Meet Eberhard & Co.’s Most Storied Watches
Every great watch tells a tale, and the history of this Chaux-de-Fonds manufacture has more twists and turns than most.
Swiss watchmaker Eberhard & Co. make watches with a real wrist presence, and if you are an enthusiast, there’s no better rush than when someone notices your watch. That is, of course, because it allows you to wax poetic about your watch.
You are probably familiar with the distinctive style of Eberhard & Co.’s signature pieces: The Scafograf 300, the Chrono 4, and the Tazio Nuvolari. And if you’re not, you should be.
But you’re probably not as familiar with the long history of this independent watchmaker. If you’re a horological storyteller, then this is a great one to share.
The Birth of a Dynasty
Let’s begin with Eberhard & Co.’s creation story.
The manufacture was founded in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the historic birthplace of the Swiss watchmaking industry, in 1887 by Georges-Lucien Eberhard. The Eberhards (which is an old Germanic name meaning the strength or courage of a wild boar) were an old Bernese family that could trace its origins back to the 10th century and included counts, dukes, and archbishops among its family tree. Not to be outdone by his impressive lineage, Georges himself was considered something of a wunderkind when he founded the manufacture d'horlogerie Eberhard & Co. at the tender age of twenty-two.
Later in life, he also became the patriarch of an eclectic, yet powerful, watchmaking dynasty, as his children and grandchildren married into the upper echelons of Swiss industry, including the Blums, Vogels, and Ditisheims. Eventually, his descendants became owners of some of the most important brands in the industry: Ebel, Movado, Vulcain, Solvil et Titus, Paul Ditisheim, and of course, Eberhard & Co.
Eventually, in 1919, two of Georges-Lucien’s sons took over the company. Frequent visitors to Italy, the new leaders of Eberhard & Co. searched for an export market and made connections to the Italian Navy.
It was also in 1919 when Eberhard created its first chronograph wristwatch. At the time, it was the most advanced single-button wrist chronograph ever produced.
Then, in 1935, the brand introduced a double-pusher chronograph with two buttons to stop and start the hand without resetting to zero. Three years later, they introduced the first chronograph with an hour counter, and in 1939, the brand launched the first flyback chronograph.
After the end of World War II, the brand distinguished itself yet again in the field of chronographs. The mythic Extra-fort chronograph, launched in the late 1940s, had a sliding push-button to measure intermediate times. It was a marvel and the first of its kind.
It’s fitting, then, that the most easily identifiable of Eberhard & Co.’s offerings is the Chrono 4. What makes this chronograph so distinct is its four counters lined up horizontally across the dial, which makes it unbelievably easy to read the time elapsed.
The Chrono 4 was the brainchild of Italian businessman Palmiro Monti, who bought the company from the founding family in 1969. The watch was launched in 2001 as the manufacture’s first new model for the new millennium. While its configuration seemed revolutionary at the time, it is quite rational. The display follows a natural progression of time with dials showing the minutes, hours, military time, and seconds.
Now a classic, this chronograph has been reimagined as the Grande Taille Chrono 4. Available in sporty stainless steel or more luxurious red gold, the Grande Taille’s generous 43mm case (grande taille is French for big size) houses an in-house automatic movement.
Extra attention has also been given to the details. For example, the steel version of the Grande Taille Chrono 4 has an embossed “E” on the crown and on the pushers (for the red gold version, the rubber is used only for the crown). It also is protected by a non-reflective sapphire crystal, and, depending on the version, is water-resistant to 3 or 5 ATM. The stainless steel model comes with a black rubber strap while the red gold version has a crocodile leather strap with a buckle in 18k red gold.
The Golden Age of Eberhard & Co.
For vintage watch lovers, the heyday of Eberhard was in the 1940s and ’50s when the brand produced audacious chronographs and dive watches like the Scafograf (introduced in 1958).
The post-war decades proved profitable, and Eberhard timepieces from this era are particularly coveted among today’s collectors due to being quite oversized for their time. For example, in 1964, the company expanded the case dimensions to 42mm, which means that they look and feel like contemporary timepieces.
Not only is the look enduring, but Eberhard is still making the Scafograf today. The modern Scafograf 300 is a mechanical, self-winding diving watch. Under its starfish-engraved caseback lies its automatic ETA 2824-2 movement with a 40-hour power reserve.
The 43mm watch also features a steel case, a unidirectional rotating ceramic bezel, with luminescent markings on the first 15 minutes scale, curved sapphire glass, and an automatic helium escape valve at 9 o’clock. The “galbé,” or curved, black dial has luminescent indices and the date at 3 o'clock.
While the only color option for bezel and dial is black, there are three color variations for the model name, central second hand, and dots to choose from: white, light blue, or yellow. You can also opt for either a rubber strap or a steel bracelet.
Another important detail to humblebrag about when wearing a Scafograf? In 2016, this diver won the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève for Sports Watch.
When Italian businessman Palmiro Monti bought the company from the founding family in 1969, he intended to strengthen its ties to the Italian market and motorsports. At that same time, there was a growing interest in the myth of the Italian racing driver Tazio Nuvolari (1892-1953). He was an Italian racing legend from the 1920s and 1940s, and a man Ferdinand Porsche himself called "the greatest driver of the past, the present, and the future."
Known as Il Mantovano Volante (The Flying Mantuan), he started out racing motorcycles and went on to win 72 major races, including 24 Grand Prix events, five Coppa Cianos, two Mille Miglia, two Targa Florios, one Le Mans 24-Hours, and a European Championship.
A colorful character, Nuvolari was also embroiled in feuds with Ferrari, allegedly involved in a race-fixing scandal, and once won Le Mans after patching a leaky fuel tank with chewing gum.
Since 1992, Eberhard & Co. has paid tribute to this storied era of motorsports with the Tazio Nuvolari sports chronograph collection. Our favorite is the tribute to the Mantovano Volante: the Nuvolari Legend.
It is a very cool chronograph with lots of vintage vibes, including a black dial with Arabic numerals applied with an aged lume. Other retro touches include a minute counter at the 12 o’clock, a chronograph hour counter at 6 o’clock, and a spiral tachometer scale in km/hr in the center. The heritage feel of this timepiece is completed with a rugged leather strap or optional stainless steel bracelet.
The self-winding movement is visible through a sapphire crystal caseback, which is fixed by 8 screws and engraved with the model name and an image of the Alfa Romeo Type 12C, the car most affiliated with Nuvolari.
The Nuvolari Legend is available in two sizes: 39.5mm or 43mm for the Grande Taille version. All of these watches are real conversation starters. But when you buy one of these watches, you are writing your own chapter in the Eberhard & Co. timeline.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)