When we think of some of the most famous watch brands in the world, Rolex, Omega, Zenith, Seiko and yes, even Hublot, we rarely think about how they arrived at their world-renowned brand names. Yet there’s usually an interesting story behind each one.
Here then is a potted guide to how famous watch brands got their names – suitable to introduce at Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner parties when there’s an awkward lull in the conversation, but perhaps not when you are trying to impress that gorgeous blonde/brunette/redhead who just walked in and took a seat at the bar. Let us begin.
Beloved by many around the world for their digital watches, including of course the 1001 incarnations of the bestselling Casio G-Shock, Casio was an adaptation of the founder’s name, Tadao Kashio, whose first product was the yubiwa pipe. Founded just after the war in 1946, everyone smoked cigarettes, and the yubiwa pipe, a ring you could slip on your finger, enabled you to inhale the cigarette right down to the stub without staining your fingers. Kashio’s younger brother Toshio developed the world’s first all-electric compact calculator in 1957, based on relay technology. Had he been the elder brother we may well know Casio today as Toshio. Casio
Hublot has enjoyed meteoric growth in the watch world due largely to the Jean-Claude Biver effect. Back in 1980, many years before JCB got involved, Italian founder Carlo Crocco named his fledgling brand Hublot, meaning porthole in French. Hublot employed the first natural rubber strap in the history of watchmaking, but when Carlo took the concept to Baselworld in 1980, not a single order was placed on the first day of trading. However Hublot’s ship soon came in, and it managed to rake in $2m in its first year of trading. Today, like it or not, the brand is arguably as recognizable as Rolex to the younger generation. Hublot
Although founded by August Agassiz in 1832, it wasn’t until 1866 that the company purchased two plots of land known as Les Longines, (the long meadows) on the right bank of the River Suze and decided to rename the company. Longines went on to create their very first in-house movement the following year. 1867 also saw the introduction of their famous Winged Hourglass symbol both as a mark of quality and as a defense against counterfeiting. Longines
The choice of lunar astronauts and James Bond, the company was founded in 1848 under the less than inspiring name of La Generale Watch Co by Louis Brandt. The name ‘Omega’ was introduced many years later by Louis’ two sons Louis-Paul and César. They developed a revolutionary in-house manufacturing incorporating a total production control system that allowed component parts to be interchangeable. Watches developed with these techniques were marketed under the Omega brand, and the Omega Watch Company was officially founded in 1903. OMEGA
Oris was founded in 1904 by Paul Cattin and Georges Christian in the Swiss town of Hölstein. They purchased the recently closed Lohner & Co watch factory, and on June 1 of that year the two men entered into a contract with the local mayor. Searching for a suitable name, they eventually settled upon Oris, named after a nearby brook that was viewable through the watch factory window. Oris
There has probably been more debate as to how Rolex arrived at its name than any other watch brand in history. It is after all, the most recognizable watch brand of them all. The company was formed in England in 1905 under the much more predictable name of Wilsdorf and Davis, after all it was founded by Hans Wilsdorf and his brother in law Alfred James Davis. In Hans Wilsdorf’s own words, here is how the name Rolex evolved:
“I tried combining the letters of the alphabet in every possible way. This gave some hundred names, but none of them felt quite right. It was one morning, when I was sitting on the upper level of a double-decker powered at that time by horses, driving along Cheapside in London, that a good genie whispered in my ear: “Rolex.” A few days after this fruitful journey, the Rolex brand was filed, and then officially registered in Switzerland by Wilsdorf & Davis.”
So there you have it, perhaps it came straight from the omnibus horse’s mouth. Rolex
Seiko has enjoyed phenomenal success over the past 45 years, stealing a huge lead over the Swiss watch industry and nearly causing its downfall with the introduction of the Seiko Astron quartz watch on Christmas Day 1969. Success is in-built right into the company name. Seiko in Japanese can be translated as ‘exquisite’ or ‘success’. Seiko
By coincidence TAG in German means day, while Heuer was the name of the founder Edouard Heuer. However, in this instance the use of the word TAG is an acronym for ‘Techniques d’Avant Garde’. The brand was founded in 1860, and today is masterminded by Jean-Claude Biver, who has deliberately refocused the brand to offer more mid-priced watches for the mainstream buyer. Despite much criticism for this move by dedicated watch lovers, as far as awareness by the general public goes, TAG Heuer is one of the most recognizable names in Swiss watches next to Rolex and Hublot. TAG Heuer
Although founded in 1865 by 22-year old George Favre-Jacot, it was not until 1911 that the Zenith founder, seeking a memorable Rolex style one word brand name, gazed out at the night sky and declared, ‘I shall call my brand Zenith.’ It refers to the highest point reached by a heavenly body in the sky and thereby symbolizes the heights of excellence to which the brand with the guiding star has been aspiring ever since. Zenith