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Charles Couleru-Meuri was a watchmaker located in La Chaux-de-Fonds from 1880 through the 1920s, and his namesake company was one of the most important makers of complicated watches in La Chaux-de-Fonds during this time. After his 1899 bankruptcy his namesake company was taken over by Parisians Hector Lévy and Georges Meyer who used the intellectual property to build the Utinam factory in Besançon. Couleru-Meuri himself continued with a new firm and invented 8-day watches in association with L. Sandoz-Vuille of Le Locle. His son Eugène Couleru founded Montres Octo to produce similar watches but faced bankruptcy himself in the economic downturn of the 1920s. Couleru-Meuri's legacy is seen in the Besançon watch industry (including a modern Utinam), 8-day watches and clocks from Octo, Rode, and Octava, and the Montbrillant Watch Manufactory building he shared with Breitling in the 1890s.


See Also: Charles Couleru-Meuri

Charles-Frédéric Couleru was born in Fontainemelon on December 27, 1851. He was the son of Charles Couleru (1821-1892). Me married Maria-Julia Möri (November 27, 1856-May 22, 1945) of Neuchatel around 1889 but the couple were divorced in 1898. Her name is consistently spelled Möri (in both official marriage and death announcements) though the family used Meuri (sometimes misspelled Meury).

Charles Couleru-Meuri located his workshop at 9 Rue Neuve as early as 1880. Some sources date the start of the company to as early as 1848, but this would have to have been his father, also named Charles Couleru. Charles Couleru-Meuri produced high-end and complicated pocket watches, specializing in moon phase indicators and ultra-thin models.

In 1875 the firm of Hahn et Couleru is listed in Boudry as a maker of ebauches (remontoirs). This follows the 1873 registration of a perfected crown winding mechanism in France by a Mr. Couleru. In 1880 C. Couleru-Meuri is listed in La Chaux-de-Fonds as a maker of watches at Rue Neuve 9. The first survey of business owners in 1883 lists Charles Couleru-Meuri of Fontainemelon as the manager of the watchmaking operation known as Couleru-Meuri.

The company registered the Minerva brand name and logo in May 1886 (registration number 1587). This is followed by a star in a belt with the company name, registered June 1887 (number 1944) for watch movements. The next brand name was Mascotte, inside a double diamond logo, registered November 28, 1887 (number 2099) and an intriguing registration for a hand inside a sub-dial with moon and stars, registered December 1 (number 2112). Next was the registration of Bicycle Club Watch - Observator on August 14, 1888 (number 2384). He registered a brand for use in Arabia with 171 (in Eastern Arabic numerals) above a star and crescent on December 12, 1891 and this was revised with the slogan "Once Upon a Time, a Certificate of Excellence" in Arabic added on April 17, 1899. Next was the Mascotte brand, registered inside a circle with the text "Compteur Kilometrique" around a "CM" script on May 8, 1893 (number 6409) and a more casual "La Mascotte" script mark on January 18, 1897.

Couleru-Meuri received a third-class medal at the International Watch Exhibition at La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1881, the first of many accolades. Charles Couleru-Meuri was recognized in Geneva in 1881 for advantageous production methods and good use of power. The company was recognized for its calendar watch movements at Zürich in 1883 and received medals at Antwerp in 1885 and Paris in 1889 and 1893. The company was also recognized at the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893.

In 1894 Couleru-Meuri relocated to a large factory at 18 Boulevard du Petit-Château, next to Léon Breitling's workshop. By 1901, this was listed as 1 Rue(lle) Montbrillant as the road had been disconnected. This large factory was called Montbrillant Watch Manufactory by Breitling and remained closely associated with the production of complicated pocket watches and 8-day clocks for decades even after Couleru-Meuri moved on. The company also diversified, introducing a line of cycling odometers under the Mascotte brand by 1884.

Couleru-Meuri was well known for complicated watches, including those with a 24 hour display, with calendar and moon phase indicator, and special watches for the blind and stopwatches. By 1892, Couleru-Meuri had patented a moon phase indicator with a concentric subdial pointer, and aggressively defended this design. The company also collected numerous other patents, including early chronograph indications, ultra-thin designs, and an 8-day movement.

In 1893, the firm patented an unusual 24 hour watch featuring a disc with alternating numbers 1-12 and apertures that would shift at noon to show the numbers 13-24. This was developed at the time but not produced in volume. A controversy arose in 1913 when a French firm, Adrien Castenceau, patented the same design without credit. Couleru-Meuri's patents 7197 and 7198

Bankruptcy proceedings were initiated on Charles Couleru-Meuri on May 3, 1898 with an assembly of creditors on June 1. This action was revoked a year later as Couleru-Meuri received additional investment to continue operation as Hector Lévy, successor to C. Couleru-Meuri, in November 1900. This Paris businessman had been an associate of Couleru-Meuri previously and acquired all of Couleru-Meuri's trademarks the following year. Lévy, for his part, passed ownership of the firm to Georges Meyer, another Parisian, on November 1, 1902. Meyer and Lévy opened a new factory in Besançon called Utinam in 1906 and renamed the former Couleru-Meuri operation Fabrique Utinam in 1909. Meyer ran the company until it was closed in 1927.

The company then offered technical services to other watchmakers in La Chaux-de-Fonds, resisting the drive to mass production just as Charles Couleru-Meuri had done. The company also began working closely with the commercial distributor Gindrat-Delachaux, also of La Chaux-de-Fonds, at this time and many watches and patents are issued in the name of both. It retains the name, Charles Couleru-Meuri, through this time period, so it is likely that the eponymous watchmaker remained involved.

A new business called Charles Couleru-Meuri, Fabrique du Petit Château, was created in February, 1905. It was located at Rue de Montbrillant 1 by Charles-Frédéric Couleru-Meuri and his son Eugène-Léon Couleru. This company too initiated bankruptcy proceedings on May 4, 1908. It was deleted from the commercial registry on June 3 of that year.

The following year, Eugène is the proprietor of the Couleru-Meuri watchmaking business, now located at Rue Jaquet-Droz 47. Charles Couleru-Meuri appears to have lived a while longer, however, and his home address is listed at Rue de la Promenade 16 through 1917. In 1918, the home is listed as belonging to Vve. Couleru-Meuri, suggesting that Charles died in 1917. She is no longer listed after this year either.

Charles Couleru-Meuri died on November 7, 1917 in La Chaux-de-Fonds. He was survived by his widow as well as his children, Eugène, Henri, Jeanne-Marguerite (1889-1981), and Charles. His daughter Alice had died at 13 years of age in 1907.

Eugène Couleru

Eugène-Léon Couleru was the eldest son of Charles Couleru-Meuri and Maria-Julia Möri, born in the 1880s. He was a watchmaker like his father and was listed on many of the company's patents starting in 1900. Eugène's company, Fabrique d'Horlogerie Octo, Eugène Couleru, appears at Rue Jaquet-Droz 47 in 1909, just after the closure of his father's workshop at Montbrillant 1. Interestingly, he is listed in the Annuaires des Adresses as "Eugène Couleru" at his home address ("Ménagère") and as "Eugène Couleru-Meuri" for his business. The business remains listed as "Eugène Couleru-Meuri" until his father's death in 1918 and is listed as "Eugène Couleru" after this.

Eugène Couleru's company would take up the watchmaking business of Couleru-Meuri, and he is shown as the producer of "Octo" watches starting in 1912. The workshop relocated from the central Rue Jaquet-Droz out to Rue de la Charrière 37 in 1914. In 1920 an official listing shows Eugène-Léon Couleru of Fontainemelon as chief of "Eugène Couleru, Fabrique Octo" located at Rue de la Charrière 37 in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The Octo brand was registered in June 1923.

Couleru produced Octo-branded watches for sale by the firm of Marc Dubois, which by that time was owned by Ernest Tolck. But Couleru did not continue his father's tradition of chronometry and complications. Eugène Couleru is listed as registering "Fabrique Octo" in 1920, and was still associated with the Octo brand by 1927.

But Couleru's new firm did not fare well and would enter bankruptcy on October 5, 1926. That year, the Couleru workshop became a home-based business at Rue des Tourelles, coincidentally quite close to the Montbrillant factory used by his father. The business was disbanded in March 1927 with the Octo mark taken over by Ernest Tolck in August. Eugène Couleru moved back to the center of town at Rue de la Serre in 1929, and his last appearance in Indicateur Davoine is 1930. This would mark the end of Eugène's business, and perhaps was the year of his death, as he is no longer listed in the La Chaux-de-Fonds directory.

Eugène Couleru married Frieda Haudenschild in 1909. Eugène Couleru-Haudenschild died in 1936. He was survived by his widow Frieda (née Haudenschild) and daughters Yvonne and Suzanne-Lily as well as his mother and siblings. His son Henri-Eugène died in 1926 at the age of 16.

Montres Octo

Main Article: Octo

By 1904, Couleru-Meuri was producing 8-day clocks under the Octo brand based on their 1903 patent 10370. 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. Couleru's longtime partner Gindrat-Delachaux, also sold 8-day clocks and watches based on the movement since 1904. Breitling also produced 8-day watches in the same factory at that time, and these likely used Couleru-Meuri movements.

The "Octo" brand was registered by Eugène Couleru in 1920. But by this date it was also used by Marc Dubois, which had been taken over by Ernest Tolck in 1916. Tolck/Dubois continued production of 8-day clocks "pour automobiles et voitures" under the "Octo" name. By 1927, Ernest Tolck had taken over the Octo brand, officially registering the company as Fabrique Octo.

The Couleru patent, 10370, expired in 1919, but Tolck (Montres Octo) registered new patents, 38361 and 44829 for long-duration movements. Another patent, 141602, was registered in 1930 as the production of Octo watches continued, and 44829 was renewed in 1934 and 1939.

Octo S.à.r.l. (later called Octo SA) was established in Bienne as a successor to Tolck in 1941. It continued to offer 8-day watches under the Octo brand through the 1960s, along with a line of standard watches. Octo was exclusively distributed by Chung Nam by 1970 and the company owned the brand by 1993.

The final reminder of Couleru-Meuri and Montres Octo is the sign which is still visible on the Montbrillant Watch Manufactory: It specifies "8 Jours", a reference to the tenant from 1894!


  • FR97725, January 7, 1873 - Perfectionnament dans le construction des remontoirs de montres

See Also