Havila – A Nearly Unknown Movement Manufacturer

I first became aware of Havila in the Flume Main Catalog from 1912. Unfortunately, there is no complete movement shown there, only parts of it.

Havila movement shown in Flume Main Catalog from 1912

A little later this pretty pocket watch movement came to me, as so often without a watch case. The wheel bridge of which perfectly matches the illustration above:

Havila 19”’

15 jewels, screwed Chatons, a temperature-compensating bimetallic screw balance with Breguet hairspring and a swan neck regulator show that this is a very high-quality movement. Unfortunately, the movement in the Flume Main Catalog has no detailed caliber designation, but is only recorded with a diameter of 19”’ (French Lignes), i.e. approx. 42.9 mm. The height of the movement is 6.2 mm.

 

Havila ad (source unknown)

The movement already has a modern crown winding mechanism, but a rather unusual setting lever spring, which ensures that the crown engages in both possible positions (normal and pulled to set the hands). This setting lever spring is not attached to the dial side, as is common today, but on the bridge side of the movement. The red arrow in the next picture marks the position with the two possible snap-in positions. This design has a small advantage: the setting lever spring is also the setting lever that holds the winding stem in place.

There is a Swiss cross and the number 9293 on the barrel bridge, perhaps a reference to a Swiss patent with the number 9293?

There is actually a patent CH9293 from 1894, but it has nothing to do with Havila or this movement, as it is for a box for packaging watches. So, 9293 is not a patent number! What else? A look at the Swiss Official Gazette of Commerce from 1903 clarifies: it is the registration number of two movement calibers, so-called models:

Schweizerisches Handelsamtsblatt (Swiss Official Gazette of Commerce) 28.01.1903. Registration 9293 from Th. Zumkehr-Montandon

Model number 2 in the picture looks very similar to the movement shown above!

So, was Havila a trademark of Th. Zumkehr-Montandon, in whose name the two model were registered? No, the rights to this registration were transferred to Constant Houriet-Gindrat in 1906. And finally deleted in 1913, since it was not prolongated after the protection period expired. Therefore, the story of Havila begins with Constant Houriet-Gindrat: in August 1885 he founded a company in Tramelan-dessus that bears his name, together with a family member M. Constant Houriet-Gindrat:

Schweizerisches Handelsamtsblatt (Swiss Official Gazette of Commerce) 31.08.1885

On 14.01.1907, Houriet-Gindrat registered the brand name Havila:

Schweizerisches Handelsamtsblatt (Swiss Official Gazette of Commerce) 14.01.1907 – Registration of Havila brand name

He also registered other brand names, for which I have not yet been able to find any watches:

  • Trémolat (29.04.1903)
  • Hakila (18.12.1912)

The company Constant Houriet-Gindrat was finally dissolved on 28.06.1916 after the new company Houriet et Co. was founded on 20.04.1916, which had also registered Havila Watch Co. as a second company name:

Schweizerisches Handelsamtsblatt (Swiss Official Gazette of Commerce) 20.07.1916 – Foundation of Houriet et Co.

The company’s headquarters were now in Geneva, about 170 km from the previous headquarters in Tramelan-dessus. Constant Houriet-Gindrat no longer appears here as the owner, but four other members of the Houriet family:

  • Paul-William Houriet
  • Paul-René Houriet
  • Emile-Constant Houriet
  • Laure-Olga Houriet

In the Deutsche Uhrmacher-Zeitung (German Watchmaker Newspaper) from 15.06.1916 it is noted that Constant Houriet-Gindrat has retired.

This postcard from 1917 gives us a little insight into Havila’s business life:

It is addressed to François Dancet, the owner of the Fabrique de Pignons (factory for wheels / pinions) in Marnaz in France. Havila urges the manufacturers to immediately deliver fault-free center wheels because the stocks have been used up. The emphasis on urgency and the required freedom from faults indicate that a problem with the supplier has existed for a longer time and has escalated.

The new company was liquidated again on 01.03.1920, to rise again about two weeks later, on 17.03.1920, as Fabrique de Montres Havila S.A. / Havila Watch Co. under the direction of Paul-William and Paul-René Houriet.

Schweizerisches Handelsamtsblatt (Swiss Official Gazette of Commerce) 1920 – liquidation of Houriet et Co.
Schweizerisches Handelsamtsblatt (Swiss Official Gazette of Commerce) 1920 – foundation of Fabrique de Montres Havila S. A. / Havila Watch Co.

This advertisement of the Havila Watch Co. in the Revue Internationale de l’Horlogerie from 1920 dates from this time:

Ad of Havila Watch Co. in Revue Internationale de l’Horlogerie 1920

It shows three Lépine (open face) calibers A, B and C, which have different quality levels:

  • Havila A
    • 16 Jewels, 4 of them in screwed Chatons
    • Swan neck regulator
    • Escape wheel cock separated from the wheel bridge
    • Regulated to a maximum deviation of 10 seconds per day
  • Havila B
    • 15 Jewels, 3 of them in screwed Chatons
    • Swan neck regulator
    • Escape wheel integrated in wheel bridge
    • Regulated to a maximum deviation of 20 seconds per day
  • Havila C
    • 15 Jewels, no Chatons
    • No swan neck regulator
    • Escape wheel integrated in wheel bridge
    • Regulated to a maximum deviation of 30 seconds per day

All three variants have a diameter of 19”’, a height of 5.5 mm, and presumably a bimetallic screw balance with Breguet hairspring (confirmed for calibers A and B).

So far, I could only find a damaged Havila A movement, in which many parts are missing, including the complete balance:

Havila A

A pocket watch with the Havila B caliber:

The Swiss and German silver hallmarks (grouse, crescent moon and crown, respectively) in the outer cover indicate that the watch was produced in Switzerland and imported to Germany.

Havila B

And a Havila C:

Havila C

The respective caliber variant A, B or C is engraved on the bridge next to the crown wheel:

Apparently, there are also mixed forms of the different variants. Here is a movement marked with Havila B, which has a separate escape wheel cock, actually a characteristic of caliber A:

Mixed form: Havila B with separated escape wheel cock

There are also B variants that have the wheel bridge type B but have 16 instead of 15 jewels. In fact, these two hybrid forms are quite common.

The Havila calibers A, B and C seem to be further developments of the movement shown at the top. For example, the clicks of variants A, B and C are simpler and more modern than the one of the Havila 19”’:

Clicks: left Havila 19”’, right Havila A, B, C

All of the Havila movements shown so far are Lépine (open face) calibers. In these, the winding stem and the small second are in a straight line. However, I could also find a Savonnette (hunter) version of the Havila A, in which these two lines form an angle of 90 °:

Havila A Savonnette (hunter) version

This Savonnette variant has a diameter of 19”’ and a bimetallic screw balance with Breguet hairspring. I haven’t been able to find a Savonnette version of the Havila B and C movements so far.

There is another Havila movement, available as Lépine and Savonnette versions, about which I could not find any further information:

  • Diameter 17 1/2”’ (approx. 39.5 mm)
  • Height 3.6 mm
  • 15, 16, or 17 Jewels
    The movement in the next picture is hallmarked with 15 jewels, but actually has 16. The jewel for the center wheel was probably added later. The Lépine version below can have 16 or 17 jewels.
  • Bimetallic screw balance with flat or Breguet hairspring
    The Savonnette movement shown here has a flat hairspring, the Lépine movement a Breguet hairspring.
  • With or without swan neck regulator
Havila 17 1/2”’ Savonnette (Hunter)
Havila 17 1/2”’ Lépine (Open Face)

These movements are labeled on the edge of the barrel bridge with Havila Watch Co. S. A. Genève.

I suspect that these movements were only developed after the ones shown above. They have a more modern winding mechanism and are significantly flatter. I guess they stem from the 1930s. This is also supported by the design of the corresponding pocket watch case:

Havila pocket watch with Havila 17 1/2”’ Lépine

On 18.11.1930 Montres Havila finally went bankrupt, to rise once again in 1932. This time under the direction of Emma Houriet, the widow of Constant Houriet, the original founder of Havila.

Schweizerisches Handelsamtsblatt (Swiss Official Gazette of Commerce) 1932

The next reports on Havila can only be found 15 years later, on 07.08.1947. The Fabrique de Montres Havila S.A. was dissolved and at the same time the Havila Watch, René Houriet, was founded.

Schweizerisches Handelsamtsblatt (Swiss Official Gazette of Commerce) 1947

Unfortunately, I could not find out whether the company was successful during this period and to what extent it was active. In any case, René Houriet prolongated the registration of the Havila brand on 27.01.1948.

Schweizerisches Handelsamtsblatt (Swiss Official Gazette of Commerce) 1948, prolongation of registration of the Havila brand

On 30.11.1953 the history of the Havila company seems to be really over. It is dissolved by the owner himself.

Schweizerisches Handelsamtsblatt (Swiss Official Gazette of Commerce) 1953, Havila is dissolved

Of course, I would be very happy about further information about Havila!

 

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