Octo was a Swiss watch and clock brand active from at least 1904 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 in La Chaux-de-Fonds by Charles Couleru-Meuri for Gindrat-Delachaux then by his son Eugène Couleru for Ernest Dubois, 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 during World War II.
The earliest known use of the Octo brand was by Couleru-Meuri in 1904 on an 8-day clock distributed by Gindrat-Delachaux, and it was also used by Marc Dubois in 1913 using a movement likely produced by Eugène Couleru. Dubois' company, advertised as "Fabrique d'Horlogerie Octo", was taken over by Ernest Tolck in September 1916. Despite Tolck's continued and public use of the brand, Couleru registered his company as "Fabrique Octo" in 1920 and registered the Octo brand as his own trademark in 1923. The firms were located in the same building and must have been closely related. Tolck consolidated ownership in 1927 after the bankruptcy of Couleru's company. The company was acquired by Albert Etienne in 1941 and moved to Bienne the following year. It would remain in operation until 1968.
Marc Dubois, Léon-N. Robert, Eugène Couleru, and Octo
The 8-day watch and "Octo" brand originated in the Couleru-Meuri family. It is seen in a 1904 advertisement for the company, with a fictitious patent number drawn on the movement, likely before patent CH28536 was awarded. A 1908 ad references the Octo brand and Charles Couleru-Meuri's patents CH28536 and CH28537 specifically. The brand was registered by Eugène Couleru, son of famed watchmaker Charles Couleru-Meuri, in July 1923. It was used for an 8-day clock, and this was acquired by Ernest Tolck in 1927. Tolck had long been associated with 8-day clocks since 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, with both Numa Robert-Bornand and his son Léon-Numa Robert-Brandt listed as managers in the 1883 business survey. Léon-Numa took over the company from his father on December 31, 1887, with the firm officially called Léon N. Robert, successeur de N. Robert-Bornand & Fils but commonly called Léon N. Robert until it was acquired by Marc Dubois on June 1, 1910. By this time the factory was relocated to 8 Rue Jacob Brandt. Robert sold two patents in May 1911: "Montre avec dispositif permettant d'en éclairer élictriquement le cadran" (CH37769) went to Marc Dubois while "Mouvement de montre-réveil" (CH47978) went to the rival firm of F. Aubry-Schaltenbrand.
Robert was succeeded by Marc Dubois in 1910, with Dubois taking over the Rue Jacob Brandt 8 factory and producing 8-day clocks "pour automobiles et voitures" under the "Octo" brand by 1913. Dubois patented a "Mouvement de montre à marche de longue durée" (CH51982) in June 1910 and registered the Logic brand in 1911. Louis-Auguste Dubois, Marc's partner, died by 1912 forcing a reorganization as his widow Irma Dubois took over his 1000 franc share. Dubois registered "MD&Co" as a brand in 1913, "Madu" in 1914, and "Union Force" in 1915. He registered another patent for "Dispositif de fixation de la boite d'une pièce d'horlogerie, d'une façon amovible, dans un étui-support" (CH68693) in April 1914 and a design registration for a "Cadrans pour emploi de matière lumineuse" in July of 1915. Marc Dubois died on August 8, 1916 and the firm was purchased by Ernest Tolck.
The Octo name was still owned by Eugène Couleru until 1927 but was certainly used by Dubois 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". Dubois called his firm "Fabrique d'Horlogerie Octo" in a 1916 advertisement, and Ernest Tolck issued a nearly-identical ad with his name at the bottom in 1918.
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. Patents 28536 and 28537 are listed.
Couleru-Meuri was succeeded by his son Eugène Couleru by 1916. This firm produced Octo watches for Marc Dubois and was located at 37 Rue de la Charrière. Couleru owned the trademark to the "Octo" brand but must have licensed it to Marc Dubois since it was widely used by Dubois and his successor, Tolck. Interestingly, Eugène Couleru registered "Fabrique Octo" as his own company in November 1920 despite the fact that Tolck was by then heavily advertising his own business as "Fabrique d'Horlogerie Octo" for years! Couleru registered the Octo brand for watches and watch components in July 1923 and was still associated with the Octo brand by 1927, despite entering bankruptcy the year earlier and having relocated to Tourelles 17 along with Ernest Tolck. Tolck would finally acquire the brand August of 1927.
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, also named Henri-Ulysse but commonly called 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.
In the initial survey of businesses in 1883, Ulysse Tolck of Fleurier (who then lived in La Côte-aux-Fées) is listed as a watchmaker and seller of ice and coal. He gave up this business to focus on watchmaking in 1888. Ulysse Tolck was divorced from his wife Louise-Adèle née Jequier in 1893. 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. Ulysse Tolck had died by July 1898, leaving the business to his son, Léon-Ernest "Ernest" Tolck.
Ernest Tolck in La Chaux-de-Fonds
Ernest Tolck took over his father's business on July 1, with the office at Rue de la Chapelle 4 in Fleurier. He quickly registered numerous brands incorporating Chinese characters and themes, indicating that he would focus on this lucrative market. Tolck would continue to register Chinese brands through the 1920s. Léon-Ernest Tolck (October 19, 1872-October 6, 1947) married Anna-Wilhelmine-Bertha "Berthy" Mädler (May 28, 1878-October 13, 1938).
In 1906, Ulysse's son Ernest Tolck relocated to the watchmaking city of La Chaux-de-Fonds. His office was registered along the main boulevard, Rue Léopold-Robert, at number 48 in June of that year. Tolck tried to diversify his interests at this time, joining a watch crystal operation in Monthoy known as La Valaisanne Fabrique de Verres de Montres as secretary, though he was quickly replaced.
Ernest Tolck's workshop was also listed at 19 Rue de la Paix, later relocating (after 1913) to 78 Rue Léopold Robert. Another Ulysse Tolck was listed as being active in Fleurier after this, suggesting that this firm was an extension or was unrelated. Another Tolck, Albert, worked in La Chaux-de-Fonds by 1901.
In September 1916, Tolck purchased the business of Marc Dubois, who had recently died. Thus he became listed as successor to Marc Dubois & Cie, occupying their factory at 8 Rue Jacob Brandt and taking over their Logic and Madu brands. Tolck also inherited Dubois license to the Octo name at this time, advertising his factory as "Fabrique d'Horlogerie Octo" in 1918 even though the trademark was still owned by supplier Eugène Couleru. 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.
Ernest Tolck took over Eugène Couleru's Fabrique Octo following its 1927 bankruptcy. He removed the Marc Dubois name from the firm in 1934 as he focused more on the Octo brand, which he acquired in August of that year.
Octo in Bienne
Ernest Tolck, Fabrique Octo was reorganized as a Société Anonyme called Ernest Tolck, Montres Octo Sàrl on August 31, 1941. This company was managed by Ernest Tolck himself and Robert Ducommun as minority investor and was located at Rue Léopold-Robert 49. Just two months later, on October 31, the company was purchased by Albert Etienne (?-December 5, 1957). Etienne, originally from Tramelan-Dessous, was an inventor and businessman who worked in Bienne and had invented a popular automobile fog light. Both Tolck and Ducommun left the board at this time.
Albert Etienne and his brother Marius-Albert moved the company to Bienne on April 20, 1942. It was originally headquartered at Mittelstrasse 17 but was moved to 4 Rue Adam Fr. Molz in September. The firm kept the Octo name but abandoned Tolck's. The Etienne brothers quickly raised 100,000 francs of share capital and added the assets of Montres Deto in May 1943. Marius was by far the minority partner, holding 1 share to Albert's 19.
Montres Octo moved on from the namesake 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.
- CH46730, April 8, 1909, Marc Dubois - Montre
- CH51982, June 7, 1910, Marc Dubois - Mouvemenet de montre à marche de longue durée
- CH68693, April 21, 1914, Marc Dubois - Dispositif de fixation de la boîte d'une pièce d'horlogerie, d'une façon amovible, dans un étui-support
- CH141602, August 15, 1930, Ernest Tolck - Mouvement de montre à marche de longue durée
- 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