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Union S.A. Soleure: The Long and the Short of it

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Back in 2014, I wrote a topic for the Forum about Union Glashütte, a German watch company of some renown, and for that subject, I had to split the topic into two parts. Now, another Union watch company, founded at about the same time as Union Glashütte, has “turned up” begging to be written about, but this time the lack of historical information means that the topic can barely be stretched to a single part. This is a shame because some of the watches produced by this company are rather nice, and the firm has a long history.



A chunky Union Soleure chronograph in period flavour from about the early-mid 1970s with a 38 X 38mm case, powered by a hand-wind Valjoux 7734 movement (pics from horlogeforum.nl):







The company I refer to is designated in formal terms as, “Union S.A. Soleure because while some of its watches are branded, “UNION S.A. SOLEURE,” many others are marked on the dial with the simpler form, “UNION SOLEURE,” and watches branded for this firm are often labelled as "Union Soleure." The term, Soleure, may not be as familiar as its German language counterpart, Solothurn, and it refers to a town, municipality and capital of the eponymous Canton situated in North-West Switzerland on the banks of the Aare at the foot of the Weissenstein Jura mountains. Watchmaking was an important part of the local industry and Union S.A. was not the only firm making/producing wristwatches in the region.

Union S.A. Soleure was founded in 1895 by Max Studer, in Selzach, Solothurn Canton, and the company went through a number of partnership changes over its long history, including Stadtler-Bouche and Studer-Reutsch. Apparently, Union used a number of different brand/model names over the years, with “Union Soleure” being one of them. It may well be then that certain as yet unidentified Swiss brand names seen on old watches may relate to Union (Soleure) S.A..



A 1950s gents Union Soleure wristwatch of a type sometimes termed a "sports" watch at the time with a 34.5mm (excl. crown) stainless steel case with screw-on caseback and a hand-wind 17J movement (pics from loveantiques.com):







I have read that the company was still registered in 1966, at Selzach, with Adelphy [sic], and I know for sure that mechanical Union Soleure watches were still in production as late as the mid-1970s, having examined a “UNION SOLEURE” branded pocket watch helpfully bearing an inscription dated 1974. Union S.A. Soleure unfortunately did not survive the quartz crisis and it was absorbed by Longines in the 1980s.

I have now almost completed the textual part of this topic – I told you it would be brief – and have to rely on captioned illustrations to give you a better idea of Union S.A. Soleure The company was probably relatively small when compared to the “big guns” of the Swiss watch industry, and my feeling is that the Union Soleure concern was primarily involved in production/marketing rather than watch manufacture, especially in the later years of its life. I have not encountered any evidence that Union S.A. Soleure manufactured movements, although the term, “UNION” was sometimes stamped on mechanical ebauches in Union Soleure watches, and there is no doubt that some watches branded for the Union Soleure company were made by other manufacturers including the firms, Gisiger Gred Son and Laco. Union S.A. Soleure is interesting not least because of the variety of pocket and wristwatches that are branded for the firm over a long period of time. And yet, we know very little about just what went on at the company in terms of assembly, production or other activities.



A rare Union Soleure chronograph from about the mid 1950s powered by a Valjoux 22 hand-wind movement and with a 36mm case (excl. crown) (pics from chronocentric.com at i65.tinypic.com, i67.tinypic.com X 2, and i68.tinypic.com ):








A mid 1930s Union Soleure base metal pocket watch with chain; the case measuring 42.9mm across (ie. without crown). The 1st prize inscription is clearly contemporary with the watch as is witnessed by the distinctive art deco design on the caseback (pics from assets.catawiki.nl):








A rather nice Union Soleure chronograph from the late 1960s or very early 1970s but with no details accompanying the picture (pic from anibis





A hand-wind ladies' gold plated Union Soleure wristwatch from the about the mid 1950s with a rope bracelet and gold plated clasp. Case diameter is 19mm (pics from assets.catawiki.nl):







This Union Soleure military watch is apparently of the Fliegeruhr type used by German airmen during World War Two and will have 15J. A. Schild movement. It is notable that Union (Soleure) S.A. produced a number of flier watches during the thirties and over the War period, and some were no doubt bought by civilians. More light needs to be shed on any connection between Union (Soleure) S.A. watches and official military deployment (pics from warrelics.eu):





A similar watch to the above pictured on the Italian watch forum, "Orologi Passioni Dal 2004" where there is some discussion as to the origin of these Union Soleure flier watches. I am not an expert on military watches, and hopefully other members who specialise in military watches will know more about Union Soleure examples (pic from i.imgur.com):




A gold plated gents Union Soleure wristwatch from about the early 1960s with 17J hand-wind movement and 33mm case (without crown) (pics from assets.catawiki.nl):






A Union Soleure automatic chronograph wristwatch from the 1970s with a 40mm (without crown) case and powered by a Valjoux (pic from vintagetick.de):





A Union Soleure quartz wristwatch from the later phase of the company's life with 38mm case (without crown) (pics from retro-watches.co.uk):








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We learn something new every day - as my grandmother used to say. Interesting article and some nice designs.



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@Always"watching", I've been on a well known auction site, and noticed the name Soleure being used on on watches that may be from other companies.  Gisa Soleure, and Eterna Soleure being examples.  I wonder if there is any connection to the original company?


For example 

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Dear @Mart , I myself noticed that there are certain watch models which use the term "Soleure" after the name of the company. However, in these cases, although the watch companies concerned were based in Soleure/Solothurn, only in the case of Union S.A. Soleure is the place name integral or essential to the company name - in this case immediately following the company title. I presume that the problem with naming a company, "Union," was to differentiate it from the other watch companies that also had "Union" as their first name.

I am pretty certain that neither Eterna or Roamer had any formal connection or association with Union S.A. Soleure, although they may have sold watches to the Union Soleure concern to be branded and sold as Union S.A. Soleure products.

I hope this answers your question.:)

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This arrived yesterday,  after a cheeky eBay punt, no one else seemed to want it. Seller was in Czech republic. Not sure of date.

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31 minutes ago, Always"watching" said:

I just wonder, dear @Mart, if the hands were originally lumed on your interesting Union Soleure such that the gaps in the surviving "filigree" would have been filled.:)

Looks likely to  me.



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