My most difficult watch hunt thusfar has been rewarded with this beautiful Berna 2 register chronograph in 40mm, and it has taken a lot of patience and an incredible stroke of luck from Lady Fortune.
Most difficult because the list of demands was long :
Silver dial with blued hands – 40`or 50`s – stepped case in steel– feuille or leaf hands – and to make it a little more challenging : a 40mm or larger case. All this combines into a dream watch for me that would make my small collection complete, as this represents a style and era i did not yet have, and i consider the stepped case ( and sector dial ) to be very beautiful, and a watch i could wear frequently and that will put smile on my face. Those are my 2 standards for buying a watch.
Occasionaly i see a post on someone`s Ulysse Nardin, Longines, Movado, IWC hermet or Angelus etc, just enough to keep up the hope. And while i was not looking for a chronograph per se, as time only was fine and better for my budget, i did keep an open eye for a chronograph in a 2 register layout as my 2nd option.
And then i saw this ;
To find a watch from the late 1940`s / early 50`s in this quality is a treasure, as it looks almost new. The dial is perfect with fine blue printing, the acrylic crystal has minor marks, the condition of the case is superb with really sharp lug ends and edges. The Valjoux 22 is precise and has a soft touch. I feel it could well stand up to top tier brands of that era, apart from the movement finishing. The Berna brand was unknown to me but the beauty of this watch won me over quickly and i could always claim `it is very rare `😉
It was a real bonus when after seeing the watch first time the hour markers were not yellow from aging or patina, as it looked like that from the sellers pictures, but IRL they are guilded and shiny. Very hard to capture….
The fortune part is that when i saw this watch it was already reserved and sold. I was a day late…… 3 Weeks later however it was listed again and i jumped on it. Upon asking the seller why the watch was returned and if anything was wrong with it, the answer was ; the buyer wasn`t aware there were import duties to his country and he didn`t want to pay those.
More fortune is in the fact that this is an unfamiliar brand and therefore a lot less expensive than similar watches from the likes of Ulysse Nardin, Longines, Angelus etc which are out of my reach.
And you are all fortunate too ! because now i can make a real
meaningful contribution to this community ( after reading so many of yours ! ) and
tell you about it, as i am sure by now you are all ` dying ` to know more about
this brand. Here is what i was able to find.
The Berna trademark was established in 1864 by Alcide Droz and Henry Perret who founded the Droz & Perret compagny in St. Imier, Switzerland. After some changes this compagny became Droz et Cie in 1887. Berna then was the name of one of their watch models.
In 1904 Droz & Cie, the exclusive owners of the St. Imier Factory, got into financial difficulties and converted their manufacturing business into a Joint Stock Company under the name of the Fabrique d'Horlogerie Berna S.A. in 1905. The West End Watch Co. supported the flotation by taking up a large number of shares in the new Company. At the same time, Droz & Cie sold their interest in the West End Watch Co. to Jacques-Arnold Amstutz and Constant Droz.
By virtue of their large shareholding in the new company, Constant Droz and Jacques-Arnold Amstutz were able to insist on a monopoly of all the products the joint stock company Fabrique d'Horlogerie Berna sent to India for a period of ten years.
But by 1907 the joint stock company was itself in trouble, and in December went into liquidation. It seems that at least part of the reason for this was a lack of orders from The West End Watch Co., who had complained about the watches supplied by Berna and began importing watches largely from other manufacturers, while they ceased giving orders to the St. Imier factory.
In 1907/8 the company again changed name and became Berna Watch Co. Besides pocket watches, Berna also produced stopwatches ( up to 1/100 second ) and chronograph watches to a high standard, as well as watches with repetitions and particularly flat watches were also produced.
company won several gold medals and prizes:
1893 Chicago "World's Columbian" Exhibition, (opened 1892),
1900 World's Fair in Paris,
1906 Interntionale exhibition in Milan,
1913 Competition Observatory Neuchâtel, First Prize,
1923 International Breguet Competition, three times a second prize.
The Berna Watch company was sold to Leonidas in 1928, which was then owned by Charles Jeanneret, maybe for financial reasons or Leonidas was in need of production capacity and technical know how ? and Leonidas kept using the Berna brand mainly for stop watches and chronographs until the mid 1960’s when the Berna brand name disappeared after Leonidas joined Heuer to become famed Heuer-Leonidas.
So there is some interesting pedigree here, as well as an important technical innovation and patent.
In 1913 Berna was granted a patent for the first regatta-yachttimer using the 5-dot system, or 5-ball, to visualize the countdown of a sailing regatta. We see this 5 dot dial layout return in many wrist watches in the 70`s and 80`s and onwards, with Aquastar and Heuer Regatta, as well as the Lemania 1345 or Elvstrom, and even up to Frederique Constant in 2018 !. A great design that has proven itself for over a century !
With thanks to : Regatta-yachttimers.com , Vintagwatchstraps.com , and watch-wiki. Berna is also briefly mentioned in Pritchard`s. Pictures are my own, the adds i found on the internet. If you have more information or corrections, please send me a PM.