Carl F. Bucherer: The Heritage Watch Brand Intent On Reinventing Itself

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Carl F. Bucherer: The Heritage Watch Brand Intent On Reinventing Itself

Words by Mr Simon de Burton

26 April 2023

Anyone with more than a passing interest in true heritage watch brands should have one name firmly on their radar: Carl F. Bucherer. Founded in Lucerne by Mr Carl-Friedrich Bucherer and his wife, Luise, in 1888, Bucherer began as a jewellery and pocket watch retailer with a remit to supply the great and the good who flocked to the Swiss city as it blossomed into a chic resort for the world’s wealthy sophisticates.

By 1919 their watchmaker son, Ernst, had encouraged the couple not simply to sell other people’s watches, but to produce and market their own. They hit the ground running with a women’s model, LA Grande Dame, which could fairly be described as being in the vanguard of the emerging trend for wrist watches. Small, faceted, beautifully engraved and with a jewel-like bracelet, the tiny, rectangular watch captured the spirit of the emerging Art Deco age and quickly put the Bucherer name on the horological map.

By the 1940s, the firm was demonstrating a class-leading range of complicated wrist watches for men, notably one of the most attractive yet functional chronographs of the era. The BiCompax model combined a gold case with a delectable salmon-coloured dial. The Bucherer chronograph range quickly grew to include about a dozen models, which were followed in 1951 by its first world-time watch and, by the beginning of the 1960s, a move into the manufacture of ultra-accurate chronometer watches.

To facilitate this, Bucherer purchased the manufacturer Credos SA and soon became one of the top three chronometer manufacturers in Switzerland, offering a line-up of watches that were all sold with the vaunted Swiss Official Timing Certificate testifying to their precision timekeeping. Slim, self-winding and waterproof, the high-specification watches could be had in five variations in order to suit all pockets, with the basic, stainless steel no-date version retailing in the US for $38, rising to $350 for a gold model on a matching gold bracelet.

Further innovation came in the 1970s when Bucherer introduced its Archimedes range, which included the Super Compressor dive model with an inner rotating bezel and a perpetual calendar wristwatch that, if kept running, would remain accurate for 400 years.

Even when times were tough for traditional watchmaking due to the so-called Quartz Crisis of the 1970s, Bucherer was ahead of the game as one of the 20 or so leading watchmakers that formed a consortium to develop the exceptional Beta 21 quartz movement.

That spirit of innovation has been particularly evident throughout the past 20 or so years following the 2001 renaming of the brand as Carl F. Bucherer in tribute to its founding father. In the interim, Carl F. Bucherer has harked back to its roots as a supplier of watches to people who roam the world with the launch of its three-time-zone Patravi TravelTec in 2005.

That same year, the manufacturer also began work on one of the most ingenious and technically complex projects in modern watchmaking – the creation of a patented peripheral rotor, an automatic winding weight that, instead of being conventionally situated in the middle of the movement, was placed around its outer edge. Perfected and launched in 2008, the bi-directional peripheral rotor not only provides more efficient winding, it leaves the movement fully visible to be admired through the transparent case back of any Carl F. Bucherer watch to which it is fitted.

For the past five years, all the brand’s manufacture watches have been conceived, designed and assembled at its 2,000sq ft facility in Lengnau at the foot of the Jura Mountains 20 miles east of Bern. Among them is the mean and moody, all-black CFB Capsule Collection that marks its recently launched partnership with MR PORTER.

“We’re consciously embracing a bolder, more contemporary aesthetic and using innovative, high-tech materials”

Featuring ultra-modern takes on signature designs such as the Heritage BiCompax and the Manero Peripheral BigDate and Flyback Chronograph models, the watches combine the brand’s craftsmanship and heritage with a sporty, high-tech feel.

It is no coincidence that Carl F. Bucherer has chosen MR PORTER to debut its latest creations. “We’re always on the lookout for new partners who share our view of the world and our values, particularly brands that we respect and admire,” says Mr Samir Merdanovic, the watchmaker’s chief technology officer. ”We know many of our customers already shop with MR PORTER, so it seems an obvious connection to make.

“Maybe the most important aspect is that CFB is entering a dynamic new era, adopting a more fashion-forward mindset and releasing dramatic new designs that we think will appeal to the MR PORTER audience. The CFB Capsule Collection represents how we’re consciously embracing a bolder, more contemporary aesthetic and using innovative, high-tech materials. It features three watches with forged carbon cases and two with cases of diamond-like carbon-coated steel. All have hybrid rubber black straps and together they tell an exciting design story, full of late-night energy, even a little mischief. That’s a new vibe for us.”

Merdanovic adds that, in addition to that new, cool, slightly naughty vibe emanating from the CFB Capsule Collection, all the brand’s future watch products will be more colourful and actively genderless.

“We have created something called the CFB Mastery Lab that invites customers for our high-end watches to challenge us in the colours, materials and finishes we can deploy,” he says. “This spirit of adventure remains true to the pioneering vision of our founder, but our evolving sense of style is helping redefine CFB for a new generation of watch lovers.”

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