Wittnauer Watches History
Albert Wittnauer was a Swiss immigrant who arrived in New York City in 1872 at the age of 16. He began working for his brother in law, Eugene Robert. A sales outlet had already been established in New York in 1858 by M. P S Broz, who was succeeded by Audemars & Schaffuss, then by F. Eugène Robert & Co. Robert was an importer of fine Swiss watches. With the help of his younger brother, Albert Wittnauer decided there was a need for a watch designed with all of the durability and function the American public demanded but with local production to help keep costs down.
The first Wittnauer's watch line were crafted starting from 1880, but Wittnauer brand was formally established in 1885, when Mr. Robert gave the title to Albert Wittnauer under the name The "A. Wittnauer Company". Wittnauer movements were at the beginning generally made for them by Swiss firms (Revue Thommen and others), while in later years Wittnauer used a number of different sources for their movements. The company began as a small family business, catering to the ever growing world of both scientific and private exploration, which gained them a reputation for use by those who needed reliability: navigators, explorers, and astronomers.
The A. Wittnauer Co. became further involved with the Navy for early tests in the budding fields of aviation and navigation. Of the Wittnauer Company and products, horologist Marvin E. Whitney wrote: "No one company has been more involved in the design and production of so many different types of navigational timepieces and been involved in so many history making expeditions...".
In following years, Wittnauer Co. steadily grew and moved to New York center. During the 20th century it also bought a production plant in Puerto Rico. When the last Wittnauer brother died in 1916, Martha Wittnauer became the first woman watchmaker CEO, and of the first woman ever.
During first world war Wittnauer produced instruments and watches for the early aviation units. The most famous model was probably the Wittnauer AllProof, produced for the first time in 1918, and one of the first all proof model ever, used by daredevill Jimmie Mattern in his attempt to fly around the world e by Neil Armstrong during the Gemini 8 mission. In 1926, the NBC selected Wittnauer Company to provide the official timing for its radio broadcasting.
In 1926 Amelia Earhart made the first solo flew across the Atlantic with her Lockheed Vega-5B equipped with Wittnauer instruments. Wittnauer products were widely used in scientific expeditions and exploration, and was - with Longines movements - one of three contenders for the first mission on the moon as long with Omega Speedmaster and Rolex Daytona.
In 1950 the Swiss company Longines bought Wittnauer and marketed some very similar lines of watches under both brand names, maintaining separate factories. In 1995 Swatch broke the 125-year collaboration between Longines and Wittnauer and took over the Longines distribution. The Wittnauer Company retained its reputation for most of the 20th century. After some budget problems, it was eventually bought by Bulova for 11.6 million dollars.