Ernest Borel traces their history to 1856 when Jules Borel began producing watches near Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Borel and his brother-in-law, Paul Courvoisier, founded Borel & Courvoisier Company in 1859 and began exporting watches and clocks the following year. The company was actively producing watches for the export market and placed first in an 1866 Neuchâtel Observatory timing competition. In 1876, Ernest Borel won awards in Philadelphia and Paris, indicating their focus on export.
Jules Borel's son Ernest took over the company in 1894, renaming the company Ernest Borel & Cie in 1898. The company adopted their “dancing lovers” logo at that time. In 1903, Ernest Borel began selling watches in China, opening a major market for the brand. Jean-Louis Borel took over from his father in 1936. Until the revolution in 1949, Borel focused on the China market predominately.
With China closed, Ernest Borel returned to Europe and entered the United States in the 1950's. The company tried the “Incastar” balance system in ETA movements, but also produced watches with more ordinary ETA and FHF movements at that time. Many were chronometers, with Borel producing 4,172 watches certified by COSC in that period. Another popular product of the time is the so-called “cocktail watch”, introduced in 1953 and featuring a moving kaleidoscope dial. The Rendez-Vous was an alarm watch with Cal. AS 1930, the “Dateoptic” had a dial-mounted magnifier for the date, and the Sea Gem was a water-resistant model.
By 1968, Ernest Borel production had fallen and the company was absorbed into ASUAG. It was placed in their Synchron group alongside Doxa and Cyma and the three brands were jointly marketed throughout the 1970's. By 1980, however, the brand was effectively defunct.
Ernest Borel and Doxa were taken over by Aubry Frères by 1981 and experienced a resurgence for a time. It was a well-known brand in the Americas and China, balancing their West End watch brand in the Middle East. The company was rising again in 1992, celebrating “135 years in business” despite changes in ownership.
The Ernest Borel brand was re-started in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland in 1997 by a group of Chinese investors. It was relocated to Le Noirmont in 2009. The company was listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2014. Today, the company focuses on China, Eastern Europe, and the United States markets.