Prix Gaïa 2000 – René Bannwart. Craftsmanship-Creation category
He was awarded for his skills as a creator and designer of legendary models such as the Seamaster (for Omega), and the Coin watch - featuring an ultra-thin movement integrated in a 20-dollar gold coin -, the Romulus and the Buckingham for his own company, Corum.
Business Self-taught design and painting
- Creation of Centenary, Seamaster and Constellation for Omega.
- Founded Corum with his uncle.
- Development of Buckingham, the aristocratic leader of Corum.
After he passed his Matura in Geneva in 1933, René Bannwart started his career in watchmaking right at the time a crisis was affecting the industry. Initially, he worked as agent at Patek Philippe et Cie SA in Geneva but was rapidly promoted to the position of sales representative.
The 3 laureates : Simone Bédat, René Bannwart and Kathleen Pritschard
Following the hardships Patek Philippe encountered after World War II, he left the company to join Omega SA in Bienne in 1940.
At only 25 years old, he was appointed the head of the case, dial, hands and exterior parts department of Omega. Together with Adolphe Vallat, who was head of sales at the time, he was the first to introduce the concept of a design department in watchmaking companies. Consequently appointed head of department, Bannwart created several watches such as Centenary, Seamaster and Constellation, the flagship models of the brand.
Not long after he was appointed head of production at Omega, his uncle Gaston Ries, a small-scale watchmaker in La Chaux-de-Fonds, asked him to join his workshop. Bannwart saw it as an opportunity to become independent and chose to leave Omega in 1955. This was how he came to found Corum SA with his uncle in La Chaux-de-Fonds. With a new watchmaking brand also came new watch models. And thus, he dedicated his designing skills to the nascent company entirely.
Corum & René Bannwart
Among his creations are Golden Tube, Chinese Hat, 20$ Coin Watch, Romulus and the Légendes des Heures and Plume d'Oiseau dials.
Like any designer worthy of the name, Bannwart used chance and spontaneous inspiration to design his watches. Thus was created Sans Heures, which was introduced in a fair in Basel. And since he had not received the dials for this watch on time, he replaced them with golden and polished bare plates inscribed with only the brand's name. In 1963, Corum's aristocratic leader Buckingham was issued. Its defining feature was that it displayed a dial with horizontal indexes. He retired in 1988 and passed Corum over to his son Jean-René Bannwart.
To enjoy his retirement, Bannwart headed to Lonay, near Morges in the Vaud Canton.