Cyma traces its roots back to the Schwob brothers, joseph and Theodore, who initially established in 1862 as a watch manufacturer, assembling watches from components from multiple swiss sources. The founder of Sandoz & Cie in Le Locle, Henri Sandoz, moved to Tavannes in 1891. The groups developed a business relationship and Cyma was officially registered in 1903. Sandoz used high quality manufacturing and development to create top timepieces, marketed as Tavannes, Cyma and Cyma Tavannes. They focused on repeater watches, high complications and chronographs, with a daily production of 150 pieces in 1900. The company received numerous awards, notably for its extra slim movements. In 1903 it was awarded the chronometer certification by the Neuchatel Observatory for its extra flat lever calibre in a pocket watch.
By 1910 Tavannes Cyma developed into one of the largest Swiss watch manufacturers. Output has risen significantly, with some 2500 movements being assembled daily. From 1915, Cymas skilled designers were elaborating shock-resistant movements, along with waterproof models.
During the 1920s the company was an early proponent of component interchangeability, enabling its workshops to produce watches on a larger scale. By 1929 it has the biggest workshop in Europe and employed 2000 people to assemble 4000 watches a day.
Inspired by the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements, a new type of ornamented watch case appeared in the early 1900s. The Niello watch case was a canvas for beautiful art works. The term comes from the Latin word nigellum that is the diminutive of black. It is a black or blackish-blue composition of lead, silver, copper, Sulfur and ammonium chloride. The mixture is fused onto an engraved or cut-out metal base. When used on Silver watch cases, it fused very strongly. It would be filled, finished and polished, leaving the surface of the watch case smooth and flat. This was a costly process, taking up a lot of time. The cases had to be designed by artists and finished by engravers.
Top swiss makers included the Huegenin Brothers of Le Locle, Duchene of Geneva and Ed Favre of Le Locle.
The outstanding attention to detail that these fine Swiss houses showed, was due in part to watches being marketed to diverse cultures worldwide. The cases needed instant appeal in order to catch the eye. The engravings reflected this with designs and thematic material, with Art Nouveau and Art Deco designs.
The design in question on this Cyma watch was unusual. It resembled a Linear approach to design, much more akin to the Art Deco period, despite still being slightly early for this influence. It seems to be inspired by the Mackintosh design school specifically.
This period of Niello design was passing by 1929. The world economy was affected by the wall street crash, whilst the pocket watch market was declining rapidly. Pocket watches were most useful for the designs due to the large canvas.
The 1910s were a hugely transitional period for watches, with a move towards trench watches and wristlets. This period also saw much experimentation in design, with this example being particularly unusual with a tonneau case and linear Niello design.
The watch is of very high quality, in pioneering design, dial layout and movement.
It has been recently serviced and is in good antique condition. The watch measures 27.5mm x 35.75mm which means this watch is comfortable on a male or female wrist.
Please see the images as these compliment and aid the description provided below.
The dial is simple and elegant with a silver satin finish. It is in very good original condition for the age. The dial is signed Cyma, Swiss Made below 12 O’clock, with a railroad track for minutes running around the exterior. The central second of the dial is surrounded by a thick black circle, with bold Arabic numerals. The design is typically associated with enamelled trench watch dials. The sub-second dial is at 6 O’clock, with a bold outer line and 10 second graduations.
The hands are silver in tone and are in good condition, free of bending and major corrosion.
They are Plume shaped. The sub second hand appears to be a replacement and is thermally blued.
The crystal is a replacement and is in good condition with nothing more than light surface scratches.
The crown is original and is in good condition. It is a beautiful onion crown of the era which really catches the eye. It functions as it should, winding the watch and setting the hands.
The case is made of Silver. It is an unusual case design, being made of a front tonneau shaped section, with the movement being within a circular section securing into the front. Undoubtably the main attraction of the case is the shape, combined with the Niello finish. The linear design is very clean and unusual, with the Niello finish very uncommon on a wrist-watch case. There is one slight area missing on the lefthand side. The case has a polished finish and is evenly tarnished all over, which creates a neat patina. The rear is also in good condition, but it is tarnished.
The case back is made of Silver and snaps in place. It is in good condition, with no dents or obvious signs of damage. There is tarnishing and light surface scratching consistent with age.
Inside of caseback:
The inside of the case back has a polished finish. It is hallmarked for British imported silver, with the London assay office mark. It has the date letter “U”, meaning it is from 1915/16. It is signed Patent A.S. The serial number is 1105931, 100.
The strap is a new, genuine leather Meyhoffer 14mm single piece strap (updated from the images for better quality).
The movement is an early calibre from Tavannes. The movement is in very good condition for its age cosmetically and functionally, having been recently serviced.
It has a daily gain of +15 seconds, with an amplitude of 215 and a beat error of 6.0m/s.
Case width: 27.5mm
Case width with crown: 29.5mm
Case length: 35.75mm
Case Depth: 8mm
Lug width: 13mm
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