Watchmaking: Vulcain relies on the revival of its historical models
Vulcain relies on the revival of its historical models
Determined to emerge from sleep, the brand born in 1858 relaunched Cricket. Story of a bumpy journey.
There are watch brands that sink into oblivion as they sink into slumber. Such is not the case of Vulcain, whose return to the front of the stage remains hoped for by enlightened amateurs. However, for some time now, the Swiss brand has been talking about it again. Latest example: the very recent launch of a limited edition of the Cricket Tradition, created in collaboration with the watchmaking magazine “R Révolution” and the artist Romaric André.
Released in steel in 36 and 39 mm, for a respective price of 3800 and 4100 francs, this model is distinguished by a small colored hand acting as a central seconds hand. A reference to the symbolic hand gesture made by Spock in the ‘Star Trek’ saga, a being known as half Vulcan and half human. This Vulcan salute first seen in 1967 during the episode « Amok Time », involves forming a V with one’s hand by separating one’s four fingers into two pairs.
Standing out against the black dial, the motif imagined by Romaric André is available in the four colors of the « Star Trek » uniform – red, blue, gold and green – matching the leather strap delivered in addition to the black alligator strap . Still, it is a Cricket, the brand’s emblematic watch. Its hand-wound movement is therefore fitted with the alarm mechanism that has made it famous and whose programmed time is indicated by the hand ending in an arrow.
From the insect to the toquante
Founded in 1858 in La Chaux-de-Fond by brothers Maurice, Gaspard and Aron Ditisheim, the Manufacture quickly distinguished itself with its complicated models that won several awards at international exhibitions. Like La Vallée de l’Arve, this enamelled gold pocket watch created for the Chinese market in 1889. It was equipped with a perpetual calendar, a minute repeater and a large and small chimes.
It will however be necessary to wait until 1894, that is to say eight years after the takeover of the company by Maurice Ditisheim, to see the first watches stamped Vulcain. A name taken from the god of fire and volcanoes, chief blacksmith in Roman mythology. As for its worldwide fame, Vulcain owes it precisely to Cricket. Launched in 1947, it was the very first wristwatch with an integrated mechanical alarm that was powerful enough to actually wake up its owner. A feat achieved thanks to the collaboration with Paul Langevin, a French physicist friend of the Ditisheims, who has studied the problem of acoustic amplification.
The solution came to him by studying the crickets, whose song is audible for dozens of meters around. Thus came the idea of enriching the back of the watch with an elastic membrane and doubling it with a pierced caseback channeling the sound out of the case, which then acts as a sounding board. The sound, on the other hand, resounds for approximately 20 seconds and resembles the song of the cricket, « cricket » in English…
The watch of the presidents
The success was immediate. And it went well beyond what the brand had imagined. In particular in the United States where the Cricket became the companion of businessmen and the greatest expeditions of the 1950s, and where it was worn by several presidents who promoted it: Trumann, Eisenhower, Nixon, Johnson, Reagan and more recently, Barack Obama. This earned it the nickname « presidents watch ». We even heard the song of his awakening resounding in many Hollywood films. Ironically, it was while wearing a Cricket that Eisenhower signed the protectionist agreements in 1954 limiting imports of Swiss watches to the United States.
Surfing on the wave, the brand had in the meantime taken the habit of offering it to every American president. But not only. As was the case for Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1990, this one appeared in close-up on the cover of the American magazine “TIME”, the hands on the face and a Cricket on the wrist. However, Vulcain also stood out with sports models, notably the Cricket Nautical released in 1961. This diver’s watch, water resistant to 300 m and whose alarm clock remains perfectly audible under water, was equipped with a calculation of decompression stops.
It was that year that Vulcain joined forces with three other brands to face competition from Switzerland and abroad, thus giving birth to the MSR group (Manufactures d’Horlogerie Suisse Réunies) which ended up abandoning it in 1986 in order to focus on one brand. The quartz crisis is in full swing and Vulcan is falling with it…
A revival will take place in 2002, after the takeover by PMH (Horlog Production and Marketing) which relocates the manufacture to Le Locle. Most of the technical developments revolve around the Cricket movement. Then in 2009, the brand became the property of Excellence Holding. But she will never really take off again. The last product presentation was held in 2016. The following year, Vulcain was taken over by the Luxembourg group PROMOBE and the projects are going well. But nothing really works. Until the arrival in 2021 of the current CEO, Carla Duarte, and the entrepreneur Guillaume Laidet who came to assist him in his strategic choices. Two people who are determined to bring the brand’s historic pieces back to life. Like the Diver Nautique, the Cricket Classique and the Cricket Tradition already relaunched since the fall of 2022.
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