Geographical proximity is only one of the reasons why there has always been a great deal of exchange between the watch industries in Italy and Switzerland. The two cultures historically displayed deep care for innovations in design and craftsmanship. In modern days it is more common to see Italian watch makers transfer their manufacturing to Switzerland (Anonimo Firenze, Bulgari and Carlo Ferrara, to name a few), there is one prominent brand that started as a Swiss company in the later 1800s and after closely cooperating with Italian businesses was eventually purchased by an Italian family: Eberhard & Co.
The story of this watch making outfit began in 1887 when a 22-year-old entrepreneur Georges-Lucien Eberhard started his business in La Chaux-de-Fonds (north western Switzerland). The company specialized in pocket watches early on, but in 1919 Eberhard & Co. released their first wrist-worn chronograph, the device that was becoming hugely popular in the aftermath of Word War I. (Eberhard’s sons, Georges and Maurice took over the company that same year.) The firm’s watches often featured innovations in time-setting and protection from the elements. Many models introduced modern ways of showing and measuring time (such as hours counters, split-second functions). During World War II, Eberhard watches were worn by Italian naval officers thus gaining a strong foothold in the not so easy to navigate Italian chronograph market. Another important relationship was formed by Eberhard with Tazio Nuvolari (1892 – 1953). Known as Montovano Volante (the Flying Mantuan), this famous car racer earned the honor to have a line of the company’s watches named after him. As the fascination of the Italian watch buyers by Eberhard products grew it became fitting that Palmiro Monti bought the company from the founder’s family in 1969.