Glycine Heritage: A love story & 100 years of Swiss Watchmaking
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  1. #1
    Member Emre's Avatar
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    Glycine Heritage: A love story & 100 years of Swiss Watchmaking

    "Thread approved by Ernie Romers, site owner"

    tldr format: Glycine Watches SA is celebrating its first 100 years. A great step has been made in the centenary year combining my enthusiasm for the brand and its products along with the vision of the company. The Glycine timepieces manufacture records are now available to all vintage watch enthusiasts, please contact :
    heritage@glycine-watch.ch



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    Longer Format:

    Fellow WUS members and readers,

    this topic is not only a ‘Happy Birthyear‘ message, it’s also a WUS members involvement and passion. This is a love story; a tale of two cities; Bienne and Genève, Glycine and me.



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    Probably like most of you, I’ve never heard of the brand ‘Glycine‘ before joining WUS two years ago. It first caught my attention with the 24 hour dial ‘Airman’, which obviously is the flagship model. Even though the information available in WUS and other online boards was good enough to raise attention, it wasn’t satisfying my curiosity. I was surprised that a 100 years old company has nothing else to tell.

    During my research and communication with the company (interview with the owner ),I’ve learned that the factory was flooded in late 1940s and robbed in 1975 causing the lack of available records except two serial number books. These were the hand written manufacture records from 1954 onwards to-day.I felt like this company calls me on duty Self assignment…

    I’ve started my journey in the dusty shelves of ‘La Federation Horlogere Suisse’,’L’Impartial’,’L’Express Fan’,’Feuille d’Avis du Valais’ newspapers and chronicles… These are some of the sources which were witnessing the daily life of the citizens and the watchmaking companies’ activities in Swiss Valleys. Going through old advertisement and announcements is like time travel, very joyful. While scanning from 1890s to 1970s, I’ve created a 30 gB archive of printed and scanned documents related with Glycine and its founder Eugène Meylan.

    Linking my findings to the company obviously has not gone unrecognized and our relation with the Glycine HQs consistently developed and their trust in me has been set up.

    And now in the 100th year anniversary, we’ve made a great step with the company. They have shared with me their hand written manufacture records and assigned me a corporate email address of the ‘Heritage‘ department which has been created as a first step to surface the iceberg. Not that I am a company official, still a happy volunteer who doesn’t have duties but responsibilities and authority to share correct information.

    So as a forum-mate of yours and in charge of Glycine Heritage allow me to accompany you through its history timeline briefly:

    Glycine started its journey with Eugène Meylan in 20 May 1914 as ‘Fabrique d’Horlogerie La Glycine’, than switches to ‘Uhrenfabrik Glycine’ , merges in 1963 with Montre Altus SA reflecting to its name ‘Glycine & Altus Watch Factories‘ and finally ‘Glycine Watch SA’ in millennium.
    Still an independent Swiss watchmaking company which manufactures 6,000 mechanical watches per year ( as per the CEO in 2012).
    Earliest ‘Bulletin de Marche’ I could find is from 1926 and has numerous others through the decades. Also from 1924 onwards they appear in the US market. Glycine’s early years are specialized in fine small caliber ladies timepieces where the watch-cases are mainly decorated with precious stones so that 1929 Baselfair reviews CHF 10,000 ‘haute de luxe‘ pieces by Glycine.Until the end of WW II, Glycine manufactures its own movements which are used also by A.LeCoultre and Bulova companies.
    In October 1930, Eugène Meylan invents an automatic module which can be mounted on hand winding calibers and turn them into self-winding movements. These watches are evolving into water-proof cases with shock-proof and center seconds which is advanced in its time and have been presented in 1939 New York World’s Fair.
    Glycine also cooperates with Doxa and Meyer Stuedeli in 1930s to boost sales in the German market and creates a company ‘Medex’ which is based in Berlin. WW II era, the company supplies the army with military pocket and wrist watches.
    1953 sees the birth of the ‘ Airman ‘, which becomes popular especially in the USAF and within AOPA members. Through the ‘60s the ‘ Airman Special ‘ line is being manufactured exclusively for the USAF personnel. They case not only the patented 24 hour bezel and dial, also a unique hack mechanism, which is not attached to the movement.
    In ‘70s and ‘80s, Glycine cruises through the 'Quartz' decades my forming an alliance with 3 other Swiss companies to create market share in the quartz and LED market ( Ditronic SA ).
    ’90s are witnessing the mechanical come-back and in the millennium reaches the safe shores.

    Glycine has 15 registered patents. These are in different languages depending on the era, they are filed in French and German. These patents were my starting point, I’ve asked the company to translate all to English officially so we won’t miss anything or claim something wrong. The most significant invention by Glycine which is still used is the 24 hour rotating bezel from 1953. Yes, that thing was invented by Glycine which is now being used by most GMT watches. Listing some other inventions with its years :

    - 1917 buckle to adjust wrist-watch straps
    - 1930 baguette form movement
    - 1930 automatic module for hand-winding movements
    - 1931 jumping hour watches' dial window
    - 1932 folding lever which acts as crown
    - 1953 24 hour rotating bezel
    - 1973 Crown function which also regulates the balance

    For details and original patents please see my website: Glycine Patents Vintage Automatic Airman
    I will be happy to be at your assistance and share more information about manufacture date, manufacture quantity, cased calibers for vintage Glycine watches. Of course it works also via PM for WUS. Otherwise, if you would like to have it officially phrased please contact me via the above mentioned ‘heritage’ email address.

    Last month, I’ve conducted proof reading publicly in WUS and have shared the registers in WUS Glycine sub-forum. An example format of available information:

    Glycine Airman
    ref: 503
    Serial number: A 81142
    Production Date: 29 Mar 1957
    Production Amount : 500
    Base Caliber: Felsa 692

    I don’t want to list a lot of details, since my aim is to announce the centenary year and the available records with contact information. For them who are interested, I am attaching useful links for your consideration:

    History Timeline: Glycine Watches History Timeline & Models
    My website including history, patents, calibers, models and collection: Vintage Glycine Watches Airman
    Glycine vintage watches Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/GlycineHeritage

    I believe that WUS is really an informative platform, we all can take off and have our journey back to the times where our enthusiasm is being sourced. I thank you all for your contributions, this fora is infectious, for good!
    Members here are incredibly knowledgeable and information is being exposed with joy,especially in vintage section. WUS can turn a newbie, who started his journey with a franken Venus 170 ,to more educated watch enthusiasts and collectors :)

    My sincere appreciation for all members' knowledge and companies who are cooperating with their fans.Horrraayyy for Glycine,for many more decades....


    Last edited by Emre; May 7th, 2014 at 18:41. Reason: format pic

  2. #2
    Member HOROLOGIST007's Avatar
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    re: Glycine Heritage: A love story & 100 years of Swiss Watchmaking

    Lovely post Emre.
    Glycine should be very proud both their achievement, their continued and improved business with your great help.
    I am pleased they respect and reward your accomplishments for them.

    I do not think they have records gong back even to the 30s, so can you confirm what date their records go back too?
    Sorry my bad 1954

    Sincerely and well done.

    PS - I heard of them long before WUS!
    adam
    Last edited by HOROLOGIST007; May 6th, 2014 at 22:28. Reason: Sorry my bad 1954
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    Member James A's Avatar
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    re: Glycine Heritage: A love story & 100 years of Swiss Watchmaking

    Congratulations Emre . Well done for unearthing this wonderful information and look forward to many more great posts. Terrific to get the recognition you deserve. 3 cheers .

    Regards,
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    Member jackruff's Avatar
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    re: Glycine Heritage: A love story & 100 years of Swiss Watchmaking

    Thanks Emre....Great read and thanks for spreading the passion...

    Regards
    Barry
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    So many watches.....so little time.....

  5. #5
    Member Emre's Avatar
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    re: Glycine Heritage: A love story & 100 years of Swiss Watchmaking

    Thanks gentlemen, it won't have happened without all with the members contributions and learning culture created in this fora.

    @ Adam, yes the official records start from 1954, but within my own archives I can date an earlier watch considering its case markings ( hallmarks, poincon de maitre ),the movement cased and the dial mark. It won't bear the information as mentioned above with exact day and manufacture amount but an approximate era. The numbering system and style has changed so many times I can not just go back with the earliest manufacture volumes.

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    re: Glycine Heritage: A love story & 100 years of Swiss Watchmaking

    wonderful work, Emre; thank you so much for sharing your research !
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    Member sempervivens's Avatar
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    re: Glycine Heritage: A love story & 100 years of Swiss Watchmaking

    Excellent! Outstanding news and an example for all.

    I'll have to get a Glycine now.

    One question: why did Meylan in 1914 choose the name 'Glycine'?
    Last edited by sempervivens; May 7th, 2014 at 15:06.
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    Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas, praeter ...

  8. #8
    Member Emre's Avatar
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    re: Glycine Heritage: A love story & 100 years of Swiss Watchmaking

    Quote Originally Posted by sempervivens View Post
    One question: why did Meylan in 1914 choose the name 'Glycine'?
    Tough question :) Thanks.

    We don't have documentation why 'La Glycine'. An educated guess would be the wisteria 'La Glycine '. Branding back then might be inspired by sociological trends in the community.

    What we know for sure,recorded is that Meylan was a student at the watchmaking school in 1910 and '11. The early 20th century is considered as 'Jugendstil ' and 'Art Noveau ' period,where people appreciate decorative arts,precious stones even architecture influenced by the nature,floral patterns and colors. Meylan, might have been influenced during his education from this artistic trend which is also coherent with the early Glycine watches,which are decorated with highly precious stones. Different theories exist but I don't want to phrase all without having proofs or correct era documents.
    Last edited by Emre; May 7th, 2014 at 21:08. Reason: typo

  9. #9
    Member radger's Avatar
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    re: Glycine Heritage: A love story & 100 years of Swiss Watchmaking

    Emre, this is excellent research and compilation of knowledge on Glycine watches you have put together.
    I admire your commitment to the accuracy of information very much and that you are so generous in sharing your
    hard won expertise.
    Thank you.
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  10. #10
    Member sempervivens's Avatar
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    re: Glycine Heritage: A love story & 100 years of Swiss Watchmaking

    Quote Originally Posted by Emre View Post
    Tough question :) Thanks.

    We don't have documentation why 'La Glycine'. An educated guess would be the wisteria 'La Glycine '. Branding back then might be inspired by sociological trends in the community.

    What we know for sure,recorded is that Meylan was a student at the watchmaking school in 1910 and '11. The early 20th century is considered as 'Jugendstil ' and 'Art Noveau ' period,where people appreciate decorative arts,precious stones even architecture influenced by the nature,floral patterns and colors. Meylan, might have been influenced during his education from this artistic trend which is also coherent with the early Glycine watches,which are decorated with highly precious stones. Different theories exist but I don't want to phrase all without having proofs or correct era documents.

    Thank you! I suspected it might have something to do with a plant.
    I know this wisteria, but didn't know that it is named "Glycine". So here are some pics:

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    And flowering:

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    Emre likes this.
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