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Solvil et Titus
Solvil, Titus, and Didis are brands created by watchmaker and entrepreneur Paul Ditisheim, whose family had founded the Vulcain brand. The company was later widely known as Solvil et Titus and continues in operation within Ebel and Stelux today.
Paul Ditisheim was part of the well-known Ditisheim family of watchmakers of Switzerland. He studied watching in La Chaux-de-Fonds and worked at his family's factory, known for the Vulcain brand, starting in 1887.
Ditisheim founded his own company in 1892 and was located at 11 Rue de la Paix in La Chaux-de-Fonds by 1894. His initial products included watches and jewelry with cylinder and anchor escapements as small as 7 ligne. Ditisheim advertised that he produced watches in both the English (bridge) and Glashütte (three quarter plate) style, including chronometers. The company specialized at that time in compact movements, including ladies chronometers with enamel and jewelry.
Paul Ditisheim was already drawing recognition for this chronometers before the turn of the century. He took 1st class in the 1895 competition at Neuchâtel and won a gold medal at the 1896 Exposition Nationale de Geneva. This earned him a place on the jury at the International Exposition in Brussels in 1897. His chronometers continued to win prizes at Neuchâtel in 1897 and 1898 and the grand prize at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1900]. Ditisheim's products were marketed for their accuracy and anti-magnetism, with his watches recognized in observatory [[chronometer contests by 1903. Ditisheim set a new chronometry record at Royal Key Observatory in 1912, and he worked closely with Nobel Prize-winning physicist Charles-Edouard Guillaume to improve accuracy of his watches. Paul Ditisheim also collaborated with chemical engineer Paul Woog at this time, and the company produced well-known lubricants and oils with his name in the 1920s.
By 1902, Ditisheim was producing deck clocks, and was supplying these to the United States Navy by 1908. The company had also branched out into emerging categories Ultra-thin pocket watches and “bracelets-montres” by that year. Ditisheim had also begun to use the Ditis brand on watches by 1908. Ditisheim was producing men's wristwatches as well by 1918.
Needing more space, Ditisheim hired architect Henri Grieshaber to build a modern new workshop at Rue Serre 24, adjacent to the 1869 building already used at Rue du Parc 25. This building had large windows and is just six meters wide, providing optimal working space for the occupants. It features a large sign reading “Chronometres” which is still visible today.
By 1920, Paul Ditisheim also opened another factory in the small village of Sonvilier and launched a new brand reflecting the name of that town, Solvil. Over time, this brand would displace Ditisheim's own as well as the shortened Ditis and would become the name of the entire company. The Titus brand would appear by 1934 at Parc 25 under the name “Titus SA”. Though the larger company was still called Paul Ditisheim SA, the watches were now sold as Ditis, Solvil, and Titus, the latter two incorporated separately as Solvil SA and Titus SA in Sonvilier and La Chaux-de-Fonds, respectively.
The company was purchased by Swiss businessman Paul-Bernard Vogel in 1930, who moved the company to Geneva. But the name Paul Ditisheim would remain associated with the company and used in advertising for decades after.
The company continued offering watches under three brands Solvil was a high-end brand continuing Ditisheim's legacy, Ditis was the modern chronometry brand, and Titus was an anti-magnetic watch at a moderate price.
Solvil et Titus was a founding member of Societe des Gardes-Temps, a group of lower-cost watchmakers, starting in 1968. This also included the American Waltham and (after 1973) Elgin companies.
In the 1970s, Paul-Bernard's son Paul Vogel took over and focused on the Asian market. He sold the European operations to Ebel and integrated the Hong Kong company with Stelux.