Swiss luxury watch brand GRAHAM traces its origins to London clockmaker George Graham (1673-1751) who is considered as the father of modern watch making.
His major inventions are start and stop device of the chronograph, the dead-beat and cylinder escapements. He also built the master clock for Greenwich Royal Observatory which timed the majority of the achievements by the 18th century astronomers and sailors and lots of measuring instruments for scientists. GRAHAM SA was created in 1995 and develops outstanding and atypical watches in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.
GEORGE GRAHAM (1673-1751)
George Graham was born in 1673 in the County of Cumberland. George lost his father at an early age and was reared by his older half-brother, William, at nearby Sikeside. While still a boy, George left Cumberland and made his way to London.
In 1688 he became apprentice to Henry Aske for seven years. He was admitted a freeman of the Clockmakers’ Company on completing his indentures in 1695 and immediately entered the service of Thomas Tompion, thus beginning a life-long friendship, severed only by the death of Tompion in 1713. In 1696 he married Tompion’s niece Elizabeth. A few clocks and watches during the last years of Tompion’s life, are signed “Tompion & Graham”.
After the death of Tompion, Graham continued the business at the same address, at the sign of Dial and Three Crowns, at the corner of Water lane, in Fleet Street, London. In 1720 he moved to a new house, The Dial and One Crown, at the other side of the same street, nearer Fleet Bridge, next door to the Globe and Duke of Marlborough’s Head Tavern, where he remained until his death.
Graham was elected as Fellow of the Royal Society in 1721 and chosen as a Member of the Council of that body in 1722. He contributed 21 papers on various subjects to the Philosophical Translations. He became Master of the Clockmakers’ Company in 1722.
After the expiration of Booth, Houghton and Tompion’s patent, Graham devoted some thought to the cylinder escapement, which in 1725 he improved to practically its present form, and after 1726 introduced it into all watches.
The reputation which English horology acquired on the Continent during the 18th Century was due in no small measure to Graham’s candid treatment of his brethren in the art in other countries. In answer to inquiries, Julien Le Roy received from Graham one of his watches with cylinder escapement in 1728 and French horologist’s generous avowal of its superiority is worthy of his acknowledged greatness.
He invented the dead-beat escapement in 1715, the Graham device, a type of wall chronograph in 1720 and the mercury pendulum in 1726. The combination of these seventy-four clocks of all types, numbered from 600 to 774.
As against this he made nearly three thousand watches. No. 4369, still signed Tompion & Graham, cannot therefore be later than 1713 and No. 6474, the highest number known up to now, carries the hallmarks for 1751, the year when Graham died. Like Tompion, Graham had a separate series for repeaters, ranging from 402, hallmarked for 1713, to No. 965, which must be the last one, since No. 968, is signed by Thomas Colley, Graham’s successor.
Graham’s watches were much forged, even in his life-time, but this may generally be detected since he not only marked the number in the usual place, on the back plate, together with his name, but also on the pillar-plate, under the dial, and on the under-side of the cock.
Graham died in 1751 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Immediately after Graham’s death, there was some competition to claim his goodwill. Only two days later, the following notice appeared in the General Advertiser: “Thomas Mudge, watch-maker, apprentice to the late Mr. Graham, carries on business in the same manner as Mr. Graham did, at the sign of the Dial and Crown, opposite the Bolt and Tun, in the Fleet Street.
The Graham brand was re-launched by Eric Loth, who established a company named British Masters SA in 1995 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.
Born in Bienne and grown up in Le Locle, Eric Loth has been deeply immersed in the engineering world ever since childhood. His father was a professor at the Engineering School of Neuchâtel; therefore he has always been surrounded by technicians and engineers. His venture into the watch creation world was completely accidental.
He graduated in mechanical engineering (polytechnics) at the Neuchâtel Engineering School. Post graduated in physical metallurgy at the University of Neuchâtel and in business administration at the higher Business Management School I.M.D. in Lausanne.
In 1994, with the encouragement of his family, friend and partners, the idea of acquiring a watch brand in the luxury segment came up. He was looking for a very special brand through which his passion for innovation and art could be expressed. This set off a long search that resulted in a somewhat unexpected result: the names and incredibly rich history of some great inventors of 17th and 18th century- England.
A research and development phase was then entered, between 1996 and 1999, inspired indeed by the rich heritage of George Graham, inventor of the Chronograph among other amazing things and of John Arnold, inventor of breakthrough escapements, a winner of the famous Longitude Prize and by far the leading supplier of Marine Chronometers to Britain’s ships (Royal Navy as well as merchant- and explorer- vessels).
The product development work was done by taking these inventions and concepts in a much broader sense, and translating them to create very unique, contemporary timekeepers that would stun today’s watch-making fans.
Result was the emergence of two exclusive Swiss luxury watch brands: Graham and Arnold & Son. Today, based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Graham SA (earlier name: British Masters SA) produces the Swiss made luxury watches bearing Graham brand.
In 2012, Arnold & Son brand was acquired by Japan based Citizen Group.
Boulevard des Eplatures 38
2300 La Chaux-de-Fonds