Historical Perspectives: Gay Frères, Much More Than A Simple Manufacturer Of Watch Bracelets

Historical Perspectives: Gay Frères, Much More Than A Simple Manufacturer Of Watch Bracelets

The characteristic Gay Frères inscriptions on the clasp.

If you get a vintage watch and engraved in the wristband’s catch you are capable make out the letters “G” and “F” and in between them the bust of a slam, there’s a decent chance the arm band in your grasp is unique to the watch (or at any rate from a similar time span). With time, the lines will have relaxed, the etchings probably will have become less noticeable. Like the names of the individuals who sometime in the distant past provided the watch makers, they have blurred. In any case, no doubt about it, this is a wristband from one of most renowned metalworkers of the 20th century. This is the narrative of those watches, introduced in closeout inventories today “with unique Gay Frères bracelet.”

The Bonklip (extreme left) for Rolex and the advancement of the Oyster bracelet.

We’ve just talked about Gay Frères as an early arm band provider to Rolex , one of its first customers in the watch business. Not a terrible way to get your foot into the entryway when it comes to watches, correct? For The Crown, Gay Frères would convey enormous orders of Bonklip arm bands from the mid 1930s onwards.

These were extendable, especially comfortable and strong. They were likewise easy to deliver at scale for somebody with Gay Frères’ aptitude (more on that later). The style was famous at that point and different companies were equipped for providing a similar plan to Rolex (and they did!), however the form quality of GF’s dazzles the most.

This promoting underlines one of the benefits of the Bonklip, specifically its capacity to fit diverse wrist sizes.

If these tempered steel wristbands are tough essentially, what makes Gay Frères an engaging accomplice is the imagination of its fashioners. Throughout the 20th century, the company was ready to offer items that impeccably caught the different styles of the day, utilizing steel, gold, and platinum to make wristbands on the whole sorts of shapes and sizes. Those made during the Art Deco period were especially amazing in their assortment and exceptional in their masterfulness. While across the boundary the French maison Cartier demonstrated its fashion awareness during the 1920s and 1930s, so did the Geneva-based arm band producer. Strangely, the pattern towards treated steel cases during the 1930s allowed Gay Frères to flourish as this metal is extensively harder to create than gold, and consequently requires a ton of particular craftsmanship, unquestionably one space where Gay Frères had exceptional expertise.

Arguably however, Gay Frères saved its best work for Geneva’s most celebrated fabricates. During the 1940s and 1950s, the company provided Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin , two of its nearest neighbors, with wristbands that matched the quality of the watches to which they were fitted. The globules of-rice design demonstrated its flexibility at Patek, which combined it with straightforward tempered steel Calatravas and rose gold never-ending schedules the same. In case we fail to remember, the wristband that gets the most costly wristwatch at any point purchased at closeout – the $11 million Patek Philippe ref. 1518 in treated steel  –to the wrist of its new owner is a Gay Frères arm band. Similar references in valuable metals? Their wristbands are frequently made by Gay Frères too.

The 1518 from Patek Philippe, presented in 1941, was Patek’s first never-ending schedule with chronograph, ever.

But the splendor of Gay Frères was understanding the exceptionally fine subtleties that recognize an arm band that sets well with a dress watch from one that sets well with a games watch. Having the option to adjust a plan from one domain into another was critical.

A Heuer Ref. 2447SN with Gay-Frères wristband, around 1969. Sold a year ago by Phillips for CHF 40,000.

When the focal point of specific makers moved toward making chronographs and other expert watches during the 1960s and 1970s, Gay Frères settled on new plans, and introduced companies such as Heuer with a dots of-rice wristband flanked with Oyster-like collapsed joins. This is the situation for a few models, including early Carreras and Autavias – however not the Monaco, which utilized a Novavit S.A. (NSA) wristband. Heuer, as Rolex, had a few suppliers.

The renowned stepping stool arm band found on vintage Zenith chronographs.

Meanwhile, Zenith would arrange both stepping stool wristbands and hollow-connect arm bands for its own chronograph, the El Primero, implying that GF’s reputation in 1969 was such that is was providing produces in direct competition with each other with arm bands so extraordinary in their plans you may think they were made by discrete elements. The stepping stool wristband specifically has become something of a Zenith symbol, to where some don’t have any acquaintance with it’s a GF plan. These positively gave the watches their own particular looks, which is why, since they regularly spring up available without their unique wristbands, those now cost anywhere between from up to $2,000 all alone, in any event, for treated steel examples.

Gay Frères offered a wide choice of wristband styles at any given time.

In the 1970s, the fragile harmony between rich and powerful plan pulled in a portion of the more settled grands marques, including previous customers such as Patek Philippe, yet in addition watchmakers who had never worked with steel. Prior to the Royal Oak, Audemars Piguet had been a maker of complicated dress watches, every one of them in valuable metals, thus it depended intensely on GF’s mastery with non-valuable metals for the plan of the initially coordinated arm band. Same went, after four years, when Patek Philippe launched the Nautilus.

In certainty, by 1976, Gay Frères was much, much bigger than Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe. Still family-owned, run by the siblings Jacques-Hubert et Jean-Francois Gay, the wristband creator was Geneva’s biggest and most professionalized production line, with in excess of 500 experts in their employ.

The Royal Oak and the Nautilus had a similar dad, Gérald Genta, yet additionally a similar provider for their incorporated bracelets.

Before There Were Watch Bracelets

The rundown of Gay Frères’ renowned customers could go on; Jaeger-LeCoultre , Universal Genève, Tissot, IWC and Eterna all most likely merit a notice. However, something essential about Gay Frères is frequently neglected – it was established right back in 1835. This date shows that Gay Frères was not a wristwatch wristband producer from the beginning, given that wristwatches were non-existent in the initial segment of the 19th century. Indeed, Gay Frères never truly characterized itself exclusively as a creator of arm bands, nor does it today , now that it has a place with Rolex (which acquired it in 1998).

Another sort of wristband made by Gay Frères, with its matching neckband (Courtesy: Piguet Auction house)

Gay Frères was to be sure brought into the world a chainiste, the French word for a company that produces chains for pocket watches (and imperceptibly for jewelry, a pattern from the 16th century that at last returned three centuries later and finished with the style of the penditifs during the 1920s). In the 19th century, Geneva was a lot of renowned for the quality of its chainistes, to where connections of the chains would have set money esteem in northern Italy, Turkey, and Balkan nations, as indicated by a 1942 article from Montres Et Bijoux de Genève. As pocket watches lost grounds to wristwatches, those chainistes needed to adjust and offer wristbands notwithstanding chains (those that made due, obviously – numerous just went bankrupt). While valuable accessories and arm bands made a characteristic expansion, Gay Frères additionally offered the other old style jewelry things including rings, one in any event, highlighting the smash that can be found on the catch of its watch bracelets.

Old promoting from Gay Frères showing a comparative development for arm bands and watch bracelets.

This is a side of Gay Frères genuinely unknown today, but then this was perhaps the greatest business the company advanced at that point. A glance at the yearly lists from the esteemed exhibition  Montres Et Bijoux de Genève is incredibly uncovering: Gay Frères always displayed some refined pieces of jewelry and fancy wristbands, and never any of the more “common” watch arm bands that it was producing in mass quantities at that point (for that it was going to the Basel career expo ). Clearly, one could say that those esteemed pieces allowed GF to better showcase the craftsmanship it could achieve, kind of how the automotive business makes idea vehicles, yet honestly this was not a narrative creation made only for the show.

Very astounding examples from 1969, the more modest piece of jewelry getting an award that year for its creative treatment of gold for the round endings.

In chatting with past Gay Frères representatives now making inconceivably slim arm bands for Piaget, we had the opportunity to find that it was the jewelry pieces which had formed their abilities and allowed them to come up with further developed watch wristbands afterwards. Or then again, as one veteran clarified, even the completing of the Royal Oak arm band felt simple in comparison to routinely making one of those pieces, on which a few qualified workers would progressively intercede. Also, you need to know that the smallest mix-up frequently implied the thing would should be liquefied down and the interaction would need to be started from the very beginning, which certainly gives one a new appreciation for teamwork. This side of Gay Frères uncovered a world where minutia was however significant as it could be for conventional watchmaking. 

The offering from 1970 played on the completion of the gold to cause it to shine like precious stones, much like the new iced gold from Audemars Piguet.

The 1967 assortment from Gay Frères is very Gilbert Albert in soul, another creator who made the association between jewelry and wristwatches for Patek Philippe and Omega.

This jewelry shows up much less at closeout , at any rate with the Gay Frères provenance featured, most likely in light of the fact that it is less unmistakable than the wristbands with their striking GF markings (the other known imprint is the number 32 drawn in a key ). However, as we would see it they would be as fascinating a catch as any uncommon watch wristband, since they inform so much regarding how Gay Frères turned into the superior producer of watch arm bands in the 20th century, featuring again a connection between jewelry and watches that it is time after time overlooked. All things considered, wasn’t the primary wrist watch designed as a convenient jeweled piece for the Elisabeth 1st , Queen of England, in 1571?