This highly respected watchmaker came from humble beginnings. In 1856, the physician Josef Gerard and the teacher Urs Schild founded what would become the Eterna watch company in Grenchen, as an attempt to alleviate the crushing unemployment and hunger in the region. At first they produced only watch movements for pocketwatches, then moved on to complete timepieces, and finally became one of the most advanced and technically innovative watchmakers in the world.
From early on in the company's history, the production needs of the Industrial Revolution demanded time-alarms to ensure punctuality. So, Urs Schild worked to produce some of the earliest pocket-alarms. In the early 20th century, Eterna went on to produce the world's first wrist alarm. They went on to produce many technical advances, such as:
• 1930: smallest baguette movement wristwatch produced serially
• early 1930s: 8-day alarm
• 1938: first Eterna automatic wristwatch
• 1948: Eterna-Matic self-winding wristwatches, with winding-rotor on ball bearings
• 1952: Automatic caliber with center seconds for ladies watches
• 1958: "Golden Heart" watch with 23K Gold rotor, the smallest automatic watch ever. Worn by Gina Lollabrigida.
• 1962: Thinnest automatic watches for men (Eterna-Matic 3000) and women (Sahida)
• 1976: Thinnest Quartz watch to date (Royal Quartz KonTiki)
• 1979: Smallest Water Resistant Quartz Watches (movements weighed only 1.06 grams)
• 1980: Thinnest Watch Ever (unbroken record), the "Museum" range, total height 0.98mm
One of Eterna's proudest moments had to have been when Thor Heyerdahl and his crew wore their Eterna wristwatches on the voyage of the KonTiki in 1947. Following their adventurous 4,300 mile journey across the Pacific, the crew's Eternas worked perfectly. Subsequently, Eterna's sports watches were called "KonTiki."
Eterna has passed through several owners since 1982, most recently the business interests of the Porsche family.
Eterna's style tends toward the elegant and understated. Their high degree of craftsmanship is evident in all their timepieces, including their many certified chronometers. Highly valued by collectors, they are also on the wrist of many discriminating owners worldwide.