Its logo is the Greek letter Phi, because, for the company, it represents equilibrium.
Since the beginning, this watchmaker has emphasized international availability, selling its watches in over 100 countries. Indeed, this means that Baume & Mercier has the widest global reach of any Richemont brand.
Plain bezels and delicate markers and inscriptions characterize the brand’s visual design, thereby contributing to an unobtrusive, formal appearance. Silver indices, reserved color schemes, and satin finishes also extend this subtlety to the more sporty collections, including chronographs.
Images: Baume and Mercier
The company has been continually operating since its 1830 founding. In the second half of the 20th century, however, the firm went through several changes of hands. Firstly, Piaget acquired it in 1964; Piaget changed the Baume & Mercier logo to the Greek letter Phi.
Afterwards, jeweler and watchmaker Cartier bought Piaget, and throughout the 1990s, Richemont slowly gained control of Cartier’s Vendôme Group. Continue to learn about this Genevan watch brand’s history from the start. If you’d like to skip ahead, however, you can use the links below:
- The Baumes In Les Bois
- Baume Hands Reach Abroad
- Baume and Mercier Join Together
- The Hampton And Its Predecessors
- Capeland: A 1950s Classic Revival
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The Baumes In Les Bois
In 1830, Louis-Victor and Célestin Baume set up shop as the Frères Baume in Les Bois in northwest Switzerland. Les Bois is in the Jura Mountains, near watchmaking town such as Le Chaux-de-Fonds, Le Locle and Neuchâtel.
Les Bois was a small town, but one that employed many watchmakers, even at this time. Specifically, Les Bois was a source of movement components for calibers assembled by La Chaux-de-Fonds’ manufactures.
The Baumes, however, ran their own manufacture, making complete movements and watches, less common in Les Bois back then.
Baume Hands Reach Abroad
Because business was booming, the Frères Baume soon had ambitions larger than Switzerland. Therefore, in 1851, they established an English branch: Baume Brothers in London.
Not only was London an excellent market, it also opened access to the many colonies of the massive British Empire. India, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Burma and many African countries, for example, soon had access to Baume timepieces.
Because of this, the company frequently participated in international exhibitions and competitions in the late 19th century. In 1885, Baume watches ranked at the top of London’s 1885 Kew Teddington Observatory chronometer competition.
Besides London’s Kew Observatory certification trials, other exhibitions and competitions included those in Chicago, Melbourne, Paris, Amsterdam, and Zurich.
Baume and Mercier Join Together
In 1918, William Baume, grandson of Frères Baume cofounder Louis-Victor, merges his business with that of Genevan colleague Paul Mercier.
In order to facilitate this partnership, Baume moves his facilities to Geneva. Afterwards, the company’s name became Baume & Mercier, or sometimes Baume et Mercier Genève.
Paul was a watchmaker and jeweller, therefore, he would come to focus on the women’s side of the business. Born Pavel Cheredichenko in the Russian Empire, he naturalized in Switzerland as Paul Mercier.
The Hampton And Its Predecessors
During the Art Deco period of the 1920s, Baume & Mercier began designing and selling various square-and-rectangular-case watches.
These “shaped” watches were distinct in appearance from the converted pocket watches of the previous decade, which were typically round.
Although less common now, rectangular designs were a big step for wristwatches to come into their own. Hence, Baume & Mercier’s Hampton, one of the brand’s main collections, pays homage to this classic era of wristwatches.
The Hampton takes its name from the Hamptons in New York, in order to evoke their reputation of relaxed luxury. The original design that served as inspiration for the Hampton dates to the 1940s.
Gently curving lugs sit flush with the sides of the case, enhancing the continuous lines inherent to rectangular watches. The Hampton 10033 is the design directly descending from this 1940s model.
Capeland: A 1950s Classic Revival
Though the Capeland series takes cues from 1950s racing chronographs, its lineage traces to a 1948 Baume & Mercier chronograph.
Its distinctive design evokes the instrument panel of a high-performance ’50s sports car.
Capeland models are kept in rotation by the company, though models with chronograph and GMT Worldtimer functions are usually available.
In general, the chronograph is a flyback chronograph version with sweep seconds, tachymeter and three subdials, with plunger-style pushers.
The flyback chronograph is bi-compax with its telemeter on the dial’s periphery, while the tachymeter overlaps the two subdials. On the other Capeland chronographs, however, the telemeter, if present, and tachymeter are on the outer edge of the dial.
While the standard chronograph uses ETA’s 7750, La Chaux-de-Fonds movement maker La Joux Perret’s caliber 8147-2 powers the flyback.
The Capeland also comes in limited editions, for example, the model 10281 Shelby Cobra. This watch takes on the white-and-yellow-on-black appearance of the iconic British-American roadster.
Besides the color scheme, the rubber watchband conjures the image of tires on asphalt. The Cobra automobile, similarly to the Capeland watch itself, dares to take its classic 1960s style to the modern age.
Therefore, this legendary muscle car and its Capeland watch prove that truly successful design can acheive timeless renown. Overall, references to the car are tastefully subtle; a cutout Shelby Cobra logo adorns the back of the second hand.
In order to maximize toughness, an ultra-hard coating of amorphous diamond-like carbon protects the stainless steel case from scratches. All in all, the Capeland collection brings a vintage design nostalgia alongside modern large-diameter case dimensions and contemporary materials.
Learn More About Baume and Mercier
Baume and Mercier distinguishes itself in both men’s and women’s lines due to its heritage in watchmaking and jewelry.
Though its jewelry collections are long past, it also shares ties with Richemont watchmaker and jeweler Cartier.
Since its beginning, Baume and Mercier has won many timing accuracy competitions with its chronometers.
The brand offers not only award-winning accuracy, but beautiful design symbolized by its logo, the Greek letter Phi. Representing the golden ratio, the symbol therefore evokes timeless principles of fine art and classical architecture.
For more on the brand’s background, check out the official Baume & Mercier site for history and event news. Otherwise, visit our watch pages for in-depth reviews, informative guides and other quality articles:
- Visit Bespoke Unit’s Watches Homepage
- Read about the contemporary offerings of the offshoot Baume brand
- Shop For Baume & Mercier Watches On Amazon
- Shop For Baume & Mercier On Bob’s Watches, our favourite watch retail specialist
- Find more Richemont watch histories
- Finally, see our main list of watch brands
"A Distinctive Elegance! Baume and Mercier's graceful designs exemplify classy precision."Rating: 5.0★★★★★