Antique watches refer mainly to pocket watches, or vintage wristwatches, made with metal and mechanical movements. Most are watches manufactured from the late 18th century up to about 1950. In the early days, antique watches were the prized collectibles of royalty and aristocrats, thus symbols of power and money. In 1926, in Zug, Switzerland, an experienced and highly skilled master watchmaker started a workshop with money he had accumulated for years. That is how Swiss Balco was born.
Watchmaking in those early days was different from today, as there were far fewer machines to aid production. Therefore, many parts and processes of the antique watches were made manually. This included the engraving of patterns, and production and polishing of the internal parts of the movement. Hand polishing is a challenging test of skills. A tiny mistake will render the watch case or movement parts useless. Even though manual polishing was time-consuming, the polished movement operates with more stability and reliability; and its accuracy and service life are also improved.
Balco’s mechanical pocket watches, launched in the 1920s, were very appealing and used the classic Arabic marks (numerals?) and spade-shaped hands. The crown and bezel were engraved with fine patterns that required sophisticated technology, demonstrating the extraordinary skill of the watchmaker; while the bridge of the case back was polished with perlée (pearl-shaped) patterns, creating an overall effect that was beautiful and very pleasing to the eyes.
It should be noted that this fine pocket watch, with such a long history, has not only remained intact in terms of appearance, but it still keeps accurate time after winding it up. This is proof of the rigorous production process and the pursuit of pre-eminence by the century-old Balco brand.
In the 1920s, when the major brands produced round watches, a square-shaped antique watch represented an avant-garde design. At the centre of the dial, there were well-designed, engraved lines that cleverly combined the square shape, making the watch appear more three-dimensional. The Arabic marks on the metallic dial were embossed, which demonstrated Balco’s superior craftsmanship; the hands were fluorescent and easy to read at night; while the bezel was engraved with hieroglyphic text, which translated as “God’s words” – a tribute to ancient Egyptian culture.
Details mean quality. The square-shaped watch was handsome and exquisite; it was a representation of unique ideas, showing that the Balco brand, while possessing superb craftsmanship, kept abreast of fashion trends.
Mechanical antique watches, which appeared in the 1930s, were round, smart, delicate, yet mature-looking. Time marks were shaped like stakes and the hands were golden, achieving an overall look of neatness and simplicity. The resin crystal was convex in shape, enhancing the three-dimensional quality of the watch, which could be repeatedly polished to a high sheen, making it the best choice for making watch crystals at the time. The telescopic strap was also a popular element at the time, as it made putting on the watch simple and fast. Equipped with a hand-wound mechanical movement, the watch showed Balco’s exquisite workmanship and added a touch of fashion.
Antique watches from the 1940s gradually began to demonstrate a modern style. The design was a marriage of classical and modern elements, with the case designed to feature simple, bold lines. Black was the overall tone. Black represents coolness, a low profile and mysteriousness, reflecting a masculine taciturnity and the fullness of character. The dial featured Arabic numerals, while the bar-shaped hands enhanced the overall unity of style, with nothing seeming out of place. The hours, minutes and seconds were displayed without any frills, while underneath the six o’clock position a ‘SWISS MADE’ label was added to indicate that Swiss watches were world-renowned. Equipped with a hand-wound movement, the watch showed that beneath a man’s mysterious exterior, there was great charm inside.
The dainty mechanical wristwatch for women produced in the 1920s featured a dial that followed the original pocket watch style. The time marks were classic in character, and at the six o’clock position there was a small dial for seconds. The spiral-patterned bezel showcased Balco’s technical superiority. The marks, in Arabic numerals, adopted the vintage style, and together with the blue steel hands, presented a nostalgic elegance. Pearl-shaped lugs connected the case with a pencil-thin strap, symbolising the magnificent beauty of an oyster and pearls, as well as women’s attitude towards life. The watch was equipped with a hand-wound movement. It resembled a belle of great beauty and profound intelligence, because it had a fashionable and elegant appearance and a vibrant and extraordinary interior. This watch was specifically produced for women looking for the finer things in life.
Antique watches from the 1920s combined a round and square design for the case, fusing exquisite skills and modern design; the elegant church-style hands were hallmarks of the European vintage style and demonstrated the unique local charm of the Balco brand; while a dainty dial used the movement of the second hand to express the philosophy of time and a uniquely elegant and classic quality. The sharp, bright yellow marks and hands on the black dial represent the illustrious and spectacular achievements of men, while the polishing was done to perfection and brought out the lightness and roundness of the lines, evoking the image of a perfect gentleman. Equipped with a fully automatic wind-up movement that still operates to date, this watch shows that Balco watches are the perfect fit for men of wisdom in the prime of their lives.
Diamonds are forever. The ancient Greeks believed that diamonds are the tears of the gods, therefore listing diamond as the sun in the planets of gemstones. This alone is enough evidence of the preciousness and high prices of diamonds. Women’s antique watches, which came about in 1940s, are exquisite and radiant like the sun. The overall design uses diamond shapes and cutting to closely connect the case to the strap. With a diameter of about 16mm, this watch is petite and ornate. It is equipped with a 17-jewel manually-wound movement, which shows Balco’s time-tested craftsmanship. The crystal is a convex resin surface and has a pronounced curvature which can be repeatedly polished for sheen. The strap is adjustable in length, making this watch practical and convenient to wear. It can be worn as a piece of jewellery that shows feminine tenderness and elegance.
Antique watch models for women from the 1940s have the original packaging, warranty cards and so on … They are still well preserved after 70 years. The watch’s appearance is totally intact, while the colour of the plated gold on the case and the strap is still just as brilliant. The case is extremely compact, measuring just 18 mm in diameter. Not only is it feminine, it can also be worn as a decorative accessory, so it is very practical. The anti-oxidation, anti-rust blue steel hands make the watch even more unique; the adjustable telescopic strap was meticulously designed: the musical notes connect to one another, composing the perfect song for feminine nobleness and elegance. Equipped with a manual mechanical movement, this watch amply demonstrates Balco’s stringent requirements for watchmaking and the watchmaker’s pursuit of excellence.