Get This Fiesta Started: New Historiador & Prominente Models from Cuervo y Sobrinos
As part of its 140th anniversary celebrations, the Swiss-based company with Cuban roots has released a host of new watches oozing the brand’s distinctive blend of retro-modern style and Latin flair.
There is something to be said for the transportive power of products. I certainly don’t wear my Converse All-Stars, for example, because they are a particularly comfortable, durable sneaker. Instead, I wear them to, more likely than not, to satisfy the part of my subconscious that would like to be back in the mosh pit circa 1991.
And if I put on an orange-dialed DOXA during a beach vacation, it is not simply to wear a cool-looking, well-performing dive watch. It is also because part of me wants to elevate the snorkeling session with my 7-year-old to the pioneering heights of Jacques Cousteau and his crew backward diving off the Calypso in 1968.
Cuervo y Sobrinos is a watch brand that is all about transportive power. The company – which has launched a host of new models this year as part of its 140th-anniversary celebrations – may be headquartered in Switzerland, and it may use Swiss movements. But apart from that, it is unlike any other Switzerland-based watch brand.
With its mid-century styling – including Art Deco and Art Nouveau design touches – coupled with tobacco tones, champagne hues, and some flamboyant flashes of color, Cuervo y Sobrinos watches transport you to another place and another time. One where you can smell the cigar smoke, taste the guarapo frío, sense the hedonism, and hear the dulcet tones of Celia Cruz.
Rise of a Brand
Of course, the time and place we are talking about is the pre-Castro Havana, Cuba, of the early 1950s. By then, Cuervo y Sobrinos had become one of the premier luxury names, and not just in Cuba but across Latin America. Seventy years earlier, in 1882, Don Ramón Fernández Cuervo, having migrated from Asturias in northern Spain, established a jewelry boutique in Havana along with his six nephews, or sobrinos in Spanish.
Over the decades, the nephews inherited control of the business, and Cuervo y Sobrinos’ cachet soared. So much so, in fact, that watch brands like Patek Philippe, Rolex, and Longines applied the boutique’s name to the dials of some of their watches as part of dual-branding initiatives. What’s more, Cuervo y Sobrinos began making its own Swiss-made watches in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Having moved to increasingly larger premises, the company enjoyed its peak during the roaring 1950s. That was when sales at its boutique on Calle San Rafael reached record levels, and people like Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Clark Gable, Edith Piaf, and Ernest Hemingway had all passed through its doors.
Swiss Manufacture, Latin Heritage
However, given the shifting political landscape, some of the Cuervo family left Cuba. And eventually, in 1965, when the disparate factions from the revolution consolidated into the Communist Party of Cuba, the government nationalized the brand. It then lay dormant for three decades.
It was only at the turn of the millennium that the Cuervo y Sobrinos name was brought out of the wilderness by European backers. One of which was Italian Marzio Villa, who, as CEO, helped re-establish the brand as a Swiss watchmaker.
But there was a twist: Cuervo y Sobrinos, as it describes itself, is “the only luxury watch brand in the world dedicated to the celebration of Latin culture and the love of life.” It expresses this through its elegant, stylized timepieces delivered in watch boxes that can be repurposed as humidors.
And when the modern-day Cuervo y Sobrinos inaugurated its museum and boutique in Havana in 2009, it became the first international watch brand to open its own store in Cuba.
In 2018, the brand passed to new owners headed by CEO Massimo Rossi. And today, it operates out of its headquarters and watchmaking atelier in Capolago on the shores of Lake Lugano and its production facility in Saignelégier in the Swiss Jura.
Cuervo y Sobrinos Prominente Doble Tiempo
Named for one of the largest sizes Cuban cigars come in, Cuervo y Sobrinos’ Prominente line offers lavish dress watches with generously proportioned, rectangular cases. Following on from time-and-date Clásico and Solo Tiempo models, the brand kicked off 2022 – its 140th anniversary year – by bringing out four Doble Tiempo pieces in this collection.
Featuring wavy-guilloche dials with large Art Nouveau numerals framed by an assertive 30.5mm by 52mm stainless-steel case, the Doble Tiempo provides two independent hour-minute displays: one 12-hour, the other 24-hour. Each display is powered by its own in-house modified, automatic ETA 2671 calibre, meaning that the wearer can display the time correctly in two different locations regardless of their UTC offset.
Cuervo y Sobrinos Historiador Asturias Pequeños Segundos
The brand’s Historiador Asturias line aims to pay tribute to those emigrants who sailed to the Americas in the 19th century, keen to discover a new world and fashion a better life for themselves. For Asturian emigrants like Don Ramón Fernández Cuervo and his goldsmithing, entrepreneurial nephews, Cuba was a popular choice.
At the end of 2021, Cuervo y Sobrinos released a quartet of refined time-and-date Historiador Asturias models with fumé style dial options: agua blue, British green, Negroni red, and tropical tobacco brown. These eye-catching dials transition from mid-tones at the center to deeper hues near the periphery, each framed by a 40mm stainless-steel Historiador case featuring elongated lugs.
Featuring in-house modified automatic Sellita movements, the Cuervo y Sobrinos Historiador Asturias with date is priced at $2,400, while the Cuervo y Sobrinos Historiador Asturias Pequeños Segundos is priced at $2,750.
Cuervo y Sobrinos Historiador Tradición “San Rafael”
During its heyday in the 1950s, the Cuervo y Sobrinos boutique on Havana’s Calle San Rafael stocked three tiers of watches bearing the company’s name: Entry-level watches with Swiss movements from Adolph Schild, ETA, Felsa, and Landeron; a mid-high offering called the “Tradition” equipped with Adolph Schild or Felsa movements that allowed for simple complications; and top-of-the-range, dual-branded timepieces, such as those Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Longines watches mentioned above.
Thus, in March 2022, Cuervo y Sobrinos released the Historiador Tradición “San Rafael,” a modern-day reinterpretation of its “Tradition” watch, capturing the period charm of the 1950s original. Like the classic model, its dial is adorned with a “frappage” motif and features dauphine hour-minute hands and a red-tipped central sweep seconds hand. Day and date windows at 6 o’clock complete the indications powered by a modern automatic movement: An in-house modified Sellita SW 240-1.
At 40mm in diameter, this Historiador’s stainless-steel case is somewhat bigger than the original’s, but it reflects more accurately contemporary sizing tastes. Its back is engraved with a depiction of the brand’s former Calle San Rafael boutique and the Cuervo y Sobrinos name in cursive text. This text and image combination was used in the past as a seal applied to the brand’s documents.
The Fiesta is Not Finished
Eager to make the most of its 140th anniversary year, Cuervo y Sobrinos will steadily release more models across its eight collections over the next six months. That should give those seduced by the brand’s retro-modern style and Latin flair plenty to look forward to.
For more information, please visit the Cuervo y Sobrinos website.
(Photography by Pierre Vogel)