In 1947, the VULCAIN brand launched the first wristwatch with an integrated alarm clock on the world market. Baptized Cricket, it became a symbol of the post-war period. It will go down in history as the timepiece of presidents.
This content was published on January 30, 2022 – 00:00
Gabriel Heim, Blog of the Swiss National Museum
Michel Ditisheim had trouble hiding his joy when, at the end of December 1990, he discovered the cover of the American news magazine TIME while buying his newspaper at a kiosk in La Chaux-de-Fonds: we see a close-up of Mikhail Gorbachev , face hidden in his hands. It was less the front page chosen by the weekly than the wristwatch ostensibly worn by the President of the USSR that fascinated him. It is indeed the Cricket of the VULCAIN brand that he himself had brought to Moscow some three years earlier as a gift to the leader, then General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and last man to occupy this function. Even today, the former owner and heir of this traditional watch manufacturer remembers this moment as if it were yesterday.
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In the early 1940s, his father Robert, representative of the third generation of the Ditisheims at the head of the company, dreamed of making a model that was waterproof, solid and elegant at the same time, in which a clearly audible alarm clock would be integrated. Several manufacturers had already broken their teeth on this challenge. For five years, three engineers, Henry Robert, Blaise Fivaz and Robert Ditisheim himself, worked on this complication. It was only when a friend told him about the cricket, an insect with a slender body, which nevertheless managed to produce a powerful sizzling sound, that he had the brilliant idea of reinforcing the small hammer of the alarm clock in the movement with a membrane elastic. The case thus becomes a sounding board that amplifies the noise.
A watch that inspires the presidents of the United States
Manufactured in series from 1947, the Cricket immediately became a hit all over the world, especially among Americans who flocked to the first “alarm wrist watch”. They soon can’t do without the famous alarm clock, whether it’s to catch their train, arrive on time for their appointments or wake up for sure after a micro-nap!
Cricket is so in tune with the times that almost all the Presidents of the United States at the time wore an “alarm watch” made in La Chaux-de-Fonds on their wrist. This is the case of Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson, the last of this prestigious list, in 1964. Considered as the watch of presidents, Cricket knows glory. She writes history, and you can even hear her shrill ringing in many Hollywood movies.
To maintain the legend of Cricket, Michel Ditisheim, the last boss of VULCAIN, had the idea of offering one to the initiator of perestroika, Mikhail Gorbachev, in 1987. Thanks to the former President of the Confederation Pierre Aubert (also a fan of this model), who agrees to play the role of mediator, a golden copy of the watch leaves Switzerland to be delivered to the Kremlin. There will never be thanks, because at the time, crises follow one another in the USSR and the strong man of the country has other fish to fry. But perhaps his famous quote from 1989 « He who comes too late will be punished with life » reminded him of his Cricket. With this Swiss watch on his wrist and its built-in alarm clock, perhaps he told himself that nothing could happen to him again.
From 1947 to the present day, the mechanical movement of the VULCAIN Cricket has been manufactured in more than 100,000 identical copies.
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