What started with Abraham Favre’s small workshop in the Swiss municipality of Le Lacie in 1737 developed rapidly into a manufacture whose watches were known worldwide for their high functionality, precision, and reliability under every climatic condition. Signe takes a look at the history of the ingenious brand, a history characterized by bold, pioneering thinking; numerous innovations and technological excellence, and consistently seizing new market opportunities.
Favre-Leuba is a brand whose history started on March 13th, 1737, when the watchmaking workshop of Abraham Favre was first mentioned in an official document in Le Locle – the birthplace of Swiss watchmaking in the present-day canton of Neuchatel.
The 35-year-old who came from a long-established, respected family, began his watchmaker apprenticeship in 1718 and was appointed ‘MaitreHorloger du Locle,’ master watchmaker of Locle, around 1749.
The family business was passed on by the dedicated patron, Abraham Favre, who died at the age of 88 in 1790, to his son, also named as Abraham.
On October 1st, 1792, the younger torchbearer, together with his sons Frederic and Henry-Louis, founded the company ‘A Favre &Fils’.
Henry-Auguste, Frederic Favre’s son and thereby the fourth generation of the watchmaker family, joined forces in 1815 with the watch business of Auguste Leuba from Buttes in Val-de-Travers and traveled around the world – from Germany to Russia, through Cuba to New York, from Brazil to Chile – to establish their own workshop’s finely-made pocket watches in distant markets.
Fritz Favre, who married Adele-Fanny Leuba in 1855 and subsequently used the double surname FavreLeuba, proved himself a worthy successor to his father Henry-Auguste and successfully pursued his expansion strategy in Europe, America, and Asia.
In 1865 and 1867, he traveled to India and launched his brand as the first Swiss watch manufacturer in the subcontinent, which was to quickly develop into an important market for Favre-Leuba. Furthermore, the brand participated under his direction in national and international exhibitions and received numerous awards for its pioneering watches.
His children – particularly Henri Favre-Leuba, who assumed leadership of the family business in 1908 and remained president of the board of directors until his death in 1961 – relocated the company headquarters to Geneva and continued to steadily grow the brand.
As a member of the family’s seventh generation, the lawyer Dr. Henry A Favre turned the watch workshop into an internationally successful manufacture with over 300 employees.
After a halt by the turmoil of war in Europe, Favre-Leuba additionally reincorporated production of his own ebauches in the newly established company headquarters in Petit-Laney near Geneva starting in 1963. The company was consequently named, as at the end of the 19th century, ‘Manufacture d’Horlogerie Favre-Leuba SA’.
Two sons of Henry A. Favre – Florian A. and Eric A. Favre – continued to lead the company as the eighth generation. The introduction of cheap quartz movements in 1969 nevertheless plunged the Swiss watch industry into a serious crisis, which did not stop at the gates of Favre-Leuba’s workshops. After an integration into the Saphir Group, to which Jaeger-Lecoultre also belonged, the family was subsequently compelled to sell the brand in the 1980s. After that, the company changed ownership multiple times, with owners including Benedom SA and LVMH.
On November 16th , 2011, the Tata Group acquired the brand and transferred its company headquarters to Zug. The global power of the Tata Group, together with Swiss expertise in the development, construction, marketing and sale of timepieces in the premium segment, forms an outstanding basis for the future success of the brand.
“With the introduction of the Raider Bivouac 9000, the brand’s designers have created a wristwatch that until now had been thought technically impossible. The team drew their inspiration from the company’s own history”
With the introduction of the Raider Bivouac 9000, the brand’s designers have created a wristwatch that until now had been thought technically impossible. The team drew their inspiration from the company’s own history: in 1962, Favre-Leuba launched the world’s first mechanical wristwatch capable of measuring air pressure and altitudes of up to 3,000 meters above sea level. While the Bivouac 9000 is homage to this legendary model, every aspect of it has been improved and refined to make it capable of coping with the demands that are now placed on a highly functional instrument that is designed to conquer extremely high altitudes.
The new Bivouac still measures altitude with the aid of an aneroid barometer, but now does so up to an incredible height of 9,000 meters above sea level. It isn’t until you consider how minute the difference between the air pressure at sea level and at the summit of the world’s highest peak is that you realize how finely tuned the mechanism inside the Bivouac must be in order to achieve this amazing feat. In addition to the altitude and air-pressure display, the watch also features a power reserve indicator, which gives the wearer plenty of warning when the watch needs to be wound.
Not many can claim the power of history and own a piece of it. Even more crucial, is the challenge of respecting and honoring it. Recognizing this, while the team at Favre-Leuba transitions this legendary brand into the contemporary, it also continues to cherish that which its forefathers breathed life into, the art of watchmaking.