The History of Edouard Koehn

What is the common denominator for a world timer with an alarm and a chronograph with an inverted escapement? The name “Edouard Koehn” on their dials. In the very first place, who is Edouard Koehn?

Date August 2, 2023
Author Sincere Watch

Edouard Koehn

Edouard Koehn (1839 to 1908) was a talented horologist from a watchmaking family. His father, Karl Koehn, was a clockmaker to the court of the Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach in Germany. Prior to becoming a watchmaker, Karl was an engraver who worked on copper plates specifically for maps and coats of arms. After developing an interest in horology, Karl went to Geneva to acquire the necessary skills that eventually landed him the watchmaker role at the court of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. The Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach was officially recognised by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and the territory is today part of the German state of Thuringia.

Edouard followed in his father’s footsteps and begun his horological journey as an apprentice to him at the German state court. Fuelled by his horological passion, Edouard moved to Geneva in 1859 and enrolled at the Ecole d’Horlogerie de Genève. Also known as the Geneva School of Watchmaking, it was founded in 1824 and is the oldest watchmaking school in Switzerland. The Ecole d’Horlogerie is a non-profit organisation and remains in operation till this day.

Edouard joined Patek Philippe in 1861. From the bottom rung, he worked his way up, conscientiously learning the ropes of the trade and eventually rising to the top after fifteen years. When Vincent Gostkowski, one of the then three shareholders of Patek Philippe retired in 1876, Edouard was appointed director. Together with two others – Albert Cingria and Gabriel Marie Rouge, they became shareholders of Patek Philippe.

According to Martin Huber and Alan Banbery, authors of the book “Patek Philippe Geneve”, Edouard rose to the top because of his “outstanding capabilities”. Edouard, who was in his mid-thirties when he became one of the five partners at Patek Philippe, was known for his personality and impressive technical knowledge. Interestingly, Patek Philippe was founded in 1839, the birth year of Edouard.

Edouard parted ways with Patek Philippe in 1891 but his horological career did not end; that same year, he embarked on his next horological adventure as an independent watchmaker specialising in complications by acquiring the house of H.R. Ekegren. Edouard retained the services of its founder, Henri-Robert Ekegren, a well-regarded Danish watchmaker, as the chief of the Manufacture. While production of watches bearing the Ekegren brand continued, volumes were limited; instead, the majority were signed Ed. Koehn on the dials and movements.

Under the leadership of Edouard, the Ekegren Manufacture, located at the Grand Quai, expanded its range of calibres and complications. The quality of the watches made were on par with reputable brands of that era. Edouard specialised in high quality slim and extra-flat movements, chronometers, retrograde mechanisms, chronographs, fly-back chronographs and repeaters. Historical Edouard Koehn pocket watches that remain in existence till this day include minute repeaters, chronometers, chronographs, split-seconds chronographs as well as minute repeaters with split-seconds chronographs.

EK split second chronograph

Watch customisation was provided when Edouard helmed Ekegren as well. In 1900, Ekegren made a minute repeating double split-seconds chronograph gold pocket watch with a customized dial for Charles Jasper Glidden.

On the enamel dial was a photo emulsion of Glidden’s wife, Lucy Emma Clegworth. This customised pocket watch emerged in the “The Art of Time American and European Rarities” auction in New York conducted by Bonhams and held in December 2020. American businessman and automobile enthusiast Glidden was once a colleague of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone. Glidden amassed his fortune by providing telephony services and from the sale of his company to Bell Telephone Company in around 1900.

Contemporary watch experts continue to recognise and acknowledge the quality of Edouard’s timepieces. As noted by Bonhams’ watch specialist Jonathan Snellenburg: “Edouard Koehn rose from watchmaker to partner in the firm Patek Philippe. He left the firm in 1891 to make watches under his own name and that of H.R. Ekegren. Not surprisingly, his work is of the same high quality.”

Edouard’s son who is named after him, joined the company and came under the direct supervision of Henri-Robert Ekegren. Edouard Koehn Jr took over the helm following his father’s passing in 1908. He followed the principles laid down by his father, perpetuating the company’s reputation of producing high quality precision timepieces till the 1930s.

Today, the revived Edouard Koehn as a brand is an acknowledgment of the founder’s exceptional horological skills with its offering of distinctive timepieces that perpetuate the Swiss watch industry’s leading role in high horology. The brand’s philosophy is expressed by its introductory collections: the Tempus I Chronograph, Tempus II “Open Heart” mono-pusher chronograph and World Heritage World Time with Alarm.

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