The Buren Watch Co., Switzerland, was created as a manufacturing arm of an English company. During the Great Depression, it was bought out by the employees and was in turn bought by Hamilton in 1966. Production stopped in 1972.
Buren: A Thumbnail DescriptionFrom 1899 to 1932, Buren was the Swiss factory of H. Williamson, Ltd, an English company. Williamson, bought a watch factory in Switzerland and created the Buren Watch Company. A number of models in standard sizes were offered. Ads in the 1920's proclaimed Buren to be "The Perfect Watch" and boasted of the linking up of Swiss watch manufacturing with British Enterprise and Capital. This came to an end during the Great Depression and Buren came to be an independent Swiss firm. This occurred in 1932 when the employees bought the plant and it became The Buren Watch Co., Switzerland. On March 1, 1966 Buren Watch Co. was acquired by the Hamilton Watch Co. and the Swiss factory became Buren Watch Hamilton. Production came to an end in 1972.
Buren Watches Supplied to H. Steele y Cia. in MexicoMr. Hans Kocher, author of the 1992 book on the Buren Watch Co. (in German) Die Geschichte der Uhrmacherei in Buren worked at Buren from 1951 to 1971. From 1956 to 1968 he was the technical director and from 1968 to 1971 he served as the general manager. He wrote a letter in February 1996 (which the original - in German - and a translation, are on file at the NAWCC Library & Research Center) and reported the following:
a) As early as 1935 Buren had furnished watches, of all sizes, to H. Steele y Cia. A number of these are labeled “Haste” a contraction of Harry Steele. (Editor's note: More information about H. Steele y Cia. is available in a traslation of a thread entitled "Haste and Mexican Watches Steelco a little history" on a Spanish watch forum.)
b) “In 1960, the tools for manufacturing the caliber No. 690 and 691 were old. We made new tools and at the same time we made some improvements on calibers. The cut bi-metallic balance (wheel) was substituted by a prelylium balance 722.1. Together with a temperature compensated hair spring (Breguet) the oscillation system was auto compensated.”
Buren's Elgin-Named Standard WatchLarry Treiman reported on the subject in the NAWCC Bulletin, see References, below. In the early 1960's, Buren was providing watches to Servicio de Tiempo, a division of H. Steele y Cia. Servicio de Tiempo had the contract for time inspection services for the Ferrocarriles Nacionales de Mexico (Mexican National Railroad). Servicio de Tiempo imported Swiss watches, with the Elgin name on them (possibly ordered through Elgin), from the Buren Watch Co. to serve as railroad standard watches. It is supposed that this was done to provide a less expensive alternative to U.S. made watches. Supporting information for this thought is that the watches had only five adjustments, presumably heat, cold and three positions. Watches such as these would be less costly than those adjusted to five positions. The lever-set 16-size, 23-jewel, model, with 5 adjustments, was marked "Elgin 847" is one example. These had single-sunk, Montgomery dials with an inner ring of 13-24 hour figures. Another example is the 21-jewel version, the "Elgin 846" (which appears to have a reproduction dial of some sort).
Buren's Hamilton-Named Standard WatchOn March 1, 1966 Buren Watch Co. was acquired by Hamilton (which then became a part of SMH) and the Swiss factory became Buren Watch Hamilton. Mr. Hans Kocher become the General Manager. It doesn't take a very large stretch of the imagination to accept the concept that the Hamilton owners were not about to continue to supply watches with the Elgin name on them.
So, the last of the lineage came into being, the identical movement to the Elgin grade 847, now marked "Hamilton 971." The dials are also identical except that they now carried the Hamilton trademarks. This ended in 1972 when production ceased at Buren Watch Hamilton. Mr. Treiman reported that during a call on Servicio de Tiempo, after his 1972 visit, he was told that the Buren/Hamilton movements were only available from existing stock, which accounts for a Servicio de Tiempo ad with its 1973 calendar. This ad (less the calendar), shows the Buren-Hamilton 971.
E. Ueberall and K. Singer maintain a data base of surviving railroad grade pocket watches that have been seen at shows, in dealers mail-order lists, on the internet, or that have been reported to us. There are two groups of the Buren-Hamilton grade 971 watches. The first group is caliber 02-SX for which serial numbers from A1211 to A4181 have been seen. The second group is caliber 02-FR for which serial numbers from A3264 to A10711 have been seen. At this time, there is no known reason for the overlap of serial number between the two calibers.
Buren wristwatch movements are pictured and described on Ranfft Watches' Pink Pages for Timepieces, organized by calibre number (once on the page, search for Buren).
Die Geschichte der Uhrmacherei in Buren, Hans Kocher-Aeschbacher, Callwey, Switzerland, 1992.
Back issues of the NAWCC Bulletin are available online to NAWCC members who are currently logged in.
"The Answer Box - A High Grade Hamilton Railroad Pocket Watch," Larry Treimen, NAWCC Bulletin No. 296, June 1995, pp. 382-383.
"Hamilton, Elgin, Buren, Mexico & Haste," Kent Singer, NAWCC Bulletin No. 301, April 1996, pp. 216-217.
"Railroaders' Corner - Buren & Its Mexican Railroad Watches," Ed Ueberall and Kent Singer, NAWCC Bulletin No. 310, October 1997, pp. 592-595. Categories: Category Swiss watch makers