Fabrique d'Ébauches Vénus
- See also Venus Watch for the various watches branded with this name
Venus Watches versus Vénus Movements
- See Also: Venus Watch
The Venus brand name was first registered in horology on April 30, 1891 by Rueff Frères of La Chaux-de-Fonds. The brand was taken over by Maurice Rueff in 1896, by the new Rueff Frères company in 1914, and then by Fritz Salzmann in 1924. When these brands expired in October 1930 they were immediately re-registered by Paul Schwarz-Etienne, with his family firm becoming increasingly focused on the Venus brand through the 1950s. A new firm was established in Geneva using the name Montres Venus on April 14, 2011, claiming "Swiss since 1902".
None of these Venus brand watches are related to the Fabrique d'Ébauches Vénus of Moutier or their famous chronograph movements. There is a great deal of confusion about this, since the ebauche maker produced advertisements showing sample watches, but a close examination reveals that none bore the word "Venus" on the dial. It appears that Schwarz-Etienne used these movements in their Venus branded watches, but the companies were otherwise unrelated.
Foundation by Paul Berret
Fabrique d'ébauches Vénus was established in 1924 in Moutier, Canton Bern, Switzerland by Paul Berret, his brother Jean-Baptiste, and Otto Schmitz. The Berrets came from Cornol, where their family had a long history of watchmaking, but the brothers had grown up in Delémont, where their father was a wine merchant. After his technical studies, Paul Berret moved to Granges to work as a technical manager for the large firm of A. Schild SA. But he soon saw an opportunity to establish his own ebauche-making business. On May 1, 1924, Berret and partners purchased the Moutier factory formerly owned by Victor Spozio, establishing Vénus. The factory was officially registered on May 15.
Jean-Baptiste Berret was an accountant and left the company the following year to return to Delémont, where he lived to be over 90. He was replaced by Kurt Henggeler, a watchmaker from Unterägeri who also worked at watch stone maker Gasser & Co. Otto Schmitz was likely one of the namesake Schmitz Frères, casemakers of Granges, who also supplied Breitling in later years.
Vénus initially focused on compact round and "form" movements for ladies watches. The company produced both anchor and cylinder escapement movements, and advertised their good quality. Among these were the tonneau-shaped Cal. 55 family and 8.75 ligne round Cal. 60 family, which was used with the Glycine EMSA automatic adapter. Vénus supplied many companies, notably two cooperatives, Alpina (in Bienne) and Zentra (in Germany).
Vénus movements are marked with a five-pointed star, reflecting the meaning of the company name. The use of the acute e is ubiquitous in period advertisements, though it us typically not used today when referring to the company.
Vénus and Ebauches SA
Vénus was quickly absorbed into Ebauches SA in 1928, with Sydney de Coulon added to management alongside Paul Berret, Otto Schmitz, and Kurt Henggeler. But Henggeler was busy with his watchmaking activities, merging Hera with Madewell and Argo in 1929, and Schmitz was likely similarly occupied with his businesses. Schmitz and Henggeler resigned in 1933, with just de Coulon and Berret in management.
Vénus produced its first chronograph movement, Cal. 103 CHR, in 1933, based on their new 10.5 ligne Cal. 75 ebauche. The company also produced a chronograph movement based on their Cal. 131 around this time, which was extremely unusual since it was tonneau-shaped.
Vénus became famous under Ebauches SA for chronograph movements, many of which were used by high end Swiss brands. The Vénus column wheel chronograph calibres are widely regarded today as being the finest ever produced and remain in great demand. Among these are the Cal. 170, Cal. 175, Cal. 178, and Cal. 179, a three-pusher split-seconds chronograph movement. Indeed, these rattrapante movements are among the only available in the classic period and are much in demand today.
Vénus was further integrated into Ebauches SA in 1947, with a new board of directors composed of Paul Berret, Sydney de Coulon, and Otto Ramseier. Paul Berret died on November 22, 1949, at the age of 61.
Classic Vénus Movements
By 1939, Vénus was producing a 12.5 ligne chronograph movement, Cal. 170, which was much smaller than the 13.75 ligne Hahn Landeron or Valjoux movements. One 1943 article says that the Venus Cal. 170 "represents the quality limit that Switzerland is allowed to export during wartime." Vénus also produced a 13 ligne column wheel chronograph movement family, Cal. 150, from 1938 through the 1950s. This included a model with an hour counter, Cal. 152, and date, moon phase, and full calendar options. It is closely related to the better known Cal. 175 family. In 1957, Cal. 150 was brought back to production in the Soviet Union under the "Strela" name.
But Vénus' signature product, especially after the war, was the 14 ligne Cal. 175 and similar rattrapante Cal. 179. The This was so attractive in wrist chronographs that a deal was struck with Breitling to leverage these in a new line of chronographs. Thus, the Cal. 175 family, and especially the rattrapante versions, introduced at the Basel Fair in 1944, became virtually synonymous with Breitling through World War II and beyond.
After the war, Vénus introduced a line of compact cam switching movements, perhaps at the request of Willy Breitling who was very interested in Landeron's groundbreaking Cal. 48. The Venus 188 was introduced around 1948 and became the basis for a line of high-volume movements for the company through the 1950s. This included the 12.5 ligne Venus 210 and "big date" Venus 211.
But these low-cost movements did not provide sufficient liquidity and Venus was absorbed by rival Valjoux in 1966. The Venus 188 movement was the basis for the Valjoux 7730, and its technology lived on in the Valjoux 7750, still one of the most popular chronograph movements.
Closure of Vénus and ETA in Moutier
The Vénus factory on Rue du Viaduc 21 was expanded in 1971, though it remained fairly small compared to Ebauches SA's large operations in Fontainemelon and Grenchen. Despite the currency crisis of the 1970s and the transition to quartz, Vénus remained in operation in Moutier as part of Valjoux and (after 1978) Fabriques d’Ebauches Réunies (FER). In 1980, parent company Ebauches SA took over the factory of Pierce Watch Co. The Rue des Fleurs 17 site was the historic home of Pierce, dating back to its origins as Léon Lévy Frères, but the original buildings had been replaced by a modern low-rise factory in the late 1960s. This was used as a lathe and components supplier by Ebauches SA and its successor ETA in the early 1980s.
Although the company had just recently expanded there, ETA (the reorganized and consolidated Ebauches SA) abruptly ceased operations in Moutier in 1983. The Pierce and Vénus factories were closed and all workers transferred to Grenchen, forced into early retirement, or laid off.
Within a few years, with mechanical movements once again in demand, ETA's attention turned to Moutier. The Pierce factory was reopened and remains in operation today by ETA as their "Usine Les Golats", Site 16. Another modernized, though historic, factory was also available in Moutier. The ETA "Usine Graitery" at Rue de la Paix 90 was opened soon after as ETA's second factory in Moutier. Although not directly linked to Vénus, these two factories can be seen as a continuation of Paul Berret's legacy in the town. The original Vénus Ebauches factory at Rue du Viaduc 21 still stands and is the home of Imhof as of 2022.
Old stock of Venus movements has been depleted in recent years, leading to a run-up in prices for watches with these movements. Jaquet SA became expert at refinishing Venus calibres and, under new name La Joux-Perret, has built up capability to re-create parts and even entire movements if needed.
The popularity and beauty of Venus calibres has led to resurrections of the type in the 2000's. In 2000, a number of Venus 179 and 185 movements were reissued by Panerai, Parmigiani, and others. Similarly, in 2004, Maurice Lacroix reissued a series of 150 classic Venus 175 movements for their Masterpiece series, re-branding them Calibre ML 36.
- See also Category:Venus calibres
- Simple Movements
- 5.75 by 8.5 ligne tonneau (1930s) - Calibres 55, 58, 59
- 8.75 ligne (1920s-1930s) - Calibres 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 72, 76, 77, 81, 85, 86, 87, 93, 96, 102, 104, 107, 108
- 10.5 ligne (1930s-1940s) - Calibres 75, 78, 79, 83, 84, 88, 89, 94, 97, 98, 103, 105, 106, 129, 148
- 8.75 by 12 ligne tonneau (1930s-1940s) - Calibres 130, 131, 146 (also Calibre 131 CHR)
- 10.5 or 11.5 ligne (1940s-1950s) - Calibres 180, 181, 182, 202, 203, 204, 208, 214, 216
- 10.5 or 11.5 ligne (1950s) - Calibres 220, 221, 222, 223, 225, 226, 227
- 12.5 ligne alarm (1950s) - Calibres 230, 231, 232
- 10.5 or 11.5 ligne (1950s) - Calibres 240, 245, 246, 247
- tonneau cam switched (1930s-1940s) - Calibre 131 CHR
- 12.5 ligne pillar wheel/oscillating pinion (1942-1952) - Calibre 170
- 13 ligne pillar wheel (1938-1960) - Calibres 150, 151, 152, 186, 187, 191
- 14 ligne pillar wheel (1942-1960) - Calibres 175, 176, 178, 183, 184
- 14 ligne pillar wheel rattrapante (1944-1960) - Calibres 179, 185, 190
- 14 ligne cam switched (1948-1966) - Calibres 188, 200, 210, 211