— The Swiss watchmaker celebrates its 160th birthday this year, which gives us an opportunity to recap some of its illustrious history.
Eterna. The name is familiar to everyone in watchmaking circles, and many beyond. Eterna is an institution in the watch world. For 160 years the Swiss watchmaker has built its international renown on principles that continue to drive it today: innovation, courage and ambition.
It was in November 1856 that physician Josef Girard and schoolteacher Urs Schild decided to set up a manufacture of watch blanks, “Dr Girard & Schild”, in Granges, in the canton of Solothurn, and began to make a contribution to the region’s economy. Fifteen years later, no fewer than three hundred workers were employed in the manufacture of pallet and cylinder escapement blanks, gear trains and regulator blanks.
The runaway success of the first complete pocket watches produced in the Granges workshops enabled the company to ramp up production to 180 timepieces a day. It was at that point, in 1876, that the by then iconic Eterna collection lent its name to the company as a whole, and became synonymous with the quality of the workmanship produced by the Swiss watchmaker.
160 years of history
Eterna was handed over to Théodore Schild in 1899, and productivity continued to improve along with its international sales network. With the advent of the wristwatch, Eterna once again made history, unveiling the first wristwatch with an alarm function in 1914.
In 1932, when Dr Rudolf Schild-Comtesse succeeded his uncle as head of the firm, the company was split into two distinct businesses: ETA SA continued to produce blanks, while Eterna specialised in precision wristwatches. Today ETA SA continues to produce movements for watchmakers worldwide. And in case you didn’t know, ETA stands for: Elegance, Technology, Accuracy.
Eterna owes its global reputation to its many watchmaking innovations, which include the ball-bearing-mounted rotor. Today, the five bearings are immortalised in the brand logo. This new technology was soon adopted by automatic wrist cheap copy watches across the haute horlogerie world, and ball-bearings became a standard feature of automatic movements.
Eterna’s iconic collections include the KonTiki collection, inspired by the balsawood boat that Norwegian archaeologist and ethnologist Thor Heyerdahl skippered across the Pacific Ocean. Dr Schild-Comtesse was impressed by the expedition, and decided to produce a waterproof watch case that would provide maximum protection in water as well as compensating for the deleterious effects of temperature variations. The KonTiki proved its worth, surviving the researcher’s lengthy expedition and overcoming extreme conditions without being damaged by salt water, humidity or the climate.
160th anniversary celebration
For Eterna, celebrating its history means paying tribute to its raison d’être, its quest for aesthetic and technical innovation. To celebrate the anniversary in style, the watchmaker is presenting a new range based on its five core collections: KonTiki, Eternity, Heritage, Lady Eterna and Special Edition. It will also be releasing some new models, including a reinterpreted “Golden Heart” imbued with contemporary romanticism.