Gallet, the famed manufacturer of fine military and professional timepieces commands an unmatched traditional expertise of 500 years as a leader of innovations in watch making industry.
Gallet is considered as the world’s oldest watch and clock making house and since its foundation in 1466, the Gallet watch making dynasty continued to produce innovative and high end professional timepieces which became the favorite timing instruments for Governments & military organizations and professionals that required more from a watch than simply telling time of day.
With the exception of a few 20’th century military contracts, Gallet timepieces were rarely mass – issued to service men and industry employees due to their higher cost. Instead, Gallet’s highly developed timing instruments were commissioned for specific applications when lesser watches couldn’t meet the requirements.
Origins of Gallet watch company
Origins of the Gallet watch company can be traced back to 1466, when a clock maker named Humbertus Gallet, became the citizen of Geneva. In 1685, Due to the abolishment by French King Louis XIV of the tolerance agreement of Nantes, additional members of the Bourg en-Bresse Gallet family, whose professions are documented as goldsmiths and watchmakers, joined their relatives in Geneva to live and practice their trade.
In 1702, Philippe Gallet ((1679–1739), son of Jacques Gallet (1649–1700) and Marie Bouvier Gallet, was included in the Geneva Registry of Jewelers and Watchmakers. In 1742, Pierre Gallet (1712–1768) married noblewoman named Jeanne Renée de Rabours.
The marriage contract records show Pierre Gallet’s profession as a master goldsmith. This document also lists the occupation of Pierre’s father, Philippe Gallet (1679–1739), as goldsmith and watchmaker. Jacques Gallet (1745–1806) , son of Pierre Gallet & Jeanne Renée de Rabours also followed the family tradition and became a watchmaker & jeweler.
1800 – 1900
Jean-Louis Gallet (1774–1809), the son of Jacques Gallet (1745–1806) , became a French citizen when Napoleon annexed Geneva in 1804. He managed his father’s jewelry and watch making company until his premature death in 1809 at age of 35.
In 1826 , Julien Gallet (1806–1849), the son of Jean Louis, relocated the family watch making business to La Chaux-de-Fonds, a major center for pocket watch production. At this time, the company was officially registered as Gallet & Cie. In 1848, after the death of Julien Gallet at the age of 43, his widow Louise, and sons Leon & Lucien took the charge of the company.
Under the control of Léon Gallet (1832–1899) , the company achieved a rapid growth. In 1855 he expanded the business by acquiring Grumbach & Co., a company used to produce watches with the brand name Electa.
Gallet & Cie. is renamed Electa Gallet & Cie. and produced watches under both the Gallet and Electa brand names. In 1864, Léon Gallet’s brother Lucien Gallet established the company’s first US location in Chicago, with a New York City office following soon after. Together with Jules Racine, a cousin of the Gallet brothers living in the US, the company expanded its distribution to the American market.
In 1876 , In response to competition for sales of timepieces in Europe by large American watch manufacturers, Léon Gallet, together with Louis and Jules Courvoisier, Ernest Francillon of Longines, and Constant Girard-Gallet of Girard-Perregaux, established the “Intercantonal Company for Industrial Development of the Jura Industries”.
Benefiting from the unified strength of combined Swiss manufacturing resources, the group was able to maintain its sales dominance in Europe. Marketing for the syndicate was primarily European based with an emphasis on sales to England.
In 1880 , Émile Courvoisier (1858–1937), son of Louis Courvoisier (1825–1885), married Henriette Gallet (1860–1939), daughter of Léon Gallet, and the working relationship between these two important La Chaux-de-Fonds watch manufacturers became familial.
In 1881, Léon L. Gallet commissioned and trademarked the Gallet Lyre Mark. The Lyre Mark was stamped on watch cases and movements manufactured in the La Chaux-de-Fonds workshop. In 1882, a strategic partnership was formed with Jules Jeanneret & Fils, to supply mechanisms for Gallet’s professional use line of hand-held timers and pocket chronographs.
In 1883, Léon handed over the management of Gallet company to his older son Julien (1862–1934), but continued to remain involved in business until his 1899 death in New York. The JG initials were added to the Gallet Lyre Mark and the company name was temporarily changed to Julien Gallet & Cie to reflect the older son’s control of the business.
Georges Gallet (1865–1946), Léon’s younger son, assisted his brother with the management of the company while working part-time at Courvoisier & Frères. By this time, the Gallet Company was producing more than 100,000 watches annually.
In 1893, Georges Gallet, son of Léon married Berthe Courvoisier (1868–1936), daughter of Louis Philippe Courvoisier. Berthe Courvoisier and her brother Émile, together with Georges Gallet and his sister Henriette, continued to manage the Courvoisier Frères watch company. Georges Gallet assumed the role as co-director of the company.
Introduction of first wrist-worn watches in USA by Gallet (1895)
In 1895 , Gallet introduced the first wrist-worn watches for mass consumption by men and women to the American market. However, these first “wristwatches” were immediately rejected due to public perception as being too unusual for women and too feminine for men.
All unsold examples were soon returned to Switzerland for dis-assembly. In spite of initial resistance to this groundbreaking innovation, wristwatches were issued during WWI as a more useful way for soldiers to tell time in combat situations. As a result, this new concept gained acceptance and the other watch companies also started marketing wrist watches.
Rail – road pocket watches under Interocean brand name (1896)
In 1896, rail road pocket watches with chronometer grade movements with patented regulators were created by Gallet under the Interocean brand name and distributed by Timothy Eaton (T. Eaton Department Store) for railway use. In the same year Gallet also won a silver medal at the Swiss National Exhibition in Geneva.
Establishment of Musée international d’horlogerie (1899)
In 1899, upon his death, Léon Gallet bequeathed a sum of 43,000 Swiss Francs to the town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, of which 25,000 Swiss Francs was used for the construction of the Musée international d’horlogerie (International Museum of Watch Making).
To assist the museum in building its initial collection of timepieces, Georges Gallet donated over 100 highly complex and valuable Gallet, Electa, and Courvoisier watches. Georges Gallet served as director of the museum for the next twenty years and the company name was changed back to Gallet & Cie.
In 1905, Gallet won a Diploma of Honor at the Liege Exhibition. In 1906, the company name “Gallet & Cie, Fabrique d’horlogerie Electa” was registered to reinforce Gallet’s ownership and control of the Electa brand. Under the Electa name, Gallet continued to produce its highest quality timepieces.
In 1911, Henri Jeanneret-Brehm, a member of the esteemed Jeanneret family of St. Imier watchmakers, purchased the Magnenat-Lecoultre factory with financial assistance from the Gallet company.
First Sweep seconds wrist watch by Gallet(1912)
In 1912 , Gallet created the first wristwatch for mass distribution to include a full-sized constant seconds hand originating from the center of the dial (face). This innovation proved useful for timing tasks that emphasized seconds over minutes and hours, including the measuring of the human heart rate. Gallet’s new “sweep second” wristwatches were issued to military nurses and medics during World War I.
The world’s first wrist chronograph featuring a “waterproof” case(1914)
In 1914 , Gallet supplied wrist-worn timers to the British armed forces during World War I. This early chronograph wristwatch was an obvious transitional timepiece.
The MultiChron 30, a high quality timer with 2 subsidiary registers and 30 minute recording capability, was the world’s 1st true wrist-worn chronograph. The 30 also holds the distinction as the world’s first wrist chronograph to be housed in a “waterproof” case. Engineered in 1936 by Gallet watchmaker, Philippe Weiss, the unique 2-part compression case for the model 30 was designed to protect the delicate inner mechanism from the adverse conditions found on the field of battle.
The MultiChron initially utilized Valjoux 13 ligne movements, followed by the Venus calibre 150 for later series. When Gallet began production of their own Excelsior Park chronograph movements with 45 minute recording capabilities, the model 30 was replaced by the MultiChron 45.
|MultiChron 30 (1st series for Royal Air Force), manual winding chronograph, 35mm diameter sterling silver case.|
While technically refined and reduced in size from a traditional hand-held timer, it still retains the three-piece case, porcelain enamel dial, and center button crown of its larger predecessor. In the same year ,Gallet won the Grand Prize in the Chronometer category at the Swiss National Exhibition in Berne.
Hand held & Cockpit mounted timers under Electa brand name (1915)
In 1915 , Gallet started the supply of hand held and cockpit mounted timers to the British Air Force during WW I. Movements were produced in Gallet’s Electa workshop and marked with the Electa name.In 1917, Gallet won the 1st place award for chronometer accuracy at the Canton Observatory in Neuchâtel.
Setting up of Excelsior Park Manufacture (1918)
In 1918 , Jeanneret-Brehm started manufacturing under the company name Excelsior Park. Deriving the name from Jenneret-Brehm’s previously registered “Excelsior” trademark, the English variation of the French word for “park” was utilized at the prompting of Gallet to support the collaborative efforts of the two companies in their marketing focus on the American consumer.
The cooperative relationship of Excelsior Park and Gallet lead to the development of a number of time recording mechanisms, including the calibre 40.
These new chronograph movements were utilized almost exclusively in Gallet and Excelsior Park wristwatches, with a small number supplied to the Girard Perregaux and Zenith companies when production capabilities allowed.
Brothers Decimal Timer (1921, custom manufactured by Gallet in
Switzerland for the American Dodge Brothers Company before Dodge became a
division of Chrysler Motors.
In 1927 , Gallet introduced the “Regulator” and “Duo Dial” wristwatches for the medical and technical professions. The large-sized lower subsidiary seconds dial of the rectangular Duo-Dial and the predominant resetting sweep-second hand of the Regulator simplify the task of calculating a person’s per-minute heart rate.
Great Depression and World War II
Gallet survived the Great Depression of 1930’s with out much damage and continued to supply professional use “tool watches” to its military and industrial clients. In 1935, as World War II becomes imminent, Gallet began production of wristwatches, boat clocks with 8-day movements, and military stopwatches for Great Britain, Canada, and the U.S.A. At the start of World War II, production again surpassed 100,000 watches annually.
Timer (1936), custom manufactured by Gallet for the US Geological
Survey, used for measuring durations of seismic activity and other
In 1936 , Gallet introduced the first water resistant cases for protecting the delicate mechanism of chronograph wristwatches from the damaging effects of humidity. This new innovation became standard on many models in Gallet’s “MultiChron” line of professional use timepieces, as well as the Flight Officer military issue pilot’s watch.
Introduction of Flight Officer chronograph(1938)
In 1938 , Commissioned by Senator Harry S Truman staff for the pilots of the U.S. Army Air Forces, Gallet created the Flight Officer chronograph.
This wristwatch provided a combination of new innovations. Besides the ability to accurately record events ranging from 1/5th second to 30 minutes in duration, the rotating 12-hour bezel and dial (face) printed with the major cities gives pilots the ability to calculate changes in the time as lines of longitude are crossed. Truman was used to wear a Gallet Flying Officer during his two terms as US president.
Flying Officer Chronograph (1939),Commissioned by Harry S Trumans’s
senatorial staff for issue to pilots of the US Army Air Force.
Multichron Petite (1939) : Breaking the Gender Barrier
In 1939 , Gallet produced the Multichron Petite. The Petite was one of the first wrist chronographs engineered exclusively for enlisted women assigned to technical and scientific tasks during WWII. Powered by the 10 ligne Valjoux 69 movement, and measuring only 26.6mm in diameter, the MultiChron Petite became the smallest mechanical chronograph manufactured to date.
Due to the general perception and resistance to “women doing men’s jobs”, the MultiChron Petite remained as an extremely scarce wristwatch, as very few examples were ever produced, rendering these extraordinary timepieces highly valued as rare and important items by today’s collectors.
MultiChron Pilot Petite(1942), miniature chronograph designed
exclusively for aviation, artillery timing, etc. Calibre:Valjoux 69, case
:28mm, stainless steel ,functions:30 min. recording, round pushers,
telemer & tachometer scales.
In 1946 , With the end of World War II, and after the death of his father Georges, Léon Gallet assumed management of the Gallet Company.
After the war, Gallet’s renewed worldwide popularity with civilians and professionals in the fields of aviation, sports, medicine, and technology eliminated the necessity to manufacture numerous secondary brands. With the exception of the few brand names that the company retained for its sports and industrial stopwatch lines, most of Gallet’s previously held trademarks went back into circulation.
Gallet Excel-O-Graph (1965)
In 1965 Gallet introduced the Excel-O-Graph. This pilot’s wristwatch featured a rotating bezel with integrated slide rule for making navigational calculations during flight.
Excel-O-Graph Chronograph (1965), professional pilot’s wristwatch with
rotating slide rule bezel and outer dial ring for navigational
calculations, in-house Excelsior Park calibre 40-68 movement
By continuing to build mechanical timepieces for a clientele not influenced by changing fads and convention, Gallet survived the Quartz revolution of 1970’s. In 1975 the death of Léon Gallet, sons Pierre and Bernard assumed management of the company and acquire the Racine Company. In 1983 , Excelsior Park closed its factory on 6 April due to the lack of family successors and a sizable decrease in orders of mechanical movements from its Gallet partner during the difficult “quartz crisis”.
To continue to support owners of Excelsior Park powered watches, Gallet acquired the balance of the company’s remaining inventory and assets. An attempt in 1984 by the Flume Company of Germany to revitalize Excelsior Park name proved unsuccessful.
Marathon Watch brand
In 1984 , Wein Brothers, a Canadian distributor of timing instruments, contracted with the Gallet Company to manufacture rugged wristwatches for distribution to the US Government. To facilitate the initial transactions, the watch dials (faces) of these military specification watches were marked Marathon, a previously held Gallet trademark (reg. 19 Oct 1915). Today Wein Brothers distributes military timepieces and related products under the Marathon brand .
In 1990, Gallet supplied 30,000 “Navigator” wristwatches to the Marathon Company for distribution to the U.S. military. Prior to Marathon’s fulfillment of the contract, prototypes were arduously tested by the US Government to withstand the most adverse of circumstances. All examples exceeded the military’s strict requirements for sustaining accuracy and functionality during combat conditions.
1991 to 2000
In 1991, Pierre Gallet retired from the company due to ill health. His brother Bernard assumes control of the company, which continued to focus on the manufacture of professional-use timepieces. In 1996 ,to facilitate expansion, Bernard Gallet entered into a partnership with B. Neresheimer Ltd., a company with over a hundred years experience in the manufacture and distribution of fine silver wares and high-end luxury goods.
Relocation of Gallet factory (2002)
In 2002 , Gallet relocated its factory from La Chaux-de-Fonds to Grandson, a canton of Vaud approximately one hour from Geneva. Walter Hediger, a member of the Neresheimer family, takes the reins of Gallet as its CEO. In 2004 ,the company activity concentrated near Zurich. Bernard Gallet remained active with the company until his death in 2006.
Association with National Watch and Clock Museum (2008 –
America’s National Watch and Clock Museum is the western hemisphere’s largest museum devoted to timepieces and timekeeping. In 2008 , Gallet & Co co-sponsored “Time in Office” at the National Watch and Clock Museum, an exhibition of timepieces worn by America’s presidents extending back to the pocket watches of George Washington.
One of the featured items in the exhibit was the Gallet Flight Officer chronograph worn by Harry S Truman during his years in office as the 33rd president of the US. In 2009, Gallet & Co co-sponsored “Time & Exploration” at the National Watch and Clock Museum, an exhibit highlighting the importance of time and timekeeping in the fields of exploration and navigation.
Modern Gallet timepieces
- Museum Edition Flight Officer Chronograph (2010)
- The 75th Anniversary Edition Flight Officer & The Truman Edition Flight Officer (2014): In 2014, Gallet celebrated the 75th anniversary of its legendary Flight Officer wristwatch and to mark this occasion, the brand launched two limited edition timepieces.
- Gallet Racing Heritage Chronograph (2018): Launched in 2018, this timepiece celebrates Gallet’s 100th Anniversary of providing the world’s first “wrist-worn” chronograph to auto racing.
Gallet’s professional timekeeping innovations
- The first wristwatch with a center-originating sweep second hand for heart rate calculation (1912).
- The first wrist chronograph with a waterproof case (Gallet MultiChron, 1936).
- The first chronograph wristwatch with multiple time zone calculator (Gallet Flight Officer, 1938).
- The first miniature chronograph wristwatch for professional women (Gallet MultiChron Petite, 1939).
- The first chronograph wristwatch with additional 24 hour GMT hand (Gallet MultiChron Navigator GMT, 1945).
- The first 24 hour reading wrist chronograph (Gallet MultiChron 24, 1947).
Important wrist watches made by Gallet
- Gallet MultiChron 30 (1914): The world’s first wrist chronograph to be housed in a “waterproof” case.
- Gallet MultiChron Regulator Chronograph (1929): Used by drivers and pit bosses during the early years of the Indianapolis 500 Speedway.
- Gallet MultiChron 12(1938): Manual wind chronograph introduced in 1938.
- Gallet Flying Officer Chronograph (1939) : Commissioned by Harry S Trumans’s senatorial staff for issue to pilots of the US Army and Air Force.
- Gallet MultiChron Petite (1939) : Miniature chronograph designed exclusively for professional and enlisted women, measures only 26.3mm in diameter.
- Gallet MultiChron Officer Chronograph (1941) : High quality square timer for woman professionals and as a dress chronograph for gentlemen and military officers.
- Gallet MultiChron Commander Chronograph (1941): Mid size 45 minute recording chronograph for men and women professionals with unique in-house manufactured oval movement.
- Gallet MultiChron Navigator(1943): Upon its release in 1943, The Gallet MultiChron Navigator was one of the most advanced and complex multi-function “tool watches” ever created for professional use.
- Gallet MultiChron Medigraph(1943): Doctor’s manual wind chronograph designed for medical applications.Functions: 45 min. recording, pulsations track for heart rate calculation.
- Gallet MultiChron Navigator GMT Chronograph (1945): World’s 1st wrist chronograph with 45 minute recording capability and separate north pointing 24 hour GMT hand.
- Gallet MultiChron Calendar (1945): Professional 12 hour recording chronograph with automatic day, date, and month change functions.
- Gallet MultiChron Rattrapante Chronograph (1948): Sports and racing wrist watch with ability to simultaneously record 2 separate events.
- Gallet MultiChron Yachting Chronograph (1955): A Special chronograph with regatta countdown feature, powered by an in-house manufactured Excelsior Park movement.
- Gallet MultiChron Astronomic Chronograph (1959): Highly complex chronograph with 12 hour recording capabilities, accurate automatic day, date, month, and moon phase features.
- Gallet MultiChron 45 Chronograph (1960) : Used by drivers and pit bosses at the Indianapolis 500 Speedway.
- Gallet Excel-O-Graph Chronograph (1965) : Professional pilot’s wristwatch with rotating slide rule bezel and outer dial ring for navigational calculations, in-house Excelsior Park calibre 40-68 movement.
- Gallet MultiChron Diver (1967): Professional scuba diver’s chronograph with rotating 60 minute bezel, water resistant to 300 meters (1000 feet).
- Gallet Flying Officer Chronograph (1970) : Special version for pilots of the Swiss Air Force, rotating 12 hour bezel and 24 cities dial for time zone calculation, Swiss military markings on reverse.
- Gallet MultiChron Pilot Chronograph (1975) :12 hour recording chronograph with rotating 12 hour bezel for time zone calculations, dial indications for determining miles-per-hour.
- Marathon Navigator or Adanac (1990) : Specially created by commission for the US Government, issued to pilots of the United States Air Force.
Historical Pocket watches by Gallet
- Webb C. Ball loaner (1910): Manufactured by Gallet in Switzerland, provided to American rail road conductors and engineers while their primary watches received routine servicing by Ball.
- US Navy Pocket Chronograph (1914) : High quality timer manufactured by Gallet under the Jerome Park name for the United States Navy during World War One.
- Pilot’s or Cockpit Timer (1914): Watch with timer manufactured by Gallet Electa for the British military during World War One. British Ministry of Defense “Broad Arrow” markings on reverse.
- Artillery & Task Timer (1915) : 30 minute timer manufactured by Gallet for the British military during World War One. British Ministry of Defense “Broad Arrow” markings on reverse.
- NYCRR Pocket Chronograph (1916): Pocket watch with timer manufactured by Gallet for rail road conductors and engineers of the New York Central Rail Road.
- Dodge Brothers Decimal Timer (1921) : Custom manufactured by Gallet in Switzerland for the American Dodge Brothers Company before Dodge became a division of Chrysler Motors.
- Occurrence Timer (1936): Custom manufactured by Gallet for the US Geological Survey, used for measuring durations of seismic activity and other natural phenomena.
- Decimal Artillery Timer (1943) : Decimal reading stopwatch manufactured by Gallet, used on Tank landing Ship #13 during the D-Day Invasion of Normandy.
Historical Pocket/Wrist watch brands owned by Gallet Group
- Breadfort Watch Co. (reg. pre-1898, pocket watches)
- Bridgeport Watch Co. (reg. 17 Dec 1886, pocket watches)
- Chancellor Watch (reg. pre-1898, pocket watches)
- Chief (reg. 28 Aug 1889, pocket watches)
- Commodore (reg. 7 May 1889, pocket watches)
- Continental Watch Co. (reg. 12 Aug 1879, complicated pocket watches)
- Defender (reg. pre-1895, pocket watches)
- Director Watch Co. (reg. pre-1895, pocket watches)
- Duchess (reg. pre-1898, woman’s pocket watches)
- Electa & Cie. (extra high-grade & complicated pocket watches)
- Enterprise (reg. pre-1898, pocket watches)
- Eureka Time Keeper (reg. 14 Jan 1884, pocket watches)
- Favorite (reg. 16 Feb 1884, pocket watches)
- Galco (reg. 14 Mar 1925, Excelsior Park stopwatches)
- Gipsy (reg. pre-1895, woman’s pocket watches)
- Governor (reg. pre-1898, rail road style pocket watches)
- Harlem Watch Co. (reg. pre-1898, pocket watches)
- Interocean (reg. 3 Jun 1910, Canadian Rail Road pocket watches)
- Jerome Park Watch Co. (reg. pre-1924, high grade pocket chronographs with Excelsior Park and Minerva movements)
- Jarco Watch (reg. pre-1898, pocket watches)
- Lady Racine (reg. 12 Aug 1879, lady’s pocket watches)
- Lifetime Series (reg. 19 Oct 1914, high grade watches, produced in the Electa workshop for Macy’s, New York)
- Lily (reg. 17 Jan 1881, lady’s pocket watches)
- Majesty (reg. pre-1897, lady’s pocket watches)
- Marathon (reg. 19 Oct 1915, pocket watches)
- Mars MultiChron Watch Co. (wrist chronographs)
- National Park (reg. 13 Jan 1891, Excelsior Park stopwatches & horse timers)
- Park Watch Company (reg. 21 Sep 1929, Excelsior Park stopwatches)
- Patriot Watch (reg. 16 Apr 1889, pocket watches)
- Railroad Watch (reg. 12 Aug 1879)
- Richmond (reg. 29 Aug 1889, pocket watches)
- Security (Excelsior Park stopwatches)
- Select (reg. pre-1898, Excelsior Park stopwatches)
- Success (reg. 13 Jan 1891, pocket watches)
- Trilby Watch (reg. pre-1895, pocket watches)
- Trotter (reg. pre-1897, Excelsior Park stopwatches & horse timers)
- Union Square (reg. 2 Oct 1883, pocket watches)
- Warrior Watch (reg. pre-1898, pocket watches)
- Wonder Watch (wrist chronographs)
Gallet is a renowned pioneer in the time keeping arts, and one of only a small handful of independent Swiss watchmakers that maintain manufacturing facilities.
As a result, Gallet privately provides a number of technologically advanced components, hidden within the watches of other exclusive luxury watch brands. When Gallet , the world’s oldest watch and clock house with over 500 years of experience in horological manufacturing, occasionally releases a new version of its own historical models, the quality is the best money can buy.