Thursday, January 30, 2014

Solvil et Titus 06-1107-004 - A Practical Watch But One With No Soul, A Review

My wife and kids bought this watch for me many years ago. To me, this was the first time that I've heard about the brand. After a short internet search I got the following:

 "The brand Solvil et Titus was born in 1887 when Paul Ditisheim (1868-1945), an extremely prominent figure in the Swiss watch industry of his time, named one of the initial models he created. Solvil, an abbreviation of Sonvilier, is the Jura village in which a factory for making watch components stood and Titus was a highly talented and skilled Roman Emperor of the first century.

The well-known watchmaker and inventor was extremely successful in researching and manufacturing chronometers, which hold records for precision as deemed by the prestigious international trials carried out by the Royal Observatories of Kew-Teddington and Neuchâtel. His products ranged greatly from navigational-purposed watches to chronometers with automatic display of sunrise and sunset time to the minute each day; from watches with perpetual calendars to ones that could strike and incorporated chimes, from chronometers with equations of time to many others with many complicated features.

In 1930, Paul Ditisheim handed over the Solvil et Titus and Paul Ditisheim brands to wealthy Swiss entrepreneur and captain of industry Paul Bernard Vogel. Vogel, heir to a prestigious family of industrialist and married to the heiress of the prominent Eberhard family, was also a member of the Swiss watch industry's elite. Vogel moved the company's headquarters to Geneva where he started expanding it. Vogel was one of the most prominent members of Geneva's high society, he was the chairman of the Salon Montres et Bijoux (the Watch and Jewelry's Fair), the most prestigious association of Swiss watch manufacturers and jewelers of the time and used the various social events he organized to advertise his company's collections.

By the 1950s Vogel, feeling the shift in consumer's habits, decided to divided its brands into two. On the one hand, the company kept producing the luxury watches it was famous for. On the other hand, it started producing lower-cost watches that fitted properly the emerging mass consumption markets. Thanks to this new orientation, Solvil et Titus was instrumental in the development of mechanical and electronic watches. In 1968, Vogel took the lead of the newly founded Societe des Gardes-Temps SA, a conglomerate of low cost watch manufacturers which was the world's third largest watchmaking company of the time and had a true international dimension (it acquired the American Waltham Watch Company and signed a licensing agreement in 1973 with Elgin Watch – then Swiss watchmaking's biggest foreign investment.

Vogel has foreseen the necessities of broadening the market for watches and of creating an international distribution system and consequently decided to expand Solvil et Titus activities overseas. In the 1970s, surfing on the Asian Tigers economic boom, he sent his son, Paul Vogel, to grow the family business operations in the Asian market. Based in Hong Kong, Paul succeeded into making Solvil et Titus one of the most popular brand in Eastern Asia.

In the late 1970s, Paul Vogel who has inherited the company from his late father came back to Europe and decided to sell Solvil et Titus brands. The European activities became part of Ebel while the Asian activities were sold to Hong Kong entrepreneur Joseph Wong and are now part of Stelux Holdings. The company, now headquartered in Hong Kong, has kept its name and continues its growth as one of Asia's favourite brand, notably thanks to its famous Time is Love advertising campaigns starring superstars Dave Wang Chieh, Chow Yun Fat and Andy Lau as well as world-renowned footballer Ryan Giggs, have become classics of Hong Kong's advertising industry."

Impressive credentials. More about this later. Let's talk about the watch first.

This particular model is a quartz chronograph. Made out of 316L stainless steel, it is 38 mm across (minus the crown) and 10 mm thick. Apart from the chronograph timer, it also has a date window at the 3 o'clock position.

There are two sub-dials on the North and South of the main dial. The bottom sub-dial is the seconds while the top sub-dial is the minute counter for the timer limited to 60 minutes. The inner wall of the dial has a tachymeter scale.

The markers as well as the two main hands on the watch, the hour and the minute hands are lumed.

The dial has a silver paint to it and the bezel is smooth. The glass covering the dial is mineral glass.

The pushers and the crown are situated at the right side of the watch case like most typical chronographs. 

The bracelet are solid links and measures 20 mm at the lugs and tapers down to 18 mm at the safety clasp. However, the lugs are unique hence its difficult to source after-market strap or bracelet to replace the original. The brand "TITUS" is clearly etched on the clasp.

This is a comfortable watch to wear. You can easily forget that its on your wrist once you have it on. The size is also just nice.

The watch runs on quartz technology. However, I have no knowledge the caliber of movement it uses. Since it is based in Hong Kong, a safe bet would be a Chinese made model.

I have replaced the batteries on this watch a couple of times. Generally 2 years for every change. The only issue I found is that sometimes the main chrono hand does not reset back to zero properly. Need to go to a watchmaker to do this particular adjustment.

So, coming back to the history behind this brand. The Titus of today is not the same as before. It is designed to be a fashion accessory instead of a celebration of the mechanical watch. What a waste for such a brand. The current owner should just have created a unique brand instead of spending money for brand. By changing the focus of the brand, it effectively destroys the premium on the original brand.

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