The other day, I purchased a non-runner hand-wind ladies' wristwatch marked, “Talisman,” in script on the dial, above the word, “ANTIMAGNETIC.” The watch has a plated alloy case with gold highlights, plain and gold plated stainless steel bracelet and a push-on steel back. On opening the watch, a thin metal holder with fold-over lugs positions the simple no-jewel movement. Interestingly, the movement is stamped on the backplate with “UNADJUSTED / PREMIER / PRECISION LTD” and also, “HONG KONG / JAPANESE PARTS.” Date-wise I feel that the watch is probably from the mid-1970s through to the mid-1980s. I looked for other, related, Talisman watches online and it seems that my example, in gents' or ladies' form with some variation, was something of a staple item, for the Talisman brand at that time.
An identical Talisman wristwatch to my own (Pics from i.ebayimg.com):
A search on Mikrolisk revealed that a few watch companies registered the name “Talisman” at various times, and taking the closest in dates to my own watch, I concluded that the most likely contender for the production/manufacture of my Talisman was Artax Watch Ltd., a company that I had never heard of until looking up my watch, so I decided to research Artax as best I could, and here are my results.
The first thing I noticed when looking at Mikrolisk was that Artax Watch Ltd. was responsible for a plethora of brand names/name marks – presumably used on watches and clocks from Artex Watch – between 1973 and 1989. It may be pedantic, but I am going to list all these names together with their year of registration where the brand is known to be registered, because it might clear up a number of queries regarding unknown watch brands on pieces bought be readers. So, here goes, in alphabetic order as they are listed on Mikrolisk:
Artax Watch Ltd, 1986
Chris Claire Absolu, 1989
Royal Ace, 1973
The Tiger Line,
An initial search for useful literature concerning Artax Watch Ltd. provided an article entitled, “Welschenrohrer Uhrenmuseum Stellt Lokale Uhrenfirmer Artax Vor” printed in Solothurner Zeitung on 7 May 2013. The occasion of this article was a special Artax exhibition at the Welschenrohr watch museum celebrating 40 years of Artax, the “premium” Artax “Manjaz” brand and the recent move of the Artax headquarters from Oensingen to Welschenrohr. From this article we can provide a few details about the history of Artax, as follows:
Artax Watch Ltd. was founded by Hubert Fluri in 1973, and even in 2013, aged 84, Hubert was engaged with the company he founded and always available to represent it. At some stage in the life of the company many years prior to 2013, firm relations were established with China, and Artax became heavily involved with the export of Swiss watches to the Far East. Just prior to the opening of the Artax exhibition, a delegation of 60 Artax customers from China arrived in Welschenrohr, where they could visit the watch museum and the Artax company's new premises. Afterwards, they went to Baselworld watch fair. Relevant perhaps is the fact that the curator of the Welschenrohr Uhrenmuseum at the time of the Artax exhibition in 2013 was Andreas Fluri – likely to be a relation of Hubert Fluri of Artax Watch Ltd..
The reason for the relocation by Artax HQ to Welschenrohr was the close co-operation with the futuristic studio, Manfred Uebelhart AG, which also relocated its production. The idea was that Artax and Uebelhart AG would work under one roof, the former Donada watch factory. In terms of production, by 2013 Artax was offering its watches to approximately 600 outlets in China.
Having now obtained some information about Artax and its founder, I did more research and discovered a potted biography of Hubert Fluri, which further illuminates the Artax story. This profile, which I have borrowed as is, can be found on fashionbi.com and is most useful:
Hubert Fluri, the founder of Artax Watch Ltd., was born in 1929 in Herbetswil. He went to primary und district school in Balsthal where his parents lived since 1936. At the age of 17 he studied at a language school in Saint Gingolph at Lake Léman to improve his French. A vocational education of commerce for 3 years followed. Later, he worked another 3 years in Geneva in a company that, among others, also published annual chronicles on Swiss watch industry. His interest in watches was thus awakened. A sojourn at Swiss Mercantil School in London helped upgrade his English knowledge.
In 1953 Hubert Fluri joined Technos watch company in Welschenrohr and was active at the sales department.
In 1964 the director Josef Gunzinger and Hubert Fluri traveled across the North Pole to Japan. From then on Mr. Fluri undertook his numerous business trips to the Far East, such as Hongkong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos etc.
During the Cultural Revolution Hubert Fluri spent some time with a Swiss delegation in China where he experienced how the folk demonstrated and jubilated with Mao's little red booklet in the hand. In Cambodia he urged a customer to leave the country shortly before the Red Khmer took over the power. The future of this person and his family were thus rescued. With the assistance of Lap Heng entrepreneur in Hongkong Mr. Fluri initiated the production of cases and dials in Taiwan. Those were the years of significance.
In 1973 Hubert Fluri decided to establish his own company – Artax Watch Ltd. Artax was named after Artaxerxes, a great Persian king and military leader.
For decades various brands were registered and watches were produced by Artax. Poland, Spain, Italy, Portugal, USA and the South America were the key markets. The rapid development of the Chinese market in recent years motivates Artax to set its focus on Manjaz, a brand especially conceived for the Asian Continent.”
This profile, quoted above, also indicates that Artax Watch Ltd. went from having a number of different brands being produced and exported to various parts of the world to having just a single brand – Manjaz, complete with its own logo. I am not absolutely sure when the Manjaz brand was actually first used on watches by Artax, but believe that its formal launch is a fairly recent event. Company information is that the brainchild of Manjaz was Dominick Fluri, back in the later 19th century and grandfather of Hubert Fluri, who had hoped to create a Manjaz watch brand but did not live to see this fulfilled. Thus, there is therefore no unbroken timeline for the Manjaz brand from before recent times. What is clear is that Manjaz became the vital and sole brand for Artax, and although it is intent on strengthening its position in Western markets, the prime market is China, and Asia generally. It is not clear just how much manufacturing of watches goes on at Manjaz; the brand is listed as Manjaz Uhrenmaufaktur AG, apparently taking on its own identity rather than being purely an Artax brand, and has recently relocated to Nidau, still in Switzerland. There is still some confusion in my mind about the present up-to-date situation with regard to the relationship between Artax and Manjaz, and I cannot tell if Artax Watch Ltd. itself is still around.
Manjaz Engineer Series Travel Watch with stainless steel 41mm case and sapphire crystal back and front. Powered by an automatic ETA 2893 movement and with a water resistance of 5 ATM. Leather strap with steel pin buckle or stainless steel bracelet with butterfly clasp (pic source on photos):
I have not studied the Manjaz watches in sufficient detail to ascertain their overall quality and value for money, but I will say that Artax/Manjaz considers the watches to be “premium” products. The range, which is set at 250 to 5,000 Swiss francs includes quartz and automatic timepieces and chronographs, and the watches are designated as Swiss-made, and have Swiss movements. Some of the models currently on sale have a definite flavour of the Chinese taste in watches, and Manjaz follows previous Artax policy of focusing on exports.
The Manjaz headquarters at Welschenrohr, at the foot of the Jura mountains in Switzerland, in 2015 - The brand headquarters has apparently since moved to Nidau (pic from swisstime.ch), and the Manjaz brand mark and logo (pic from 3.bp.blogspot.com):
Returning to my own Talisman wristwatch, I still have no direct evidence that it is a product of Artax Watch Ltd., partly because I am unsure as to the quality of Artax watches in the period when my watch was made. Perhaps Hubert Fluri covered all bases in the period when my watch was made, from cheap to more premium watches, and my own Talisman watch is hardly a paragon of horology. My feeling is that Hubert Fluri was somewhat brave to launch a Swiss-based watch company in 1973, just when the Quartz Crisis was about to strike. However, He seems to have avoided catastrophe for his new company, Artax, probably because of his connections abroad which enabled him to successfully trade watches and export (as well as possibly import for resale) his way out of trouble. In particular, his links to Hong Kong and Taiwan will have enabled Artax to take advantage of cheap Far Eastern manufacture of dials, cases, and perhaps movements. As for the Swiss content of my Talisman, I have a feeling it never went near a Swiss manufacturer and is essentially a low-cost trade product from the Far East, perhaps being branded and sold through Artax Watch Ltd..
A gents' Talisman wristwatch with date feature and 1J hand-wind movement - this model clearly related to my own (pics from i.ebayimg.com):
NOTE: I have taken a look online to see if some of the other registered Artax brand names appear in the form of extant watches but with almost no success. The cheaper the watches, the more likely it is that they have vanished without trace.