Watches are one of the few products that can be lifetime investments. The fact that you can wear the same Rolex Datejust during your college graduation and then to your wedding and then to the birth of your child elevates the concept of a wristwatch into something far bigger than a fashion statement. It’s more of a partnership than anything else. And, just like a marriage or a long-term relationship, occasionally you need to take some time and pamper your partner just to make sure everything is running smoothly. Consider Valentine’s Day comparable to dropping your watch off for service. It’s a day where you go above and beyond for your loved one just to demonstrate your continued passion and support. Here are four stories of love and romance that have helped shape the watch industry into what it is today.
Edox, founded by Christian Ruefli-Flury in 1884, wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for a simple birthday gift from husband to wife. Christian started a watchmaking apprenticeship in 1870. In 1883, he married the love of his life, Pauline Flury. The following year, for Pauline’s 25th birthday, Christian produced a unique pocket watch that was so impressive that she successfully convinced him to start his own brand in Biel, Switzerland. If Christian hadn’t wanted to impress Pauline with his horological skill set, then there’s no way to know whether or not he would have ever felt comfortable starting his own brand, which has now been around for 134 years and counting.
As the youngest brand on this list, Frederique Constant is the result of two kinds of partnerships: marital and business. Founded by Peter and Aletta Bax-Stas in 1988, the brand actually borrows from the combined history of the husband and wife’s family. The name is sourced from the first names of Peter and Aletta’s great-grandparents Frédérique Schreiner and Constant Stas. Their lifelong commitment to one another is proven in their products that have continued to rise in prestige and popularity over the past three decades. In 1994, Peter and Aletta released the brand’s first Heart Beat watch. The purpose of the Heart Beat line was to demonstrate the mechanical heartbeat inside of the watches. There’s a small aperture that opens up the dial to show off the beating balance wheel inside the movement.
Legend has it that after Hans Wilsdorf’s wife complained to him that she could no longer read the date on her Datejust, the Rolex founder knew just what to do. He had his team develop a small 2.5X magnification lens above the date aperture that would make it easy to read the day at a glance. Nicknamed the “Cyclops,” it quickly became one of the most recognizable design trends for the brand and subsequently spread through almost every model within the Rolex lineup, including a controversial turn on last year’s Sea-Dweller.
Ulysse Nardin’s Jade watch — which features UN’s first in-house caliber designed especially for women’s watches — also came about as the result of a personal request. Chai Schnyder, the current chairwoman of Ulysse Nardin and widow of the company’s late CEO and president Rolf Schnyder, had asked her husband 15 years ago to create a wristwatch that she could operate without damaging her manicure — i.e., one that did not require pushing and pulling of a crown to set and adjust the time. The result was UN Caliber 310, which uses a pusher at 4 o’clock to change the function of the crown without the need to pull it out: position 1 to wind the watch, position 2 to set the date forward and backward, and position 3 to set the time on the hands. The watch is designed as the flagship for a new ladies’ line and features a rose-gold or white-gold case with an ornate bezel bedecked with emeralds and diamonds in a snow setting. Flanking the bezel are lugs made of the model’s namesake jade. The dial is mother-of-pearl; the new movement is self-winding and has a power reserve around 48 hours.