1914 - 1916 Eugène Meylan
1916 - 1924 Eugène Meylan and Piccola & Jofrette
1924 - 1943 Fernand Engel d'Eggiwil
1943 - 1965 Charles Hertig d'Evilard
1965 - 1984 Charles Hertig Jr & Samuel Glur
1984 - 2011 Hans Brechbuhler
2011 - 2019 Stephan Lack ('13-'15 DKSH, '16-'19 Invicta Group)
2019 - current Invicta Watch Group
An engineer by profession, Eugene Meylan ( Arthur Louis Eugene Meylan born on 17 Oct 1891, Le Chenit, passed away on 23 Sept 1955, Neuchatel) attends the watchmaking school ( l'Ecole d'horlogerie ,Le Chaux de Fonds ) in 1910 and 1911 to prepare for his future.
Glycine history starts on 20th May 1914 with Eugene Meylan in an era where labor strikes were common. Meylan, registers 'Fabrique d'Horlogerie La Glycine' at the address Route de Boujean 50a with a note that on Sept. 1st he will move the company to Chemin de la Champagne 1a, Bienne.
From its creation in 1914 until mid '30s Glycine specializes in small calibers' manufacture.
Their first recorded activity in Glycine history is registering 13 different models and configurations on 18th July 1914 and first advertisement in Swiss chronicles is from 23rd Dec 1915 showcasing several movements in different lignes along with their factory building.
Glycine had a different logo from the company we know now. La Glycine initials were crossed in a flag.
Piccola and Jofrette were two watchmakers in Bienne where Eugene Meylan partnered, who later became shareholders of the company from 1916 until 1923.
In 1924 Meylan sells the factory to Fernand Engel d' Eggiwil who already owns ' Pretto Watch Co ' and is very active in the society of watchmakers and fabricants. He is also the lead negotiator with the Swiss banks for the loans given to watchmakers. He signs on behalf of both watch companies as: Glycine Watch Factory et Pretto Watch Co SA. Engel gives great exposure to Glycine and later also supports Meylan in his ventures with Automatic EMSA.
Within the first decade Glycine pursued perfection in small size movements including 5 lignes. Glycine is the founder of baguette shape movement, registers a patent for it and was crowned with a chronometer grade movement in 1923 and 1926.
Eugène Meylan, was a serial enterpreneur. After leaving Glycine in 1924 he created several different companies and co-operated with various watchmakers and industry specialists while always staying in touch with Glycine and its new owner.
Below is a timeline of Eugène Meylan's business activities. The company created in 1926 'Fabrique de Sertissages Precis' was also known and labeled as 'Eugène Meylan, Le Chaux de Fonds'. This company was in the market for only 5 years, therefore timepieces with the dial mark 'Eugène Meylan, Le Chaux de Fonds' are pretty scarce. His activities continued with his ingenious invention in 1930, the 'EMSA Automatic', which was a game changer in the industry. Protecting patents and making commercial sense of inventions was a big challenge at that period. At least half a dozen of companies were working on different self-winding mechanisms while Harwood's hammer automatic style patent kept competition out of market until 1931. Once Harwood patent expired the self-winding mechanisms boomed. All and any kind of moving part - even if originally not moving parts - were designed to wind the watch. Think of the lugs, case-back, the whole case on rails, inside the case movement bumping forth and back on rails, ball bearing kind of movements, pendulum, you name it they tried it...The imagination and engineering in this period is fascinating. However not all these early automatic mechanisms were commercially successful. I have prepared a separate page for early automatics, check it if it's in your interest.
Back to Meylan and a glimpse into those times how complicated it was to protect patents and make business:
In order to make a new beginning with his automatic module he buys 'Chronomuri Watches SA' in 1930 and re-names it 'Automatic EMSA' . He tries to keep the manufacture while struggling to finance his ventures and distribution. Soon he realizes that his income from Sertissages work and 'Bulle' clock representation doesn't bring money enough to mass produce this automatic watch and he looks for sponsors. Bulle clocks are based on the reaction between a permanent bar magnet and an electric coil, hence it is classified as an electromagnetic clock. The company was founded in 1914 in France. At this point he turns to Glycine for support. Fernand Engel, Glycine's owner, co-sponsors EMSA module manufacture with Georges Henry. Here is when it gets tricky, Henry has automatic mechanism gears patents registered on his name as inventor for different companies in the United States: Autorem ( Universal Watch Co. Pat. US1973898 in 1934 ) and Meyer Stuedeli ( later Roamer US2013386 in 1935 ).
The owner of Glycine, Engel is also an administrator in the board of watchmakers guild therefore protects the patent and issues warnings in printed media for unlawful use of the automatic module. Meylan, sells the patent to Glycine in 1935 where it gets more exposure and goes back to his Bulle Clock representation. Therefore, the Glycine Automatics manufactured between 1931 and 1935 bear the movement mark 'Glycine EMSA Automatic' whereas after 1935 we see only the 'Glycine Automatic' mark.
Eugène Meylan was a true entrepreneur,some of his recorded ventures:
1910 l'Ecole d'horlogerie attendee,Le Chaux de Fonds
1914 Eugène Meylan, creates Fabrique d'Horlogerie 'La Glycine'
1918 Eugène Meylan and Henri Jeanerret register a company together called Sonex SA and have activity records till 1925
1926 Eugène Meylan registers a company: Fabrique de Sertissages Precis, which also performs as 'Eugene Meylan,Le Chaux de Fonds'
1927 Sertissages 'Precis' - Eugène Meylan, takes exclusive representation of 'Bulle Clocks' for Switzerland
1930 Glycine together with Doxa and Meyer & Stuedeli creates 'Medex', a network to boost sales in Germany
1930 Eugène Meylan buys the company 'Chronomuri SA' and renames it Automatic EMSA
1931 The automatic module patent is transferred from 'Eugene Meylan - Le Chaux de Fonds' company to 'Automatic EMSA' company
1935 Eugène Meylan transfers the patents register to Glycine
1936 Eugène Meylan,re-opens the Fabrique de Sertissages 'Precis' company and takes the representation of 'Bulle Clocks' back
1947 He is been accused of gold smuggling during war economy times and in 2 months cleared by the Federal Swiss Council that his
activities covered watch cases only within his profession.
1955 23 September Friday,Eugene Meylan was murdered in Neuchatel
A module that can be mounted on any 8,75 lignes movement and turn them into automatic movements.
Above featured the EMSA Automatic wristwatch, two pocketwatches with Cal 40 and a travel alarm clock signed by Eugene Meylan, La Chaux de Fonds
Meylan applied for a patent for his invention to the Swiss patent institute on 15th Oct 1930 in a time where competition to diversify Harwood's automatic was fierce. In 1930, Harwood and Autorist, both invented by John Harwood, were already manufactured in industrial scales. Meylan's invention was the third industrial scale automatic invention without interfering with Harwood's patent.
The independent module was able to be mounted on any manual winding movement with minor modifications and turn them into automatic movements.
Servicing the only existing automatic watches Harwood and Autorist was challenging back then, that's what Meylan thought. He offered a solution to the problem with his invention by separating the automatic module from the movement.
Eugene Meylan and Glycine started marketing activities and also presented their self winding timepiece in Basel Fairs. The Glycine Eugene Meylan Automatic was also presented in the New York World's Fair in 1939 with developed shock and water proof, anti-magnetic self winding timepieces.
Being shock-proof and water-proof on top of self-winding made the watch an ideal sports timepiece.
The automatic module patent application has been filed on 15th Oct 1930 and patent granted on 16 Nov 1931
In 1942 Glycine's ebauche division was acquired by ASUAG marking the end of in-house manufacture movements era. ASUAG, stands for Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhrenindustrie AG - Eng: Swiss Watch Industry Group, that was created under the patronage of the Swiss Government and banks to protect Swiss watchmaking industry from the impact of the Great Depression, in 1931. ASUAG evolved with more acquirement into today's Swatch Group.
Back in 1942 ASUAG had numerous brands under its umbrella: Champagne, Derby, Precimax, Gigantic, Glycine, Eterna, ETA, Arsa, Manzoni, Moser, Peseux, Fleurier, Kummer, Hora, Sonceboz and Charles Hahn, Landeron, Felsa, Venus, Root, Bovet, Optima, Postala and Urania, Adolphe Michel, Fontainemelon (FHF), Valjoux and A.Schild.
After 1942 until the quartz crisis the movement manufacture ateliers/factories were liquidated and utilized in centralized factories.It is those times we start seeing more ETA, AS and Felsa calibers in Glycine watches instead of manufacture movements.
May be the best part of ASUAG acquiring Glycine's manufacture ateliers was the outcome: Felsa 690 Bidynator.
ASUAG has combined Glycine's experience in automatic movements with observations of the lack of efficiency of Rolex' uni-direction winding rotor, resulting in the first bi-directional winding rotor.
After the big recession and just before the hit of WW II the watch industry was pretty competent. Pointer dates, wrist chronographs, automatic watches were in the market.
During the war many watchmaking companies have manufactured timepieces for allied or axis powers, and some even supplied both sides. The dirty dozen is a good set of 12 watches supplied for allies, which is a desired collection for many. Glycine received an order from German army and complied with it, delivering land forces timepieces. Markings are with DH letters and 5-6 digits on case-back. Pictured here are DH ( Deutsches Heer ) German Army issued watches manufactured by Glycine. The wrist watch contains the movement AS 1130 aka Wehrmachtswerk ( army movement ) due to its proven durability. Military issued watches is a term that is widely misused in today's world as a marketing gimmick. Issued watches were ordered by governments from the companies and had certain markings and specifications.
Not much to debate is the area of technological advancement parallel to wars. After WW II watchmakers became very creative where Glycine also took its rightful place. Pictured here a triple date Glycine calendar watch with FHF 175 movement from 1943. Triple date, day, date and month with its rotating disc for date aligned with the day and pointer hand. The most important event in this decade for Glycine is that ASUAG's acquirement and the ownership change.
At the other hand the use of Radium on watch dials continue. Mankind learns it the hard way. When Radium was discovered in 1898 and formed in a usable form around and after WW I era, watchmakers started using this miraculous material that glows by itself also for the watches. Hands and hour markers were painted with this self-luminating material widely until 1968 replaced by Tritium which is less radioactive. Sad realities like ' Radium Girls' have impacted many lifes unfortunately until we learned what actually Radium is. Difficult to believe now is that many people died because of Radium over dose due to anti-aging creams, weight-loss tablets, toothpastes and water to drink with Radium were promoted and sold in '20s and '30s. Vintage watches should be treated carefully when case-back is opened not to spread radium dust around, especially around infants.
In Nov 1942 Fernand Engel d'Eggiwil, owner of Glycine and co-owner of Pretto Watches SA passes away and the company changes hand to Charles Hertig d'Evilard who also owns Altus Watches. Charles Hertig has also some connection with Kurth Freres, later Certina but I couldn't yet locate reliable information source for this clue.
Altus in late '20s manufactures movements for back then Lange watches and is known as a niche brand with manufacture capacity. The d'Evilard family will sail the ship until 1984 father and son through Glycine's most successful decades. Hertig, even though operates Glycine and Altus together under the same roof since his take over, he decides to merge both companies in 1963 Aug with a romantic announcement as if two persons are getting married.
The period from 1942 to 1984, Hertig's ownership is the peak of Glycine's horological and commercial activities.
Without much debate, Airman is the most successful creation of Glycine. A watch that has introduced the 24h rotating bezel to the world of horlogerie. Created by flying personnel for the flying personnel, Glycine at its height of glory in mid '60s was manufacturing 100K watches per year. Opted by airman in military exchange centers it has been featured by many as an instrument for airman. And it all started with a pilot's feedback on 14th Jul 1953. More details at Airman page.
Airman, the flagship model of Glycine expands the companies' manufacture and distribution capacity. In 1964 Hertig Jr moves to the US to set-up Glycine service center in order to meet overseas demand. But in Nov 1965 just when Werner Siegrist, who just graduated from watchmaking school joins Glycine, Charles Hertig Sr. passes away. The loss of his father urges Hertig Jr. to come back from the US. The next 2 years leave the growing American market without authorized service center. Werner Siegrist, already graduated school as master watchmaker catches up with Glycine pretty fast and therefore is being sent to the US in 1967.
Samuel Glur, company director of Glycine then, is a noteworthy person who is behind the 24h bezel invention and also ensures that Glycine's success in Airman sales keep Glycine fiscally healthy. Models like the Airman SST, SST Chronographs, Combat and Compressor models are manufactured during his management. He also initiates the digital watches launch in early '70s so that Glycine doesn't vanish from history like many family owned Swiss watchmaking companies in that decade.Pictured: Samuel Glur
Initially all Airman watches sold in various locations, mostly military base exchange centers around the globe, were being serviced at the Bienne HQs in Switzerland. Glycine Airman manuals recommended that service intervals should be '13,000 hours or 18 months'. Remote service center being a challenge, Glycine opens a service center in the US in 1964. But due to unforeseen circumstances operation is interrupted in 1965 and re-established in 1967. The wunderkind Werner Siegrist is sent to the US where he will manage the operations until 2012.
During his tenure in the US, Werner Siegrist gradually takes over the service center and buys actually the whole branch and creates his own brand 'Falcon' ( http://www.falconwatch.com ). He also signs a special agreement with Samuel Glur and later with Hans Brechbuhler to manufacture special run Airman quartz models. The reason why many Glycine Airman surface still in ticking condition from the US is actually Werner's 45 year commitment. Pictured: Werner Siegrist
Hans Ulrich Klingenberg, who back then was working for Glycine, has discovered in 1959 that if watch cases are sealed and cased in airless atmosphere, the lubrication doesn't dry out. Vacuumed cases also don't let air, water or condensation penetrate into the case, prolonging the life of the watch and demanding less service. That was his claim, and time proved him right. There are still many Vacuum watches in the market and they are incredibly accurate. Klingenberg took his rightful place in the timeline of Glycine history.Vacuum watches which are still around need people with knowledge to service since it's a monobloc case and access to the movement is from the dial side.
The Vacuum Patent ( CH 355742 applied in 1959,registered in 1961 ) which is marked always on the case-back of these watches, is registered on Klingenberg's name. On January 5, 1966, the day after the expiry of the Statut Horloger (a protectionist cartel that made it difficult to set up new watch companies in Switzerland), Klingenberg left Glycine and set up the Vacuum Chronometer Corporation and 'Century Time AG' in 1975. You will find double 'C' facing each other logos on some watches, that's Klingenberg's company Century Chronometers. It is said that all watches he manufactured were COSC certified. He continued operating as a casing partner with Glycine and other watchmaking companies.
Glycine reached the outer space in 1965 with Charles (Pete) Conrad when he was appointed as an astronaut for Gemini 5 flight. Conrad was an avid Glycine Airman wearer during his tenures as a test pilot at US Air Force. With Gemini 5 mission he and Gordon Cooper set a new space endurance record of eight days ( he referred to the mission as “Eight days in a garbage can”) surpassing the 5 days in space Soviet record.
Pete, wore Glycine Airman during this mission along with an Omega Speedmaster. When recovered by USS Lake Champlain in August 29, 1965 he still has both timepieces wrapped on his space suit. The advertisements of Glycine Airman stating 150,000 feet pressure proof, may be indicating the rapid pressure changes in such missions and that this watch and its crystal will remain intact. There is no publicity from Glycine for this event at that time, which I believe is due to the death of the owner on the same year and while re-structuring the company the lack of presence of anyone from Glycine in the continent US from 1965 to 1967.
Glycine starts using the crown logo we know today from 1965 onward on few watches. In 1967 most Glycine watches are marked with the new logo. 1967 is also the year when efforts are being made to replicate Airman's success for the people on land, kind of 'Landman', but Glycine calls it 'Combat'. Designed, manufactured and promoted for military, sports and industry, all exacting men; states the manual of Glycine Combat. It uses the same seconds hacking mechanism with pin on 12 o'clock position and is the second oldest model line in Glycine after Airman. It does not reach the success level of Airman but opens a new page for Glycine by using EPSA Compressor Case. Combat line of watches had a weak presence and small manufacture volumes of several thousands only throughout the decades until it has been resurrected in the 2000s.
SST ( Supersonic Transportation ) was a big thing in the '60s. The quest for making a passenger jet traveling above Mach 1 was the name of the game. Glycine marked this period with a special run of timepieces called the Airman SST. The futuristic color choice of Glycine for SST was orange, therefore these models are also known as 'pumpkin '.
This period also marks the end of the manual winding chronographs due to automatic chronographs marching still but strong. Glycine has manufactured in 1969 a very limited run of chronographs utilizing Valjoux 72(x), Valjoux 773(x) and Landeron 18(x) movements.
The '60s were also the height of the cold war. Everyone involved was striving for the highest, fastest and furthest. The SST race was fierce and players were; Concorde, the Anglo-French plane, a cooperation between Aerospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation, Boeing from the United States with 2707 and the Russian with Tupolev TU 144.
Concorde presented two prototypes in the June 1969 Air Show in France along with the Russian Tupolev TU-144.
Unfortunately during the same show in 1973 the TU 144 crashed while making a show flight which was a turning point for SSTs. It negatively affected both investors and raised public concerns for the SSTs. Minds shifted due to the sonic-boom, take-off noise and pollution these SSTs were causing. This, along with funding problems has caused the American Senate to cancel the Boeing SST project.
Glycine, heavily involved in American airspace with its flagship watch Airman opted for Boeing 2707 to diversify its classic design. In 1967 Glycine manufactured the Airman SST models with the Boeing 2707 case-back engraving. Unfortunately after funding has ceased, the American SST project was left as a commemoration on our beloved timepieces. In the meantime Concorde had to improve the addressed concerns for the SST and had to wait several more years until the first scheduled flights in 1976.
With ups and downs, overall the SST was the dream of mankind which came through and made it also into our watches. This is the background story of our Glycine Airman SST ( aka 'Pumpkin' ) case-back markings.
Watch the video how the public perceived SST in 1967 Americas and what was expected from the future.
In Oct 1953 Ervin Piequerez ( EPSA ) registered the patent CH313813 marking his invention as 'Compressor' case. It took the market some years to understand how this compressor cases how they work and how they could benefit, therefore EPSA cased watches became popular in '60s and '70s only. His invention was in several levels of compressing the case-back of watches. The more pressure was applied the stronger it became sealed. That's why most divers watches were cased in EPSA cases, so were many vintage Glycine watches,and especially the Airman watches from 1965 onward. Glycine used the EPSA cases and manufactured several different models in '60s and '70s. EPSA has a special place in Glycine history.
The origins of the Glycine Airman SST case-back markings : Boeing 2707
click video to watch ( youtube video )
Apocalypse for many, evolution for others, opportunity for some. The '70s hit the Swiss watchmaking industry strong with the non-mechanical battery operated watches. More and more consumers opted for cheaper Japanese timepieces which were much more affordable and even more accurate. In the first half of the '70s, many well established Swiss watchmaking companies disappeared from the market, bankrupting or selling their companies to conglomerates. Glycine survived these times by adapting to manufacturing Quartz, LED, LCD and Electronic watches.These can be found still within vintage Glycine watches sales in online auctions, it's part of Glycine history now
In early January 1972, five people find themselves in a restaurant in Nidau, Bienne:
The owners of Glycine & Altus, Wyler, Milus, Delvina and Buttes Watches are discussing the latest trend - LED Watches and sadly admitting that they have to catch-up with the trend and switch from traditional watchmaking to technologic manufacture. Buttes Watches owner has to justify to his 84 years old father: Father, if we don't cope with the new trends we will lose our company, we have to switch, that's an obligation....
11 March 1972 ' Ditronic ' is born. 5 companies whose annual turnover is appr. 50 Mil Franks back then, enter the LED Watches market by uniting. Samuel Glur from Glycine is experienced in the US market due to the successful Airman launch and popularity. He arranges Optel Corporation from New Jersey, USA to produce the digital watches, and hopes are kept that one day the manufacture can come back to the Swiss Valleys. The joint venture presents in April 1972 the Ditronic line of watches in Baselfair and this is how Glycine survives through the Quartz crisis. This was probably the last initiative Samuel Glur did, he passed away in 1974 and Charles Hertig Jr continued alone until 1984.
A traditional master watchmaker, Hans Brechbuhler, who owns Belinda Watches 1966, ex- Charles Monnier SA, takes over Glycine from Charles Hertig Jr in 1984. The quartz watches became a reality to live with mechanical watches. Hans, starts his manufacture and new designs and delivers both battery operated and mechanical Glycine timepieces, including variety of quartz Airman watches. During Brechbuhler's time Glycine gains its first website in 1996. The KMU 48, F 104 lines are being introduced along with Airman Double 24, SST 06, SST Chronograph, Lagunare, Incursore, Eugene Meylan and numerous classic Airman configurations. This era marks also the bold steps towards larger diameter watches up to 53mm ( Airman 7 ). Inspite of all these new models, things didn't go that well for Brechbuhlers and he had to sell Belinda Watches in 2002 in order to keep Glycine afloat. Hans' daughter Katherina, who works in the company since 1992 takes over in 2005 but when Hans passes away in 2010, she decides to move out of the industry. By 2011 she sees the solution at selling the company. The following year also marks the end of Werner Siegrist in the US Glycine Center where he is stationed since 1967. Werner retires after 45 years of service, pioneering especially at the Airman front in CONUS along with his own watch brand 'Falcon'. Interestingly during Brechbuhler's era in 2002 some fake Glycines are manufactured in Italy and Ireland by some local companies who leveraged on the brand name with their own models and configurations. Lawsuit was filed in Italy and Glycine won the case resulting of seizure of all Glycine branded timepieces manufactured by Griggio SpA. Some of those timepieces are still in the market and surface from time to time in online auction sites. So better be cautious and check before you pull the trigger.
The video shows Hans Brechbuhler and the Glycine collection ( custody of Glycine Watches SA and thewatchmaker.com )
Taking over the company from Katherina Brechbuhler, the Lack family had big hopes with and for Glycine. Stephan having worked in Asia distribution of some watch companies struck gold with Glycine. Or that's what he thought...During Stephan's tenure Glycine has manufactured the 60th year anniversary version of Airman AM/PM model. Also the Airman No. 1 with its original case size 36 mm has been initiated during his management. The Airman Airfighter was a fresh and controversial design to the long list of tribute models. I liked only the sliding button positioned at the side of the case in these models. I have seen that slide button only in 1930s Oris sub-brand Bentima Sports Recorder watches so far.
Somewhere during 2013 Glycine took DKSH on board who also owned Maurice Lacroix brand rights. This attempt was made in order to grow especially in Asia. Things didn't work well and DKSH struck a deal with Invicta Watch Group in 2016 and sold their shares.
In the meantime, in 2015 Stephan comes up with that bright idea!! of adding wings to the good old crown logo wanting to be the 'King of Air'. Against all the odds and sincere feedback, also personally from me, telling him that it looks cheap and also similar to Armani logo which Glycine fans would dislike, he pulls the trigger ( nothing against Armani here, especially their core business, apparel, but the reaction was a cross-industrial negative transfer: fashion brand watches are a NO NO for any watch collector, they would buy watches only from watch manufacturing companies, just like you won't buy jeans from McDonald's, you would go to Levi's for jeans, and for burgers to McDonald's- not a fan either though ). Not a fortune teller by profession, but I must say, I was right: Armani sued Glycine for the logo similarity and even makes another weird attempt suing Glycine for the Airman word and fonts, claiming that ARMANI and AIRMAN can be also confused. The Swiss courts first decide in favour of Armani for the logo but the Airman due to its history and patent registration from 1953 - a time when Armani was still vitamin in the apple - is out of discussion. Later an appeal is made by Glycine, this time by the parent company Invicta, the higher court decides in 2017 in favour of Glycine, that the new logo design has nothing to do with Armani logo and can not be confused with each other. Even though having won the appeal and have the possibility to continue using the winged crown logo, Invicta Watch Group decides to switch back to the original logo in 2019 which pleases many fans, especially me.
Family Lack continued to work in the company until 2019 when Invicta Watch Group appoints a new Managing Director, Daniele Andreatta.
When news hit the forums and watch enthusiasts platforms that Invicta acquired Glycine, it left a sour taste due to Invicta's aggressive marketing and pricing/discounting strategies. But I must say so far Invicta Group does well with Glycine. Let's see what future will show and what history will record.
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