This article was written and contributed by Jonathan Fairfield, a journalist and English teacher based in Thailand
This is the second in our occasional series looking at some of the lesser known quality Swiss watch brands. Despite producing high quality timepieces for more than a century, Eterna might not necessarily be one of the first names that spring to mind when you think about fine Swiss watch making. Nevertheless, they are still a firm favourite for many lovers of Swiss watches – from mechanical timepiece geeks (like me!) and horology aficionados to people who just like the look and feel of a quality timepiece.
Urs Schild Freres
Founded in 1856 by Urs Schild Freres, the Eterna brand originally went by the name of Schild Freres. It was during this time that the company started producing ladies wristwatches, many of which had been adapted from small pocket watches. In 1905, around the time when wristwatches started to become more fashionable, the company changed its name to Eterna and quickly established itself as an innovative and revolutionary watch maker.
Over the years, Eterna has preserved its full-fledged ‘manufacture’ status by reason of its ability to come up with outstanding watch design. In watchmaking, the term manufacture applies to a watchmaking enterprise that is able not only to design its own timepieces, but also has the knowledge to design and assemble a movement, as well as produce the tools that will enable the serial assembling of the movement components.
Fans of this popular brand will be well aware that it was Eterna who, in 1932, setup the well renowned and widely used movement maker, ETA, which is now owned by the mighty Swatch Group, to make movements for themselves, as well as other watch manufacturers. Eterna’s revolutionary watch making and manufacturing didn’t stop there. Other innovative designs from Eterna included the production in the 1930’s of an eight day alarm watch, as well as the smallest production wristwatch to include a Baguette movement. By the late 1930’s, Eterna would produce their first automatic wristwatch.
Perhaps Eterna’s most notable addition to the world of watch making is the now famous Eterna-matic movement, which was introduced in 1948. This revolutionary design includes the use of ball bearings in automatic movement mechanisms. A reminder of the Eterna-matic can be found in the Eterna brand logo, which is made up of the five ball bearings that you’d typically find in the attachment point of an automatic rotor. The Eterna-matic remained in continuous production until 1998.
Eterna Kontiki Chronograph
Named after the famous Thor Heyerdahl expedition, the Kontiki Chronograph is a fine example of how Eterna continue to make modern, yet stylish watches. This particular model (no 1522.214.171.1242) is quite a bold design with sporty features which would be suitable for both the serious athlete and modern businessman. The case measures 42mm in diameter and is approximately 16mm thick. This automatic self wind watch is water resistant to a depth of 200 metres (660 feet). A date calendar can be found just above the four o’clock position, while the Kontiki’s stop watch feature can be operated by the two large pushers found on the right side of the watch.
Eterna’s newest release is the Eterna Adventic. Remaining at the forefront of innovation, the Adventic is the first watch to incorporate Eterna’s 3843 movement calibre, which features a Spherodrive mechanism for long lasting durability. The circular case measures 44mm in diameter and is available in 18kt rose gold, which is limited to only 50 pieces. The watch itself provides hours and minutes with running seconds displayed on a subdial. This is undoubtedly the star of their 2012 collection. The watch also features a power reserve of 72 hours. If the subtle, slightly feminine charm of the rose gold model isn’t your thing, the Adventic is also available in stainless steel with either a white or black dial.
The stainless steel model retails for around $11,300. The limited edition rose gold model is available from $28,630.
Today Eterna is owned by the China Haidian Group, having been acquired by the ambitious Group last year. China Haidian also own the licence for the impressive Porsche Design watch collection. Whilst they may no longer be Swiss owned, the brand is still Swiss made through and through and the Eterna brand continues to make high quality, innovative and stylish timepieces.