When I started writing this topic, I titled it, "Audax Watches: A Pictorial Record," simply because there is apparently no documented history of this brand or company. I thought that I would merely be showing a series of Audax watches, in some sort of date order, and virtually leave it at that. I subsequently drafted the topic, but then with one keyboard stroke, lost the lot, and was forced to start again. In this case, however, I was glad that I did start over again, because it was during the rewrite that lateral thinking provided a real clue to at least part of the history of Audax watches.
An intriguing wristwatch wholly unmarked even on the plain domed caseback except for "AUDAX" stamped on the movement. Difficult to date exactly but Antiques Atlas has figured this watch for the 1930s. Case diameter excl. crown is 28mm (pic from images.antiquesatlas.com):
Some brand names found on vintage watches, as you will all know, lead to a dead-end when it comes to any information available about them, and Audax proved to be one of these problem watch names. However, when I looked at the extant Audax watches online, I came to the conclusion that Audax was more substantial than being a mere model name or low volume sub-brand. Instead, the number and variety of the watches led me to consider Audax to be a reasonably large concern or brand, that existed for a relatively defined period of time.
My first step in appraising what history could be confirmed or deduced was to examine the watches themselves and in doing this, a number of pretty concrete facts emerged. Firstly, the history of Audax seems to have commenced about 1930 and finished just before the quartz crisis and probably just before the introduction of the Seiko Astron quartz in 1969. It seems that there are no quartz Audax watches and it is not clear why the brand was abandoned or why Audax - if it was a separate company - closed down. The earliest firmly datable Audax watch I could find was a lady's 9 carat gold model hallmarked for Chester 1930. A rather nice rectangular-cased gold example hallmarked in 1937 and powered by a Venus 130 movement, was also found.
Rectangular gold Audax watch hallmarked for Birmingham 1937 powered by a Venus 130 hand-wind movement and with a hinged Dennison case (pics from littlecogs.com):
While 1937 marks the first obtainable date, the latest watches produced by Audax seem to have been made in the mid-1960s, perhaps until the end of that decade. Intriguingly, some of the later watches are branded "AUDAX/FORTIS" under a crown, and more will be said about these later in this topic. For now, I will just say that given the nature of this branding, with Audax being the prominent name on the watches, I initially assumed that the Fortis name on these watches was a sub-branding for a particular Audax model.
An Audax 9 carat gold wristwatch, case hallmarked for 1955/561955 and with 32mm case; powered by an ETA 1030 hand-wind movement (pic from poshtime.com):
In looking at the watches themselves, it seems that Audax used movements from a number of different Swiss companies. These include Venus, Aurore and ETA. I noted that the movements were often stamped with the Audax name, and the watches are pretty much always marked with a Swiss-made designation. Interestingly, Audax made considerable use of Dennison cases, and there is one tantalising statement that Audax was, in fact, based in Birmingham. This statement may derive from Dennison cases hallmarked in Birmingham and used on Audax watches.
So, from the watches, we can deduce that Audax was a mid-market watch brand or company producing a wide range of Swiss-made ladies' and gents' mechanical watches from about the mid 1930s until the end of the 1960s. Hand-wind movements predominate, and watches were sometimes in gold as well as base metal. Dive watches and chronograph watches are lacking and I do wonder if Audax entered these areas of watch production. Obviously, I cannot say for sure, and I do hope that any member of the forum who has an Audax dive watch or chronograph will post details on this thread. As a warning note, Lapizta Audax dive watches are modern and have nothing to do with the Audax we are discussing here.
A 21J automatic stainless steel wristwatch by Audax, c.1960 (pic from thumbs.ebaystatic.com):
An elegant and slim Audax wristwatch in 9 carat gold 33mm case, hallmarked for Birmingham,1963. Silver dial, acrylic crystal, and Aurore caliber 4026 full lever 21J hand-wind movement (pics from poshtime.com):
With little to go on in the watch literature, I decided to use a bit of lateral thinking and examine the word, "Audax" in case something relevant came up. The first possible clue was the use of the term to label a particular form of competitive racing formulated in Italy at the end of the 19th century. In Audax, participants had to swim, run, walk or cycle a set distance over 14 hours (essentially the time between sunrise and sunset), with cyclists required to cover 200 km. Audax was popular in France first, before it eventually came to this country, and there are is a British Audax club as well as bikes that are sold specifically as "Audax" models.
I did wonder whether the birth of Audax racing had a hand in the naming of the Audax watch brand or company but ultimately decided that there was no connection. However, I did not give up looking at "audax" in terms of its meaning, and finally I scored a direct hit. I came across a Latin motto, used by a number of regiments, "Fortis et Audax," meaning "The Bold and the Brave." The presence of this motto transformed my approach to Audax watch history because here was a strong potential link between Fortis Watch Company and Audax watches. The motto puts "Fortis" before "Audax" and if one translates this into the relationship between Fortis and Audax watches then it would seem likely that either the two brand names co-existed for the whole of Audax production or that Fortis came first.
The first mention I found of a link between Fortis and Audax was a curious comment captioning this military style Audax from about the 1940s, " Audax, associated with Fortis," on fobs76.blogspot.co.uk (pic from 1.bp.blogspot.com):
I do not wish to go down the route of detailing the history of Fortis, at least not in this topic, but I can say that I have found no mention of Audax watches in information about the history of Fortis. Nevertheless, further examination of Audax watches online threw up the evidence I needed to establish a definite link. The crucial watch, illustrated here below, is one of the later Audax models - a slim 20 microns gold-plated model from about 1962 - and is marked AUDAX/FORTIS" beneath a crown on the dial with the movement also marked, "FORTIS." Indeed, the crown mark itself leads us to look at Fortis, as does the caseback which is stamped inside, "FORTIS WATCH LTD." as well as having the Fortis name and crown on the obverse side.
The key Fortis watch discovery firmly linking Audax watches with Fortis. Branded, AUDAX/FORTIS, on the dial and dating to the early 1960s (pics from img1.etsystatic.com):
The revelation of this link between Fortis and Audax leads me to the tentative conclusion that Audax, for at least part of its life, was indeed a brand name used by Fortis on various watches, mainly dress watches. I am not sure exactly why Fortis used the name, Audax, and I don't know whether Audax was ever an independent watch producer before becoming a Fortis brand. If there is a British connection (and I believe that, for example, Bensons sold Audax watches at some stage), then perhaps Audax watches were primarily intended for the British market. Also, the lack of chronographs and other more rugged designs marked, "Audax," may also be relevant to why Fortis used the Audax name. In connection with ruggedness, I should just mention the "All Risks" range of watches here where reliability is clearly emphasized (see pics at the end of this topic) and some later Audax watches are marked on the dial, "AQUAPRUFE" or "WATERPROOF" emphasizing their water resistance.
Waterproof Audax watch from the later 1950s powered by an ETA 1280 17J hand-wind movement (pics from watchrepairtalk.com):
There is clearly much more to be discovered about Audax and I feel that I have only just scratched the surface. I hope that this topic just gives a glimpse into the work and methods involved in how I try and piece together at least parts of a company history where available information is sketchy or, in the case of Audax, negligable. All researchers go about their business in different ways, and it is by combining the information garnered from these different sources that ultimately builds up an accurate and hopefully almost complete history. When I set out on this Audax journey, I thought I would merely show a few Audax watches with comments in the picture captions. Instead, it has been a voyage of discovery but also a frustrating one. I would certainly love to learn more about Audax, especially because the brand is eminently collectible - as long as you are not chronograph or diver watch mad.
A glorious Audax gold watch from the late 1950s with chunky long hands and a seconds register. In this case, the blue box is itself marked, AUDAX/FORTIS and also has an AR monogram within a crowned shield. The purpose of this monogram mark is explained below with a contemporary advert of about 1955 (pics at fobs76.blogspot.co.uk from 2.bp.blogspot.com and 4.bp.blogspot.com):
Audax advertisement from 1957 showing the "All Risks" monogram and watches from that range, obviously promoting the guarantee and/or reliability of the watches (pic from i.ebayimg.com):