The Swiss watch industry was born in the 1540s, when jewellers were forced to learn another craft due to the ban on wearing jewellery by the popular reformer, John Calvin. Since then, the industry has grown by leaps and bounds, evolving with time, and contributing greatly to the craft of watchmaking. A Swiss brand that has relevantly withstood the test of time, and continues to be futuristic, is Favre-Leuba.
With a history that goes back 283 years, it is the second oldest Swiss watch brand in the world. Its journey began humbly in the year 1737, when Abraham Favre was officially registered as a watchmaker in Le Locle, the cradle of the Swiss watch industry. The next few decades saw him perfecting the craft of watchmaking that manifested itself in exquisite pocket watches. These timepieces were received with enthusiasm, and won awards at exhibitions in New York, Bern, London, Paris, and Porto. Favre was appointed to the distinguished position of Master Watchmaker of Le Locle in 1749.
In 1792, Abraham Favre and his sons, Frederic and Henry-Louis, set up their company, A. Favre & Fils. The next century saw a dramatic period of growth and expansion, with Abraham Favre’s grandson, Henry Auguste Favre, taking the lead. He joined forces with the Leuba Family to create the brand name Favre-Leuba in 1815, and travelled around the world to establish the brand. Henry’s son, Fritz Favre, travelled to India in 1986 and 1867 to launch the brand in the subcontinent. Favre-Leuba was arguably the first Swiss watch to be sold in India, and over the next century, it evolved into the most famous watch brand in the country. The modern Favre-Leuba, in many ways, is the creation of Henri Favre-Leuba (1865 -1961). He moved the company’s headquarters to Geneva, and in 1908, launched wristwatches, and is among the first companies in the world to embrace the dawn of the new era in horology.
The company marched into the 20th century with a slew of innovations. It launched the first monopusher chronograph in 1925, and the Reverso mechanism in 1940. In 1955, it introduced the manufacture caliber FL101 with a power reserve of 50 hours that went into watches like the Sea Chief, Sea King, and Sea Raider models. In 1957 came the FL102 caliber, with calendar and the automatic movements FL103 and FL 104. 1960 saw the launch of the first diver’s watch, Water Deep. Recognising the building enthusiasm for mountaineering, Favre-Leuba, in 1962, launched the first ever hand wound mechanical watch with altimeter and aneroid barometer — the Bivouac. In 1964, mountaineers Michel Vaucher and Walter Bonatti reached the summit of an almost vertical north face of Pointe Whymper in the Alps, wearing the Bivouac. The watch kept them updated on the adverse weather conditions. The year 1968 saw yet another invention from Favre-Leuba, as Bathy was introduced when deep diving was picking up pace as an adventure sport. It was the first mechanical watch in the world to show the current dive depth in addition to the dive time.
The transition into the 1970s saw FavreLeuba matching the fashion trend of the time with distinctive pillowy design of the Sea Raider, which came with day and calendar indication, and the Memo Raider, which boasted of an automatic alarm. The Sea Sky and the Sea Sky GMT models were also introduced around this time. They combined the functionality of a diver’s watch with a chronograph and a 24-hour hand. This long and historical journey has not been without challenges. The 1980s decade saw the introduction of the less expensive quartz movement. This plunged the Swiss watch industry into a serious crisis, but did not stop the Favre-Leuba workshops. It did, however, compel the family to sell the brand. After changing ownership multiple times over the next two decades, Favre-Leuba was acquired by the Titan Group in 2011. The strong comeback of the brand in the last decade exemplifies its core brand values nurtured over nearly three centuries. The result is a collection of highly functional watches based on Favre-Leuba’s technical and aesthetic achievements, brought into the 21st century with proprietary technologies, and contemporary design. The Raider Harpoon, Bivouac 9000, and the Raider Bathy 120 Memodepth were introduced in 2016, 2017, and 2018.
Favre-Leuba’s long and successful journey has come on the back of product innovation, excellence, foresight, and a futuristic approach to stay relevant during changing times. Every setback was converted into an opportunity by going back to the drawing board to reinvent. The COVID-19 pandemic has made 2020 the toughest year in living memory for businesses around the world. Favre-Leuba has, once again, risen to this challenge, and is planning to launch an India-specific classic line of watches, as a tribute to the country that has been an essential part of its historic legacy.