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Swiss Terms and Marks

Copyright © David Boettcher 2005 - 2024 all rights reserved.

In addition to hallmarks and Poinçons de Maître, other terms and marks on watch cases and movements can give useful information about the watch, who made it and when.

Swiss Federal Cross

Swiss Federal Cross
Swiss Federal Cross

The Swiss Federal Cross is often seen in cases and on movements. This may seem natural for something made in Switzerland, but often the cross is a reference to a patent, and if it is followed by a number, then that is the patent number.

Sometimes a patent number isn't given. There are various reasons for this, which revolve around whether a patent has actually been granted, and whether it is actually relevant. Manufacturers liked to allude to patents in order to give the idea that their design included some clever feature, or that it was protected by a patent. Sometimes this was just sheer bluff.

Terms used on Swiss watches

In Swiss/French, "brevet d'invention" means patent, this is often abbreviated to simply brevet. "modèle" means design, "déposé" means to file, lodge or deposit, and "demandé" means requested. Combinations of these words, often together with the Swiss Federal Cross symbol, are often found in the backs of watch cases.

Swiss Federal CrossThe Swiss Federal Cross usually signifies that a Patent has been granted. If there is a number it indicates the patent number, often no number is quoted.
Brevet On its own or together with the Swiss Federal Cross Swiss Federal Cross this usually signifies that a Patent has been granted, if there is a number then that indicates the patent number.
Brevet Déposé Sometimes abbreviated to "Brevet Dep." This seems to mean "Registered Patent" - perhaps that an application for a patent has been registered but the patent not yet granted, the same as Brevet Demandé.
Brevet DemandéPatent Requested. Sometimes abbreviated to Brevet Dem., Brevet Swiss Federal Cross Dem, or just Br. Dem. Since this refers to an application for a patent that has not yet been granted there cannot be a patent number.
Modèle Déposé Registered Design. Sometimes abbreviated to Mod. Dep., Déposé or just Dep.
Dep. or Dep. Swiss Federal Cross Dep. on its own or with the Swiss Federal Cross usually means Modèle Déposé as above.

Brevet Déposé and Brevet Demandé both mean essentially the same thing, that a patent has been applied for, but of course there is no guarantee that an application will result in the grant of a patent and neither are official terms. Brevet Déposé perhaps sounds more convincing, like the rather presumptive "Patent Pending", which also has no official status.

Modèle Déposé does actually mean something, the design has been officially recorded and "registered", the same as a British "Registered Design". This doesn't convey protection in the same way that a patent protects an invention, but it forms an official record of who first produced the design and can be used in cases of copyright dispute.

Swiss/French Watch terms

AguillesThe hands which indicate time on the dial. This word is often engraved on an inner cuvette inside the back of a watch next to a hole, showing where to put the key to set the hands to time.
AncreA lever escapement, from the shape of the lever and pallet fork carrying the pallets which resembles a ship's anchor.
Ancre Ligne DroitStraight line lever escapement. In a Swiss straight line lever escapement the pivots of the balance staff, lever and escape wheel are in a straight line, as opposed to the English lever where the pivot of the escape wheel is at a right angle to that of the lever. In French, straight ahead or in a straight line (and also correct, legal, moral, etc.) is droit; the direction to the right (as opposed to gauche for left) is droite.
ArgentSilver. Silver gilt (gold plated silver) was stamped Argent so that it was not mistaken for gold.
Balancier compenséCompensation balance, a balance that compensates for the effect of temperature changes. Usually a "cut bimetallic balance" that changes its radius of gyration with temperature to compensate for changes in the strength of the balance spring.
Balancier chronomètreMeans literally chronometer balance, but has no specific meaning. In older watches and box chronometers it is a compensation balance, in newer watches it is often just a fancy term for a balance.
CuivreThis is the Swiss/French word for "copper". It is often seen on the inner cover or cuvette inside the outer watch case back to indicate that it is made of base metal. These inner cuvettes are usually gold or silver plated and without this word stamped on them could be mistaken for being gold or solid silver.
CylindreThe movement has a cylinder escapement.
Double PlateauDouble roller. The roller is a boss or collet that is mounted on the balance staff. It carries the impulse pin, which unlocks and receives impulse from the lever, and it also functions as a safety device. A notch in the roller allows a guard pin mounted on the lever to pass only during the action of unlocking an impulse. At other times, if the watch is subjected to a shock, the guard pin hits the edge of the roller which prevents the lever from moving out of place. A double roller lever escapement has separate impulse and safety rollers, the safety roller being made smaller to reduce friction when the guard pin hits it, which reduces the effect of a shock on timekeeping. Older lever escapements had a single roller.
EschappementEscapement - usually either “cylindre” (see) or lever.
GalonnéSilver that was mechanically gold plated, as opposed to electroplated. Gold leaf was hot rolled onto silver in a process similar to making Sheffield plate. Because the gold leaf was very thin, the gold plating wore off fairly easily. The gold leaf was much thinner than the silver plating used to make Sheffield silver, or the layer of gold of rolled gold or gold filled items. It was similar in thickness to electroplate.
Levées VisiblesA lever escapement with visible pallets. Earlier pallet stones were set into the steel body of the pallet fork so that their top and bottom faces were covered. It was found that pallet stones were sufficiently well retained by shellac that they could be set into simple slots in the pallet fork, leaving their top and bottom faces visible. It is not obvious why this was worth a song and dance, but there you go.
MetalSeen on the inner cover or cuvette inside the case back to indicate that it is made of base metal: see cuivre above.
Plaqué orPlaqué means plated; rather confusingly for English speakers the Swiss/French word for gold is “or”, so “plaqué or” means gold plated. Usually “plaqué or” means gold filled or rolled gold, whereas “plaqué” alone without the “or” usually means electroplated.
P.O.G“Plaqué Or Galvanique” means electroplated with gold.
RemontoirStem winding with a crown, instead of being wound with a separate loose key. (Remontoire (with an "e" on the end) means a spring in the train designed to even out the torque from the mainspring, which was used by Harrison and Breguet but is otherwise rare.)
XX RubisThe number of jewel bearings. A watch with 15 jewels, 15 rubis, is said to be “fully jewelled”. Originally made from natural ruby gem stones, which were superseded when the French chemist Auguste Verneuil found a way to make synthetic sapphire. Sapphire and ruby are variations of aluminium oxide, the different colours produced by traces of other elements.
SpiralBalance spring.
Spiral BréguetBreguet balance spring, a balance spring with a Breguet overcoil. The overcoil was invented by Breguet to make the balance spring expand and contract more evenly as the balance swings backwards and forwards and the balance spring winds and unwinds. This improves isochronism, and balance springs with overcoils are called Breguet balance springs in his honour.
TrousLiterally “holes”. In this context it refers to hole in the plates or bridges that are bearings for the arbors. These are often set with jewels to reduce friction and wear, e.g. "Huit trous en Rubis" means eight jewel holes of rubies - real gem stones.

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Helmsman Trademark: Coullery Freres

Coullery Frères 1885
Coullery Frères 1885: Click image to enlarge

One trademark that I get regularly asked about is the ships helmsman or sailor with a ship's wheel shown in the images here, sometimes also called the ship's skipper or pilot.

This trademark was registered by Coullery Frères of Fontenais, Switzerland, in 1885 for watches. The watches carrying this mark are usually standard Swiss bar movements with cylinder escapements.

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Saturn Trademark with EV: Etienne Varin

Another trademark that crops up fairly often is a ringed planet that looks like Saturn with the initials EV on the lower part of the planet. This trademark was registered in 1887 by Etienne Varin of Fontenais, Switzerland, a watch case maker.

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Knight's Helmet

This rather splendid knight's helmet, with open visor and apparently empty, crops up in Swiss watch cases. Unfortunately I have so far been unable to identify who the trademark belonged to.

The three bears (a small one above and just touching the visor, and two larger below the helmet) and 0·935 fineness stamp show that this case was definitely hallmarked after 1 January 1888, and most likely before 1 June 1907.

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Radiant Sun


Mark on Movement

Mark in Caseback

The two radiant sun marks here both come from the same pocket watch. The watch is Swiss, with an 18 carat gold case carrying the Swiss hallmark for 18 carat gold, the head of Helvetia. This shows that it was hallmarked after the Swiss Precious Metals Control Act of 23 December 1880 introduced a uniform system of hallmarking for watch cases to be used throughout Switzerland.

As might be expected for a watch with such a valuable case, it has well finished and fully jewelled (15 jewel) Swiss lever movement. Unfortunately I have been unable to identify the owner of the radiant sun trademark. The sun was used by a lot of different people, I found 222 entries involving sun symbology, but none was exactly the same.

The mark is similar to the Phoebus Town Mark introduced in 1887 for the London Assay Office to use on imported watch cases, but it is not part of a hallmark and is not the same, so this is just a curious coincidence.

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Dove with Olive Branch: La Centrale


La Centrale Dove Trademark

La Centrale Dove Trademark Registration

This trademark of a dove with olive branch was fist registered by the watch case company “Fabrique de Boites La Centrale” of Bienne on 24 April 1922.

The registration drawing with No. 154 shows that this existing mark was entered into the central register in 1934 when the Swiss systems of Poinçons de Maître was centralised in 1934.

La Centrale was founded by the Brandt brothers in a factory building that they had initially rented and then purchased from Schneider & Perret-Gentil in 1880 as their first factory in Bienne. La Centrale was set up in this factory in 1896 to make watch cases for Omega.

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Heart with Diamond

Courvoisier Frères 1888
Courvoisier Frères 1888: Click image to enlarge

The heart and diamond trademark was registered in 1888 by Courvoisier Frères of La Chaux-de-Fonds.

This company could trace its roots back to 1842, founded by Henri-Louis Courvoisier and his brother Philippe Auguste Courvoisier out of their father's firm Courvoisier & Cie, but after a split between the two brothers the company was reconstituted in 1852, which it subsequently used as its founding date.

In 1880 the company registered its name and trademark as Courvoisier Frères.

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B&K: Bourquin & Kenel

Bourquin & Kenel 1890
Bourquin & Kenel 1890: Click image to enlarge

The B&Q trademark with stars and arrows was registered by Bourquin & Kenel of La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1890 for watch movements and cases. The company was founded in 1849 and, according to Kathleen H. Pritchard “Swiss Timepiece Makers, 1775-1975” said that it specialised in exports to Germany, Scandinavia and Russia, and made "levers and cylinders", 10 to 24 lignes, in gold and silver cases. The company registered its name in 1894, 1897 and 1898 for making cases, cuvettes, dials, movements and watch boxes, in 1906 for making watches, watch parts and boxes, and in 1910 for small watches. The company might have made these things, but it seems more likely that they bought in movements from one of the ébauche manufacturers, and possibly also bought in cases, dials, etc. and assembled watches. The company became D Kenel-Bourquin in 1922.

The Bourquin name appears quite a lot in Swiss watchmaking; Pritchard list over 40 occurrences of the name over 6 pages, although many of these are single line entries and appear to be trading entities rather than manufactures. However, one has more details; Ferdinand Bourquin, founded in 1841, subsequently owned by several generations of the same family including Julien Bourquin, clearly was #a watch movement manufacturer. In 1892 this company was granted Swiss patent 4900 for a counter mechanism for chronographs, which was sold in 1895 to Alfred Lugrin.

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TR: A Schild

TR: A Schild
TR: A Schild: Click image to enlarge

In November 1927, A. Shild S.A. registered two versions of the TR mark shown in the image here, one as shown and one with an identical TR mark surrounded by a shield.

The significance of the initials TR to A. Schild is not obvious; if you know why this mark was chosen, please let me know.

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G. Pf. & Cie: G. Pfund & Cie

Case marked G. Pf. & Cie
Case marked G. Pf. & Cie: Click image to enlarge

The case back in the photograph here was advertised as part of an incomplete lady's Rolex wristwatch. Thanks to Gerhard for bringing it to my attention and for identifying G. Pfund & Cie as the case maker.

The watch movement is a 15 jewel Aegler Rebberg, with Rolex on the ratchet wheel with a single star, which is usually found only on 7 jewel movements; 15 jewel movements usually have 15 Jewels alongside Rolex on the ratchet wheel.

The case has fixed wire lugs. The watch probably dates to between about 1910 and 1920.

The case back is marked for 0.800 fineness silver and has the Swiss capercaillie hallmark for this standard.

The incuse mark G. Pf. & Cie within a rectangular surround was registered by G. Pfund & Cie, a watch case maker in Madretsch, which in 1920 became part of Biel/Bienne.

There is also an incuse capital letter A within a circle. This is usually recognised as a trademark of Alpina. It began as the mark of Alliance Horlogere, which was first registered in 1910 for small watches and cases. So it appears that G. Pfund & Cie. was a member of the Alliance Horlogere when the watch case was made.

It is unusual for a Swiss watch case maker to be identified in this way, by a trademark in the case back.

G. Pfund & Cie were one of the first watch case manufacturers to advertise chromium plated watch cases in 1928.

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JPE: Jean Pierre Ecoffey

JPE: Jean Pierre Ecoffey
JPE: Jean Pierre Ecoffey: Click image to enlarge

This JPE mark is a trademark seen on gold watch buckles. It was registered by Jean Pierre Ecoffey in June 1946.

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GRG: Roland-Gilbert Gaschen

GRG: Roland-Gilbert Gaschen
GRG: Roland-Gilbert Gaschen: Click image to enlarge

This GRG mark is a trademark seen on gold watch buckles. It was registered by Roland-Gilbert Gaschen in November 1956.

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Ateliers Réunis S.A.

Metalia Geneve trademark 1955
Metalia Geneve trademark 1955: Click image to enlarge Orflex trademark 1959
Orflex trademark 1959: Click image to enlarge

On 26 June 1963, the company Marcel Pugin S.A. was renamed as Ateliers Réunis S.A. (“united workshops”) and acquired the assets and liabilities of the companies Orflex and Metalia S.A. (formerly «Metalia Genève» Brunner & Pugin), which as a consequence were dissolved. Ateliers Réunis S.A. is sometimes referred to as “ARSA”.

Metalia Genève and Orflex

Before they were taken over by Marcel Pugin S.A., Metalia Genève had registered the “MG” trademark shown here in 1955, and Orflex had registered in 1959 the “sun” trademark shown here. Both of these marks are seen on gold pin buckles.

The Metalia Genève trademark was transferred to Metalia S.A. in 1956 and struck off the register of trademarks in March 1964. In May 1964 the Orflex trademark was transferred to Ateliers Réunis.

In 1965, a company called Boucledor (“gold buckles”) that specialised in gold pin buckles was spun out of Ateliers Réunis as a separate company.

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Werthanor

Werthanor
Werthanor: Click image to enlarge

This mark that looks like two triangles is a trademark seen on high quality watch buckles used by brands such as Blancpain, Corum and Audemars Piguet.

The mark is evidently intended to look like a “W”. It was registered by Werthanor S.A. of Le Locle in August 1990.

Werthanor is an independent maker of watch cases, bracelets, buckles and clasp. The company was founded in Le Locle on 31 August 1989.

If you have any comments or questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch via my Contact Me page.


Copyright © David Boettcher 2005 - 2024 all rights reserved. This page updated January 2024. W3CMVS. Back to the top of the page.