Lesser known watchmakers

This page is for lesser-known watchmakers of antique timepieces where there isn’t enough information to justify a complete page.

EKB

Established in Bettlach near Grenchen, Switzerland in 1888 by Eduard Kummer (born 26 March 1845). The Bettlach factory initially made ebauches (raw movements), However, the company soon expanded its range to include finished pocket watches. EKB saw the future of the wristwatch and stopped manufacturing pocket watches in 1914. In the 1920s, EKB was one of the first watchmakers to make waterproof wristwatches. A self-winding watch followed in the 1930s.

In the 1920s, the watchmaking industry in Switzerland was fragmented with many competing watchmakers and falling prices. EKB had severe financial problems and in 1931 the company was acquired by ASUAG. The company was split into two parts: The manufacturing department became part of Ebauche SA and from 1937 known as Ebauches Bettlach. The watch finishing department continued as EKB.

EKB movement.
EKB movement.


In 1952 the name was changed from EKB to Atlantic Watch Ltd. By the second half of the twentieth century, the company had markets in Eastern Europe, South America, and the Middle East. As of 1989, Atlantic Watch Ltd was acquired by UVB and its primary market was Eastern Europe, particularly Poland. The Atlantic Watch brand was still in operation in 2022.

Stauffer, Son & Co.

The watchmaking company Stauffer, Son & Co. was established in Switzerland in 1830 with an office in Geneva and a factory in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The factory became known as the Atlas factory. Around the mid-1800s they established an office in London, trading under the name Stauffer & Co. By 1860 they were trading as a partnership between Jules Stauffer and Francis Claude at 12 Old Jewry Chambers, London. Stauffer subsequently retired with his place being taken by Charles Nicolet. They were registered as wholesale watch manufacturers and importers. Claude retired in 1874 leaving Nicolet to take control of the firm. The company relocated to 13 Charterhouse Street, Holborn, London in 1887.

In the 1890s the London branch was selling so many watches that the Atlas factory couldn’t keep up with the demand. As a result, Stauffer & Co. started to source watch movements from other Swiss watchmakers including IWC, Patek Philippe, and Fontainemelon. They were one of the largest importers of Swiss watches into England and the British Empire. In the early 20th century, they became known for their high-quality chronographs and split-second sweep second hands that were used extensively at sporting events. The company remained in the control of the Nicolet family trading until perhaps the 1960s. It is not clear what exactly happened to the company in the end.

Trademarks

Stauffer registered a series of trademarks over the years. “S” on a cross (1880).  ” S. & Co” with a crown in an oval (1880). “S.S.C.” in a shield (1880). “Stauffer Chaux de Fonds” (1880). “S. S. & C.” in a shield (1880). “S. S. & Co” with three triangles (1886). “The ‘Atlas’ Watch” (1892).  “STAUFFER Cx-DE-FONDS” in a frame (1895). “Stauffer Fils & Cie, La Chaux-de-Fonds (Suisse)” (1912).

Stauffer & Co. movement.
Stauffer & Co. movement.

The firm of Stauffer, Son & Co. was a major watchmaker for over a century. However, its history is not well documented. My research took me to a number of forum entries, where information had clearly been cut and pasted from other sources without attribution. The best-consolidated source I found during my research was David Boettcher’s excellent site, Vintage Watch Straps, which I suspect was the source of much of the information I uncovered in the forum entries.  

Related content

Stauffer, Son & Co at Vintage Watch Straps.

Oris

Oris was founded by Paul Cattin and Georges Christian in the Swiss town of Hölstein in 1904. They bought the recently closed Lohner & Co watch factory and started manufacturing watches. The new watch company was named Oris, after a nearby stream. It must have been a fairly insignificant stream because I can’t find it on Google maps.

The business was immediately successful and they opened an assembly plant and a second factory in the nearby town of Holderbank. By 1911, Oris has become the largest employer in Hölstein, with over 300 workers. To entice more watchmakers, it built houses and apartments for its staff. Oris’s success continues to such an extent that by 1929 it had factories in Hölstein (1904), Holderbank (1906), Como (1908), Courgenay (1916), Herbetswil (1925) and Ziefen (1925).

Affordable watches

From the very beginning, Oris had focused on producing affordable watches for the average man on the street. Their range of watches used Roskopf-style movements with pin-pallet escapements. The Roskopf escapement was commonly used as it had many of the advantages of the lever escapement but was easier and cheaper to manufacture. The pallets in a traditional lever escapement have two angled faces, the locking face and the impulse face, which engage the escape wheel teeth. They must be adjusted to precisely correct angles for the escapement to function.

In the pin pallet escapement, these faces are designed into the shape of the escape wheel teeth instead, eliminating the need for costly adjustments. However, the metal pins used instead of pallets have much higher friction than jewelled pallets. This combined with the looser manufacturing tolerances made pin pallet timepieces less accurate. The metal pins also wear more quickly. Pin pallet timepieces are usually too cheap to justify repairing. They are usually thrown away when they break down or wear out. It must be said, that Oris was one of the few manufacturers of Roskopf escapements that did jewel their movements.

Watch Statute

In 1934, the Swiss government passed a law named the “Watch Statute”. It prevented watchmakers from introducing new technology without authorization. This prevented Oris from adopting the lever escapement that was in use by its competitors. It was forced to continue using the Roskopf pin-lever escapement. This prevented them from upgrading their line of watches. In 1956 Oris hired a young lawyer, Rolf Portmann, in order to do something about the situation. Finally, in 1966, Portmann managed to obtain the reversal of the Watch Statute. In 1968, Oris unveiled the Calibre 652, using the superior lever escapement.

Oris, in 1970, became became part of Allgemeine Schweizer Uhrenindustrie AG (ASUAG), the predecessor of the Swatch Group. In the 1980s, as a result of the Quartz Crisis, Oris was on the verge of closure. In 1982, as a result of a management buyout, it became independent again, trading as Oris SA. Its new focus was to produce mechanical timepieces in the mid-price segment of the luxury watch market.

I see plenty of good-quality vintage Oris watches for sale from my preferred suppliers. However, I can’t recall seeing an antique Oris watch. I suspect this is due to the disposable nature of watches made with Roskopf movements.

Related content

Oris history.

Oris SA at Wikipedia.