Consul is a historic Swiss watch brand established in La Chaux-de-Fonds as early as 1900. The brand was associated with Charles Virchaux since 1926 and was owned by Girard-Perregaux Holding from 1969 through 1979, then by Desco von Schulthess, parent company for Maurice Lacroix, until 1996. Consul is currently located in Neuchâtel and focuses on the Asian market.
François Huguenin established a watch workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1900 and registered the Consul brand in 1901 or 1904. Consul claimed to be “since 1901” in advertising in the 1980s, though other sources list 1900 as their start date. The company celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1950, suggesting this earlier date.
The company was passed to Huguenin's son in law, Charles Virchaux, in 1934, eight years after joining the company. He passed it to his son Charles-Edouard Virchaux in 1942. The brand received recognition for “50 years at the Basel Fair” in 1991, suggesting that they first exhibited in 1941. The Montres Consul brand appears for the first time in the Davoine directory in 1942. It is listed as a subsidiary of Charles Virchaux, Rue Léopold-Robert 63, La Chaux-de-Fonds. By 1947 Virchaux and Consul had relocated to Rue Numa-Droz 141.
In 1952, Consul won a chronometer certificate from the Neuchâtel Observatory, and this fact was celebrated for decades to come. The company had been testing all of its watches since 1946 and boasted chronometer status for many watches in the 1950s.
A 1954 advertisement in Europa Star shows Consul as a producer of 21 jewel watches with a 1st prize from the Neuchâtel Observatory chronometer competition in 1953. The company is also listed as the producer of Landi brand watches at that time. Consul was shown at the Basel Fair in 1957, and both Consul and Landi were shown from 1959 through 1962.
Consul listed a 30 jewel automatic calendar wristwatch in 1965, along with a men's fob-style watch with a square or round case. The company was using the Orly brand by this point as well. The company listed ladies pendant watches in the 1960s as well.
Consul and Girard-Perregaux
Charles-Edouard Virchaux married Paulette Graef, owner of Girard-Perregaux, in 1951. Consul became a joint stock corporation in 1962 and was taken over by Girard-Perregaux Holding in 1969. Charles-Edouard Virchaux would become General Director of the Holding company that year.
The company was officially named Montres Consul SA by 1966 with the same address that Virchaux had listed. Consul and Landi again exhibited at Basel that year through 1972. The Consul Alertic, introduced by 1969, was a dual-crown alarm watch.
In 1977, Consul is listed as a subsidiary of Girard-Perregaux, Rue Girardet 1, La Chaux-de-Fonds. The company had adjoining booths with Girard-Perregaux at Basel since 1972, and appears to have specialized in pendant watches by this point.
Girard-Perregaux was sold by Desco in 1985.
Catamaran and Consul
Consul had launched the Catamaran brand in 1983, with a line of nautical themed watches. A shockproof Catamaran Turbo was shown in 1985. A new design Catamaran followed at Basel in 1987, with a line of complicated quartz calendar models launched the next year. The Consul brand was no longer featured on the watches.
Montres Consul moved from La Chaux-de-Fonds to Bienne in 1986. By 1992, Consul was listed as “operating independently” within Desco Zurich. The Catamaran was still their major product line at this time, and in 1994 this was listed as a separate division of the company, with a new “double hull” design. An Europa Star report suggests that Catamaran had sold 120,000 units in 1993, and present in 52 international markets.
Consul was sold by Desco in 1996, and the company was moved to Neuchâtel in 1998. By the 2000s Consul brand watches were once again on the market. Most were fashionable watches with jewels or mother of pearl.