St. Imier is a humble municipality in Switzerland but one with great prestige.
Some of the long-standing and biggest Swiss watch brand names were hailed from this village, as it is the hometown of Longines and the birthplace of Breitling. And among them is Excelsior Park.
Excelsior was a proud watch movement company founded by Jules-Frederic Jeanneret in 1866. After a series of changes in ownership and acquisitions, Excelsior Park- Park was added later to appeal to English speaking market - emerged as one of the pioneers of the chronograph, registering its first patent in 1891.
For years, it continued building its legacy by developing its own calibers, producing chronographs for every type of sports, and providing movements for other brands such as Girard Perregaux, Gallet and Zenith, among others.
In 1983, however, Excelsior Park fell victim and eventually succumbed to the deadly quartz crisis. A few watch companies tried to resuscitate the brand but to no avail. It would be long until someone would take the reins and bring forth Excelsior Park’s excellent reputation to the forefront once again.
A few years ago, Excelsior Park was deemed obsolete and is only known to extreme watch enthusiasts. Undervalued, until it resurfaces and is now one of the most coveted vintage collectible.
In 2020 inspired by its glorious history, Korius - our company - secured the trademark for Excelsior Park and is now on a mission to bring back the brand to its glory days.
With modern technology and innovation, we aim to present timepieces that do not only remind you of its heyday, but to let you see Excelsior Park in a brighter brand new light, on your wrist.
The History of Excelsior Park
Created in 1866, Excelsior Park was a major watch company and among the pioneers in the field of stopwatches and chronographs. Although there was a confusion about the origin of the brand - as there were two companies, of similar names, Jules-Fred. Jeanneret and Jeanneret and Fils - who asserted the same creation and specialization of the chronographs, it was Jules-Frederic Jeanneret who first set up the business and brought the watch into existence.
Jules-Fred. Jeanneret had his factory in rue de Tramelan. In 1890, it produced anchor watches of 18 to 20 lines and chronographs of 19 lines, with or without a minute counter. The trademark "Pigeon" was registered and the company was awarded a silver medal at the Universal Exhibition in Antwerp in 1885.
In 1888, Jeanneret's son Albert took over the business. When Jules-Fred. Jeanneret died at the beginning of the year 1890, his wife took over the company which then took the name of Vve de Jules-Fred. Jeanneret, directed by Samuel Jeanneret in 1981, while Albert founded Albert Jeanneret & Frères. Antimagnetic chronographs and chronographs with split-seconds or "visible" mechanisms have appeared on the market.
In 1891 they filed the Swiss patent, No. 359 which was filed on March 18, 1889. It was invented in collaboration with Alfred Lugrin of L'Orient de l'Orbe, who founded one of the most important manufacturers. Swiss movements nowadays, Lemania.
A few years later, in 1893, Albert Jeanneret's sons - Henri and Constant - took over the activity and in 1900 the 13-line chronograph, considered the first step towards the wrist chronograph, was produced. In 1901, the brothers separated. Constant bought the chronograph specialist Leonidas while Henri continued to run the company, renaming it Jeanneret-Brehm & Cie.
At the same time, the other company, Jeanneret et Fils, had created the Usine du Parc. In 1890 the company was called Alb. Jeanneret et Frères and produces anchor watches from 13 to 24 lines, calendar watches and chronographs under the Colombe and Diana brands. The company also claimed a silver medal in Antwerp in 1885.
In 1894, Jeanneret Frères produced chronographs under the Colombe brand and simple watches under the Diana and Cervin brands. A sports chronometer, patented March 21, 1891 by Alb. Jeanneret et Frères, is called "Excelsior". It shows a movement side J-shaped bridge which will become a trademark of Excelsior Park.
In 1902, the company became Jeanneret-Brehm, Usine du Parc, and produced its first 13-line chronographs. To complete the range of watches, the H. Magnenat-Lecoultre factory in the Vallée de Joux was bought in 1911. This factory specializes in repeater watches, with or without chronographs. The company then took the name Jeanneret-Brehm and Co and marketed its chronometers under the Excelsior brand, its chronographs under the Colombe brand and its repeats under the Risoud brand. In 1915 the Excelsior brand was also used for repeater watches and in 1918 the company became Les Fils de Jeanneret-Brehm, Excelsior Park.
Thus, the name Excelsior was first used for chronographs, with the word “Park” added later to attract the English-speaking market. And around the year 1918, the Jeanneret-Brehm and Co became Excelsior Park. In the early 1920s, Excelsior Park focused exclusively on chronometers and chronographs under the leadership of Messrs R. - H and ED. Jeanneret. One of them is a graduate of the Technicum of La Chaux-de-Fonds and sportsman specializing in timed races. With his horological innovations, he is often invited to events as an official timekeeper and is asked to build devices that do not break down and can be used anywhere. In the same year, in 1921, a patent was filed which involved a bolt placed in the middle, independent of the pusher start timing and allowing the hand to stop.
In 1922, Excelsior Park had a wide range of 32 different chronometers: tachometers, pulsometers, split-seconds, anchor or Roskopf, for football, rugby, water polo, hockey, with ringtone for boxing, others for control with a rotating bezel, which was a first at the time, the Taylor counter for production calculations, or the Electro-pointer built in collaboration with Mr Chaponnière, official timekeeper of the Car-Club of Swiss.
In 1928, Excelsior Park claimed to be one of the most important Swiss sports chronometer manufacturers. The range has grown even further with stopwatches for canoeing, motorsport, decimal stopwatches, others measuring the hundredth of a second with the needle making one revolution in one second. A year later, they launched a series of new chronograph movements, from 18 to 22 lines.
The great era of chronographs for athletes began in the 1930s and the company was so successful with this range that it began to develop its own calibers. Thus, in 1938, the 12/13 line chronograph caliber intended for wristwatches was born. A beautiful movement which, with its alternatives, will be manufactured for nearly 40 years.
The movement was originally called 12/13, but was later renamed caliber 42. Initially there were 1 or 2 pushers and 30 or 45 minute counters. Excelsior Park presented it in an elegant little chronograph which has an additional feature where part of the scale counter has been placed on the inclined part of the bezel, under the glass in order to make it easier to read the dial on the small chronograph, This patented invention allows a subsequent transformation of a telemetric chronograph, for example into a tachometer or pulsometer, simply by changing the scale counter.
The successes and numerous accolades acquired by Excelsior Park did not only testify to the prestige of the brand as its self-produced calibers were not only used in EP. They also supplied chronograph movements for other companies such as Gallet, Zenith and Girard-Perregaux.
The Gallet brand, which was one of the most prominent users of the Excelsior Park caliber 42 movement, was founded by Julien Gallet. Originally from Geneva, he moved to La Chaux-de-Fonds in the 1820s. Gallet very early on made wrist chronographs bearing the Electa brand, directed by his son Léon. Amanda, Leon's sister, married Jules Racine who had settled in New York where she represented the Gallet brand. Gallet & Co. will not be able to recover from the difficulties of the First World War and will be liquidated in 1928, but not the American branch which remained active throughout the 20th century.
In the 1930s Zenith was one of the largest watch manufacturers in Switzerland. It has developed a wide range of pocket and wrist watches with traditional shapes and ingenious technicalities. Awarded for its series of six best pocket and boat chronometers. At the Neuchâtel Observatory competition in 1935, the Zenith exhibition included a choice of traveling clocks and alarm clocks, electric clocks, as well as a magnificent series of "Neuchâtel" clocks. But among all these models, no chronograph. At that time, Zenith turned to Excelsior Park and in 1938 launched its first wrist chronographs, equipped with the EP 42 caliber. For nearly 30 years Zenith remained faithful to the Excelsior Park chronograph calibers.
On the other hand, Girard-Perregaux was taken over by Mimo in 1930. Mimo did not have a chronograph caliber, if we exclude the Stop-in-flight caliber from the Mimolympic model of 1936. This is probably to remain independent of Ebauches SA that the Excelsior Park caliber was selected for the chronographs signed Girard-Perregaux.
Excelsior Park launched a surprising chronograph in 1945, based on caliber 4 but with an orientation hand. This chronograph showed a double pusher for another piece of arrow shaped hand which carries a 24 hour turn on the dial. This device, the patent for which was filed by the manufacturer in 1943, allowed adjustment to the hour "to the second", such as the signal of a radio signal. When the movement was equipped with an anti-shock system a few years later, it authorized Excelsior Park to recommend this watch to military paratroopers. This chronograph was also marketed by Gallet and Zenith who called it, the Sextant.
Excelsior Park continued to manufacture chronographs and chronometers until the 1970s, still headed by a descendant of the founders. EP continued to introduce new ranges with interesting models which included a circa 1964 Yachting model with a reverse minute counter for starting regattas, a diver's model with a rotating bezel soon after, and most importantly the Excel-O-Graph, chronograph supplied with a Bidirectional bezel and slide rule.
However, Excelsior Park did not withstand the terrible quartz crisis of the 1970s. And between 1983 and 1984, the company finally succumbed and disappeared.
A German supplier of watchmaking tools, the company Fume, attempted to resurrect the brand and acquired the naming rights in 1986. They manufactured a small series of chronographs bearing the name Excelsior Park. In particular, the Monte Carlo model equipped with the rare Valjoux 7740 caliber, a manual version of the chronomatic, an automatic chronograph movement developed by Buren and Dubois-Dépraz and launched in 1969 by Hamilton, Heuer and Breitling. Unfortunately, it didn't last long ...
In 2020 after an American interlude, the brand returned to Korius' hands and with such a prestigious past, it was only a matter of time for someone to resurrect Excelsior Park to restore it to all the glory it deserves.