Charles Couleru-Meuri located his workshop at 9 Rue Neuve as early as 1880, though some sources date the start of the company to as early as 1848. He produced high-end and complicated pocket watches, specializing in moon phase indicators and ultra-thin models.
Couleru-Meuri received a third-class medal at the International Watch Exhibition at La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1881, the first of many accolades. The company was recognized for its calendar watch movements at Zürich in 1883 and received medals at Antwerp in 1885 and Paris in 1889 and 1893. The company was also recognized at the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893.
In 1894 Couleru-Meuri relocated to a large factory at 18 Boulevard du Petit-Château, next to Léon Breitling's workshop. By 1901, this was listed as 1 Rue(lle) Montbrillant as the road had been disconnected. This large factory was called Montbrillant Watch Manufactory by Breitling and remained closely associated with the production of complicated pocket watches and 8-day clocks for decades even after Couleru-Meuri moved on. The company also diversified, introducing a line of cycling odometers under the Mascotte brand by 1884.
Couleru-Meuri was well known for complicated watches, including those with a 24 hour display, with calendar and moon phase indicator, and special watches for the blind and stopwatches. By 1892, Couleru-Meuri had patented a moon phase indicator with a concentric subdial pointer, and aggressively defended this design. The company also collected numerous other patents, including early chronograph indications, ultra-thin designs, and an 8-day movement.
In 1893, the firm patented an unusual 24 hour watch featuring a disc with alternating numbers 1-12 and apertures that would shift at noon to show the numbers 13-24. This was developed at the time but not produced in volume. A controversy arose in 1913 when a French firm, Adrien Castenceau, patented the same design without credit. Couleru-Meuri's patents 7197 and 7198
The Couleru-Meuri company appears to have been taken over by Hector Lévy of Paris in 1901. The company then offered technical services to other watchmakers in La Chaux-de-Fonds, resisting the drive to mass production just as Charles Couleru-Meuri had done. The company also began working closely with the commercial distributor Gindrat-Delachaux, also of La Chaux-de-Fonds, at this time and many watches and patents are issued in the name of both. It retains the name, Charles Couleru-Meuri, through this time period, so it is likely that the eponymous watchmaker remained involved.
Couleru-Meuri reminded at Ruelle Montbrillant 1 through 1908, when he appears to have closed his business. The following year, Eugène is the proprietor of the Couleru-Meuri watchmaking business, now located at Rue Jaquet-Droz 47. Charles Couleru-Meuri appears to have lived a while longer, however, and his home address is listed at Rue de la Promenade 16 through 1917. In 1918, the home is listed as belonging to Vve. Couleru-Meuri, suggesting that Charles died in 1917. She is no longer listed after this year either.
Charles' son Eugène Couleru was listed on many of the company's patents starting in 1900 and would soon open his own firm. Eugène's company, Fabrique d'Horlogerie Octo, Eugène Couleru, appears at Rue Jaquet-Droz 47 in 1909, just after the closure of his father's workshop at Montbrillant 1. Interestingly, he is listed in the Annuaires des Adresses as “Eugène Couleru” at his home address (“Ménagère”) and as “Eugène Couleru-Meuri” for his business. The business remains listed as “Eugène Couleru-Meuri” until his father's death in 1918 and is listed as “Eugène Couleru” after this.
Eugène Couleru's company would take up the watchmaking business of Couleru-Meuri, and he is shown as the producer of “Octo” watches starting in 1912. The workshop relocated from the central Rue Jaquet-Droz out to Rue de la Charrière 37 in 1914. Couleru produced Octo watches for sale by the firm of Marc Dubois, which by that time was owned by Ernest Tolck. But Couleru did not continue his father's tradition of chronometry and complications. Eugène Couleru is listed as registering “Fabrique Octo” in 1920, and was still associated with the Octo brand by 1927.
But Couleru's new firm did not fare well and was nearly bankrupt in 1926. That year, the Couleru workshop became a home-based business at Rue des Tourelles, coincidentally quite close to the Montbrillant factory used by his father. In April 1927, Couleru removed the name “Octo” from his firm's name, with the rights having been taken up by Ernest Tolck. Eugène Couleru moved back to the center of town at Rue de la Serre in 1929, and his last appearance in Indicateur Davoine is 1930. This would mark the end of Eugène's business, and perhaps was the year of his death, as he is no longer listed in the La Chaux-de-Fonds directory.
- Main Article Octo
By 1904, Couleru-Meuri was producing 8-day clocks under the Octo brand based on their 1903 patent 10370. These were advertised as “non magnétique” and featured an opening in the dial with a pointer at 6 00 showing power remaining. The patent No. 28536-37 is listed. Couleru's longtime partner Gindrat-Delachaux, also sold 8-day clocks and watches based on the movement since 1904. Breitling also produced 8-day watches in the same factory at that time, and these likely used Couleru-Meuri movements.
The “Octo” brand was registered by Eugène Couleru in 1920. But by this date it was also used by Marc Dubois, which had been taken over by Ernest Tolck in 1916. Tolck/Dubois continued production of 8-day clocks “pour automobiles et voitures” under the “Octo” name. By 1927, Ernest Tolck had taken over the Octo brand, officially registering the company as Fabrique Octo.
The Couleru patent, 10370, expired in 1919, but Tolck (Montres Octo) registered new patents, 38361 and 44829 for long-duration movements. Another patent, 141602, was registered in 1930 as the production of Octo watches continued, and 44829 was renewed in 1934 and 1939.
Octo S.à.r.l. (later called Octo SA) was established in Bienne as a successor to Tolck in 1941. It continued to offer 8-day watches under the Octo brand through the 1960s, along with a line of standard watches. Octo was exclusively distributed by Chung Nam by 1970 and the company owned the brand by 1993.