It was in 1947 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the cradle of watchmaking and a UNESCO world heritage site, that Willy Lebet founded his company. Now called Catena, it started out assembling movements, but soon specialised in the manufacture of private label watches. Thanks to its highly elegant designs, it quickly built up a solid reputation. In the 1960’s, it established a sound footing in North and South America, where many brands have appreciated being able to sell high-quality, Swiss-made watches under their own name and at a fair price.
Catena embraces the quartz phenomenon
The arrival of quartz in the 1970’s threw the world of watchmaking into turmoil. Traditional mechanical movements went out of fashion and Swiss watchmakers found themselves with serious competitors for the first time. This technical upheaval led to a change in mentality. A watch, considered till then a once-in-a-lifetime purchase, became a fashion accessory. Cheaper and less technically challenging, quartz lent itself to original designs, while enthusiasts began buying several timepieces to wear on different occasions. This new order suited Catena perfectly as it had already built up a reputation for styling and an accessible price position.
Flying saucers light up the Catena sky
The time had come for the company to fly with its own wings. No sooner said than done as the first model to appear under its own name, Catena, was none other than the legendary Spaceman. Designed by the architect Le Marquand, it was launched to instant international acclaim in 1972. A veritable design icon inspired by flying saucers, it was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the famous MoMA, until 1977.
The success of ultra-slim
Following this success, Catena became ever more creative and soon built up a phenomenal portfolio of several hundred ultra-slim models. In 1980, it launched its 569 model, which was to go down in history as one of the world’s best-selling rectangular-shaped timepieces ever. Other successes included the “gold ingot” watch, one of the first moon phases, and a tide watch.
Repositioning around the horseshoe
Eric Aubert took over the brand in 1993. He very quickly repositioned it around the world of equestrianism. While the designs remained just as sought-after, they now centred exclusively on the spur and horseshoe. In the spring of 2008, Catena was bought out by the French group Ambre. It didn’t take them long to realise that the horseshoe should be kept as the brand’s trademark. Both a watch and a piece of jewellery, Catena is set to write many more beautiful pages in the history of Swiss watchmaking.
In the early 50’, Mr. Lebet registered the brand Catena and the company was specialized in the assembly of mechanical watch movement. However, Mr. Lebet was driven by a desire to create an independently produced Caliber, an automatic movement for originality and technical ingenuity. Year after year since his dream, the company had spent a good deal of time prior to that researching and developing the philosophy and product identity of a movement that would bear their name. The movement, which was 6 years in the development process, was created in conjunction with a team of talented watch makers and engineers, with the aids of avant-garde technology. The first “in-house” caliber SA100 was released in 2008.
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