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Always"watching"

Venus Watches: An Enigmatic History

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This is the photo of the early Venus watch showed here on the Forum by Mart that sparked off my decision to research this topic. I thank him for this picture and the watch is probably by Ébauches Venus, dating to the early period of that company (see text) (pic from s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/forumgallery):

large.20180210_161648.jpg.208f1bb5e474a2

 

 

 

The other day, whilst browsing the Forum, I came across the picture of fellow member Mart's early Venus watch which he had kindly shared with us – the relevant thread-head by Mart is entitled, “Should these hands be lumed,” and was posted on 10 February in the Watch Discussion section of the Forum. Another interesting Venus branded watch was also shown on the thread, so I decided to research and write a historical introduction to Venus watches and place it on that thread, which would have made logical sense. Unfortunately, as I was researching the topic, it became increasingly clear that there is a problem with the recorded history of Venus watches whereby from the earlier part of the twentieth century up until at least the mid-1960s, there are Venus branded watches from not one but two different Swiss sources, and it is clear that confusion has arisen as to the products, and even the history, of these two watch concerns. In this topic, I shall try to unravel the historical enigma and provide a clearer way forward for “viewing Venus,” so to speak.

 

 

A 1940s Ébauches Venus hand-wind chronograph wristwatch, frustratingly with no relevant details or caseback illustration (pic from i.pinimg.com/originals):

213250243b7135658a4eb5fca87ef4cb.jpg

 

 

 

Contrary to what might seem to be the sensible start to this topic, I am going first to deal with the company that has the later foundation date, rather than the first of the companies to produce Venus watches; this is mainly because the firm with the later start has a more easily understood history and a more definite end-point. This latter company is the the famous movement manufacturer, La Fabrique d'Ébauches Venus S. A., established in 1923 or 1924, at Moutier, Berne Canton, Switzerland, when the Berret brothers, in association with A. O. Schmitz, purchased and moved into the“Victor Spozio” factory.

The new company was set up to develop and manufacture watch movements, and this it commenced. A year after the launch of the company, one of the founders, J-B Berret, left the firm and his place was taken by Gasser & Co., who specialized in the production of jewels for watch movements. Unfortunately, financial problems soon beset the Venus concern, and in 1928, La Fabrique d'Ébauches Venus” was taken over by Ébauches S. A..

As part of Ébauches S. A., the Venus concern continued to develop watch movements, and in 1933 patented a chronograph caliber, the 103. This movement was to be the first of a long line of Venus chronograph movements, with Venus concentrating on chronograph movements from 1935, launching their caliber 150 in that same year.

 

 

An Venus chronograph wristwatch with calendar hand and windows, plus moonphase indicator, c.1945-50 and difficult to attribute (pic from i.pinimg.com

5b646cb1e80491d653c7497e60146de2--venus-

 

 

 

Interestingly, certain chronograph calibers by Venus were blessed with a long life either as first developed or via modifications enacted by other companies. I have already mentioned the caliber 150, which movement was to be copied in 1957 in the Soviet Union, while another long-lived Venus movement was the caliber 175 column wheel chronograph movement, developed in the 1940s and given a long lease of life courtesy of the Chinese. The Tianjin Watch Company started using (and manufacturing) this movement in the early 1960s, mainly as a result of military demand from the Chinese government, and in fact, the caliber 175 was subsequently resurrected once more in China, in the early 2000s, when it was rebadged the Sea Gull caliber ST19.

Having developed the caliber 175, Venus now sought to produce a chronograph movement that would be cheaper and easier to produce; for this a cam device replaced the column wheel arrangement, and the caliber 188 was born. However, as Venus now tried to recoup monies by producing cheaper movements and selling off a caliber 175 chronograph ébauche production line to the Chinese, it was becoming clear that the Venus factory was not long for this world. Indeed, the Venus concern closed, permanently, in 1966. The production tools and expertise were now transferred to Valjoux, who were to further develop the caliber 188 as the basis for the Valjoux 7730 and then the Valjoux 7750, which latter movement powers many of today's mechanical chronograph watches. As a final note, Ébauches S. A. was itself subsumed into ETA in the late 1970s, then finally all ending up within the Swatch group.

 

 

A 17J hand-wind Venus wristwatch from the 1940s, difficult to attribute but note the lack of a "tag" on the left hand fork of the 'V' of "Venus." I am not yet sure if the presence or lack of this tag is an indicator useful in attribution of older Venus watches (pics from hobarttown.com):

Vintage-Venus-1940s-Roman-Numeral-Milita

Vintage-Venus-1940s-Roman-Numeral-Milita

 

 

 

Having now outlined the history of the Venus movement company, it would have been nice to have a clear run at identifying, illustrating and describing actual watches produced by this concern, presumably up until the middle of the 1960s – and certainly, the Fabrique d'Ébauches Venus S. A. was responsible for producing complete wristwatches, using (mainly or solely) Venus movements while sourcing other components from elsewhere. However, the spanner in the works arrives at this point because we must now consider the other Swiss company producing Venus branded watches from as early as 1902 and probably right through and beyond 1966, in which year the Venus movement works was finally closed. Before turning to this second Venus watch producer, please note that from now on in this topic, I shall use the label, “Ébauches Venus,” to denote the firm, La Fabrique d'Ébauches Venus, from its inception until the final closure of the Venus factory in 1966 under Ébauches S. A., and this term will also be used in the picture captions where relevant.

The second, and earlier to start, Venus concern was established in 1902 at La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, by Paul Arthur Schwarz and Olga Etienne Schwarz, and was more clearly a watch company rather than a firm specializing in movements. I have a reference to this company from 1918, at which time it was trading under the name, Schwarz-Etienne Fils, but it does not appear to have been a form of limited company but more a family enterprise, and I wonder whether it ever actually manufactured watches in any meaningful sense of the word. What is clear, however, is that the Schwarz family company was a wholesaler and perhaps a producer of wristwatches, with a stable of brand names, including Venus. The current holders of the Venus name state that the first Venus collection of watches was noted for its refinement and elegance, and the Venus name attracted attention. Watch collectors should note that the current Venus watch company has no concrete relationship with either of the two original Venus companies we are discussing here: it would appear that the brand name for Schwarz Venus had been defunct for some time when, in 2011, it was purchased by the Greek businessman, Nikos Patseas, who purchased it from the owners and then re-launched it in Geneva, Switzerland. The subsequent watches used Ronda quartz movements, with the new firm being called Montres Venus SA.

 

 

A beautiful early to mid 1950s Schwarz Venus chronograph watch with gold plated 37mm case, powered by a hand-wind Landeron 48 chronograph movement (pics from assets.catawiki.nl):

864e95e4-141a-11e5-8a59-6693777dca5f.jpg

7c6eb87e-141a-11e5-906d-8f936d26466d.jpg

 

 

 

A lack of decent source material regarding the history of the Schwarz family watch company leaves me no alternative but to quote from the current Venus website, here concerning the post-War period, as follows:

 

 

“In the years to come Mr. Schwarz and his family worked to bring about numerous achievements in watchmaking assembly design and assembly, while at the same time sales increased successfully. They were proud to see VENUS continually praised for both creativity and reliability.

The pursuit of this path of and innovation and elegance culminated in VENUS historically achieving acclaim at the Basel Fair of 1950 by winning 1st prize for one of its attractive designs. By the mid-1960s VENUS was an established brand, with global distribution and a collection that offered more than a hundred men's and women's designs.

VENUS went from strength to strength. The 1960s saw the company organising glamorous events, such as in Athens in 1966, chosen to highlight Greece's mythical connection with the iconic “Venus de Milo” watch and worn on the occasion by the famous Hollywood actress, Jayne Mansfield.At the same time, the watches became so respected that even Leonid Breshnev, leader of the Soviet Union, wore a VENUS watch on his wrist. Of particular note is an order from the Vatican: a hundred pieces in white gold, equipped with a mechanical self-winding movement.”

 

 

Having thus given a (not surprisingly) favourable account of the post-War history of the Schwarz family Venus watch company, we have a terse comment that this firm did not survive the quartz crisis. In fact, although the new holders of the Venus brand name end their potted history in about the mid-1960s, another source takes up the story and indicates that before their final demise at the end of the 1970s, the La Chauz-de-Fonds Venus watch company was still selling/producing watches under the Venus name. It is not clear exactly when this company finally ceased to trade but the later watches from the 1970s apparently have a circular or ring logo above the name, Venus, and some will be marked with the place name, La Chaux-de-Fonds. Having now given an account of the second and first-founded Venus watch company, I note that from this point on in the topic, including captions to illustrations, the Schwarz family Venus watch company, from 1902 until about 1979, will be referred to as, “Schwarz Venus.”

 

 

 

A late Schwarz Venus automatic wristwatch from the early to mid 1970s powered by an ETA 2789 caliber and showing the ring motif above the name on the dial, and note the presence of the horizontal tag to the left fork of the 'V' in "Venus" (pic from i.pinimg.com/originals):

027c6c47771e5fd7affbd172b7744460.jpg

 

 

A simple 17J hand-wind Schwarz Venus wristwatch from the mid 1950s (pic from img.etsystatic.com):

il_570xN.658705441_rg8p.jpg

 

 

 

With two Venus companies in the frame, we now come to the tricky task of identifying which company is responsible for the different Venus branded watches. Fortunately, the timelines for both firms, when placed alongside each other, do provide gaps when only one of the two firms was trading. However, for long periods of time, Venus branded watches were emanating from both sources. Taking what information is supplied online, it can be stated that it was probably Ébauches Venus that used a line representation of the head and torso of the Venus de Milo statue as a logo, on earlier watches, but it also seems to be the case  that Schwarz Venus used this logo, especially on certain watches made around 1960. It is also the case that some watches produced by Ébauches Venus will be found to be co-branded with another name in addition to Venus. Of course, one might be tempted to say that complete watches produced by Ébauche Venus, both when it was independent and also when it was under the wing of Ébauches S.A., will be powered by Venus movements, especially chronographs, but this cannot be taken as a reliable means of identification for obvious reasons. One vital Venus model for the purposes of identification is the Routemaster, produced in a variety of iterations and for a considerable length of time. Because this model went on being produced into the 1970s, we can be pretty sure that Venus Routemaster watches, with their characteristic fonts in use on the dial, are Schwarz Venus products.

In conclusion then, we are left with many Venus watches that cannot yet be firmly attributed – a fact made worse by the use of the extended line from the 'V' over the rest of the brand name by both Venus companies. There is also a final nagging question that asks whether, in fact, there was some sort of relationship between the Schwarz family company and Ébauches Venus. So far, the indications are that these two firms are essentially independent of one another, though it may be that Schwarz Venus were dealers in Venus branded watches sourced from Ébauches Venus, in addition to dealing in watches sourced elsewhere and differently branded. My gut feeling is that Ébauches Venus always remained a movement manufacturer and provider, with relatively few complete watches being assembled and sold by the firm, and these for a limited period only. It then falls to Schwarz Venus as being the main source of wristwatches branded, Venus, and these products will no doubt have come from a variety of watch companies. There is still research needed on the Venus story, and I am aware that my efforts here, although diligent, will eventually be superseded by a fuller and more accurate account and a more complete means of attribution of Venus watches.

 

 

A Schwarz Venus Routemaster automatic wristwatch with 32X30mm stainless steel case, powered by a 26J ETA caliber 2452 movement. C.1960 (pics from poshtime.com):

3024.044.jpg

3024.044a.jpg

 

 

A 1960s Schwarz Venus gold plated Routemaster automatic wristwatch with 33.5mm (excluding crown) case and 25J ETA caliber 2522 movement (pic from i.ebayimg.com):

s-l1000.jpg

 

 

A Schwarz Venus automatic dive watch from the early 1970s with steel 35mm case, rotating bezel and screw-down back (pic from assets.catawiki.nl):

ac3867d7-793a-4e9a-a36b-939368ba7b76.jpg

 

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Interesting article, just one thing, the watches psted the other day weren't from Lampoc.

APOLOGIES DEAR MART. I have now edited the topic and included your picture as well.:biggrin:

 

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41 minutes ago, Always"watching" said:

the relevant thread-head by Lampoc is entitled, “Should these hands be lumed,”

Great post, although the original thread wasn't mine - I just pointed out that the watch had been badly redialed :biggrin:

WHEW! I thought I had finally got it right but I forgot to alter Lampoc to Mart in the text reference to Mart's thread-head and picture. This has now been done, and I hope that sorts the matter to everyone's satisfaction. Sorry about that, dear Lampoc.:biggrin:

Edited by Always"watching"
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Comprehensive & entertaining as ever, Honour...thank you :thumbsup:

One of my own & often worn (favoured) examples...

1958-63 ? Venus (Schwarz) auto.

Cal: ETA 2452-2, 25 jewel.

large.IMG_3477.JPG.87ef6cd902158d68b13364a1f6a15bb1.JPG

large.59805cd49c9cc_IMG_3478(1).JPG.7a110455bb791964e20459ecae1178b6.JPG

The crown on this example shows in relief the Venus fly trap, never seen this on any other Venus timepiece.  Have my suspicions this may have been in relation to a particular commission, but as yet unable to substantiate or confirm ?

large.IMG_3475.JPG.fae788e43478d5263fb7227630ce134a.JPG 

large.IMG_3484.JPG.13ba9c351f4d6c5dbe5802dbf680668e.JPG

large.IMG_3480.JPG.41a39826fe3e7777a617c45a9f449841.JPG

I know another esteemed member has a unique, IMO, Venus timepiece that I personally covet! :whistle:

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My dear Lampoc, I just wanted to make sure you were aware that I corrected this error IMMEDIATELY, and thought this would be a polite way of doing that. I think the nature of my edits to your post and to Mart's were self-explanatory and in no way took away from the points you and Mart made. After all, I am only human, and in researching and writing a difficult topic such an error can slip in. I don't know exactly how I recalled your name instead of Mart's for the attribution of that thread which started me off on researching the Venus topic, but I was as quick as I could be to make things right.:biggrin:

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Lot of work and a good read Honour.  Thanks for all the effort :thumbsup:

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Really nice article very informative and gives me a brand to look for at the many Brocantes and Foire de antiquities I visit every year.

 

Apparently there is a strong connection between this Britix brand and the earlier Venus marque also Swiss made.

tYRr7GF.jpg

Edited by niveketak
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Interesting comment there, dear niveketak, and I have not myself come across the Britax brand.  I suspect - as you hint - that the Britax brand is one of the family of brands produced, or at least marketed, by Schwarz Venus.:)

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3 hours ago, animalone said:

Thank you for yet another wonderful thread

little picture of the ETA powered one I recently got of Fleabay

o3ObBGeh.jpg

Very nice well done.

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19 minutes ago, PC-Magician said:

Very nice well done.

Thank you,

All steel case and an ETA automatic movement for the princely sum of £10 :thumbs_up:

The bay is often a den of scum and villainy, but sometimes there is a bargain to be found. 

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2 hours ago, animalone said:

Thank you,

All steel case and an ETA automatic movement for the princely sum of £10 :thumbs_up:

The bay is often a den of scum and villainy, but sometimes there is a bargain to be found. 

I am never that lucky.

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