In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Gruen was a horological force to be reckoned with. Along with Bulova, Hamilton, and Elgin, Gruen was one of the four pillars that propped up the American watch industry. Its headquarters on Time Hill outside Cincinnati became a hub of manufacturing, with all solid gold cases, crystals, and straps that the company sold being made right in Time Hill.
Movements were made in the company’s Swiss facility in Bienne, known as the Precision Factory; however, Gruen also availed themselves of movements made in the neighboring factory of Aegler.
Aegler S.A. was established in 1878 by Jean Aegler. Even as early as his apprenticeship, Jean Aegler showed a remarkable facility for crafting watch movements. By the end of the 19th century, his company had secured a patent for a “keyless winding system,” which would go on to become an integral part of watchmaking in the years to come.
This spirit of innovation continued after Jean Aegler’s death, under the leadership of his widow, Anna Maria, and then under his sons Hermann and Hans.
Soon enough, the movements made by Aegler drew the attention of brands like Rolex, who placed a large order for wristwatch movements in 1905. After the stock market crash of 1929, Aegler purchased 6960 shares of Rolex, and Hermann Aegler was granted a position on the board. This would establish a long and fruitful partnership, which still continues to this day: in the 1930s, Hermann Aegler would sell his shares of Rolex back to Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, and Rolex would eventually buy Aegler’s factory in 2004.
And as for Gruen, the Gruen family also owned shares in Aegler, which granted them exclusive rights to distribute Aegler’s movements in the United States.
Such a situation resulted in the birth of this watch, the Techni-Quadron.
The Techni-Quadron shares a movement—the Calibre 877—with the Rolex Prince. In fact, due to this agreement between Aegler, Rolex, and Gruen, the Techni-Quadron is, more or less, the Prince by another name. Rolex sold this watch as the Prince in Europe and throughout the British Empire, marketing it to “men of distinction,” while Gruen sold it in the U.S. to the “man who requires the exact time in seconds.”
Since accurate timekeeping is crucial in medicine, the Techni-Quadron found a niche in the U.S. among physicians. Advertisements showed it strapped to the arms of doctors and nurses, above the elbow thanks to the “expanding buckle” found on some versions of the watch. With its larger balance and longer power reserve, the watch was one of the most accurate on the market, winning at chronometer trials.
Gruen sold its shares in Aegler in 1934, which effectively ended the production of the Techni-Quadron. With Gruen out of the way, Rolex was allowed to sell the Prince in the United States, which it did from the 1940s to the 1950s, when the model was discontinued. However, the Techni-Quadron is rarer than the Prince, and paradoxically more affordable, due to the lack of “Rolex” on the dial.
This particular Techni-Quadron houses a black Art Deco dial in a white gold-filled rectangular case. Inside, the Calibre 877 movement ticks away as reliably as it has since the 1930s, thanks to a recent service. The watch is an interesting artifact of a time when Americans—through strategic partnerships with Swiss brands—dominated the worldwide watch industry.