ORA, OC, Lings, and 20+ other Mysterious Watch Brands

Today it’s about some brands of watches and watch movements, the history of which is almost unknown, but which are all related. The linchpin here is the ORA brand. So, let’s start with it!
This movement was my first encounter with the ORA brand:

ORA 234

Unfortunately, I didn’t have an entire watch, just a dial with the words SONIC and ANCRE A G.

The mark Co 234 next to the escape wheel made it possible to identify the movement as an ORA 234, with the help of the Flume watch movement identifier from 1962. At first glance, it is a good quality movement with a diameter of 11 1/2´´´ (French lines, approx. 25.9 mm), small second, hidden ratchet and 17 jewels. The fact is that it looks a bit better than it is, as it is a simple pin lever movement in pillar construction. By the way, the inscription ANCRE A G on the dial means Ancre à Goupille, i.e. pin lever!

ORA 234 pillar construction

Fine, but which manufacturer is behind the ORA brand? A look at the Mikrolisk brand directory provides seven possible manufacturers. Three from Switzerland, two from Germany and two from Italy. The most likely seemed to me to be the Swiss manufacturer Era Watch Co. / C. Ruefli-Flury & Cie, since according to Mikrolisk he also made movements. There was no SWISS MADE on the movement, nor on the dial. That puzzled me, but initially I stuck to the theory of the Swiss manufacturer.

Much later, a member of the German watch forum Uhrforum presented a partially transparent cocktail watch from the Modina brand and asked for the movement to be identified.

MODINA cocktail watch, probably around 1955
ORA 235

The movement could be identified as ORA 235. With 10 1/2´´´ it’s a bit smaller than the ORA 234, but also a pin lever movement with 17 jewels. It has a pseudo screw balance, so the ‘screws’ cannot be used to regulate the movement! This movement is also marked next to the anchor, here with Co 235:

What does the Co stand for? Hardly for Company, that would be banal. O for ORA would be plausible, but the C? A search in about 20 movement identifier books, catalogs and directories provided the following findings:

  • O. C. = OC = C. O. = CO = ORA
  • OC / CO / ORA movements are never recorded in documents that only contain Swiss movements

Again, on the Modina watch with the ORA 235, neither the movement nor the dial has an inscription SWISS MADE. So maybe not a Swiss manufacturer after all? I became curious again and started to do more research. In a young Italian watch forum called AISOR, I came across this advertisement from the Società d’Orologeria ORA di Vogt & Co from Como in Italy:

[Source: https://www.aisor.it/forum/viewtopic.php?f=121&t=4582 (registration required)]
The company was also listed twice with the ORA brand at Mikrolisk. The ad said that they were producing fancy watches of the Roskopf type in large quantities. This matches the cocktail watch and the pin lever movements since Roskopf type watches usually have pin levers. A first indication of an Italian manufacturer of the ORA movements, but unfortunately no proof yet!

During the same research, I also found another connection between OC, ORA and Italy in the form of a watch case back, without any information about the watch itself:

It’s difficult to read what’s written on the case back, but it says OC CAL R7. On the inside we can read ORA and MADE IN ITALY. Okay, so OC = ORA, and ORA comes from Italy! I suspect that OC stands for ORA and Como.

The final proof came from an advertisement from the Società d’Orologeria ORA di Vogt & Co in the Indicateur Davoine, a Swiss (!) Directory of watch manufacturers, from 1960:

Ad in Indicateur Davoine from 1960

The movements ORA 234 and 235 are shown in this ad! The company ran the same ad every year from 1960 to 1969 in the Indicateur Davoine. And before that these two can be found:

Ad in Indicateur Davoine from 1952
Ad in Indicateur Davoine from 1955

In 1977 there was no longer an advertisement in the Indicateur Davoine, but at least an indication of the existence of the company:

Entry in the Indicateur Davoine 1977

For the years between 1970 and 1976 and after 1977 there was unfortunately no Indicateur Davoine available. The Società d’Orologeria ORA di Vogt & Co therefore existed at least from 1952 to 1977 and the ORA 235 at least from 1955.

In a list of taxpayers published by the Italian tax authorities in 1930, a watchmaker named Oscar Vogt was recorded in Como. He or his descendants probably have something to do with the Società d’Orologeria ORA di Vogt & Co.

In the above-mentioned movement identifiers and catalogs, I could find the following movements that are listed under ORA, CO or OC:

ORA Watch Movements

Caliber Size Features Verified
OC 1, OC1, 1, R1, 1 R, R 1, OC R1, OC R.1 (1)
8 3/4´´´ Pin lever, 0/4 jewels, no second, pillar construction, no shock protection
2 variants: à doigt (balance with finger), à plat. (balance with roller)
X
OC 7, OC7, R7, OC R 7, OC R7, OC R.7, OCR7, OCR.7 (2)
 10 1/2´´´ Pin lever, 0/4 jewels, small second, optional date (no quickset), pillar construction, no shock protection
2 variants: à doigt (balance with finger), à plat. (balance with roller)
OC 11 8 3/4´´´ Pin lever, 4 jewels, no second, pillar construction, no shock protection.
Small differences between OC 11 and OC 1:

– Movable hairspring stud
– Area around the winding stem made of plastic
X  
13R, 13 R  ?    
OC 32, 32
 ?  
OC 71
12´´´ Pin lever, 0 jewels, sweep second, optional with second stop as pseudo chronograph, optional date, no shock protection (3)  X
OC 120, 120, Co 120 12´´´ Pin lever, 0 jewels, sweep second, optional with second stop as pseudo chronograph, optional date, no shock protection (3)  X
145, Co 145 5 1/4 x
11´´´
Shaped movement, pin lever, rocking bar
 (X)(4)
234, Co 234 11 1/2´´´ Pin lever, small second, optional date (no quickset), hidden ratchet, pillar construction, no shock protection
X
235, Co 235
10 1/2´´´ Pin lever, small second, pseudo screw balance, no shock protection
X
236 10 1/2´´´ Pallet lever, small second  (X)(4)
 ORA 13´´´ 13´´´ Recorded only at Ronda, possibly an error  

(1) The movements are mostly marked with OC 1, but OC CAL R1 is written on the case back of the watch
(2) The movements are mostly marked with OC 7, but OC CAL R7 is written on the case back of the watch
(3) Differences between OC 71 and OC 120 not known. The OC 71 is not listed anywhere. All watches with this movement are marked on the case back with OC 120, but besides the balance wheel with OC 71!
There were small modifications of these movements, which can be found both in the OC 71 and OC 120.
– Modified setting lever spring
– Area around the winding stem: made of metal or plastic
Dial side: U-shaped cutout for anchor or no cutout
Balance cock with two curved and one straight side or balance cock with one curved and two straight sides
(4) No complete movements, only spare parts found

Spare part for ORA 145

Verified in the table above means that I have seen real movements at least on pictures. Some movements are listed with many different names, but it should always be the same movements. With the 13R, OC 32, and ORA 13´´´ I am not sure if they really exist, because the are only recorded in a few directories.

ORA 145 in Engelkemper Movement Identifier from 1967
ORA 234 with date

Did ORA make these movements itself? Unfortunately, I do not know! Manufacturers usually use to advertise it when they make their own movements. The ORA movements often have similarities to pin anchor movements of Swiss manufacturers, such as Lapanouse/Rego. So far, I have not really been able to assign an ORA movement to a Swiss manufacturer. After all, the movements seem to be exclusive to ORA. The entire movements or individual parts may have been sourced from Switzerland. The Italian city Como is only 5 km away from the Swiss border!

ORA OC 1
ORA OC 11
LINGS with ORA OC 7, with date, probably around 1965
ORA OC 7 with date
ORA OC 7 without date

So far, I have found the following watch brands in which ORA movements are used:

  • BRAÏLA
BRAÏLA with OC 120
  • CENTREX
CENTREX with OC 7, with date
  • E. R. C.
E. R. C. with OC 1
  • FILTA
FILTA with OC 7
  • g
Watch of the brand g with OC 120, without pseudo-chronograph functionality
  • GENIEVRE
    Here the OC even appears on some watches as a logo on the dial!
GENIEVRE with ORA 234, with date
  • HITOS
HITOS with OC 7
  • HORAX
HORAX with OC 11
  • JONAS
JONAS with OC 120 or OC 71, with date
  • LAWRENCE
    Here, too, the OC appears as a logo on the dial.
Lawrence with ORA 234 and OC logo
  • LING
Ling with OC 1
  • LINGS
Lings with OC 120
  • LOGAN
LOGAN with OC 7, with date
  • MATIK
MATIK with OC 7
  • MODINA
MODINA with ORA 235
  • NAVAL
NAVAL with OC 7
  • NEIL
NEIL with OC 7
  • SONIC
SONIC with ORA 234
  • TANIVAS
TANIVAS with OC 7
  • ZEIH / ZE IH
ZE IH with OC 7
  • ZHEUT
ZHEUT with OC 7

21 different brands and there are probably more!

In addition to the OC logo, crown and wing motifs (TANIVAS, ZE IH) appear again and again on the dials. The wing motif can also often be seen on the case back of various ORA watches.

I suspect that ORA completely built the watches of most of these brands itself, possibly on behalf of other companies. At least the watches with the OC brand with caliber information on the case back should be from ORA. However, E. R. C. watches are also available with movements made by Cattin.

Typical OC marks on watch case backs

Let’s stay with the watch brands LING and LINGS, respectively. With them, the difference between appearance and being is often particularly large. On the dial we see 21 PRIX, which is supposed to suggest 21 jewels to the inexperienced buyer. In fact, most of these movements don’t have a single jewel. And below the 6 we can read SYSTEM, SWISS MODEL or SWISS TYPE, exactly where SWISS or SWISS MADE is often found on Swiss watches:

A special highlight are the pseudo chronographs with the OC 120 and OC 71.

Lings pseudo chronograph, probably around 1965 or 1970

They have two push buttons with which the central second hand can be stopped and started again. Unfortunately, when you stop, the balance is stopped and therefore the whole movement stops! They also have a pseudo-totalizer at 9 that runs counterclockwise, which doesn’t make any sense. It rotates by 360 degrees every four hours. There are also variants with a second pseudo-totalizer at 3 that rotates counterclockwise every seven hours. Both are driven by the hour wheel. At first glance, the watch looks like a real chronograph, but unfortunately it has nothing to do with it!

ORA OC 71 with pseudo chronograph and two pseudo-totalizers

To make matters worse, Lings watches were often offered as so-called Autobahngold (German for ‘highway gold‘) (see info box below). Unfortunately, I do not know whether ORA has already produced these watches with the intention of fraud or whether buyers have modified the watches accordingly.

Caution Autobahngold ('Highway Gold')
In the 1960s and 70s the Germans and other Europeans went on vacation in the south in large numbers, especially to Italy. They were often approached by locals at motorway service stations or train stations and asked for help in an alleged emergency. In exchange for some money or as a deposit, they offered vacationers ‘real’ gold jewelry, including bracelets, necklaces, and watches. It was always inferior goods that were at most thinly gilded. In addition to fantasy stamps, which should remind of real gold stamps, real gold stamps were also often hallmarked.

Fantasy gold stamp CT 18750 on a Lings watch

At least in the latter case, they are gold counterfeits that have been turned to good faith holidaymakers.

Counterfeit 18 carat gold stamp on Lings pseudo chronograph

Some people may still think today that they have a little treasure at home!

So, if you have a Lings watch with gold stamps on the case back, you can be sure to have a fake in front of you!

If one of my readers has more information about the Società d’Orologeria ORA di Vogt & Co from Como in Italy, I would be happy to hear from you!

 

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