Vulcain, The Watch for Presidents

Acknowledged for its iconic models and its unique mechanical movements, the Manufacture Vulcain holds a place of its own within the world of Fine Watchmaking.

Founded in 1858, the workshop of the Ditisheim brothers – which was to give rise to the Vulcain brand – immediately earned itself an enviable reputation through its complication watches, which received awards at several World Fairs. Almost a century later, Vulcain launched the first ever mechanical alarm movement, which soon achieved worldwide fame. The legendary Cricket calibre took flight before finding its place in the history books as “The Presidents’ Watch”. American heads of state Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Trumann, Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson all wore a Vulcain on their wrist, a fact that earned the brand its prestigious reputation. But the technical qualities of Vulcain watches also appealed to explorers and adventurers. From the 1950s onwards, the brand in Le Locle was to partner famous mountaineering and maritime expeditions.

The Vulcain Cricket Calibre

Vulcain earned its noblest title in the mid-20th century. In 1947, the “Fabrique de Montres Vulcain” presented the first genuinely operational alarm wristwatch. The idea of incorporating an alarm within a watch was not entirely new. But no watchmaker had ever succeeded in developing a standard-size movement capable of producing a sound powerful enough to awaken its owner. In rising to this challenge, Robert Ditisheim called upon the talents of the finest watchmakers and engineers. After five years of research and development, he presented the famous mechanical hand- wound Cricket calibre, equipped with two barrels, one for the movement and the other for the alarm, emitting a strident sound reminiscent of the shrill chirping of a cricket – hence its name.

Vulcain, an extreme sport watch

K2 ascent
Vulcain watches stand up to the toughest conditions: As in the 1930s, marketing representatives for the La Chaux-de-Fonds brand placed their watches on the wrists of seasoned athletes. In addition to soccer, Vulcain set its sights on both the heights and the depths. To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Italian Mountaineering Club in 1954, a team of 14 transalpine mountaineers had sworn to be the first to conquer K2, the mythical Himalayan peak in the Karakoram range, located on the outskirts of India, China and Pakistan. Under the leadership of geology professor Ardito Desio, 700 porters transported over thirteen metric tons of equipment to the base camp at an altitude of 5,000 meters, at the foot of this magnificent pyramid of rock and ice. On July 31, 1954, the roped party of Uno Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni, accompanied by their Crickets, reached 8,620 meters. Only Everest is higher.

The Nautical in the depth
The only alarm watch in the world that works underwater owes a great deal to the exploits of an extraordinary man, Hannes Keller. Since his basic training days, this Zurich resident has had a passion for diving. It was one of his military friends who had shown young Keller the beauties of the underwater world. In 1959, Vulcain's directors got wind of Hannes Keller's repeated exploits. On his advice, they decided to perfect a watch that would accurately indicate the decompression stops. The famous Nautical was born. Additionally, its chime could be heard very well underwater, an obvious plus in the darkness of the ocean depths. When he first attempted to reach a depth of 155 meters in Lake Maggiore, using a revolutionary mixture of gases concocted by a professor from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and greatly shortened decompression times, Keller did not attract any crowds – only one journalist from the brand-new daily newspaper Blick was present. But the news was heard around the world. More than 500 press articles mentioned it and the newsreels brought the diver instant fame. Keller later beat his own record near Catalina Island, off the coast of Los Angeles. On December 2, 1962, he descended to a depth of 315 meters.

Therefore, in addition to the legendary Cricket alarm calibre that continues to beat at the heart of the brand’s iconic models, the Manufacture has also asserted itself by offering classic and legendary models relating to the fabulous history of Vulcain. Around these twin pillars with their undeniable evocative power, the brand now continues to forge its exemplary reputation As Vulcain loves to express it: “The strength of a brand lies in the reality of its history and the authenticity of its product”. This credo is the enduring driving force behind the activities of the Manufacture. Yesterday, today and tomorrow.