Founded in 1911 in Les Ponts-de-Martel (near Le Locle and La Chaux-de-Fonds) by Georges Pellaton-Steudler, Martel. The company was located near Zenith and Universal and long shared some production and management with those companies. Eventually, between 1958 and 1960, Zenith purchased Martel and absorbed its expertise, movement designs, and production facilities.
As early as 1917, Martel began specializing in chronograph movements, working with Universal for a movement that the company boasted was the world's first wrist chronograph. These were mono-pusher movements with the chronograph pusher integrated into the crown as on pocket chronographs. In 1932, Universal launched what they claimed was the world’s first two-pusher wrist watch chronograph. With its dual-subdial design and pushers at 2:00 and 4:00, these remain the template for all future chronograph watches. They were powered by the Universal 281 movement, produced in Les Ponts-de-Martel possibly by Martel. A year or two later, in 1933 or 1934, Universal launched a three-subdial chronograph. Zenith and Universal named these chronograph designs compur and compax, a name which has stuck ever since.
The next great advancement for Martel, with partners Universal and Zenith, was the introduction of a wrist watch chronograph with a calendar complication. Launched around 1942, the new four-subdial design added a dial at 12:00 to show the date, two adjacent windows for day and month, and optional moon phase indicators were also added. By this time, Universal had built their own facility in Les Ponts-de-Martel, and history is unclear as to which company, Universal or Martel, is responsible for these movements.
In the 1950's, Martel began marketing watches with their own brand name, both time-only and chronograph models. By this time, Zenith had begun using Excelsior Park chronograph movements as well, but they returned to purchase Martel outright at the end of the decade.