The forgotten soul and titan

I came across an Hong Kong watch advertisement on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DbsjRuFbv8) and I was drawn to it instantly. One of the reasons of me being attracted to the advert is that it featured two famous Chinese artists, Chow Yun Fat and Jacklyn Wu Chien Lien, who I grew up watching their movies. Another reason is that the advert is classic with the story line perfectly depicts the feeling and meaning of love. It is notable that the catch line ‘不在乎天长地久,只在乎曾经拥有’, which basically means ‘don’t care how long is it, only care the moments had before’, perfectly summed up the advert and subsequently established Solvil et Titus watch brand as the symbol of romance.

Solvil et Titus was dated back to its foundation in 1887 by Paul Bernard Ditisheim (1868-1945), a well respected originator of modern chronometry. The brand was established in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Neuchâtel, Switzerland. “Solvil” refers to the village of Sonvilier on the Swiss side of the Jura Mountains, where a factory produced meticulously crafted watch components; while “Titus” pays tribute to the Roman emperor in the first century AD.

He studied at the Horological School of in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the historic birthplace of watch-making industry, and received his diploma at the age of 13. He was then trained under major watch makers and worked at his family’s Vulcain manufacture until 1892 when he founded his own brands: Solvil (whose items were often signed Paul Ditisheim) and Titus (whose items were generally marked separately).

Ditisheim shot to fame by winning precision trials against other watchmakers, culminating in his crowning achievement of winning the world’s chronometric record at the Royal Kew Observatory in 1912. Ever since, Solvil et Titus has become synonymous with the highest standards in timekeeping precision – from navigational-purposed watches to chronometers with automatic display of sunrise and sunset time to the minute each day; from watches with perpetual calendars to ones that could strike and incorporated chimes, from chronometers with equations of time to timepieces with numerous complications.

In 1930, Ditisheim handed over the Solvil et Titus and Paul Ditisheim brands to a wealthy Swiss entrepreneur and captain of industry Paul Bernard Vogel. Vogel, heir to a prestigious family of industrialist and married to the heiress of the prominent Eberhard family, was also a member of the Swiss watch industry’s elite. Vogel moved the company’s headquarters to Geneva where he started to expand it.

By the 1950s, Vogel, feeling the shift in consumer’s habits, decided to divide its brands into two. On one hand, the company kept producing the luxury watches it was famous for. On the other hand, it started producing lower-cost watches that fitted properly the emerging mass consumption markets.

In the late 1970s, Paul Vogel who inherited the company from his father came back to Europe and decided to sell the Solvil et Titus brand. The European activities became part of Ebel while the Asian activities were sold to Hong Kong entrepreneur Joseph Wong and are now part of Stelux Holdings. The company, now headquartered in Hong Kong, has kept its name and continues its growth as one of Asia’s favourite brands, notably thanks to its famous Time is Love advertising campaigns starring superstars Dave Wang Chieh, Chow Yun Fat and Andy Lau as well as world-renowned footballer Ryan Giggs, [and] that have become classics of Hong Kong’s advertising industry.

The watch here is a Solvil et Titus ladies watch that was featured in the 1992/1993 watch advert starring Chow Yun Fat and Jacklyn Wu Chien Lien. Thus, the watch was dated circa 1992/1993. The watch has a rectangular shape case with the dimension being 23 mm (width) x 36 mm (length) x 8 mm(thickness). It has a fancy lug design that fits the genre of the watch perfectly. The lug size of the watch is annoyingly 15mm but a 16mm strap can fit in nicely. The gold tone design and compact dimension of the watch suit a lady’s wrist perfectly. Another admirable feature of the watch is its curvature watch design that follows the bend of watch straps when the watch is worn on the wrist. This creates a natural ergonomic feel of the watch to the wearer.

The main highlight of the watch is the dial. Overall, the watch design is heavily influenced by Art Deco, an art style that was prominent from 1910s all the way to 1940s. During that period, Art Deco watches of brands such as Hamilton, Bulova, Longines, Elgin and more were produced in large numbers and popular among both men and women. Back to this watch, its dial colour is off-white/creamy white with the sub-second dial has a sunburst finishing, giving the dial an extra depth. Scales resembling railroad track are found at outer ring of the main and sub-second dials. These are useful by making time reading of the watch easy albeit it is a dress watch. The Arabic numerals and leaf style hour and second markers are applied in gold, which complements the watch case colour. The brand name is found on the dial without its logo, in which I think is a good thing that the inclusion of the logo would only make the dial cluttered given that fact that the watch is small in size and a dress watch in nature.

On the other hand, the watch has a small yet nicely-sized onion style crown that is typically found on vintage military and flieger watches. I think this crown style does not violate the design language of the watch. In fact, it adds a nice touch to the simple design of the watch. Together with the watch case, it has a domed and curved acrylic crystal, in which the crystal stays true to the Art Deco and vintage watches.

Moving to the back of the watch, it has a snap back case with the etching of logo, branding, the series name ‘天长地久’, serial and batch numbers are found there. The etched series name suits the watch that it creates a romantic aura within the watch and it is what’s Solvil et Titus is proud of. The watch is quartz-powered and it is likely to contain a Swiss quartz movement due to the printing of ‘Swiss’ term on the bottom of the dial. However, this has not be confirmed as the case back of the watch is not opened for inspection.

In short, one should not overlook or even despise the options that Solvil et Titus brand has to offer just because of the brand itself is based in Hong Kong now. Just like other Swiss watch brands, Solvil et Titus might not be able to reach its heyday it used to have but one can hold onto a piece of its incredible history by owning one of its vintage watches. That being said, the current line up of collections in the brand still inherit some form of the heritage it possesses.

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