Corum is not perhaps the first name that springs to mind when talk turns to high-end Swiss watches, but it is nonetheless a highly regarded brand located right in the cradle of Swiss watchmaking, La Chaux de Fonds. The marque was founded in 1955 by René Bannwart and his uncle Gaston Reis. René had not only the entrepreneurial flair necessary to make Corum a success, but also the right experience, having worked for many of the key manufacture’s prior to embarking on his new venture.
Over the years Corum has perhaps become most famous for their Admiral’s Cup series of watches, new models of which are still regularly released. However the brand has several other excellent collections.
In 1956, Corum introduced a new watch collection. One model was powered by a mechanical movement with a an alarm function. The young brand also introduced a 100 piece limited edition timepiece with an automatic movement. Both editions proudly bore what has since become an easily recognisable logo – the famous Corum key symbol. The watch was known as the Corum Chargé d’Affaires, and it was one of the first watches that heled to put the company on the map.
The 1950’s in general was a boom time for watches and all kinds of other luxury goods. The appetite for quality dress watches following years of standard issue military timepieces during World War II was unquenchable. To that extent, the Corum Chargé d’Affaires, relaunched just a little under a year ago, has an elegant, clean and pure 1950s look about it. It’s a look that has come right back into fashion in Swiss watchmaking circles, and several brands have been raiding their back catalogues of late for retro inspiration. Corum’s back catalogue contains some real gems, and in 2010, the La Chaux de Fonds manufacturer re-released two of their famous creations from years past, that of the Golden Tube and the Chinese Hat.
Indeed, Corum is noted for the excellence of their reissues, and another piece, the Grand Précis, was introduced in 2011. It not only captured the spirit of the original it even featured components from the original 1957 model as they had been meticulously stored away for over 55 years.
The Précis and the Chargé d’Affaires pre-dated much of the experimental models that were to be released under the Corum name in the 60s and 70s such as watch dials made from coins, extremely slim baguette styles and of, most successfully, the Admiral’s Cup series. The Chargé d’Affaires watch falls under Corum’s Heritage collection Heritage is considered one of three pillars of the brand, the other two being Admiral’s Cup and Corum Bridges.
The 2013 Chargé d’Affaires is as true as possible to the original watch, featuring the alarm chronograph and the exact same look and feel. In fact the only significant change is a subtle enlargement of the watch to 38mm. Corum even kept the manual wind calibre C0286 movement the same, although it underwent a process of restoration and modernisation using traditional tools and methods prior to being fitted.
The case features two crowns, one for the alarm and one for the hands. The movement has a twin barrel system which enables two individual energy sources to power both the alarm and the timekeeping functions. The alarm can sound for 12 seconds without affecting the accuracy of the watch.
The beautiful silvered dial has applied indices, while the dauphine hands and red-tipped alarm hand add drama and impact to the overall look. Turn the watch over and there is an inscription on the sound bridge – “1956-2012″ intended as a nod to the original.
Presented on a black alligator strap with a pin buckle, the Corum Chargé d’Affaires was reissued as a 200 piece limited edition with 150 pieces in the 18K gold edition, and 50 pieces in 18K white gold. The suggested retail price for the watch is $21,000. It should still be possible to acquire one of these rare beauties albeit it pre-owned, from authorized Corum retailers.