Felco>Felca>Titoni. A Long Winded Collector's Story

Kudos to other Crunchers who have tackled this convoluted story and apologies in advance if any of my internet references have left me misinformed. I'm always open to being schooled so please chime in if I've boned something up.

Why collect watches at all? Why would a new collector gravitate towards Titoni et al, a brand not even marketed in my home country? Why a brand lacking in awareness let alone prestige by most U.S. enthusiasts? Well let me put you to sleep with this long form indulgence.

Unaware of much of the rich company history I received a fairly pristine Airmaster as part of a larger online lot that contained an altogether different watch that I wanted.

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While often derivative of other Swiss makers the Titoni line was an attractive mid-century line up. Soon after I started hunting various other models with great names and building a collection. While a few came from online peer to peer platforms with local pick ups most were overseas eBay finds.

Cosmo King

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Swing Star

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Space Stars

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Cosmo 88's

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More Airmasters.

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Before too long a watch buddy in Malaysia shared that Titoni had previously been Felca. For whatever reason many online sources omit that the company was founded as Felco (not Felca) in 1919 and even the official Titoni website devotes but one sentence to this but some unsubstantiated speculation as to why later in this post.

I found that the family company is now on it's 4th generation. Founder Fritz Schluep had initially set up a small workshop in the well known watchmaking enclave of Grenchen at the foot of the Jura mountains (from whence the archeological term Jurassic derives).

A staff of just three would expand to fifteen by 1920 due to Schluep's "strong entrepreneurial spirit" and his sights being set on overseas sales in emerging or undeserved markets.

By 1925 Felco was producing elegant Art Deco models in precious metals and vibrant colors all marked with the curiously playful Felco first version logo that frankly looks as if it was spelled out by one of the Schluep children at the kitchen table. The logo would later evolve into a more uniform font bracketed by an arrow before it's final iteration as the "red dot" F version.

Felco branding was used into the 1940's including on this military style watch and contracts were secured with both German and American armed forces during WWII. By this time Felca AG would have over 70 employees and would have already successfully navigated the Great Depression without losing track of its roots and traditions.

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The transition from the Felco logo to Felca at the conclusion of WWII has been described online as the result of trademark issues as well as perhaps disassociating itself with being a supplier to an unpopular losing WWII regime. I would love to know what the facts are here.

It should be noted that one of the foremost manufacturers of high end pruning shears is based in Switzerland and is also named Felco. Was this the company that prevailed in the supposed trademark dispute? I do not know.

In another twist I acquired this apparently post WWII Felca Military watch which leads me to believe that more attempts were made to secure military contracts. I have yet to see another Military branding and wondered if perhaps mine is a sample.

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Felca thrives! Halcyon days indeed for Felca in the post war era.

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BTW one of the many things I appreciate about this watchmaker is how thorough they normally are in signing dials, crowns, clasps and casebacks. The specific model is frequently signed on the caseback making it just a tad easier to check for originality. An Airmaster caseback on a Space Star would clearly be a red flag.

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Soon Felcas were joining my Titoni mix.

Including a Steelmaster

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And a beloved Desert Router

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Felca was now in international full swing as reflected by ads of the era.

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The Birth of Titoni and what the heck is a Meihua? The seeds of Titoni's new logo and ascendant prominence in Southeast Asia were planted by two unrelated yet critical occurrences.

On a chance encounter Bruno Schluep, son of Fritz, met Koi Mui Yew, a businessman in Singapore. Felca AG had already had forays into India and other countries in the region which necessitated executive business travel. Mr. Schuep and Mr. Yew turned a chance encounter into an agreement to offer a new brand. They named the new brand "Titoni" which was squarely aimed at a different, wealthier clientele altogether. It was probably unforseen by both businessmen that Titoni's success would eventually eclipse the previous branding and become the new moniker for the entire company.

I even managed to score a Skymaster that speaks to this era. It has a transitional dial bearing both the Felca and Titoni names as well as F+T beneath it's faceted crystal.

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In addition to the name change a stylized flower symbol was incorporated in the manufacturer's brand name. The "meihua" which means "plum blossom" signifies the longevity of the mei tree which reportedly can live for more than a thousand years. In addition mei is a family name that speaks to Titoni's pride in being a family owned business.

The other factor that resulted in success in China was a Beijing trade delegation that visited Switzerland. Due to "Red Scare" dynamics prevalent at the time the delegation was only warmly received by the Schluep family with other Swiss makers declining to negotiate any trade agreements.

That openess to trade with China would position the company for growing success within a "sleeping giant" and give it exclusive rights to an emerging market.

Many Chinese buyers would come to view Titoni warmly as a quality product and symbol of success. While Chinese market share has eroded with the introduction of other brands Titoni perhaps occupies a singular place in the hearts of many Chinese consumers as being worn by their parents and grandparents.

In closing Titoni survives and thrives as a 100+ year old independent family owned company that survived the Great Depression, WW ll and the quartz crisis through a willingness to be flexible and serve emerging markets. My admiration is tethered to their history, diversity of design and accessible price point. If you're still awake after all this meandering I hope you'll consider adding one to your collection.

The most well known current model is their Seascoper dive series but I also wanted to end with a few highly desirable pieces that I hope to land someday. Feel free to help a brother out!

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(Thanks to the Titoni website, Ethos Watches, Europa Star & Fratello for online source material.)

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Well, I asked and you delivered. Great write up on a brand that gets neglected in large parts of the world. The completist in me wants one.

Also, you have revealed your origin story, it is an interesting one. Many will find parts of it very familiar.

WC is a new forum and we don't have searchable posts to extract information from. This helps rectify that deficiency. (Added to @ChronoGuy 's post from the early days and we can get a handle on this watch company.) Thanks for taking the time to really research this and bring us the watches, history, and ads.

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Excellent post!

Love your collection of Felca/Titoni.

My favorite reference is, of course (me being ChronoGuy), the Race King. I wish Titoni would reissue a modern Race King...that would be incredibly cool.

Here are some Race Kings in the collection for eye candy...

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I also still have a couple of other vintage Titonis (I gave a couple of them away to some of my watch crew) in the collection...

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And I have the Titoni heritage chronograph reissue...

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Fun brand. Would love to see more Titonis if they are out there.

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Thank you for taking the time to write this. So informative and fun to read

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Aurelian

Well, I asked and you delivered. Great write up on a brand that gets neglected in large parts of the world. The completist in me wants one.

Also, you have revealed your origin story, it is an interesting one. Many will find parts of it very familiar.

WC is a new forum and we don't have searchable posts to extract information from. This helps rectify that deficiency. (Added to @ChronoGuy 's post from the early days and we can get a handle on this watch company.) Thanks for taking the time to really research this and bring us the watches, history, and ads.

Thanks for encouraging me then endulging me in the long read. I appreciate your posts and read them all as well. It adds to the feeling that we are all in an actual community.

You'll have no trouble scoring an affordable Airmaster though a Race King (drool!!!) and World Time are expensive to source and rarely in decent shape. Redialed Mumbai frankenwatches represent the vast majority on offer at eBay. Just say Nope!

Two of the most well known watch shops in the L.A. area (30+ years each) had never heard of Felca or Titoni yet had no trouble servicing the ETA movements.

I tend to bring this mix to watch gatherings knowing there won't be others and I don't know anyone else in the U.S. that collects them. I had been leaning towards Rado or Certina as a focus but as you can see I swerved...for now. As for Titoni as of late I'm hunting a Seascoper.

I had contemplated adding more info in this post about the movements and ladies watches but I also think at some point it is editing that makes a read tolerable.

I didn't include this super rare Felca Space Star 2000 because my formerly reliable watchmaker lost the original NSA bracelet and knocked all the lume off the hands when his employee dropped it face down despite knowing what a Unicorn it was.

I just got it back relumed on a leather strap and he says he's still searching for the missing bracelet. Here I was trying to do the right thing and have this formerly pristine beauty serviced. Ugh!

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My wife has a few as well though this is her favorite Felca with my favorite version of the logo.

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Looking forward to you reeling in a great example at a great price. Be well!

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ChronoGuy

Excellent post!

Love your collection of Felca/Titoni.

My favorite reference is, of course (me being ChronoGuy), the Race King. I wish Titoni would reissue a modern Race King...that would be incredibly cool.

Here are some Race Kings in the collection for eye candy...

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I also still have a couple of other vintage Titonis (I gave a couple of them away to some of my watch crew) in the collection...

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And I have the Titoni heritage chronograph reissue...

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Fun brand. Would love to see more Titonis if they are out there.

Last year I dropped out of an online bidding war on a “NOS” Race King when it hit my limit of $2K (plus taxes, shipping and 25% auction fees!) but of course it is the ones that get away that have free rent in your head. I couldn’t even bring myself to check what it finally hammered at for fear that perhaps I’d been just one bid away. Good to have goals though!

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Jack, you are one impressive dude!!! Love your origin story, loved hanging out with you at WindUp last week and love that fantastic post. The Steelmaster on the bund is pure chef’s kiss. Thanks for a terrific read, buddy 🤙❤️🤙

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What an interesting read from the bit about you (need to know more about that car fire!) and about the brand

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Yikes! I edited this post to include a Felca + Titoni transitional dial that I forgot to add. My bad!

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AlohaBrah21

Jack, you are one impressive dude!!! Love your origin story, loved hanging out with you at WindUp last week and love that fantastic post. The Steelmaster on the bund is pure chef’s kiss. Thanks for a terrific read, buddy 🤙❤️🤙

Hope to hang with you (and the Mrs) again. You just know when you instantly vibe with someone. You should've gone to the Matador with us because the food was on point and then the owner ended up taking us to the VIP Mezcal room upstairs. Next time!

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UnholiestJedi

What an interesting read from the bit about you (need to know more about that car fire!) and about the brand

It was horrible! I was crossing some railroad tracks when I noticed flames coming up from under the hood. There was a nasty pair of pants next to the tracks that looked like they had been abandoned by an incontinent homeless dude. I used the pants and a bottle of water to smother a fire in the carb. I normally have a fire extinguisher in all my vehicles but the car had just been "cleared" by my mechanic who then took a year to repair all the fire damage. After it was ready the 2nd time I never went back to him and sold it shortly thereafter.

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FlatteryCamp

Hope to hang with you (and the Mrs) again. You just know when you instantly vibe with someone. You should've gone to the Matador with us because the food was on point and then the owner ended up taking us to the VIP Mezcal room upstairs. Next time!

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Thx again for the invite, Jack. We had just arrived to the event when we ran into you two, and I wanted my wife to experience WindUp. Ugh.. bad timing. I saw your earlier photo series of the VIP Mezcal hookup and let out a big groan … LOL. Indeed - next time🤙❤️🤙

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An enjoyable read. I wasn’t truly aware of Titoni’s full backstory, so I learned a lot!

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Great read!, glad there was pictures😂 I've truly enjoyed your presence here since you came on board. Some day I'll get down south.🍻

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Hail, hail, an angmoh (ask just about any Singaporean what this means 😁) who knows the majesty that is Titoni! 🎉🍻