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Octo was a Swiss watch and clock brand active from at least 1908 through the late 1960s. It was best known for a range of 8-day movement (thus the name) but also produced other watch models. Octo clocks were first produced by Couleru-Meuri in La Chaux-de-Fonds, though the trademark was taken on by Ernest Tolck soon after. The company was later incorporated as Octo Sarl and Montres Octo SA before relocating to Bienne after World War II.
Ulysse Tolck in Fleurier
Henri Ulysse Tolck began as a watchmaker in Fleurier. By 1848 he was producing a few different pocket watches, including an 8-day model. For this reason, the later Montres Octo SA claimed to have been founded in the 19th century, though the firm chose 1858 as its founding date.
After his death, Henri Ulysse's son Ulysse Tolck took over the business, operating under the name U. Tolck & Co. In 1871, Ulysse Tolck was listed as having worked in Geneva but now located in Fleurier and able to produce many types of complications. He acquired a business in Paris in 1872 and began fitting watch crystals. He also formed a venture with a watch dial maker in Fleurier. In 1873, Tolck developed a watch later known as the Carosse, which was used to time the speed of racing.
Tolck developed an octagonal watch case in 1898, placing an 8-day movement inside. The company was also producing specialized dashboard clocks for automobiles using this 8-day movement.
Ernest Tolck in La Chaux-de-Fonds
Another Tolck, Albert, worked in La Chaux-de-Fonds by 1901. In 1908, Ulysse's son Ernest Tolck relocated to the watchmaking city as well. Ulysse Tolck was still listed as being active in Fleurier after this, suggesting that this firm was an extension or was unrelated. Ernest Tolck's first workshop was at 19 Rue de la Paix, later relocating (after 1913) to 78 Rue Léopold Robert.
By 1918, Tolck is listed as successor to Marc Dubois & Cie, occupying their factory at 8 Rue Jacob Brandt. Tolck took out a two-page ad in Indicateur Davoine showing a line of 8-day clocks using the brand name Octo. These were dash, desk, and wall clocks “pour automobiles et voitures” and were also sold under the “Logic” name. Tolck also used the “Sincère”, “Metropole”, and “For-Ever” brands (as well as “Logic”) for “petites montres” including wrist bracelet watches. These used an 8 ligne movement produced under the name Fabrique d'Horlogerie Soignée.
Marc Dubois, Léon-N. Robert, and Octo
The 8-day wristwatch and “Octo” brand comes from a different route to the Tolck family. The brand was registered by Charles Couleru-Meuri for an 8-day clock, and this was acquired by Ernest Tolck in 1918 when he purchased the assets of Marc Dubois, which was itself successor to Léon-N. Robert and the family Robert-Bornand.
Numa Robert-Bornand was located at 149 Rue des Juifs in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1850. This address was re-numbered to become 7 Rue des Juifs in 1859 and the street renamed Rue Fritz-Courvoisier by 1869. By 1871, the company was called Numa Robert-Bornand & Fils, and was simply Robert-Bornand & Fils between 1883 and 1889.
Another La Chaux-de-Fonds watchmaker, Charles Couleru-Meuri, was located at 9 Rue Neuve as early as 1880. He won a bronze medal at the Paris exposition in 1889. In 1894 Couleru-Meuri had relocated to a large factory at 18 Boulevard du Petit-Château opposite Léon Breitling's shop. By 1901, this was listed as 1 Rue Montbrillant. Couleru-Meuri was producing 8-day clocks under the “Octo” brand by 1908. 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.
Léon-N. Robert succeeded Robert-Bornand et Fils and took over the factory at 7 Rue Fritz-Courvoisier. He was active there from 1892 to 1901 but relocated the factory to 8 Rue Jacob Brandt in 1908. He was succeeded by Marc Dubois by 1913, with Dubois taking over the Rue Jacob Brandt factory and producing 8-day clocks “pour automobiles et voitures” under the “Octo” brand by 1913. The factory also specialized in “petites Montres” or ladies bracelet watches using an 8 ligne movement. Both were advertised as “soignée” or “neat”.
Couleru-Meuri was succeeded by Eug. Couleru by 1916. This firm produced Octo watches for Marc Dubois and was located at 37 Rue de la Charrière. Couleru was still associated with the Octo brand by 1927, having relocated to 19 Tourelles along with Ernest Tolck.
Octo in Bienne
In 1938 or 1941, Ernest Tolck sold the business to Albert Etienne, a local watchmaker and business man. the company relocated to Bienne by 1943, with their address listed as 4 Rue Adam Fr. Molz. The firm kept the Octo name but abandoned the 8-day wristwatch after World War II. Instead, Octo was a manufacturer of mid-priced wristwatches for the mass market.
The Octo range included the waterproof Lakemaster by 1958. The 1959 Basel Fair included the new Missilemaster. This waterproof antimagnetic watch featured an automatic calendar movement. It had a centrally-attached lug with an unusual look. Montres Octo celebrated its jubilee in 1959 with a range of gold plated watches.
Albert's son Marius Etienne took over the company between 1958 and 1963. Octo debuted the Skymaster line at the Basel Fair in 1963. between 1960 and 1962, Montres Octo relocated to 56 Rue de l'Avenir in Bienne-Ville.
The final appearance of the Octo brand came in 1965 when the firm created a novel flip-over watch known as the Compass. Although this anti-magnetic watch was ahead of its time, it failed to take hold and the firm soon ceased operations.
- Why Didn't This Unusual Watch Catch On?, Kathleen H. Pritchard, Horological Times, September 1998
- History of the Octo Firm, Europa Star Eastern Jeweller 48, 1958