Cortébert Chronograph

Cortébert Chronograph

“The records were lost in a fire” is something that’s sadly heard too often in vintage watch collecting circles, almost to the point where it’s become something of a trope. However, in the case of Cortébert, a once-mighty watch manufacture with a long and storied lineage, it’s the truth. Fortunately, enough of the the brand’s history was preserved for us to tell the tale, and their watches—like this chronograph—remain, speaking of the giant it once was.

In 1790, Abraham-Louis Juilliard opened a small watchmaking concern in the village of Cortébert, Switzerland. Before long, the watchmaking business became so synonymous with Cortébert that Juilliard’s descendants chose the name for their company when they officially registered it in 1855. At that time in history, railroads were blossoming throughout the world, and watch manufacturers were producing specialized “railroad chronometers” to keep the trains running on time.

Soon Cortébert was among them. The manufacture had already established a reputation for the high grade of its movements, which were manufactured in-house, and its railroad chronometers became the toast of Europe. Turkey and Italy used Cortébert’s railroad chronometers for their national railroad systems, and streetcar conductors in many European cities also used Cortébert chronometers on their routes.

Aside from the railroad chronometers, one of the manufacture’s best-known watches produced during this period was a jump-hour wristwatch developed by Josef Pallweber, which was also used (and recently reissued) by IWC.

Thanks to the widespread use of its railroad chronometers throughout Europe, Cortébert was called upon by Italy and the Soviet Union to develop the watchmaking industry in their respective countries. The Soviet Union, using machines and movements purchased from Cortébert and relying on advice from its experts, established the brand Molnija; and in Italy, Cortébert sold its watches under the brand name Perseo.

Unfortunately, that success would not steer the manufacture through the turbulent 1960s and 1970s. Much of the brand’s records were destroyed in a fire that swept though the village in 1959. Moreover, the Quartz Crisis of the late 1960s and early 1970s proved too much for Cortébert to withstand, and the brand closed its doors forever in the 1970s; although it would live on in spirit as Perseo, the brand is a mere shadow of what it once was.

Only its watches remain—like this elegant chronograph from the 1950s. Although humble in diameter—35mm—it possesses an undeniable, indelible, charm. The red telemeter and black tachymeter scales hint at a sporting heritage, while the applied gold markets give it a touch of class that makes it an ideal choice for a daily driver that will slip under the cuff—but not under the radar.


SKU: TT01248

Stainless steel case is approximately 35mm (excluding crown and pushers). Circa 1950s.

Overall Condition: Case is in very good condition overall with signs of moderate use and wear. Dial is in very good condition with some signs of age. Unsigned crown.

Includes one 18mm dark red leather strap.

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