A journey through the history of vintage Eterna & ETA watches

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Many people have heard of the company ETA, but the name "Eterna" is probably only known to vintage watch collectors.

Today, I would like to unravel the history of Eterna, explain how ETA was founded, and the amazingness of vintage Eternas.

By watching this video until the end, even people who are unfamiliar with Eterna will surely understand that it is a great brand, so please stay with us until the end.

The table of contents looks like this.

1. History of Eterna

2. From Schild Brothers to Eterna

3. Eterna's military and alarm watches

4. Eterna to separate movement division into ETA SA

5. Eterna's automatic movement, the Eternamatic

Finally, here is a summary.

So let's get started right away.

History of Eterna

Eterna watch and logo

1856 The Origins of Eterna

In 1856, Dr. Joseph Girard and Urs Schild, a 28-year-old school teacher, saw an opportunity in manufacturing movements as the Swiss watch industry developed, and the history of the Eterna brand began.

Eterna founders Dr. Joseph Girard and Urs Schild


Source: https://www.timeandwatches.com

The company "Dr. Girard & Schild" founded the watch movement (ébauches in French) factory in Grenchen (Canton Solothurn) and began producing semi-finished products (ébauches brute in French) and finished goods (ébauches blancs relandes).

Ten years later, in 1866, Dr. Girard left the factory, but Urs Schild , as the sole owner, revolutionised the manufacturing process.

Source: https://www.timeandwatches.com/p/the-history-of-eterna-innovation-in.html

Previously, the automated manufacturing machines had only been powered by water from the nearby streams, but he was the first in the area to introduce technology that allowed them to be powered by modern steam engines.

As increasing demand and falling prices made the production of ébauches unprofitable, Schild also began producing fully assembled watches.

Ten years later, in 1876, the first pocket watch made in Grenchen was introduced and became a huge success.

To support this change, his brother Adolf joined the company and Urs renamed the factory "Präzisionsuhren-Fabrik Gebrüder Schild" (Schild Brothers Precision Watch Factory).

So we can see that the company was founded in a similar way to Jaeger-LeCoultre, where the movement came first and then the finished product was manufactured.

Posters from the time of Schild Brothers, the predecessor of Eterna

Source: https://thetruthaboutwatches.com/2020/05/eterna-innovate-or-die/

In 1888, the company's founder, Urs Schild, passed away at the young age of 58.

His two sons, Max and Theodor, later took over the business.

From Schild Brothers to Eterna

By 1890 the company had around 300 employees and was producing 180 watches a day.

From that time on, the "eterna" logo was used as the name of a collection of women's watches.

Nowadays, it is common for men to wear wristwatches, but back then wristwatches were considered a fashion item for women, and pocket watches were the norm for men.

In this early period of wristwatches, the women's watch collection "Eterna" was a huge hit, and in 1906 the company name was changed to "Eterna-Werke, Gebrüder Schild & Co."

Eterna logo pocket watch

Source: https://www.timeandwatches.com/p/the-history-of-eterna-innovation-in.html

Eterna then established branches all over the world and continued to grow, dramatically increasing production thanks to advanced manufacturing methods and innovative electric machinery, rare at the time.

Launch of the world's first mass-produced alarm watch

Eterna Alarm Watch

The origins of this alarm watch mechanism date back to 1899, when pocket watches were made, and it was patented by the company Dürnstein .

In 1908, Eterna obtained a patent for a wristwatch movement.

This Eterna movement was originally based on a Durnstein movement, but was downsized to fit the watch body sizes of the time.

And after six years of research and development, a mass production system was established.

In 1914, he obtained a patent for a wristwatch with an alarm function, and unveiled the world's first mass-produced alarm wristwatch at the Swiss World's Fair held in Bern that same year.

Although Jaeger-LeCoultre's Memovox is generally known as an alarm watch, it was Eterna that was actually the first to successfully mass-produce it.

Eterna Alarm Watch
1926 Eterna Headquarters
1926 Eterna Headquarters
Source: https://www.timeandwatches.com/p/the-history-of-eterna-innovation-in.html

1929 Development of alarm watches progressed further, and in 1929 a new model with an eight-day power reserve was released.

Eterna as a military watch and various challenges

In 1904, Eterna demonstrated great vitality and a spirit of innovation by patenting a special watch casing with movable safety harness lugs for military use.

As a result of these public relations activities, the company was one of the Dirty Dozen and supplied watches to the British Army, as well as the Czechoslovakian Air Force.

Eterna: Posters of the military watch manufacturer

Source: https://www.timeandwatches.com/p/the-history-of-eterna-innovation-in.html

For more information about Eterna military watches, click here.

Art Deco period watches

Eterna continued to break records, and the following year the smallest mass-produced wristwatch with a baguette movement (the movement (movement) is assembled in the shape of the letter "I") was released.

Among them, the Cal. 610 was a small model compared to other watch makers, measuring just 7.25mm x 22.5mm, but it was entirely handcrafted and sold for a high price.


Wristwatches equipped with Eterna (Baguette Movement)
Source: https://www.timeandwatches.com/p/the-history-of-eterna-innovation-in.html

Eterna to separate movement division into ETA SA

After the death of Theodor Schild, who had led the company since 1899, he was succeeded by Rudolf Schild-Konce, son of his brother Max.

In the same year, the company was separated into two legal entities: ETA SA, which manufactured movements, and Eterna, which manufactured watches.

This is where the ETA that we know today was born, but it was originally the movement manufacturing division of Eterna.

In 1926, Ebauches SA was founded in Switzerland.

The core of the Ebauches SA was made up of ETA, Adolphe Shields and Fontainemelon, with other ébauche makers joining in the mix.

In the first year, there were only these three companies, but as the years went by, it grew into a larger group, including well-known companies such as Valjoux, Landeron, and Venus.

Initially, the group was formed to improve management efficiency rather than through mergers or acquisitions, but some companies were unable to survive due to rising labor costs and competition with other countries, and eventually they were absorbed by stronger companies within the group.

These strong companies were ETA and Fontainemelon.

Later, ETA acquired Adolph Schild, and ETA and Fontainemelon merged, resulting in the creation of a company with ETA having control over all movement manufacturers.

Then, in the wake of the quartz shock, various watch companies chose to restructure the industry, and ETA, which mainly manufactured movements, came under the umbrella of the Swatch Group.

Eterna Automatic Watch Poster

Source: https://thetruthaboutwatches.com/2020/05/eterna-innovate-or-die/

Eterna's self-winding movement, Eternamatic

The history of automatic watches began in the 1770s with a design by Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Perrelet and French inventor Hubert Sarton (further improved upon by Abraham-Louis Breguet a few years later), but their reliability was still poor at the time.

It wasn't until the 20th century, when the first wristwatches were produced, that they became widespread, but gradually the movement of the hands of a mechanical watch began to provide enough energy to power the movement.

In 1920, John Harwood, a watch repairman from Bolton, England, came up with the idea of ​​using a rotor that oscillated in response to the wearer's movements to wind a wristwatch.

However, while still in the development stage, this bumper automatic winding mechanism could only rotate about 180 degrees, rather than 360 degrees (hence the name "bumper" for these early automatic winding mechanisms).

He then began producing automatic watches that could run for 12 hours on a full charge and obtained a patent for them in Switzerland.

Other manufacturers began to improve on Harwood's design, and Rolex developed a new system based on a rotor that rotated 360 degrees.

With each rotation, it captures a lot of energy, resulting in a watch that can run for up to 35 hours on a full charge.

However, these movements could lack precision and reliability over time (changes that occur over time) due to wear and tear caused by friction between parts.

Eterna found a solution by successfully introducing rotors with ball bearings.

This movement, Eterna-matic, was born in 1948.

Eterna Movement Eternamatic *Eternamatic movement

Source: https://www.timeandwatches.com/p/the-history-of-eterna-innovation-in.html

This movement marked a year of technological invention not just for Eterna, but for the entire watch industry.

A distinctive feature of the Eterna-Matic is that five miniature ball bearings (with a diameter of just 0.65 mm) support and balance the rotor, significantly reducing friction between the parts.

The watch was also designed to be sturdy enough that it could be dropped on the ground and still function smoothly and reliably.

From then on, Eterna's automatic watches, sold under the name "Eterna-Matic", gave Eterna the reputation of a global watch brand, and the five small balls were adopted as Eterna's new logo.

Poster of a wristwatch equipped with Eternamatic

Source: https://www.timeandwatches.com


Today, we explained the history of Eterna and the company that separated from it to form ETA.

We don't usually hear the brand name Eterna, and I don't think it's a brand that would interest us.

However, Eterna also produced military watches, which required absolute precision, and its history gives us a glimpse of the company's continued innovative challenges.

Currently, Eterna has been acquired by a Hong Kong investment company, and it cannot be said that the brand name has much power, but now it holds 90% of the market share for automatic movements, and various brands use ETA movements, so you can see how amazing Eterna and the company "ETA" are👍

References: https://www.timeandwatches.com/p/the-history-of-eterna-innovation-in.html