Thursday, April 24, 2008

Brand Preview: Favre-Leuba "the brand that made its comeback"

Combining past and future

The company has enjoyed its moments of glory, but like so many other old watchmaking companies , it almost disappeared from the horology collective vernaculars. The luck would have it that with the current Horology Renaissance the brand survived the very worst of times and become active again in the watchword with grand plans coupled with re inventive strategy and vigor.

After several takeovers from 1969 onwards (ranging from Bendome SA to LMVH), the watch company finally regained its independence in 2003. During that period a Spanish financier, Roberto Lopez Haba, bought the firm and established a small yet ever growing enthusiastic team. Since everything had to be started from scratch everything had to be moved level by level with overall management given to young Richmond bred CEO Clement Brunet-Moret. The comprised small team armed with the huge number of historical products works in unison with a network of independent specialist on resurrecting the old brand in a new age of haute horologie. The proposed pieces objective is to go beyond the simple measure of time to offer new innovations and functions with refinement in the execution. Targeting this niche market the stated goal is to produce 2,000 pieces per year with a price range from 10,000 to 30,000.

Last year, in a return to its origins, it launched a new mens collection called Mercury and this year with the new Bathy V2. Inspired by the eclipse of the planet Mercury by Venus in 1737 – the year that the Favre Manufacture was officially registered – this collection marks the return of the brand to the center of the watch stage.

Historical roots of the brand

Even though Abraham Favre laid the foundation stone of the Favre-Leuba building almost three hundred years ago, it was from 1940 to 1970 that the brand made its most important technical advances in the field of watchmaking, at a time when it was producing almost 600,000 watches a year. Many of us will have forgotten that Favre-Leuba created the first twin-barrel movements, like the FL 251 calibre and the extra-thin FL 269.

BIVOUAC - The watch for every summit

In 1934, the young ethnologist, Paul-Emile Victor, made his first trip to Greenland. In 1947, this ecology pioneer founded the French Polar Expeditions and went on to lead 31 missions to the Arctic and Antarctic. From 1962 onwards, one instrument emerged as his indispensable companion: the famous Favre-Leuba Bivouac.

1962 – BIVOUAC

The revolutionary BIVOUAC has been regarded as an essential instrument for mountaineers since its launch in 1962. It is equipped with multiple measurement functions, one of which indicates the altitude and the weather based on barometric pressure. The aneroid barometer is a real mechanical marvel that functions by means of a partial vacuum in a metal capsule, which contracts when the air pressure is high and expands when it is low. These variations are amplified and transmitted to a mechanism which, coupled with an altimeter, displays the information on the dial.

– Rotating bezel with mobile altitude scale
– Barometric scale with red marker at 760 mmHg
– Red altimeter-barometer hand

Housed in a stainless steel case, the movement has really been really put through its paces, on all five continents and in all conditions. History will remember the extremely accurate performance of this legendary watch in the most hostile environments, at least for as long as it remembers the adventures of some very exceptional men who loved the great outdoors. Aside from Paul-Emile Victor’s expeditions to the Antarctic mentioned above, there were Michel Darbellay’s first
solo ascent of the Eiger and Walter Bonatti’s first conquest of the north face of the Matterhorn. At the end of his climb, this mountaineering virtuoso said, “I can only praise the good performance of the Bivouac; a marvel and a friend!”

From ice to ocean depths

Before worrying about rust, watchmakers sought a way to combat dust. It was from research into sealing their timepieces against air-born impurities that the first water-resistant watches were born. But it was thanks to the invention of the screw-down
crown that the first truly waterproof watch was made. Since then, diver’s watches have undergone spectacular progress, aided by their use in submarine combat units.

1966 - BATHY

BIVOUAC on left and BATHY on right

It was with the BATHY that Favre-Leuba created the first depth gauge graduated in metres (50 m) and feet (160 ft). Besides indicating the length of time spent underwater, the BATHY gave divers a direct and accurate reading of their depth. The BATHY still embodies the Favre-Leuba spirit: inventing new precision instruments that unite the art of watchmaking and a passion for sport.

– Water-resistance tested to 10 atm
– Unidirectional rotating bezel with 60 notches for calculating diving time
– Decompression stages indicator
– High-resistance glass
– Fluorescent displays

2007 - MERCURY

The Mercury collection (name cleverly combining two unique events: the official registration of the Favre Manufacture in Le Locle in 1737 and an extremely rare eclipse (it occurs only every 396 years) of the planet Mercury by Venus) illustrates Favre-Leuba’s ongoing commitment to quality and inspiration as well as its dedication to perfection.

It comprises three lines: Mercury Chronograph FL 301, Mercury Big Date FL 302 and Mercury Power Reserve FL 303. Each of the timepieces are fitted with automatic movements (currently ETA models with Dubois Despraz module) with additional manufacture-made modules.

Each model in the collection stands out for its unique design and the very meticulous attention paid to the finishing, a succession of brushed or polished surfaces, hallmarking our watchmakers' obsession with perfection. Also noteworthy is the perfect integration of the system of push buttons with the bridge which harmonize perfectly with the shape of the watch case, thus giving strength, refinement and balance to the Mercury collection timepieces. The exposed screws proudly bear engravings of the celebrated hourglass, the logo of our Maison. The back of the case back depicts the eclipse of 1737, a discreet reference to the origins of Favre-Leuba.

The dial is both refined due to its complexity (it is made up of 27 parts), but also powerful due to the volumes of the guilloché and its indexes. More careful observers will notice the presence of the Greek letter sigma, an ancestral indication that the indexes are in solid gold. The use of solid gold for the hands also attests the attention to detail and to quality.

Notoriety and inventiveness have also been built up at the Maison Favre-Leuba through the development of exclusive watchmaking systems. The Mercury collection now introduces the « Embedded Running Indicator » (ERI) and the « Bidirectional / Crown Locking System » (B/CLS).

The ERI (embedded running indicator) is a continuously rotating disc decorated with the hourglass (the logo of the brand since time immemorial). Partially hidden and giving life to the dial, it reflects the duality of the conjunction between Mercury and Venus in the year when Favre-Leuba was founded, and symbolizes the vitality of the timepiece, its inner life.

The innovative and patented B/CLS (bidirectional / crown locking system) which equips all Mercury models prevents the crown from being manipulated accidentally, possibly resulting in unintended changes of the date or time. There are in fact two crowns on the models equipped with this system: an inner crown, which has first to be turned either way (clockwise or anti-clockwise) to unlock the system before the outer crown can be pulled out to adjust the date or time. A red visual indication on the bridge between the two crowns indicates if the system is unlocked. Another innovation of this system is that the movement can be wound up by hand regardless of the position of the B/CLS system. Furthermore it ensures the timepiece remains waterproof at all times, even when the system is unlocked with the outer crown pulled in its adjustment position. It thus provides optimal protection to the calibre which is therefore never exposed to outside air that could vehicle micro-particles or humidity.

The folding clasp, an exclusive and patented Favre-Leuba system, introduces a new spring and pushers technology. And with two pins the strap has a better hold and therefore greater security when these timepieces are used in a sports environment. The buckle has also been designed to limit to the absolute minimum any direct contact between the skin and metal, with the longer part of the strap passing between the wrist and the buckle, thus making it as comfortable to wear as possible.

Price ranges between 10,000- 20,000 CHF's depending on the selected configuration of the model and the materials.

2008 - BATHY V.2

This year at BeaselWorld 2008 the brand presented the prototypes of the new Bathy V2, more than 40 years after its revolutionary impact on the world of diver’s watches, the legendary Bathy is making a major comeback. The Bathy V.2 is equiped with innovative depth meter which functions by means of pressure on a membrane which is still classified although it is unofficially confirmed to be a beryllium copper.

This membrane contracts under the pressure of the water entering the double back resulting in truly impressive deviation of less than 0.18%. Bathy V.2 will be available in three models with three different membranes with depth meters of 45m,150m and 300 meters respectively. Amongst other features it will be a fully automatic movement encased in a complex grade five titanium 46mm case with rotating bezel with large numerals and easily readable over sized hands all held together by a rubber strap.

Mercury Collection - TECHNICAL DATA:

The FL 301 Chronograph Rose Gold

Calibre FL 301, chronometer certified COSC
Self-winding mechanical movement,
28,800 vib/h, 55 jewels, 297 components
Power reserve of 44 hours.

Hours, minutes, date
Chronograph with 45 minutes counter Embedded Running Indicator (ERI).

Rose Gold (18K) Diameter 44 mm
Cambered sapphire glass with extra hard anti-reflection coating
Patented Bidirectional / Crown Locking System (B/CLS)
Screwed in caseback and bezel
Screws with Favre-Leuba logo requesting special tool to be unscrewed
Water-resistant to 100 meters in all conditions even with the crown pulled in adjustment position.

27 components
Galvanic treatment
Exclusive guilloche
Hands and indexes applied in gold (18K) with superluminova, excepted big second in pfinodal Greek Sigma symbol on the dial indicating that the indexes are in solid gold.

Rubber strap,
Exclusive and patented folding clasp in Rose Gold (18K) with twin safety lock system

The FL 305 Bathy V.2

Automatic, exclusive FL 305 calibre,
23 jewels, 28,800 vib/h, 224 components, 44-hour power reserve

Hours, minutes, seconds, date.
Depth gauge to 45 meters or 150 feet, decompression-stage indicator, diving-time gauge

Grade 5 titanium, 46 mm
Anti-reflective convex sapphire crystal
Screw-down, engraved double back with membrane depth gauge (metres or feet)
Water-resistant to 300 m

Galvanic black, engine-turned by Favre-Leuba
Rotating flange and large Arabic numerals
Depth indicator in red, yellow or orange
All elements coated with Superluminova

Grey rubber with buckle

More detailed photos and information can be found on the Favre-Leuba Website.


Your Organizer said...

Love to see a blog about Favre-Leuba ... as I am a Leuba descendant and own one myself!!

Megan Leuba-Brown

watchmontre said...

I am collecting Favre-Leuba and writing the history of the manufacture before it died (and later). Interrested in the family history as well. See my blog

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