The Beyer Clock and Watch Museum just opened a new exhibition. ‘Travel through time’ is dedicated to the evolution of timepieces which accompanied travellers throughout the centuries.
Beyer Watches & Jewellery is the oldest watch retailer in the world. Founded in 1760, the family company has been run by the eighth generation. (Earlier this year René Beyer appointed Hanspeter Pieth as CEO, while he remains the Chairman of the Board of Directors and owner, who is also responsible for strategic decisions.) Its current location at the Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich was established in 1927.
It is always a treat for any watch-lover to visit their museum, located in the Beyer Boutique since 1971. It houses one of the world’s leading private collections of watches and clocks – close to 300 pieces from 1,400 BC to the present day. It is also interesting to spot some special timepieces which were given by manufactures or brands specifically to Beyer and you will find double-signed watches bearing the name of the brand and Beyer as the retailer too (like this lovely Rolex Prince ‘Brancard’).
We were there last time on the occasion of a watch auction to see a great George Daniels Millenium watch, which is still on view in the museum.
The museum opened a new exhibition, ‘Travel through time’. It presents a diverse selection of 36 time measurement tools spanning over 370 years – a brass sundial ring, a wooden box with a horizontal travel sundial, pocket watches, wristwatches and even an automobile steering wheel clock (see on the featured picture above).
Please find a few of our picks below.
The Grande Maison has been creating loyal travel companions for its clients throughout decades, like small, portable table clocks, travel watches and watches with different timezone complications. Beyer’s exhibition includes some very special pieces.
A small, stainless steel folding table clock from the 50s is covered with elegant black lace. Not only stylish but also practical for its era – it has an alarm function, day-date display and a 8-day movement – indicated by the number ‘8’ on the dial – so it needs to be wound only once a week.
There are two key watches by Jaeger-LeCoultre, also ca. 1950 – one is a tiny yellow gold Jaeger-LeCoultre key-shaped watch with a rectangular dial, which is covered by a gold opening.
The other is a small gold-plated watch with a key, a nail file and a very thin removable pen. It was purchased from Tiffany & Co. in New York, as can be seen from the dealer’s signature on the dial, similarly to double-signed watches.
Two key watches by Jaeger-LeCoultre, Le Sentier, Switzerland and Tiffany, New York, USA, both ca. 1950
There are things which represent Switzerland quite well. The Swiss Federal Railways are surely among those as it is a country of railways and it has one of the most punctual (93,7% of Swiss trains ran on time in 2022, according to SBB) and busiest rail networks in the world.
Although I’ve never been a huge fan of train travel, thanks to the SBB, I have changed my mind.
The Schweizerische Centralbahn (SCB) had been operating trains since 1 January 1901 on behalf of the Swiss federal government. In mid-1901, the management board of SBB replaced the Federal Railways Department as the regulatory authority of the SCB. The Swiss North-East Railway also joined on 1 January 1902, this date marks the Swiss Federal Railways’ ‘official’ birthday.
So this railwayman’s watch by Omega from 1900 is rather symbolic – it has an engraving on the silver case depicting a winged wheel. This winged railway wheel on a rail was used as an early logo of the SBB. On the timepiece it has been supplemented with a Swiss cross.
The pocket watch has an easily legible dial with big, black Arabic numerals and small seconds sub-dial at six o’clock.
The Zenith wristwatch at the exhibition has the ‘Saurer’ name and logo on the dial – more precisely the manufacture integrated the Saurer logo as a design element on the watch-face. Originally Saurer AG was a Swiss manufacturer of embroidery-, textile machines, trucks, buses and aero engines, based in Arbon. There is still a museum in the canton of Thurgau, housing a large collection of historical textile machinery and vehicles.
The company regularly had watches made for different stakeholders, such as customers, drivers or employees, consequently you can still find pieces with the logo on the dial in vintage watch shops or at auctions (and not only from Zenith – Saurer ordered watches from other manufactures as well).
(‘Timed & Read’ dedicated a great, detailed article to the collaboration of the two manufactures, you can check it out here.)
‘The Royal Astronomer’
The astronomical pocket watches were timepieces with astronomical functions, including various types of time and calendar displays and indications of the phases and age of the Moon, often combined with other horological complications (like a minute repeater, equation of time or even a rotating celestial map).
This ca. 1900 double face pocket watch, made for the Indian market, has eight time displays. On the front we can see Calcutta time – with month/day/date and moon phase functions. On the back there is the time at the Greenwich Observatory, as well as in the cities of Paris, Berlin, Vienna, St. Petersburg, Melbourne and New York.
The special exhibition of Beyer runs until 20 October 2023, don’t miss it if you happen to be in Zurich.
Photo credits: Beyer Clock and Watch Museum
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