Mappin & Webb Favre Leuba Sea Chief wrist watch

This is a rare gentlemen’s Sea Chief wrist watch from Mappin & Webb with a movement by Favre Leuba. This vintage watch is in beautiful condition with the original box and papers. The Sea Chief was a brand that was more commonly sold under the Favre Leuba label.

Sea Chief from Mappin & Webb, 1976.
Sea Chief from Mappin & Webb, 1976. © The Vintage Wrist Watch Company

Mappin & Webb

Mappin & Webb (M&W) is an international jewellery company headquartered in England. They are famous for retailing high-quality watches, silver and jewellery. Mappin & Webb was officially established in 1889 however its roots can be traced back to 1775 when Jonathan Mappin opened a silver smithing workshop in Sheffield. The business was passed down from father to son until in the mid-18th Century when it became Mappin Brothers Ltd by Jonathon’s four great-grandsons, William, Edward, Joseph and John.

In 1860, John left the company and started his own business, Mappin & Company, and opened a store on London’s Oxford Street. Two years later, in 1852, John’s brother-in-law, George Webb joined the business and the company was renamed to Mappin, Webb & Co. The company was first recorded as Mappin & Webb Ltd in 1889.

Mappin & Webb received their first Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria in 1897. The end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries saw a real focus on global expansion with the first overseas store opening in Johannesburg. By 1910 there were stores in another twelve locations including Biarritz, Rome, Buenos Aires and Cairo.

The family lost control of the business in the 1950s when it was the subject of a hostile takeover. Since then, it has changed ownership many times. Mappin & Webb is still regarded today as one of Britain’s most prestigious jewellers. The company played an important role in the widespread popularisation of the wristwatch in the years following World War I. They weren’t watchmakers, but retailed high-quality watches, such as this Sea Chief made by Favre Leuba.

Favre Leuba

Favre Leuba is one of the world’s oldest watch brands dating back to 1737. It was established by Abraham Favre (1685–1762), who having started a watching-making apprenticeship in 1718, opened his own workshop in Le Locle, Switzerland in 1737. Favre was appointed the Maître horloger du Locle (master watchmaker of Le Locle) around 1749.

It was Favre’s son, also named Abraham, who transformed the small workshop into a fully-fledged business. He worked with his sons, Frederic and Henry-Louis to establish A.Favre & Fils in Le Locle. In 1792.

In 1815, Henry-Augustus, Frederic Favre’s son and Abraham Favre’s grandson, established a partnership with Auguste Leuba, a member of a family of watchmakers and merchants, to create the brand name Favre-Leuba. The new partners took the business to Germany, Russia, Cuba, USA, Brazil, and Chile in the early 1800s to establish their pocket watches in international markets.

In 1855, the Favre and Leuba families became intertwined when Fritz Favre, Henry-Augustus’ son, married Adele-Fanny Leuba. Fritz accelerated brand publicity by entering Favre Leuba pocket watches into national and international exhibitions. They exhibited in London (1851), New York (1853), Paris (1855), Bern (1857), and Porto (1865), amongst others.

In 1955, Favre Leuba introduced the manual winding FL 101 caliber, an independent movement made only for Favre Leuba. The caliber FL 102, introduced in 1957, featured a date function and was used in Favre Leuba’s Datic models. The automatic FL 103 and FL 104 movements followed, which are equipped with or without a date display, respectively.

Notable models

By the early 1960’s watch enthusiasts had been introduced to dive watches, pilot watches, and watches for motor racing. These “tool watches” appealed to the watch collectors with active lifestyles. In 1962, Favre Leuba recognised a gap in the market and developed the Bivouac specifically for the outdoorsman. The Favre Leuba Bivouac was the first ever mechanical watch with an aneroid barometer to measure altitude.

Also, in the 1960s, Favre Leuba introduced the Water Deep and the Deep Blue, both dive watches resistant to 200 metres. In 1968, Favre-Leuba introduced the Bathy which was the first mechanical wristwatch in the world to show current dive depth as well as dive time.

By the 1960s, the eighth generation of the Favre family owned the company and sat on its board of directors. However, the challenges brought on by the quartz crisis after the first quartz movement was introduced in 1969 greatly increased the pressures on the 200-year-old brand. In 1965, Favre Leuba joined forces with Jaeger-LeCoultre under the SAPHIR Group. Although Jaeger-LeCoultre was to survive the crisis, Favre Leuba, ultimately disappeared from the industry in 1985.

Movement

The watch has a high-grade 17-jewel hand-winding movement, signed by Favre Leuba, which is working reliably. The movement is an AS 2061 which was manufactured by Adolph Schild (AS), a Swiss movement manufacturer. Founded in 1862, Adolph Schild was known for producing a wide range of good quality mechanical watch movements, including both manual-winding and automatic calibres. The movement is 25.6 mm in diameter and has a power reserve of approximately 50 hours.

AS 2061 movement.
AS 2061 movement.

Favre Leuba would have purchased the movement from Adolph Schild and had it embossed with their own name. It is possible that Favre Leuba further embellished the movement.

Case and dial

The watch measures 35mm in diameter excluding the winding crown and the lugs. The case is stainless steel and it is in beautiful condition. The screw on case back is signed Favre Leuba. It also states that the watch is water resistant but, as with any vintage watch, it should be kept away from water and moisture. Original signed winding crown. The crystal lens is in beautiful condition.

Favre Leuba case back and buckle.
Favre Leuba case back and buckle.

The dial is signed with the name of the original retailer, Mappin & Webb. It also has the Favre Leuba logo and the name Sea Chief. The dial is in beautiful original condition with original hands, centre seconds hand and date display (quickset at first position).

A new leather strap has been fitted, but the original Favre Leuba signed buckle has been retained. An original watch strap buckle is a real rarity, but adds value to a vintage watch.

The watch comes in its original Mappin & Webb presentation box with an original Mappin & Webb guarantee dated 1976. This beautiful watch is in superb condition and a rare example as I have not previously seen a private-label Favre Leuba Sea Chief made for Mappin & Webb.

Summary

This is a really nice-looking vintage watch, that was snapped up by a lucky collector before I had the chance to view the posting. It is incredibly original, with box and papers, a signed crown and buckle. It’s rare to find such a complete set. The Favre Leuba history was difficult to trace, with very few sources cited, so my version is a best guess. They seemed to focus on high-quality watches, but not always in-house movements. Not unusual for the time, but also pre-internet, so there isn’t much online.

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