Cyma is a Swiss watchmaker founded by the brothers, Joseph and Theodore Schwob in 1862. The brothers established Schwob Frères in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, and worked according to the établissage system, assembling watches from components derived from multiple Swiss sources. They also registered a number of brand names and developed an extensive overseas distribution network.

In 1892, the brothers partnered with a watchmaker called Henri-Frédéric Sandoz, who had created Tavannes, a new watch company in the Jura municipality of the same name. Sandoz produced watches, watchmaking machinery, and other specialized machines using modern manufacturing methods and machinery. He also produced his own watch movements.

Cyma Bumper Automatic, 1950s.
Cyma Bumper Automatic, 1950s.

The partnership between Schwob Frères and Tavannes was mutually beneficial. Schwob Frères benefited from modern manufacturing processes and volumes. Tavannes benefited by being able to access the well-developed distribution network of Schwob Frères. Both of the companies remained separate entities and both exist in some form today.

The Cyma brand

In 1903, Schwob Frères registered the brand name Cyma, derived either from the French word “cime”, meaning “crown” or from the Latin word “cyma”, meaning “sprouts”. Cyma is pronounced “see-mah”. By 1908, Cyma was advertising the resilience of their timepieces when exposed to electricity, magnetism and varying temperatures. Even basic models were very accurate and many were sold as officially tested chronometers.

Cyma won several awards for its watchmaking feats, such as the chronometer certificate issued by the Neuchâtel Observatory in 1903, the first prize for accuracy at the World Fair in Brussels in 1910, and the invention of an extra-flat lever movement fitted inside a pocket watch.

From 1915, Cyma’s designers and technicians were creating shock-resistant movements and examples of the first waterproof watches. By the 1920s, Cyma had followed the trend to standardise watch part manufacture and made precision-made components to ensure long-term accuracy.

Cymaflex

Cymaflex, introduced in 1939, is a proprietary anti-shock device found in vintage Cyma watches. The balance wheel, which is the timekeeping mechanism of any mechanical watch, swings back and forth many millions of times a year on tiny pivots. In unprotected watches, the slightest bump can cause damage to these pivots. Cymaflex protects against shock by placing a patented jewelled ‘cushion’ at each end of the balance staff. It works much like other shock protection systems such as Incabloc and KIF. Cymaflex was a very successful marketing feature for Cyma and the name often appeared prominently on the dial.

Cyma Cymaflex automatic, 1950s.
Cyma Cymaflex automatic, 1950s.

Waterproof watches

The Cyma Watersport line of watches dates from at least the 1930s. It was marketed as being absolutely dustproof and waterproof. It was said to be the ideal men’s watch for the hard-wearing conditions of the tropics. According to advertisements from the period it had a stainless steel case, a fully jewelled and shockproofed lever movement that was guaranteed for ten years.

The Cyma Navystar collection made its debut in the 1950s and featured a wide array of designs and movements. Its defining characteristic was its slender case, combined with a durable and water-resistant construction. The Cyma Triplex was also introduced in the 1950s and claimed triple protection against dust, shock and magnetism. It was marketed on these features and was also said to be the ideal watch for tropical climates.

Branding

Branding was somewhat interchangeable throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Cyma watches often have Tavannes movements and vice-versa, and some watches are branded “Cyma-Tavannes”, “Ta-Cy”, or “Tacy”. Similarly, Tavannes’ “Admiral” model name often appears with the Cyma brand.

The Cyma and Tavannes brands began to decline during the 1960s, with production ceasing by 1966. That year, ASUAG’s Chronos Holding acquired both names, restarting production under their Synchron group in 1968. Cyma continued as a sister brand for Doxa and Ernest Borel under Synchron through the 1970s before production stopped again late in the decade. In 1978, the Cyma brand was sold and production moved to the former Doxa facility in Le Locle. The company is currently owned by Stelux International, Ltd., a Hong Kong-based holdings firm that invests in fine jewellery and watches. It is overseen by Universal Genève. Since its inception, Cyma has produced over 30 million watches worn worldwide.