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Always"watching"

Audax Watches: Hunting Down the History

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When I started writing this topic, I titled it, "Audax Watches: A Pictorial Record," simply because there is apparently no documented history of this brand or company. I thought that I would merely be showing a series of Audax watches, in some sort of date order, and virtually leave it at that. I subsequently drafted the topic, but then with one keyboard stroke, lost the lot, and was forced to start again. In this case, however, I was glad that I did start over again, because it was during the rewrite that lateral thinking provided a real clue to at least part of the history of Audax watches.

 

An intriguing wristwatch wholly unmarked even on the plain domed caseback except for "AUDAX" stamped on the movement. Difficult to date exactly but Antiques Atlas has figured this watch for the 1930s. Case diameter excl. crown is 28mm (pic from images.antiquesatlas.com):

A_1930s_midsize_Audax_wrist_wa_as170a339

 

 

Some brand names found on vintage watches, as you will all know, lead to a dead-end when it comes to any information available about them, and Audax proved to be one of these problem watch names. However, when I looked at the extant Audax watches online, I came to the conclusion that Audax was more substantial than being a mere model name or low volume sub-brand. Instead, the number and variety of the watches led me to consider Audax to be a reasonably large concern or brand, that existed for a relatively defined period of time.

 My first step in appraising what history could be confirmed or deduced was to examine the watches themselves and in doing this, a number of pretty concrete facts emerged. Firstly, the history of Audax seems to have commenced about 1930 and finished just before the quartz crisis and probably just before the introduction of the Seiko Astron quartz in 1969. It seems that there are no quartz Audax watches and it is not clear why the brand was abandoned or why Audax - if it was a separate company - closed down. The earliest firmly datable Audax watch I could find was a lady's 9 carat gold model hallmarked for Chester 1930. A rather nice rectangular-cased gold example hallmarked in 1937 and powered by a Venus 130 movement, was also found.

 

 

Rectangular gold Audax watch hallmarked for Birmingham 1937 powered by a Venus 130 hand-wind movement and with a hinged Dennison case (pics from littlecogs.com):

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mis06_hc.jpg

mis06_hm.jpg

 

 

While 1937 marks the first obtainable date, the latest watches produced by Audax seem to have been made in the mid-1960s, perhaps until the end of that decade. Intriguingly, some of the later watches are branded "AUDAX/FORTIS" under a crown, and more will be said about these later in this topic. For now, I will just say that given the nature of this branding, with Audax being the prominent name on the watches, I initially assumed that the Fortis name on these watches was a sub-branding for a particular Audax model.

 

 

An Audax 9 carat gold wristwatch, case hallmarked for 1955/561955 and with 32mm case; powered by an ETA 1030 hand-wind movement (pic from poshtime.com):

496.194.jpg&w=640

 

 

In looking at the watches themselves, it seems that Audax used movements from a number of different Swiss companies. These include Venus, Aurore and ETA. I noted that the movements were often stamped with the Audax name, and the watches are pretty much always marked with a Swiss-made designation. Interestingly, Audax made considerable use of Dennison cases, and there is one tantalising statement that Audax was, in fact, based in Birmingham. This statement may derive from Dennison cases hallmarked in Birmingham and used on Audax watches.

So, from the watches, we can deduce that Audax was a mid-market watch brand or company producing a wide range of Swiss-made ladies' and gents' mechanical watches from about the mid 1930s until the end of the 1960s. Hand-wind movements predominate, and watches were sometimes in gold as well as base metal. Dive watches and chronograph watches are lacking and I do wonder if Audax entered these areas of watch production. Obviously, I cannot say for sure, and I do hope that any member of the forum who has an Audax dive watch or chronograph will post details on this thread. As a warning note, Lapizta Audax dive watches are modern and have nothing to do with the Audax we are discussing here.

 

 

A 21J automatic stainless steel wristwatch by Audax, c.1960 (pic from thumbs.ebaystatic.com):

s-l225.jpg

 

 

An elegant and slim Audax wristwatch in 9 carat gold 33mm case, hallmarked for Birmingham,1963. Silver dial, acrylic crystal, and Aurore caliber 4026 full lever 21J hand-wind movement (pics from poshtime.com):

485.005.jpg&w=640

 

 

With little to go on in the watch literature, I decided to use a bit of lateral thinking and examine the word, "Audax" in case something relevant came up. The first possible clue was the use of the term to label a particular form of competitive racing formulated in Italy at the end of the 19th century. In Audax, participants had to swim, run, walk or cycle a set distance over 14 hours (essentially the time between sunrise and sunset), with cyclists required to cover 200 km. Audax was popular in France first, before it eventually came to this country, and there are is a British Audax club as well as bikes that are sold specifically as "Audax" models. 

I did wonder whether the birth of Audax racing had a hand in the naming of the Audax watch brand or company but ultimately decided that there was no connection. However, I did not give up looking at "audax" in terms of its meaning, and finally I scored a direct hit. I came across a Latin motto, used by a number of regiments, "Fortis et Audax," meaning "The Bold and the Brave." The presence of this motto transformed my approach to Audax watch history because here was a strong potential link between Fortis Watch Company and Audax watches. The motto puts "Fortis" before "Audax" and if one translates this into the relationship between Fortis and Audax watches then it would seem likely that either the two brand names co-existed for the whole of Audax production or that Fortis came first.

 

 

The first mention I found of a link between Fortis and Audax was a curious comment captioning this military style Audax from about the 1940s, " Audax, associated with Fortis,"  on fobs76.blogspot.co.uk (pic from 1.bp.blogspot.com):

DSC01666.JPG

 

 

I do not wish to go down the route of detailing the history of Fortis, at least not in this topic, but I can say that I have found no mention of Audax watches in information about the history of Fortis. Nevertheless, further examination of Audax watches online threw up the evidence I needed to establish a definite link. The crucial watch, illustrated here below, is one of the later Audax models - a slim 20 microns gold-plated model from about 1962 - and is marked AUDAX/FORTIS" beneath a crown on the dial with the movement also marked, "FORTIS."  Indeed, the crown mark itself leads us to look at Fortis, as does the caseback which is stamped inside, "FORTIS WATCH LTD." as well as having the Fortis name and crown on the obverse side.

 

 

The key Fortis watch discovery firmly linking Audax watches with Fortis. Branded, AUDAX/FORTIS, on the dial and dating to the early 1960s (pics from img1.etsystatic.com):

il_570xN.367665971_6ryy.jpg

il_570xN.373295499_oguz.jpg

il_570xN.368260037_kms2.jpg

 

 

The revelation of this link between Fortis and Audax leads me to the tentative conclusion that Audax, for at least part of its life, was indeed a brand name used by Fortis on various watches, mainly dress watches. I am not sure exactly why Fortis used the name, Audax, and I don't know whether Audax was ever an independent watch producer before becoming a Fortis brand. If there is a British connection (and I believe that, for example, Bensons sold Audax watches at some stage), then perhaps Audax watches were primarily intended for the British market. Also, the lack of chronographs and other more rugged designs marked, "Audax," may also be relevant to why Fortis used the Audax name. In connection with ruggedness, I should just mention the "All Risks" range of watches here where reliability is clearly emphasized (see pics at the end of this topic) and some later Audax watches are marked on the dial, "AQUAPRUFE" or "WATERPROOF" emphasizing their water resistance.

 

 

Waterproof Audax watch from the later 1950s powered by an ETA 1280 17J hand-wind movement (pics from watchrepairtalk.com):

post-73-0-07822600-1391526377_thumb.jpg

post-73-0-46454600-1391526361_thumb.jpg

 

 

There is clearly much more to be discovered about Audax and I feel that I have only just scratched the surface. I hope that this topic just gives a glimpse into the work and methods involved in how I try and piece together at least parts of a company history where available information is sketchy or, in the case of Audax, negligable. All researchers go about their business in different ways, and it is by combining the information garnered from these different sources that ultimately builds up an accurate and hopefully almost complete history. When I set out on this Audax journey, I thought I would merely show a few Audax watches with comments in the picture captions. Instead, it has been a voyage of discovery but also a frustrating one. I would certainly love to learn more about Audax, especially because the brand is eminently collectible - as long as you are not chronograph or diver watch mad.

 

 

A glorious Audax gold watch from the late 1950s with chunky long hands and a seconds register. In this case, the blue box is itself marked, AUDAX/FORTIS and also has an AR monogram within a crowned shield. The purpose of this monogram mark is explained below with a contemporary advert of about 1955 (pics at fobs76.blogspot.co.uk from 2.bp.blogspot.com and 4.bp.blogspot.com):

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Audax advertisement from 1957 showing the "All Risks" monogram and watches from that range, obviously promoting the guarantee and/or reliability of the watches (pic from i.ebayimg.com):

$_57.JPG

Edited by Always"watching"
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Honor, I don't know how you do it - - even coming up with the names of some of these companies ! :notworthy:

Suffice to say your usual "review that stimulates" always makes me file away these names for future reference in case I come across one.

I begin to think we should have a reference section where ALL of Honor's informational pieces are gathered together for the future so we can look 'em up in "alfa" order? :thumbsup:

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Very interesting Honour and I love Mel's suggestion as well. These are great reference points.

It might just be me, but I couldn't view a few pics.

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18 hours ago, Caller. said:

Very interesting Honour and I love Mel's suggestion as well. These are great reference points.

It might just be me, but I couldn't view a few pics.

it wasn't just you, there are a few that aren't showing up for me as well.

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Thanks for the kind comments, and I apologise for the lack of two illustrations. It seems that these were not available when actually posting the topic, and I think I somehow made an error when locating the appropriate address for them.

I have revisited the images online and here they are:

1)  A gold Audax wristwatch Hallmarked for 1955/56 and with a 32 mm case. Powered by an ETA 1030 hand-wind movement (pic from poshtime.com):

496.194b.jpg

 

 

A slim and elegant Audax 9 carat gold wristwatch with 33 mm case and silver dial, hallmarked for Birmingham 1963 and powered by a full lever 21J Aurore 4026 hand-wind movement (pic from poshtime.com):

485.005.jpg

 

 

With regard to putting my topics in a separate forum area so that they are easy for members and visitors to access, I will approach Roy on the subject. Ironically, Roy did suggest this to me but I said "no" because I felt it might put undue pressure on me to "perform." I now think that the time might be right for me to resurrect the idea, not least because it will enable me to track down what companies and brands I have covered in the past. Even I cannot quickly recall every topic I have written on the forum.

 

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Thanks Honor - - I feel sure Uncle Roy knew what he was doing when he suggested this in the first place, and as for "pressure to perform", you have well proven your ability in researching and publicising almost forgotten brands as well as newer fashionista makes we should perhaps not be too dismissive of.

Of course, I also think they should still be posted in the General forum before archival in "Honor's Horological Harchives", that way we all get to view them , but then we can also later look them up when required!

:yes:

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My maternal grandfather, William Huber owned W.J Huber Ltd, whose main brand was Audax. He died in 1953 and, as I understand it, the business was run by his son, Andrew who was born in 1932. The business did not prosper following his death and closed down, presumably in the mid to late 1960's.

I have a letter in my possession dated 31st July 1958 from the then Company Secretary acknowledging a loan to the company from my grandmother.

The letterhead shows that the company had factories in Tramelan and Grenchen in Switzerland. The registered trademarks were:

Audax "All Risks"

Huba

Robot

Fortissimo.

I spoke to my 93 year old mother who recalls that it was her mother who came up with the name Audax but she cannot remember why she thought of it. I also have their wedding certificate of 1923. My grandfather's occupation is shown as being a Watch Manufacturer whereas his father was a furrier so the business was not inherited.

I hope that this helps 

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Great article Honour,

 

I can add something, albeit not much.  I read this because I just bought this

DSC_0168DSC_0069

And the case has a silver import hallmark for 1928, so we can take the brand back a little further

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On 17/03/2017 at 16:27, mel said:

Honor, I don't know how you do it - - even coming up with the names of some of these companies ! :notworthy:

Suffice to say your usual "review that stimulates" always makes me file away these names for future reference in case I come across one.

I begin to think we should have a reference section where ALL of Honor's informational pieces are gathered together for the future so we can look 'em up in "alfa" order? :thumbsup:

Mel - I did suggest to our Uncle Roy that the Forum and Honour could jointly publish an e-book for sale as all the articles are extremely well written, lucid and well worth preserving all the data for prosperity as well as a little income on the side. As long as the book doesn't go down the Amazon route to oblivion....

What do you all think?

mike of the Wight

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An ebook is perhaps an easier way of publishing this info, once set up, the framework means "new" items could be added as needed. Having said that, I don't know how much work woud be involved, and then there's legals to consider - - :whistle:

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Interesting idea, Mike and Mel, and one that I hadn't honestly thought of. I have never really considered my forum writings as being worthy of any lasting value in the scheme of things, but having my own Forum section has made me appreciate more that I do now have a body of work that hopefully will be useful and interesting to readers as long as the Forum exists and/or I don't expire.:laugh:

I am no expert in modern tech or the internet, so any collation of my topics would need some guidance. Anyway, I do appreciate your confidence in my research and writing. :)

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18 hours ago, Always"watching" said:

I do now have a body of work that hopefully will be useful and interesting to readers

Yes Indeedy Honor, better mortals than muyself will no doubt know how you could put the articles into some kind of format whereby they could be downloaded either complete or as singles that folks were interested in for a nominal fee that might help along the forum costs, charities or whatever. :yes:

of course it's work in progress as you are "always watching" new marques to add to your portfolio (see what a smartiepants I am there? :rolleyes: )

Edited by mel
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good post mel !, good research. my guess would be "private label contract".  a lot of Hamilton  pocket watches were sold that way.   vin

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Another Audax / Fortis tie up:

audax-fortis-gents-17-jewels_360_53ab9f5e899a682a2afee90ecfb7d95f.jpgaudax-fortis-gents-17-jewels_360_53ab9f5e899a682a2afee90ecfb7d95f.jpg

And I have one of my own incoming, interestingly a Fortissimo as mentioned above and trade-marked by Audax, but using the Gallet 'Clamshell' design (Brevet 189190) which relied on only 4 screws to compress the bezel against the crystal to seal the watch, rather than the design developed by Fortis in their own branded 'Fortissimo' which compressed the entire crystal / bezel mating surface evenly. 

Fortis had in fact manufactured a Clamshell chronograph - the Wandfluh - in 1937, so they would have been aware of its shortcomings and how to improve upon it.  They were also tied up with Tissot previously and the 'aquatic' waterproof watch.  Vogt seems to have been the chap to get your watch designs off the drawing board and on to the high street (meanwhile continuously improving and engineering / marketing his own developments). The Gallet design would likely have benefitted from a gasket at the mating faces owing to the uneven pressure exerted at the screw points.  That is probably why the 'clamshell' faded and the fully threaded screw case 'oyster' designs prevailed.

Anyway, here is a pic of the Audax winging its way to me - The vendor did not mention the split two-piece stem that I have since read about elsewhere, so I hope it is marked, to identify the orientation for withdrawal ....  The movement is a Fortis signed AS 1171 (development of the Harwood automatic with handwinding & with sub seconds).   The vendor has forbidden me from any DIY on this watch lol - I'll send it to someone with a manual.  

s-l1600.jpg

I know this version of the Audax logo was in use by 1943 (having seen a cushion watch signed the same way with an inscription from El Alamein on the reverse), but I think that, since the AS watch movement was launched in '35, and the 'waterproof' case designed in '36, this watch could be around 1940.  The Rolex Oyster was launched in 1926, so the fourteen year patent protection on that design would be running out by then, allowing other manufacturers to adopt similar, better, waterproof cases, and it would soon be curtains for the Gallet case.  They stopped production of the 'Clamshell' in '51.

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Although I posted this one of mine in a WRUW last October, FWIW it should maybe also be included in Honour's hopefully more permanent "Topics". This one runs on a 17j ETA 1080 and probably dates from the 1950s.

The several different styles of the "Audax" wordmark may partly account for the difficulty in nailing who made any particular example.

 Regards.

Audax 5 v.2.jpg

Audax ETA 1080 2018 v.2.jpg

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2 hours ago, Balaton1109 said:

the "Audax" wordmark

Agreed - It is interesting that the typeface on the movement is in block capitals - the brand certainly never found a settled identity, and names, I think, did get traded around between makers.

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And here's mine!

1579892555752710634173.thumb.jpg.f3b445b685a32adcc8dea304d8447919.jpg

737854699_audaxmvmntmotion.jpg.13cd451f9cfffe65b77c76980365f28c.jpg

 

Stainless steel case, and threaded lugs I think, although one bar is slightly thicker than the other and there are some marks on the lugs which I think may be signs of amateur brazing!

I know people look out for pristine examples, but for me finding a watch that has been wrangled and fixed up and sustained is more interesting, I like imagining the human story behind it.  I once taught myself to whip a cricket bat handle and so as to fix it rather than chuck it in the shed and forget about it!

Edited by Jet Jetski

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