What do you think when you hear Favre-Leuba? Well, some might immediately say 'disgusting', 'terrible', 'nauseating' and visualizing them before your eyes might make you throw up straight away. In short: a typical 'Bombay special'.
No doubt, there are occasionally nice and genuine vintage Favre-Leuba watches coming along, also here in the forum. On the other hand, there is that virtually endless amount of utter trash popping up from the dark side of watch-tinkering, severely spoiling the image of vintage Favre-Leuba watches (unlike the new ones, which has to be mentioned for correctness).
For some upper luxury brands, faking and frankening is rather a sign of quality and the general desire to have such a precious timepiece on the wrist and be it just the name on the dial with a 0-jewels pin lever escapement inside. But the faking, frankening, re-dialing, tinkering around the Favre-Leuba brand (with a few others in the ‘honorable’ league) is so intense, at the same time so low-level, that you might wonder about the causes.
At some stage, I’ve thought that the key ‘F9’ on my keyboard is not associated with anything yet, so I could use it for a text short-cut like 'fake, terrible, Bombay special', when they are timidly shown here for identification, mostly after yet another auction has been 'won'. But then, even the most gullible collector, who would buy straw sold as antique, must get his sincere doubts when finally having a clear view of the 'precious' timepiece after opening the package.
We should also not forget these very special threads with the word 'incoming' in the title, when impatient contemporaries proudly present watches they have paid for, but still in transit. We all know what happens when you tell them there is a Bombay-special about to arrive.
At first, more or less just the dials have been tinkered with, but far below what you would call a bad re-dial. Blurred and badly aligned lettering, looking like the first efforts of a three year old child with a stamping set. You will never forget the colors after having seen them for the first time; greenish-turquois, chili-red, or tawdry light-blue.
But soon, that was all topped when HMT movements went inside these horrifying concoctions. The 're-dialed franken-fakes' were born. Although the HMT movements or not so bad workhorses, they just don’t belong in a Favre-Leuba watch or any other brand usually played around with. Fortunately, those lown mower engines do not fit into some ultra-flat models of Favre Leuba, so you should be save when you find a Favre-Leuba with a twin-barrel movement. Only Favre-Leuba made them. Two mainsprings were needed, as everything was so flat that not enough power was provided by a single mainspring.
But wait, before you make any judgement!
Favre-Leuba is a Swiss brand and one of the oldest in Switzerland, with the cornerstone laid by Abraham Favre in 1737 in Le Locle, the birthplace of the Swiss watchmaking industry and now even a UNESCO world heritage site.
From a single watchmakers with his own shop, the history went on through generations. His son took over and with his own two sons, he founded the company A. Favre & Fils in 1792. A lot of inventions followed, also coping with temperature influencing the precision of watches.
It was in the fourth generation when Henry-Auguste Favre started to cooperate with the watch distributor Auguste Leuba from Buttes. He travelled around the world to seek new customers, from Germany to Russia and via Cuba to New York, up to Brazil and Chile.
In 1855, Fritz Favre, who got married to Adele-Fanny Leuba, continued to follow the international routes and won prestigious prices at exhibitions in London (1851) or the New York Fair (1853).
And then, destiny took over with a trip he might have avoid in the premonition of what was about to come. In 1865 and 1867, he came to India and introduced Favre-Leuba watches as the first one of the Swiss watchmakers. It became a huge success and Favre-Leuba watches soon became something very special on this sub-continent, a watch everyone wanted to have, from the rickshaw-puller to the Maharaja (with realistic chances to own a genuine one more towards the upper end of the line).
The success of Favre-Leuba continued also in Europe with many technical highly interesting timepieces across the board.
When the company was in the eighth generation at the end of the 1960s/beginning of the 1970s, the quartz crises also hit Favre-Leuba and the family sold the company. It changed hands several times thereafter, before the Tata-Group took over in 2011 to continue with the old tradition of high-class watchmaking.
They came back to old glory and this year. In 2017, at Basleworld, they celebrated the 280th year of the Favre-Leuba brand. The Tata-Group did not just buy the brand-name to put in on cheap watches produced elsewhere; they left the company in Switzerland, concentrated on making high-value watches, and guess where the Tata-Group has it’s headquarters? In Mumbai! For the ones who do not immediately recall: Mumbai was called Bombay until 1995. What has caused the name change, I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be totally surprised if that had been done to get out of the limelight what concerns certain practices of local watchmaking.
So, here is a genuine vintage Favre-Leuba, before you forget what they look like.
Although principally shying away from watches with radium contained in the luminous paint on dials and hands (proudly marked here with 'Ra Swiss Made Ra', which was not a warning, but a specially highlighted feature in those days), I had to get it.
Movement Favre-Leuba cal. 253 with the famous 'twin barrel' construction (two mainsprings/barrels coupled together). Year of make earlier 1960s. The crown (new) is unfortunately not original; I hope to find a better replacement.
P.S.: Any other (hopefully) genuine vintage Favre-Leuba watches around to help correcting the somewhat distorted picture?