I became interested in the history of MuDu and its owner Brevinex after seeing some of the watches posted in WRUW and reading some of the commentary, especially our own Honour’s excellent analysis on the Christopher Ward Forum. https://www.christopherwardforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=32312 That piece seems to be the basis of most of the discussions I’ve seen online, but I wondered what some more research in Swiss commercial records might throw up.
I’ll start by saying that the main source of my information is the Schweizerisches Handelsamtsblatt, or SHAB, which is the journal in which Swiss companies are required to publish significant events. It is very useful for tracking trademark registrations as well as the directorships and ownership of companies. The limitation is that companies only publish what is required of them, so much that might be of interest to the historian is left out. Sometimes this can be supplemented by articles and even obituaries in newspapers or the journal of the Federation Horlogere, but I found none of that for MuDu, Brevinex or any of the people who are listed in the company filings. In that case we are left joining the dots and hoping something like a picture emerges.
I don’t think I’ve solved the puzzle of MuDu, but I hope I’ve shed some light into its darker corners. It’s a longish read, so I’ve set out some of the major points right at the start. Then you can decide if it’s worth your while to read on. For reference, at the end of the article is a list of all Brevinex trademarks with start and end dates, as well as any transfers to new ownership.
Brevinex wasn’t originally a watch company and appears to have had no previous interest in horology. It started out as Embosto AG in 1950, selling a patented mechanism for neon advertising signs. Later it became Inex AG and then Brevinex SA in 1955.
In 1957 Brevinex registered the trademarks “MuDu” and “Doublematic” jointly with Kurt Dubach, but in 1960 Dubach renounced his interest in ‘MuDu’. In 1962 he also gave up his stake in ‘Doublematic’.
Kurt Dubach was a director of Gigon SA, a company that assembled watches using Felsa movements. I think Dubach was most likely engaged as a consultant to Brevinex. It’s even possible Gigon could have made some MuDu watches.
Mikrolisk lists Adolf Muller as one of the owners of the ‘MuDu’ brand, and he is commonly believed to be the “Mu” in the name, with Kurt Dubach contributing the ‘Du’. However, records show Muller only acquired the trademarks from Brevinex in 1978, which throws doubt on that claim.
In 1956/7 Charles Kühne, an accountant, became chairman of Brevinex and also of Mustang Watch, a wholesaler/exporter from Basel that was then co-located with Brevinex in Geneva. This raises the possibility of collaboration between the two companies.
If there was a partnership between Brevinex, Kurt Dubach and Mustang to develop and export a range of innovative watches then ‘MuDu’ could stand for Mustang-Dubach.
“Doublematic”, in the typeface Brevinex used, appears on a number of watches by brands other than MuDu, including Eterna, Wakmann, Allaine and Cornavin.
The Origins of Brevinex
One thing that becomes very clear from an investigation of Brevinex is it was never intended to be a watch manufacturer or dealer. It started life in February 1950 as Embosto A.G., a company based in Zurich which took over patents relating to an “interchangeable neon advertising device”, registered by Emil. W. Stocker and associates in October 1949. The broader aims of the company amounted to general import and export trading and domestic wholesaling.
It went through several changes of management, moved to Geneva and traded as Inex A.G. for three years, before settling on the name Brevinex S.A. in June 1955, with the primary purpose of developing patents.
Somehow, over the next year or so, someone in Brevinex had the bright idea to develop a range of watches. Up to that point, the company had no discernable interest in horology and doesn’t seem to have had any expertise in that business either.
In March 1956 the chairman - Moses Bollag, a veteran inventor - resigned and was replaced by Charles Kühne, an accountant and fiduciary agent. Kühne appears to have a pivotal role in the story, but fiduciary agents were sometimes brought into companies to protect the interests of anonymous owners, so it’s possible he was acting for someone else.
At the beginning of 1957 Brevinex moved to new offices at Rue de Lausanne 76 in Geneva. Then, in February, a company based in Basel called Mustang Watch announced that its AGM for shareholders would be held at the Brevinex office. By April, Mustang had moved its head office to Geneva, at the same address as Brevinex, and with Charles Kühne installed as the managing director.
Meanwhile, in March 1957, Brevinex registered the trademark ‘MUDU’ (all uppercase) and in July the more frequently seen ‘MuDu’, in its characteristic typeface. ‘DOUBLEMATIC’ followed in September. These registrations were made jointly with Kurt Dubach, of whom more later. By the end of 1957, the existing directors from the Inex era had been ousted from their positions at Brevinex, leaving Charles Kühne as the only director.
Here is an example of a MuDu watch using the bi-directional rotor figure registered as a trademark by Brevinex in June 1962. (Picture from uhrforum.de)
The process to register the trademarks ‘MuDu’ and ‘DOUBLEMATIC’ in the US was started by Brevinex and Kurt Dubach in March 1958 and completed in March 1960. “MuDu” was reported as cancelled in August 1966 and it is doubtful if MuDu watches were ever sold in North America. However, I have found examples of Brevinex’s ‘doublematic’ trademark on watches of brands that were imported into the US. More on that later on.
By the time Kühne got involved, Mustang had registered two trademarks – a horse’s head for Mustang and the underlined word ‘Allenby’. Both were listed for “watches, watch components, movements, dials, alarm clocks, cases and other packaging material”. The company had been set up in 1955 as an exporter of watches. One of the directors, and I suspect the source of the capital, was Dr. Edmond Goetschel, a financier from Löwenburg.
Perhaps coincidentally, Goetschel had also invested in the 1955 relaunch of the Helsa Watch Co under its founder, Paul Heller. I’ve seen plenty of “Allenby by Helsa” watches on auction and vintage sales sites, and even a “Mustang by Helsa”, recently for sale on Ebay, from which I have borrowed this picture.
This attractively aged “Allenby by Helsa” from Antiques-Atlas.com has a nicely textured dial and, like the Mustang, claims on the case-back to be radar-tested and tropicalized. All of these watches have Baumgartner pin lever movements.
It is likely Mustang had partnerships with other Swiss manufacturers/assemblers. Among sub-brands attached to its Allenby watches were ‘Rocketmaster’, registered by Montres Milus Paul Junod in 1959, and ‘Firebird’, which Basis Watch had owned since 1954.
The sudden relocation of Mustang Watch to Geneva and its co-location with Brevinex under Charles Kühne raises the inevitable question – why? Kühne had no experience of watchmaking, yet one of the companies he was now in charge of set about launching a range of quality watches, with neither the manufacturing or distribution expertise the project would require.
It occurs to me that Brevinex had the capability to seek out new inventions, while Mustang had watch sourcing and distribution expertise. Could the two companies have been brought together to collaborate on a new range of watches harnessing innovative technology – Felsa’s Bidynator movements for example?
The problem with this is that Mustang’s watch manufacturing suppliers only used pin-lever movements from sources like Ebauches Bettlach and Baumgartner. What the partnership would really need was someone with the knowledge and contacts to manufacture a higher quality watch. Enter Kurt Dubach.
Dubach appears to have had no direct connection with Brevinex. He certainly was never listed as a director in company filings. He first appears in April 1948 as director of the Biel branch of Geo A.G., a Bettlach-based company trading in clocks, photographic accessories and electrical equipment. After Geo went under, Dubach moved on to be company secretary of Gigon S.A., a company set up in 1953 by Arthur Gigon to revive the family watchmaking business.
Here is a typical Gigon watch from the 1950s, powered, like many MuDu models, by a Felsa 1560 automatic movement, with a bi-directional rotor. (Pictures from ModernRelicsBoutique on Etsy).
Dubach remained with Gigon all through the period when Brevinex was developing the MuDu brand. My guess is that he was engaged as a consultant, probably with a share in the profits from the MuDu business. It’s also possible that Gigon assembled the watches, but I have no proof of that.
Dubach’s association with the MuDu brand didn’t last very long. In April 1960 Brevinex announced that Dubach had renounced his interest, both in the trademark and the company. A few months later, he was appointed chairman of Fabrique d'Horlogerie Etna S.A. in Geneva. In 1962 he also revoked his interest in ‘Doublematic’.
Dubach stayed at Etna until August 1965, when Charles Kühne took over the company and all current directors were removed. Etna’s trademarks transferred to Brevinex in 1971 and the company was closed down.
Here’s an example of a 1950s Etna watch with 17J AS 1430, from ranfft.de.
And this is a PAMDOR watch – a brand registered by Etna in 1967 – using Brevinex’s ‘doublematic’ sub-brand (picture from Ebay).
Arthur Gigon resigned from Gigon SA in 1961 and Kurt Dubach took over as chairman. He changed the name of the business to Dubach & Weissberg S.A. and, with Gigon’s company secretary Alfred Weissberg, traded in Berne until bankruptcy struck in 1980.
Mikrolisk attributes some trademarks to ‘Montres Kurt Dubach’, but I can find no evidence that a business with this name ever existed.
Where did the MuDu name come from?
In “Drug War: The Secret History”, Peter Walsh tells of a senior customs officer, Samuel Charles, who raided a watch smuggling operation led by the London gangster known as Paddy Onions. According to what Charles told Walsh, “The gang even had their own watch brand made, called Mudu, a play on the underworld slang word ‘moody’, meaning fake.”
There seems little doubt that MuDu watches were smuggled into the UK in the 1960s – there are too many people in watch forums remembering friends and family members buying their timepieces from random men in pubs and on markets. It’s also true that dodgy watches were big business and that even legitimate jewellery wholesalers were caught making regular trips to the continent to load up with contraband watches.
The bit about underworld slang, however, and custom watches for gangsters, really doesn’t ring true and ignores the uppercase D in most of the trademarks. A more believable suggestion is that the term is a concatenation of two names.
Kurt Dubach certainly seems favourite for the ‘Du’ and I can’t think of any credible alternative. ‘Mu’ is more difficult, but it is usually suggested to be Adolf (or Adolphe) Muller, who is listed in Mikrolisk as an owner of the ‘MuDu’ and ‘Mudu doublematic’ trademarks. Unfortunately that attribution is undated.
Adolf (Adolphe) Muller
If the Mikrolisk listing is the only supporting evidence in favour of Muller as ‘Mu’, then we’re on very shaky ground. According to the registration in SHAB, Adolf Muller didn’t acquire the trademarks until June 1978, by which time Brevinex was nearing the end of its life. There would have to be some other evidence connecting Muller with Brevinex around 1957, when ‘MuDu’ was originally registered.
As it happens, an Adolphe Muller, described as “of Hungarian origin”, did appear in a 1954 company filing by Inex AG, having been given individual authority to sign company documents, but not named as a director. There was a Muller listed as one of the directors, but that was Erna Muller, from Poland - one of those that departed Brevinex at the end of 1957.
Adolphe Muller isn’t mentioned in subsequent Brevinex reports until March 1979, when his signing authority was cancelled, along with that of Joseph Muller - also from Hungary - who had been appointed company secretary in 1972.
I wondered what else our Adolf Muller might have done in the watch world and discovered that, in December 1959, there was a trademark registration for ‘Cornavin Watch, Adolphe Müller Horlogerie, Genève” by Adolf Muller of 6, rue des Vollandes, Geneva. The spelling of names in Swiss commercial history is regrettably fluid, so it’s hard to be sure this is the Adolphe Muller of Inex, but that address proved helpful in establishing a link.
The June 1978 trademark transfer record shows that Adolf Muller, at the same address, bought the ‘MuDu Doublematic’, ‘MuDu’ and ‘Etna Watch Co” trademarks from the remains of Brevinex. Trading as A. Muller – also said to be “of Hungarian origin” - he continued to maintain those brands, while widening the scope of his business to become a general wholesaler.
If we accept “Hungarian origin” as enough of a link to establish that the Adolf Muller who bought the MuDu brands was the Adolphe Muller of the 1954 Inex filing, then we have someone who had a position of some authority in Inex/Brevinex for 25 years. It is possible he acquired the MuDu brands because he was instrumental in creating them.
There is, incidentally, something very odd about Adolf Muller’s registration of the ‘Cornavin Watch’ trademark. It copied the style of Walter Gygax, the previous owner of the brand, who had been declared bankrupt. When Cornavin Watch S.A. was established in March 1960, there was no sign that Muller was involved.
If Muller had no part in the Cornavin company and was just speculatively registering a trademark, maybe on behalf of Brevinex, I think it’s more likely he had the time to be deeply involved in the development of MuDu. There is, however, only circumstantial evidence in support of this and I think there might be a credible alternative.
If not Muller – who?
If Dubach was initially responsible for the design and manufacture of the watches, and Mustang Watch had the job of distribution for export, might not MuDu stand for Mustang-Dubach?
The timing for this collaboration is quite tight, as Charles Kühne’s takeover of Mustang happened around the same time Brevinex first registered ‘MUDU’, but negotiations must have been going on in the latter half of 1956 and by March 1957 the plans could have been ready to go.
Assuming the partnership existed, was it a success? The watches themselves were well made, using good quality movements, typically by Felsa. The primary means of distribution, however, seems to have been the smugglers’ routes into the UK. While it isn’t unexpected to find no records of advertising or agents for exported Swiss watch brands, it is unusual to find no entries at all in the trade directory Davoine, or in the journal of the Federation Horlogere Suisse.
The explanation could be that Brevinex, as we’ve seen, wasn’t a watch company run by industry insiders. Mustang was used to distributing low end pin pallet watches. Probably it didn’t have the outlets for more sophisticated automatics. That might explain why MuDu watches were often smuggled into England. It could also explain why Dubach resigned his interest in the brand, if he realised it was going nowhere.
Decline and Fall of Brevinex
In 1971, during a period when Charles Kühne left and there were multiple changes of leadership, Brevinex had another attempt at innovation in the world of watches. The trademark ‘Light Jet’, was registered in March, followed in May by ‘Brevinex Double-Chocked’. These were attached to a range of watches sold under the ETNA brand.
For example, this ‘Light-Jet’ ‘Double-Chocked’ Valjoux chronograph features a bracelet which contains batteries and a switch for a lighting ring around the dial. (Pictures from Ebay.)
This Etna Light-Jet, pictured on Catawiki, throws ‘Double-Chocked’ and ‘Doublematic’ into the pot. The font of ‘Doublematic’ looks rather like the one used by Zenith.
That was really the last throw of the dice for Brevinex. There were numerous management changes, before bankruptcy proceedings started in 1984 and were concluded in 1986.
The secret life of doublematic
Most of the MuDu watches I’ve seen were sub-branded ‘doublematic’. One of the most attractive, for me, is the triple-date moonphase, with its angular numerals, which I guess weren’t aimed at the UK market. Picture from chronopedia.club.
That’s nice, but look at this moonphase with triple date, branded ‘Dome’ with sub-brands ‘doublematic’ and ‘Bidynator’ for the Felsa cal 692 that provides the power. ‘Dome’ was registered to Selza AG in the 1930s, according to Mikrolisk. Picture from uhren-muser.de.
Then, much simpler, the 3-hand date model from Allaine that I bought recently, which runs on a 1960s Felsa 4007N. I know Allaine made some Allenby watches for Mustang, so … draw your own conclusions.
Just when we thought Cornavin and Adolf Muller had little or no connection, here comes a Cornavin ‘doublematic’ with a mysterious crocodile or alligator graphic on the dial, and also packing a Felsa 4007. Picture from rikketikveilingen.nl.
This one rather bucks the Felsa trend with an ETA movement inside. Meet the Eterna ‘doublematic’. Picture from ebay.ie.
Here’s another that really comes from left field and opens up a warren of rabbit holes. A Wakmann ‘doublematic’ with a Felsa 1560, signed Mellrose Watch Co. ‘Mellrose’ was a trademark registered by Brevinex in April 1961, but I wondered if Mellrose Watch Co was connected. Wonder no more, as the caseback here is signed MuDu on the back and Mellrose Watch Co on the inside. Pictures from i.ebayimg.com via shopozz.ru.
Finally, I thought Brevinex had no footprint in the US at all, but this made me think again. Here is a DavidSon & Licht ‘doublematic’ with a Felsa 1560 signed Mellrose Watch Co. DavidSon & Licht is a high-end jeweller from Walnut Creek, California. Pictures from Catawicki.com.
I really don't know what to make of this widespread use of the 'doublematic' name. Perhaps someone here can offer an explanation.
Incidentally, I’ve found quite a few ‘Mellrose’ watches, with Swiss movements (FHF, Baumgartner), but cased in France. The movements have what I assume is a US import mark ‘MYM’, which isn’t in Ranfft’s database. Go figure, as they say in the US.
As I said at the beginning, I don’t think I’ve solved the puzzle of MuDu, but at least I feel I know more about the people and the companies that might have been involved in its development. There are still many uncertainties, not least the origin of the name, and I would be interested in other views about that, and how the ‘doublematic’ brand ended up on the dials of so many different brands. These investigations take a lot of time, so please tell me if you find it useful or interesting.
List of Trademarks
No. 164832 ‘MUDU’
The plain uppercase wordmark was registered on 3rd April 1957 by Brevinex S.A. of Geneva and Kurt Dubach of Berne. It expired in November 1977.
The registration was listed for “Horlogerie et autres instruments chronométriques ou leurs parties” which Google translates as “Horological and other chronometric instruments or their parts”. However, “horlogerie” is usually translated as “watchmaking”.
No. 166155 ‘MuDu’
This registration, in its familiar typeface, took place on 5th July 1957, by Brevinex and Kurt Dubach. It too was listed for horological and other chronometric instruments or their parts.
The trademark was renewed by Brevinex in October 1977, under the number 291044, but was sold to Adolf Muller in June 1978. ‘MuDu’ continued in force until it expired in June 1989.
No. 167313 ‘DOUBLEMATIC’
This plain wordmark followed on 4th September 1957, also registered by Brevinex and Kurt Dubach. It expired in April 1978.
Nos. 181599 ‘MUDEX’, 184600 ‘MUDUX’ and 184801 ‘MULDU’
These wordmarks were registered in February 1961 by Brevinex alone. I can’t find any sign of these being used and it may be they were defensive registrations against other manufacturers using names similar to MUDU. They expired together in September 1981.
No. 185711 ‘MELLROSE’
Registered by Brevinex in April 1961 for “horlogerie” and expired in November 1981.
No. 192057 ‘MuDu doublematic’ (fig)
A combination of the ‘MuDu’ and ‘Doublematic’ wordmarks, with a figure representing a bi-directional rotor, was filed in June 1962. It was sold to Adolf Muller in June 1978 and renewed by him in July 1982 under number 321030. The products listed were changed to “automatic watches and their parts”. Expired in 2003. I think this may be the only registration of 'doublematic' in that typeface.
The two part ‘Mu|Du’ wordmark, separated by a broken vertical line, could easily be read as ‘MulDu’.
No. 252124 ‘LIGHT JET’
Registered in March 1971, by Brevinex, listed for timepieces and parts thereof, watch straps, jewelry. Expired in October 1991.
52466 ‘BREVINEX DOUBLE-CHOCKED’
Registered in May 1971 by Brevinex alone and also listed for timepieces and parts thereof, watch straps, jewelry. Expired December 1991.
Amendments to remove Kurt Dubach
On 27th April 1960 an amendment was filed to trademark 166155 (‘MuDu’), saying that Kurt Dubach had renounced his share in the mark and the part of the business to which it was attached. The mark would remain registered only to Brevinex SA. The same amendment was filed in October 1962 for 164832 ‘MUDU’ and 167313 ‘DOUBLEMATIC’.
SN 47,935 (694,544) ‘DOUBLEMATIC’
This was filed jointly by Brevinex and Kurt Dubach with the US Patent Office on 18th March 1958 and published in the Gazette on 29th Dec 1959. It cited no. 167,313 on Swiss Reg and was registered for “clocks, chronometers and parts therefor”.
SN 47,934 (699,400) ‘MuDu’
Also filed 18th March 1958, but not published until 29th March 1960. Cited ownership of Swiss Reg trademark 166155 and was registered for “clocks and other chronological instruments – Namely, Watches and Stop Watches and Parts Therefor.” This registration was canceled, according to the Patent Office Official Gazette of August 1966.
246271 ‘ETNA Produits Suisse”
Originally registered to Manufacture Junior, Jeanneret-Droz in March 1908, as 23501 ‘ETNA’. Acquired by Etna Watch Co in July 1930, when ‘Produits Suisse’ was added. Transferred to Brevinex under No. 246271 in April 1971 and cancelled by them in September 1978.
206870 ‘ETNA WATCH CO LTD GENEVA’ (fig)
Registered by Etna Watch Co in December 1924, with a figure showing a pavement of watches leading up a mountain. Transferred to Brevinex under No. 206870 in April 1971 and sold to Adolf Muller in June 1978. Renewed as No. 338477 by Muller in February 1985, with products changed to ‘Watches made in Geneva’. Expired June 2005.
242246 ‘ETNA WATCH CO., GENEVA’ (fig)
Registered by Etna Watch Co. in May 1930, with a figure depicting a fashionably dressed woman pulling back the sleeve on her wrist, with the background of a mountain topped by a watch and what may be the bottom of a hot air balloon. Transferred to Brevinex under No. 242246 in April 1971 and cancelled by them in September 1978.
Registered by Etna Watch Co. in April 1964 and not formally transferred to Brevinex when Etna was closed down. Expired in 1984.
Registered by Etna Watch Co. in August 1967 and not formally transferred to Brevinex when Etna was closed down. Used on watches with the ‘doublematic’ sub-brand. Expired in 1988.