 retail locations—stores and mall kiosks—located in all 50 states, as well as in Puerto Rico and Canada.

Tiffany & Co. - New York City, USA

Originally established in 1837 in Brooklyn, Connecticut, Tiffany & Co. presented itself as a “stationary and fancy goods emporium” and was named “Tiffany, Yong and Ellis”. In 1853, Charles Tiffany, one of the original partners, acquired control of the company, renamed it “Tiffany & Company” and switched the focus to jewellery. In 1906, Tiffany & Co moved its New York flagship store to its current iconic location, at the corner of 57th and Fifth Avenue. The past century saw the rise of Tiffany as one of the most respected and renowned luxury names in the world, fnally and irrevocably entering the collective imaginary as the most prominent American luxury establishment as a result of the 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. While many watchmaking brands can boast watches co-signed by Tiffany, Patek Philippe and Rolex are arguably the most important ones. The relationship between Rolex and Tiffany began in the late 1950s, with Tiffany stamping Rolex dials with their name at their US service center. In 1990 Rolex decided not to supply co-branded watches any more effectively decreeing the end of the relationship between the two companies. Tiffany and Patek Philippe worked together for a century and a half, with Tiffany selling their first Patek Philippe timepiece in 1851.

Central American Retailers

Cuba

Le Palais Royal - Havana, Cuba

Calle del Obispo is one of the oldest streets in the historic center of Havana and also one of the busiest. A commercial center par excellence since the nineteenth century, from the Avenida del Puerto to Monserrate Street, the area gained in popularity and welcomed the most varied commercial establishments: hotels, banks, bookstores, education centers and ministries. Important trading houses such as the “Villa de Paris”, “Le Palais Royal” or “the Post Ofce of Paris”, considered among the best in the city, established themselves in Obispo attracting numerous clientele. Other establishments of recognized prestige and antiquity soon followed. The Palais Royal on the corner of Obispo and Compostela was recognized as one of the largest and most famous Havana jewellery stores destined for the sale of valuable luxury objects and beautiful jewellery, unique in its kind that wealthy families wore to luxurious parties as symbols of their social status and fnancial wealth.

Cuervo Y Sobrinos - Havana, Cuba

In 1882, Ramón Cuervo opened its first atelier and then also a boutique at Havana’s prestigious San Rafael Avenue. In 1900, his nephew Armando Rio Cuervo and his family joined the jewellery and watchmaking business which was renamed Cuervo y Sobrinos – Cuervo and Nephews. In addition to their own creations, Cuervo y Sobrinos distributed and sold the most important brands in global watchmaking. The family achieved such renown that some of the greatest watch brands engraved the Cuervo y Sobrinos name on their watch dials. In the early 1920s Cuervo y Sobrinos decided to expand its network of boutiques in strategic European cities: Pforzheim, Germany and on Rue Mezlay in Paris as well as a new production site in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Due to political events, the brand remained dormant between the late 1950s till 2002 when Marzio Villa relaunched the company in Europe. Today, Cuervo y Sobrinos’ manufacture is headquartered in Le Noirmont (Swiss Jura), just few kilometers away from La Chaux-de-Fonds where Cuervo y Sobrinos had its workshop in the past.

Joyería Riviera - Havana, Cuba

It was the year 1923 when Don Julio Abislaiman and his two sons José and Juan established Joyería Riviera in Havana, Cuba on the very elegant Galiano Boulevard. The store was considered the most important luxury watch and jewellery retailer of Havana, Cuba during the 1940s and ’50s. Located inside a two story property, jewellery and watches were displayed on the first level, while every conceivable sterling silver item for the home was displayed on the top floor. It was the first jewellery store in Havana to be the authorized dealer of the famous brand Rolex. After the first few months of the Revolution in 1960, the family closed shop and moved to open stores in Puerto Rico and in Coral Gables in Florida, USA. Over the past forty years, the name of Riviera Jewellers has become synonymous across the globe with the prestigious and the exceptional.

South American Retailers

Serpico & Laino - Caracas, Venezuela

Based in Caracas, Venezuela, Serpico & Laino was an important jeweller and official retailer of Patek Philippe and Rolex wristwatches during the first half of the 20th century (1925- 1960). One of the most prosperous countries of South America, following the discovery of oil reserves in the 1920s, Venezuela became one of the premier destinations for Swiss-made watches. With their fingers strongly on the pulse of the market, Serpico y Laino ordered watches that would suit the tastes of local clientele including very rare Patek Philippe and Rolex references in pink gold, such as the reference 2526 and the reference 6036. In most cases, watches retailed by Serpico y Laino are easily identified by the presence of the retailer’s name on the dial, usually below the center seconds. However, some watches sold by the boutique have standard production dials and a subtle S&L logo engraved inside and/or on the caseback.

Freccero - Montevideo, Uruguay

Responsible for selling some of today’s most sought-after “double-signed” watches, Freccero was an extremely influential watch retailer based Montevideo, Uruguay. Since its opening on South American shores in 1868, Freccero was known for importing the very finest watches it could find, turning quite naturally to German-made pocket watches from Glashütte, and later becoming an extremely important client of Patek Philippe. Legendary models, such the chronograph references 1463 and 1579, were made and ferried to Uruguay’s capital to be sold at Freccero, for the boutique’s most discerning clients. The retailer’s name is almost exclusively printed on the bottom half of the watch, between the central hands and the index at 6 o’clock. In 2015, Freccero’s historic address in Montevideo’s Ciudad Vieja closed its doors to focus on its two other sale points in Uruguay. All its selling locations have since shut down in May of 2019, putting an end to one of the city’s oldest family-run businesses.

Gondolo & Labouriau - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

While it is no longer in business today, Gondolo sold some of the most unique retailed-signed pocket watches and wristwatches of the past century. Gondolo & Labouriau was Patek Philippe’s sole authorized retailer in Rio de Janeiro between the 1872 and 1927, greatly raising the awareness of Patek Philippe in Brazil during the popularisation of mans’ wristwatches. The Brazilian retailer, at one time responsible for a third of Patek Philippe’s production, even had a wristwatch named after it. Production of “Chronometro Gondolo” wristwatches began in 1910, shortly after the creation of the frst “Chronometro Gondolo” pocket watches, with a great variety of sizes and case shapes introduced over the years, from circular and square to cushion-shaped and rectangular. Gondolo & Labouriau stopped carrying Patek Philippe watches in 1927, later going out of business indefinitely, but the Gondolo name survives through Patek Philippe’s current collection.

Ricciardi - Buenos Aires, Argentina

In 1932, Luis Ricciardi open its jewellery store in Buenos Aires on 300 Cerrito Street. The young apprentices started in the trade at the young age of 13 in the jewellers’ vaults. Soon, the business began to gain prestige and recognition and the store moved to Cerrito near Corrientes to larger premises. Later the business moved again to Marcelo T de Alvear and Florida where the store remained for another 55 years. In 2002, the jewellery managed by Luis’ son, Uber and his wife Christina Ricciardi, left the prestigious address. For more than 80 years, the jewellery house was the favourite destination for people looking for prestigious wares such as jewellery or watches in Argentina. Watches sold by Ricciardi never had the retailer’s name on the dial but had a stock number engraved by hand behind the lug.

Asian Retailers

Singapore

Cortina - Malaysia, Singapore

With a large boutique network in Asia, Cortina Watches is an official retailer for the best Swiss watch brands such as Patek Philippe, Rolex, IWC, Cartier or Chopard. The geographical expansion of Cortina Watch’s retail business in its key markets in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Taiwan is a key strategy for future growth. Cortina Watch has also increased its product depth by introducing fashionable and affordable timepieces into its product mix, targeting a wider range of customers.

Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo would like to thank Lovell Johns for allowing us to use one of their maps, found on https://www.mapsinternational.co.uk for illustrations purposes. Please make sure to visit their website to learn more about their products.