Not too long ago, I met a certain Charles A. Brandt, a gentleman with a cane, and he began telling me the story of this remarkable company. It was my first contact with Eberhard & Co. Obviously, as a member of a family from La Chaux-de-Fonds, I should have remembered the building standing right on Avenue Léopold-Robert, the main artery through the capital of watchmaking. It was where the factory was set up in 1907, twenty years after the founding of the company in 1887 by one Georges Eberhard. Alas, my intercontinental and existential meanderings left me with too few connections to this city in the higher reaches of Canton Neuchâtel, and so I forgot about it, essentially.
Chronographs and racetracks
A historical brand… with a prestigious past marked by an uninterrupted string of high points. Like the 1919 invention of the fist wrist chronograph by the son of the founder, or, in 1930, the first chronograph with a perpetual movement. In 1935, then, the workshop produced a chronograph with a double pusher with a function allowing it to be stopped and restarted without resetting to zero. And a few years later, it was the turn of a similar instrument, this one, however, with an hour totalizer, and the one with flyback functionality, in other words, allowing for the double measure of intermediary times.
Eberhard & Co. Nuvolari
In that period of time when Swiss mechanical watchmaking was gradually recovering from its violent confrontation with the quartz tsunami, the brand developed some Italian roots after being purchased by Palmiro Monti. And by the way, this family remains the brand’s main investor, through Monti’s daughter, Barbara. As of 1992, then, Eberhard& Co. embarked on a pioneering strategy in the vintage car segment by bringing out a model that paid tribute to the legendary driver Tazio Nuvolari, who was nicknamed "The Turtle" for his slow speech, which contrasted sharply with his speed on the racetracks. By celebrating the man's 100th anniversary, Eberhard & Co. turned the collection into one very much in the favor of gentleman drivers the world round, and one that is routinely reinvigorated (read our article on the Grand Prix Nuvolari)
Chrono 4: innovative and disruptive esthetics
The chronograph complication is, for sure, one of the identifying aspects of Eberhard & Co. And when the brand decided to become the companion of mariners – Italian sailors already wore these watches before the launch of the Navymaster in 1987 for the copmpany’s 100th anniversary – and when its models also found their way onto the wrists of airplane pilots, notably of the Italian air force, it was always the chronograph that drove the quest for innovation.
So, when the ne new millennium broke, Eberhard & Co. launched the first chronograph with four totalizers arranged in a single horizontal or vertical line. It was a novelty, an esthetic idea that had been entirely renovated, according to the general consensus. The Chrono 4 family was born. And it’s the family that has been given the honor of representing the brand for its 130th anniversary in 2017.
Two models have been developed under the name Chrono 4 130. One is in steel, the other comes in a limited edition of 130 pieces. The serial version is in a new, 42-millimeter case. The bezel is satin-brushed, and there’s a distinguishing “130” on the dial, which comes in three variations, grey, black or silver. The watch is water-resistant to 50 meters thanks to the eight screws that hold the full-metal case back bearing an embossed “130" together with an iconic "4."
As for the limited edition series, it has the exact same specifications, except it does boast a skeletonized dial with either silver or black hues, which allows for visual inspection of the DLC-treated gearwheels. This voyeuristic intrusion into the watch’s movement is made possible by a sapphire crystal disk. The transparent case back on the rear side reveals a rotor decorated with côtes de Genève, and the engine’s continuous oscillations. Another feature that separates the serial models from the limited edition version is the latter’s miniature screwed-on plate bearing the same logo as the one featured on the first 1919 wrist chronograph. Connoisseurs will be particularly thrilled, as they are usually on the lookout for this kind of detail.
Between the GHPG and the deep blue sea
In addition to this eminently historical, and justified, look back, Eberhard & Co. would have been hard pressed not to make some reference to its success at the 2016 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genèvein its jubilee celebrations. So, in 2017, it added the Scafograf to the 20,000 watches it produces each year – with Italy as its main market – a model that is no longer geared towards the lounges of the dolce vita folk of port cities, but also to the sea itself, thanks to its 100-meter water-resistance, its bidirectional ceramic bezel, and its helium valve. This gas is very sensitive to underwater pressure and it gives the diver added security.
Continuous production for 130 years is quite a feat in the world of historical watch companies, and it definitely means that Eberhard & CO. has earned greater recognition. And that, not only from its hardcore Italian base, but also from the wider flock of passionate watch fans.