It’s hard to imagine the humble watch strap as something that was once controversial, but in 1919, when Carl F Bucherer took it upon himself to be an early adopter for his Art-Deco inspired women’s watch collection, that’s exactly what it was.
It was a clever decision: the brand – a subsidiary of the Bucherer Group, founded in 1888 when Carl Friedrich Bucherer-Humitzsch set up a jewellery store with his wife in Lucerne – went on to rule the women’s wristwatch market throughout much of the 1920s and 1930s. And a not-insignificant part of that success came down to the brand’s willingness to push the limits of design with those controversial watch straps – from elaborate bracelets, decorative watch covers, gorgeous enamel patterns and even a silver brooch watch shaped like a horse-drawn carriage with an opening door that revealed a clock.
Quirky ways of time telling remained a Carl F Bucherer signature until the quartz crisis (the name given to the upheavals following the introduction of quartz watches in the 1970s) ushered in a trend for more sombre styles. The brand didn’t struggle, but it wasn’t exactly setting the watch world alight either, so in 1998 work started on scaling the brand up. A new premises was acquired in Lengau, moving production from Nidau near Bienne, and Carl F Bucherer was officially relaunched at Baselworld in 2001 with its Patravi watch collection, a bold, sporty line that emphasised the brand’s prowess at making chronographs with dates.
Innovations and acquisitions soon followed, including 2005’s Patravi TravelTec – which allowed the wearer to change all three parallel-displayed time zones with a monopusher mechanism – and 2007’s acquisition of Saint-Croix-based Téchniques Horlogères Appliquées; a move that would allow Carl F Bucherer to research, develop, and produce its own manufacture movements as well as any modules for additional functions.
Unsurprisingly, this led to the launch of Carl F Bucherer’s own in-house movement in 2007. Featuring the brand’s now-signature peripheral rotor – a self-winding mechanism that sits around the outside of the movement rather than centrally attached (recently made in tungsten, an industry first.)
The acquisition of Téchniques Horlogères Appliquées has also allowed Carl F Bucherer – to this day one of the few independent watch brands in Switzerland – to stretch its horological wings beyond the realms of chronographs. This includes such watchmaking wizardry as GMTs and tourbillons, while the brand’s women’s watches now come decorated in a confection of precious stones.
Possibly because of its roots as a retailer, Carl F Bucherer’s collections are hard to beat in design terms: its collections incorporate every type of timepiece you’d need in your watch wardrobe, from the brash Patravi and the more elegant dress stylings of the Manero or Adamavi, all the way through to the decadently Deco form of the Alacria.
Designs such as the Alacria Gothic Limited Edition are extraordinary to look at but you’re probably not going to get much wear out of it. The Manero Peripheral, on the other hand, is the ideal daily wearer, with the brand’s signature rotor into the bargain. At 40.6mm it is on the large side, but oversized watches on women’s wrists are the epitome of louche seductiveness. The trick is not to have the strap too loose to avoid looking shrunken over sexy.