An elegant timepiece is one of the most classic and timeless accessories one can wear these days. Before handbags and shoes became the main focal points of our wardrobe, a watch has been an accessory that dates back in time as being one of the most functional additions to our style as it indefinitely serves a greater purpose than simply looking stylish on our wrist.
The way I see it, a watch is true symbol of your everyday lifestyle choices and values. I believe a watch represents who we are, what we do, and what we believe in. It portrays our deep appreciation and value for time, as we honor the purpose that it serves in our lives by striving to make sure that we are on track and on time in everything that we do. The importance of time is endless, which is why we felt that the brand history of Mondaine deserved a moment of reflection so we could trace back the history of the brand and provide some historical insight on how it came to be one of the most innovative pioneers in the watch industry.
The history of Mondaine begins with one man, who was the visionary and creator behind the face of the SBB clock, which eventually would become the essence of the Mondaine brand. In 1943, Swiss engineer, Hans Hilfiger, works for the Swiss Railway Station and decides to design a clock that will synchronize the departure time for all of the trains coming and leaving in Zurich’s main station. He develops a mechanisn that controls the movement of the clock’s hands in a way that is unique from all other stationary clocks. The clock is driven by an electric motor, which controls the clock allowing it to complete a rotation in 58.5 seconds. The red hand would then pause for 1.5 seconds and jump forward to meet up with the minute hand again, allowing it to stay in sync with the master clock located in the signal box. The inspiration for using the famous red hand, which is known as being Mondaine’s brand signature, is drawn from the red signs held by train conductors to wave and to signal passengers whenever a train was coming in or out of the station.
Erwin Bernheim, a former tailor, finds his own watch company Mondaine, which becomes well-known for was creating high-quality watches that were reliable, cheap to repair, and marketable in huge quantities. The business becomes so successful that the watches were eventually dispatched all over the world by the Mondaine factory located in Solothurn.
Erwin Bernheim invents and introduces one of the first timepieces to display a digital time reading on a wristwatch. He joins forces with aviation pioneer, Howard Hughes, to produce the first LCD watch. After 15 years of experiencing high demand, Erwin eventually shifts his focus away from the LCD watches as competition from the Asian market started to offer similar timepieces.
Erwin’s sons, Andre and Ronnie, join their father to help run the watch business, but feel that their designs and styles are lackluster. After experiencing a 6 year dry spell in sales, the Bernheims feel that they need to take a different approach with their brand. Upon seeing the design and functionality of the Swiss Railway clock, they see an opportunity to offer the watch industry a truly innovative, unique, and legendary timepiece.
Since most watches on the market were either flat, fashion watches or made from plastic, the Bernheims believe that they could offer an better alternative in regards to quality and watch design. They saw an existing space and potential for a more modern design to take over, one that would represent the true spirit of industrial watchmaking. In the end, the Bernheims decide to follow their entrepreneurial instinct and brand themselves as true innovators, thus propelling the transition of the famous SBB Railway clock from station clock to wristwatch. After obtaining the necessary SBB licenses, Mondaine releases the first station clock wristwatch, available in 3 sizes - with 26mm, 33, and 36mm diameters.
The famous white face accompanied by the bold red second hand and the black minute and hour hands would later become a timeless design used on not only wristwatches, but on pocket watches, alarm clocks, and even wall clocks. The love for the simple, timeless design of the Mondaine watch has been widespread, with the watch being sold in over forty countries and in thousands of sales outlets. The watch can also be found proudly hanging in famous museums, train stations, airports, and of course in the SBB Railway Station.
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