Helvetia Serial Numbers
Helvetia serial numbers started at 2 million on their formation in 1895, peaking at over 6 million before changing format in 1973.
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To understand Helvetia serial numbers, we first need to look at the serial numbering of Helvetia’s sister company; Louis Brandt & Frere (later to become the Omega Watch Company).
By 1895 when the brothers Louis Paul and César Brandt founded the company that was to become Helvetia; the Société d’Horlogerie La Générale or the General Watch Company, the serial numbering system that they had been using for their Louis Brandt & Frere watches (Omega and other brand names) had reached over the 1 million figure.
When deciding on how to number the watches of the new company it seems they decided to start at 2 million in order to keep the serial number ranges of the two companies separate but also to imply a continuation between them.
Most of their brand names, other than Omega, were being moved to the General Watch Company and the General Watch Company was marketed as the ‘Successor to Louis Brandt & Frere’ whereas the original company was to change its name to the Omega Watch Company in 1904 after its most popular product.
By the end of 1902 the original Louis Brandt & Frere company was fast approaching the 2 million serial number mark itself, strangely though they then jumped the 2 million range completely going from 1 million numbered watches to the 3 million point. Though I have no proof it seems likely that the reason this happened was to prevent the re-use of numbers that had already been assigned to General Watch Company watches. The desire to be able to account separately for all of the watches manufactured by the two companies by keeping their serial number ranges discreet certainly explains why Louis Brandt & Frere numbers suddenly jump forward by 1 million.
In 1911 the, by now named, Omega Watch Company withdrew from the General Watch Company and so when General Watch Company watches reached the 3 million serial number mark in 1917 there was no reason for them not to carry straight on as there was no longer a need to keep the ranges separate.
General Watch Company, and then after a 1948 name change Helvetia Watch Company, serial numbers continued to just above 6 million in 1973 when, seemingly at around the time Silvana took the Helvetia name, the style of numbering changed to two sets of two digits, for example 49-73, with the second set of two digits denoting the year. The first set of two digits are a bit of a mystery but I think they may relate to the factory the watches were produced in as there are only a couple of variations.
Serial numbers are usually inscribed on the inside or outside of the case back often with a case number. Not all Helvetia watches have a serial number inscribed on them and chronographs and triple date watches often have a different format serial number that, unfortunately, I cannot use to date these watches.
The General Watch Company, Helvetia's parent company, had other brand names in its stable and you may be able to also look up Orta, Paradox, Post, General, Elsinore, Sackville, Fenchurch Lever, Cunard as well as many other wrist and pocket watches using this tool if their serial numbers fall within the range.
Serial Number Inside Caseback
Serial Number on Back of Case
The 'Date from Serial Number Lookup' below will supply you with a single year answer. This year is the most probable year for your serial number given all the information available.
From it's founding through to the late 1940s Helvetia's watch production was pretty stable at about 40,000 to 60,000 watches a year, towards the higher end during WWI and dropping in the 20s and 30s.
In the late 1940s and 50s production rose rapidly, probably to about 90,000 a year by the late 50s before dropping somewhat in the 1960s. Pinning down a date becomes more difficult following this increase and there is also less evidence of year of manufacture around. If the result of your lookup is in the late 50s or 60s the year will probably be not quite as accurate and I would allow a year or so either side.
Date from Serial Number Lookup
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