Rolex Tudor and The Forgotten Watchmaker

 

A popular misconception is that the Tudor watch brand was first founded by Rolex in 1946. In fact, Tudor was originally registered by the Swiss watchmaker Veuve de Philippe Hüther in 1926 for Hans Wilsdorf. Wilsdorf  then took over the Tudor trade name in 1936 and officially launched the Rolex Tudor brand in 1946 with some of the early examples carrying both the Rolex and the Tudor trade marks (Figure 1). However, little seems to be known about the watchmaker Phillippe Hüther.

Stainless Tteel Tudor Oyster Circa 1946 1

 

 

 

 

Figure 1: A stainless steel Rolex Tudor Oyster with a face carrying the Rolex Crown along with the Tudor Oyster signature, Circa 1946.

Phillippe Hüther had established a watch making company in Colombier in Neuchâtel Switzerland by 1917. On his death in about 1925 his wife took over the company renaming it Veuve de Philippe Huether. It was presumably under the direction of his wife that Veuve de Philippe Huether established the Tudor brand at the behest of Wilsdorf. The earliest Tudor watches carried the Tudor name but the association with Rolex was limited with the Tudor brand being linked directly to Rolex in just a very few examples. However, Rolex did guarantee the technical quality of these early Tudor watches. The link between Veuve de Philippe Huether did not just rely on the Tudor brand.  Like Aegler, Veuve de Philippe Huether supplied watch components to Rolex. In the late 1940s/early 1950s Veuve de Philippe Huether was restructured and renamed Hüther SA with the manufacturing base being moved to Solothurn near Biel, Switzerland. Hüther SA made watches under a number of trade marks including Brunela (registered in 1953), Cloquet (registered in 1955), Hermia, (registered in 1956) Mortima, (registered in 1954, although Mortima was also registered by the French manufacturer Cattin & Cie circa 1957), Puncto and Puncto-Matic (registered in 1955). Hüther SA seems to have survived the cull of Swiss watch manufacturers in the late 1970s and 1980s and is still registered as a watch manufacturer in Solothurn.

The Influence of Chamberlain and Grainger on the Evolution of Royal Worcester

Robert Chamberlain, the head of the decorating department for Dr John Wall the founder of the Worcester porcelain company, established his own company at Warmstry House, King Street, Worcester. This new company initially painted blanks manufactured by other companies, but steadily expanded into the manufacture of his own wares. By the Regency period Chamberlain Worcester had acquired some fame for the very quality of his hand painted porcelain. His clients included Lord Nelson, and also the Prince Regent who granted the company his Royal Warrant in 1807. Chamberlain’s success was reflected in the way that he sold his wares via his shop at 33 Worcester High Street and via his fashionable London show room, initial set up at no 63 Piccadilly but eventually moving to 155 New Bond Street in 1816. Needless to say Chamberlain porcelain became a significant rival of Flight Bar and Grainger.Chamberlain Worcester Cabinet Plate 1

 

 

 

Figure 1: A Chamberlain & Co Worcester Cabinet plate dating from between 1840 and 1852. This plate can be purchased from our Ruby Lane shop.

By the early mid 1800s competition and changes in the economic climate meant that the ceramics industry had changed. To accommodate this change Chamberlain merged with Flight, Barr & Barr, giving rise to Chamberlain & Co in 1840. The new company continued to produce very high quality hand painted porcelain until 1851 (Figure 1). In 1851 Walter Chamberlain retired and the company was taken over by the Dublin business man William Kerr. Kerr invested heavily in modernizing the Chamberlain factory and building up an extremely talented team. Kerr returned to Ireland in 1862 leaving the company in the hands of Richard Binn, who formed The Worcester Royal Porcelain Co. Ltd, which of course evolved into Royal Worcester.Grainger Bird Plate 1

Figure 2: A Grainger porcelain cabinet plate dating to 1896 painted with what look like finches in a mystical woodland scene. This plate can be purchased from our Ruby Lane shop.

Another important Worcester porcelain manufacturer that played an important part in the development of Royal Worcester was Granger & Wood. Thomas Grainger, an apprentice at Robert Chamberlain’s Worcester china factory, and John Wood established Grainger & Wood in 1801. They produced very high quality ornamental porcelain using rich patterns that competed with Chamberlain and Flight Barr. The Grainger & Wood china works moved to St Martin’s Gate in 1809 following a factory fire. By 1839, the factory was owned by George Grainger (Thomas Grainger’s son) and started to produce exquisite Neo-Roccoco style decorative china. In 1889, following the death of George Grainger, the factory was sold to Royal Worcester.Worcester Grainger Reticulated Vase 1899 1

Figure 3: A beautiful Grainger & Co reticulated vase by Alfred Barry dated to 1899. Note the typical curvilinear design. This vase can be purchased from our Ruby Lane shop.

During this time Granger & Co continued to make high quality ornamental ware including cabinet plates (Figure 2) and beautiful Reticulated (Pierced) wares (Figure 3). During this period the Grainger reticulated porcelain was mostly the work of Alfred Barry. He produced pierced wares with quite a distinct and incredibly beautiful curvilinear design (Figure 3). Grainger reticulated wares of this quality are becoming quite hard to find.

Royal Worcester continued to produce extremely high quality Grainger china at the St Martin’s Gate factory (then called the Royal China Works) right up until 1902.

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