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Jean d'Eve is a Swiss watch brand associated with Le Phare. It traces its roots to 1888 and the firm, Barbezat-Baillot. Other brands used include Memory, Lighthouse, Rolnik, Kowal, Temporis, and Elfarc.
Barbezat-Baillot and Le Phare
On November 30th, 1888 Charles Barbezat-Baillot founded the Barbezat-Baillot watch factory in Le Locle. This was the successor company to Barbezat's earlier firm, Guye et Barbezat, which was founded before 1873]. The company was located on Rue de la Côte 222 by [[1894. Charles Barbezat-Baillot was involved in local business and became President of the Société des Fabricants d'Horlogerie du Locle in the 1890s.
Barbezat-Baillot specialized in high-end watches with repetition, and boasted of a centrifugal force mechanism and special mechanism that silenced the noisy mechanics, allowing the alarm to ring clearly. The company also introduced a pushbutton to activate the alarm, a novelty for the time, and reduced the size of the mechanism to fit in a normal watch case.
Barbezat-Baillot sold the products under the brand name “Le Phare” (“The Lighthouse”) by 1896. Le Phare repeaters were more reasonably priced and produced in high volume. Some models also included complications like a chronograph, full calendar with moon phase indicator, and various automata. These were a highlight of the Swiss National Exhibition in Geneva in 1896. In 1905, the company changed its name officially to Le Phare SA. The brand name “Tempora” was also used by 1899 and “Memory” was also used beginning in 1925. The company was very successful, tripling the size of its operations at Rue de la Côte 29-33 in 1920.
Barbezat-Baillot also produced machines for watchmaking under the Dixi brand, and this would become a successful firm in its own right. Indeed, Dixi would purchase nearly every watchmaking form in Le Locle in the 1970s, saving brands like Zenith and Zodiac from extinction. Dixi was a product of Le Phare until it was spun out as an independent company in 1931.
The Great Depression caused issues for high-end firms like Le Phare, and the company was reorganized in 1933 as Nouvelles Fabrique Le Phare S.A. Le Phare produced complicated pocket watches in the 1930s, including rattrapante and standard chronographs, stop watches, alarm watches, and repeaters.
In 1939, Le Phare relocated to La Chaux-de-Fonds, changing ownership the following year. The company continued to specialize in complicated pocket watches but also added wrist watches by 1940, including pilot's watches. The brand's slogan was “Précision, Qualité Irrérochable” and their products reflected this focus.
In 1950, the company changed its name to Le Phare-Sultana SA after merging with Sultana. By 1970 the company was the second-largest manufacturer of chronographs in Switzerland, and it was widely known for masculine watches with modern designs. As early as 1974, Le Phare offered a watch with retrograde hour and minute hands. By 1976, the company also offered LED watches and quartz movements. In 1977, the “Pebble” model embedded a quartz movement in a semi-precious stone as a table clock or pocket or pendant watch. The company continued to produce mechanical watches, however, including an ultra-thin skeleton model in 1980.
In 1981, the brand “Jean d'Eve” was launched, generally being used for higher-end models. One signature piece was the Spinnaker, which included a rope design around the bezel and inspired many copycats. In 1984 the brand launched its “Sectora” models, in which the time was represented in sectors of the dials by retrograde hands. The company also changed its name to Le Phase Jean d'Eve SA in 1984.
The 1988 Samara model is claimed to be the first automatic quartz watch in the world. The Kentron Cal. 861.0 “Generotor system” features a dial-side rotor (between the hands and dial) that winds a generator spring that spins up a multi-polar generator to 15,000 rpm. This charges a condenser which can hold 10 days (240 hours) of power for the quartz movement. It also included an “Energizer” which can re-start the watch once it has stopped.
Le Phare-Sultana was acquired in 1991 by Renley Watch Manufacturing along with Buler Quartz SA of Lengnau. Founded in 1983 by Hong Kong-based Stanley Lau, Renley was a private label producer of Swiss and French watches.
The “Quarta” model was launched in 1993 and included retrograde hands in all four corners of a rectangular dial. The Sectora was updated with a new case in 1999. The 2006 Sectora II Automatic turned this display sideways in a new case. In 2010, Jean d'Eve launched a tourbillon at BaselWorld based on the Progress movement.
The Le Phare brand is no longer active as of 2020, but the Jean d'Eve brand was active at least until 2017.
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