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Always"watching"

Vertex Watches: A Historical "Revue"

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On 14 September 2008, Silver hawk posted a topic on the forum about his grandfather's Vertex Revue watch that had been presented to him on his retirement in 1968. I myself possess a very nice gold plated Vertex Revue pocket watch that had been presented to a British railwayman on his retirement after 45 years service, and although there is no date engraved on the watch as part of the inscription, I reckon that this watch dates to about the mid-1960s. In fact, I have heard of other retirement presentations that comprised a gift of a Vertex Revue watch, and it seems that this brand was quite often used for such events in the 1950s and 1960s. So, what about Vertex Revue, and surely the brand was not solely about presentation gifts to retiring employees?

The story of Vertex is bound up with the history of the watch company known as Revue Thommen, so before looking at Vertex watches, we need to go back in time and take a look at the story of Revue Thommen. In 1853, the community of Waldenburg in Switzerland founded a watch manufacturing company called, "Societe d'Horlogerie a Waldenburg" (acute accents on both 'e's in Societe, and grave accent on word, 'a') with the intention of bringing employment to the Waldenburg valley that had been cut off from Geneva and Basel when by-passed by a new rail link between the two cities. In 1859, this Society was taken over by Louis Tschopp and Gedeon Thommen (acute accent on both 'e's of Gedeon), with Thommen also founding and promoting the "Waldenburgerbahn steam railway linking the various villages in the valley. The two men privately restructured the watchmaking concern, but Tschopp soon left, with the result that the company was now named Gedeon Thommen - Uhrenfabrikation or Gedeon Thommen Uhrenfabriken. 

Gedeon Thommen, like many of his watchmaking contemporaries, began to manufacture lever movements and developed a manufacturing process whereby precision components that were interchangeable could be produced. By 1885, the company had invented the "Springeruhr GT" pocket watch with a digital display (branded GT for Gedeon Thommen) and production of watches was steadily increasing such that by 1890, when Alphonse Thommen took over ownership of the firm on his father's unexpected death, the company was producing 13,000 watches per year. In 1889, Societe d'Horlogerie a Waldenburg was awarded a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. Then, In 1905, Alphonse Thommen registered the firm as a limited company, titled, "Thommens Uhrenfabrik AG,"  and in the same year, the company became associated with the commercial name, "Revue." Exactly how and when this came about seems to be unclear. Wikipedia states that the firm was commercially registered as "Revue Thommen AG" in 1905, having already started to use the Revue name as a brand on wristwatches, while other sources claim that the brand name, Revue, was merely registered as a trademark in either 1905 or 1910, and was so registered to meet the increasing demand for wristwatches. Whatever the case, the Thommen company was expanding and built new factories at Waldenburg, Gelterkinden and Langenbruck, and in 1916 Thommen created the first aircraft chronograph for the Swiss Air Force, so commencing on a long association between the company and the military, particularly as a supplier of aircraft instruments.

It is not clear from the literature exactly when Thommens Uhrenfabrik AG decided to use the name, Vertex, for its products marketed in the UK, but by 1929 this name had been officially registered. However, given that Vertex watches were essentially part of Thommens Uhrenfabrik AG, also now called Revue Thommen AG, we must continue to outline the history of the company as a whole before looking at Vertex itself. The Thommens firm moved with the times, and from round watches with simple wire lugs, Thommens produced some very striking Art Deco timepieces in the 1920s and 1930s. The economic depression of the early 1930s hit watchmaking hard, but Thommens Uhrenfabrik responded by concentrating on its already established expertise in the production of aircraft instrumentation. A separate Thommens concern was established to cater for this speciality, and from 1936-43,  the company developed and manufactured cockpit instrumentation for the Swiss Air Force, and these products included altimeters, airspeed indicators, clocks, and even the landing gear for one Swiss biplane. This expertise did not go unnoticed by other countries, and Thommen/Revue Thommen aircraft products were also purchased by the British and German armed forces.

In 1945, Revue Thommen, as I will call the firm from this date, (even though I now have a source that states the name "Revue Thommen" did not officially appear until the 1980s) broadened the appeal of its aircraft instruments by adapting these products to a wider audience. A pocket altimeter for alpinists was  launched, and altimeters for use by parachutists were also created. The division between general wristwatches and miltary/aviation products was later to be made manifest by the firm in 2000 when Revue Thommen AG granted a license to the Swiss company Grovana Ltd. for the manufacture and marketing of Revue Thommen wristwatches, while Revue Thommen AG focused on its aircraft instrument business. 

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Revue Thommen continued developing new watch movements, with the GT82, GT44, GT54, GT56, GT12 and GT14. Then, in 1961, MSR Holding was founded (Manufactures d'Horlogeries Suisses Reunis - acute accent on last 'e') as a consortium consisting of the Phenix Watch Company, Revue Thommen, Vulcain and Buser Freres & Co, aimed at rationalising watch production and reducing manufacturing costs. Vulcain was tasked with commercialising the products, Revue Thommen was to manufacture components, and Phenix was to undertake assembly. MSR continued in operation until its dissolution in 2000.

 

 

1969 Vertex Revue watch showing the movement and the English-made 9 carat gold case and back (pic from poshtime.com):

 

Because this topic is primarily about Vertex, a sub-brand of the original Swiss Thommen/Revue Thommen company, I shall not deal with the later iteration of Revue Thommen that originates in 2012. Instead, I shall now turn specifically to Vertex, and briefly look at this brand and its history. It has already been mentioned that the Vertex brand name was being used by Thommen by 1929, and was used for products designated for sale in the UK. In the story of Vertex, one important event must be mentioned. Towards the end of World War Two, Vertex, together with 11 other watch manufacturers (the so-called "Dirty Dozen") , was invited by the British War department to produce so-called WWW waterproof military wristwatches to particular specifications that were common to all 12 watchmaking companies. These specifications were a clear luminous dial, an accurate 15-jewel movement, a subsidiary seconds hand, a shatterproof Perspex crystal, and a tough waterproof case. Shock resistance was not specified, however. After the War, Vertex played on this link with these watches to imply in their advertising that their general watches were accurate and durable. The WWW watches are now highly sought after.

 

 

Vertex-watches-Figure-2.jpg

(pic from roseantiquesfairs.co.uk)

 

 

 

There seems to be no clear cutoff date for the end of Vertex watches but it seems likely that this sub-brand did not survive the quartz crisis of the 1970s and 1980s. I should, I suppose, look for a "revival" of the Vertex name in more recent times, as seems so often to be done by essentially new companies in an attempt to create a heritage that isn't theirs. But I am not going to go there in this topic, which is essentially historical. There are, however, certain problems in the identification of genuine period Vertex watches that need to be aired here, especially as the reader of this article will already be aware that the history of Revue Thommen is not wholly consistent between different sources of information. At the risk of throwing a spanner in the works when it comes to collectors who have or are looking for Vertex watches, it has been posited that watches marked "Vertex" alone on the dial are probably NOT the Vertex watches made by Revue Thommen/Thommen but may come from Vertex La Chaux de Fonds. The genuine Revue Vertex watches are apparently always marked, "Vertex Revue," and on watches made between about 1930 and 1955 seem to have a logical numbering system. Serial number 423840 is said to date to 1940. It is impossible for me to verify exactly what constitutes a Revue Thommen Vertex watch and what constitutes a watch of similar date and type made elsewhere and branded, Vertex. Judging by the general consensus, a watch marked Vertex, is still likely to be a Revue Vertex, even without the word Revue, and certainly the WWW watches made for the British military by Revue Thommen are marked just Vertex together with the War Department symbol. When it comes to the movements, Vertex Revue watches have movements stamped with "VERTEX REVUE" or sometimes, "M.S.R", and I have no doubt that some Vertex watches will contain movements from different companies.

I have found this article quite difficult to draft and compile because different sources don't agree with one another in a truly cohesive fashion. I just hope that I have managed to provide a readable account of the history of Vertex watches and their origins in the Thommen/Revue Thommen company. Finally, I have included pictures of watches bearing the brand name Vertex alone as well as items with the full Vertex Revue name on the dial. I have to leave it with those who are more expert on this whole question of whether another company was branding their watches Vertex at the same time as Revue Thommen were making their Vertex watches for the UK.

 

 

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Thanks Honour for a fascinating but complex trawl through their multi-faceted history. Where they stand in the High-End hierarchy must be nigh impossible to ascertain. However thanks for your sterling (or should it be Stirling) efforts again.

mike 

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Thanks for reproducing this enlightening post, I find these manufacturers of movements circa 1930's-1950's one my favourites, in my humble opinion, the zenith of watch making during the last century.

 

I believe Thommen Revue used to stamp their Vertex (primarily for uk market) produced watches 'Vertex Revue' on the movement.

Additionally, they produced watches under the names of Sola & Cyrus.

 

Indeed they was a popular 'quality' presentation watch, large companies kept stocks of these watches for future presentations.

Much like ICI who kept large stocks of Goldsmiths/Silversmiths, Garrards watches, many with the FEF 350 cal movement.

Yet to be convinced the Breitling cased FEF 350's are worthy of such high prices, again, the gravitas of a name?

 

If I spent less time reading your absorbing posts and concentrating on getting to grips with posting images of my squirrelling (most of the above) my contribution may hopefully be more informative.

 

Thanks again for posting.

 

Alan

 

 

 

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I do apologise that in editing this topic, I went beyond the time frame allowed and so found that my revisions and pictures were blocked.. This means that I was unable to include all the pictures I planned to post on the topic, and also was unable to fine tune some of the text.

In terms of the text, I now believe that the lack of Vertex watches in 1970s style probably means that the name was discontinued a bit earlier than I thought. Also, where are the Vertex chronographs? I have now fully confirmed to my own satisfaction that many Revue Vertex watches were produced with just the word, Vertex, on the dial, rather than the full Vertex revue legend. It appears that some relatively early pocket watches bear the mark, "HERALD" on the movement, and this seems to be a Revue Thommen caliber name. 

As for the pictures, here are a few that I was going to post on my topic:

 

Classic 9-carat gold Vertex Revue wristwatch dating to 1959 with 33mm diameter case and 15 jewel handwind movement (pic from poshtime.com):

498.161.jpg

 

 

Rare and interesting Vertex folding sportsman's pocket watch in leather case dating to about 1930 (pics from cjbalm.com):

vertex-folding-watch-2.jpg

vertex-folding-watch.jpg

 

 

Vertex-watches-Figure-3.jpg

(pic from roseantiquesfairs.co.uk)

 

 

Stylish simple square 9-carat gold handwind Vertex wristwatch dating to 1965 with 28mm case and 17-jewel caliber 76 movement (pic from littlecogs.com):

mis02_ef.jpg

 

 

I obviously had other pictures lined up, but I have to stop now in case I once again go past my allotted time for editing this post - I accidentally clicked "submit" yet again. 

Edited by Always"watching"
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Good write up. I've got one, it's a bit rough but an excellent time keeper and I wouldn't part with it. Small by today's standards.

thumb?viewBox=626

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My grandfather's Vertex.  F.W.J.B.B. = Foster Wheeler John Brown Boilers. He was an engineer in the Royal Navy during WW2 and joined their boiler makers after the war... retiring in '68

Vertex-Revue-Front-Deedo.jpg

Vertex-Revue-Dedication-Deedo.jpg

 

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Thank you for your original post Paul.

Your grandfather's watch is certainly one to pass on down the family, hopefully to inspire future generations.

 

Alan

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Thanks for posting such an interesting write up on these watches.:thumbsup:

I have a couple of 9ct Vertex Revue's.

image_266.jpeg

The left being a presentation of The United Africa Company Limited in 1966 and the right with a personal inscription in 1971.

and one of their steel pocket watches

image_264.jpeg

With a Revue calibre 30.1 movement

image_265.jpeg

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Thank you all so much for posting the pictures and reading my topic and addendum. It is great to see your grandfather's 1968 watch, dear Silver Hawk, which in the form of your original post on the forum was one of the reasons why I decided to tackle the subject of Vertex watches.:biggrin:

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Thanks for a very interesting  history about the Vertex Revue watches. I have a pocket watch which was presented to my late father by British Railways in 1977 in appreciation of 40 years service. Are Vertex watches still available ?. William.

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15 hours ago, William Darlow said:

Thanks for a very interesting  history about the Vertex Revue watches. I have a pocket watch which was presented to my late father by British Railways in 1977 in appreciation of 40 years service. Are Vertex watches still available ?. William.

not new.....but you can find them on e bay....most dating back to 40s/50s/60s.....

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Just spotted what looks like "a new" vertex watch posted by @Rob.B on today's "friday fun" ..... after a quick search found this @William Darlow .....

https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/vertex-dirty-dozen-watch-reborn-military

apparently the brand has been "reborn" by one of the descendants of the founder... after a hiatus of nearly 50 years :)

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On 15/09/2016 at 16:25, Always"watching" said:

I have found this article quite difficult to draft and compile because different sources don't agree with one another in a truly cohesive fashion. I just hope that I have managed to provide a readable account of the history of Vertex watches and their origins in the Thommen/Revue Thommen company. Finally, I have included pictures of watches bearing the brand name Vertex alone as well as items with the full Vertex Revue name on the dial. I have to leave it with those who are more expert on this whole question of whether another company was branding their watches Vertex at the same time as Revue Thommen were making their Vertex watches for the UK.

I have a lovely Art Deco watch with a date window, based on a Schild movement,

IMG_20200622_001051311(1).thumb.jpg.65e893193b538ea210d106d7c2895a25.jpg

 

and in investigating the origins of the date window, I came across Marly's date watch on David Boettcher's blog - their patent having a priority date of - from memory - July 1930, date window at 12,
, but I also found a patent for Vertex watches ( Claude Lyons) with a priority date of Jan 1930, for a date window at 3: 

image.thumb.png.2b4067dab4e9f5c10a7427a74487a466.png

Image preview

 

https://worldwide.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/biblio?DB=EPODOC&II=2&ND=3&adjacent=true&locale=en_EP&FT=D&date=19320804&CC=GB&NR=377953A&KC=A#

 

So Vertex evidently quite the pioneers!

 

HAGD  

 

JJ

 

Edited by Jet Jetski

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