by Christopher Scapelliti
Switzerland may be the first country most of us think of when the subject turns to watchmaking. But Germany has more than its fair share of fine watchmakers, including Archimede, Montblanc, Chronoswiss, and Glashütte Original.
Nivrel is another. The brand is manufactured in Saarbrücken by Gerd Hofer GmbH, a small family-run business. While many of the parts for Nivrel watches are supplied by specialists in the German watch industry, the mechanical movements are made in Switzerland.
This melding of German and Swiss craftsmanship speaks to the brand’s dual national identity. Nivrel’s tag line is “The German Watch with a Swiss Heart,” and with good reason. Nivrel was actually founded in Switzerland, in 1936, as an offshoot of Marvin, a watchmaker that was itself founded in 1850 in Saint-Imier, in the Swiss Jura region. Marvin primarily made pocket watches for men and diamond watches for women. With Nivrel, it expanded its offerings with men’s chronograph and calendar wristwatches, and small watches for women.
The Quartz Crisis killed off both Marvin and Nivrel in Seventies, but in 1993, the Nivrel brand was revived by Gerd Hofer. Since then, Hofer has rebuilt the brand’s product line, and today it includes chronographs, perpetual calendars, and aviation and diving watches, as well as Heritage and special editions. Nivrel employs both quartz and mechanical movements in its lines, something that makes the price range for its offerings pleasantly wide. Depending on your fancy, you can acquire an exceptionally beautiful and functional Nivrel at a very reasonable price.
Nivrel’s 2011 line, introduced at Baselworld 2011, includes five new watches: the Deep Ocean, the Horaire Aviateur, the Chronographe Replique II and the Horaire Automatique and Horaire Automatique “Le Jubileé” anniversary models.
We were especially impressed by the Chronographe Replique II, particularly with the crisp and clean design of its dial. Nivrel first presented this unique chrono design in the Forties, and revived it in the Nineties for a special edition of 100 pieces. This third edition has indications for hours, minutes, small seconds, and day, as well as chronograph functions (60 seconds, 30 minutes, and 12 hours) and tachymeter and telemeter scales. The Chronographe Replique II has a 42mm steel case with sapphire crystal and a screwed caseback, also with sapphire crystal. The silver-plated dial features a Clous de Paris guilloche in German silver with rhodinated index appliques, and rhodinated and guilloched chronograph counters. The steel hands are coated with Superluminova. The watch is set on a Louisiana alligator leather strap in brown or black with deployment buckle. A metal strap is also available for a fee. The watch retails for 1,855€, about $2,754 at the current exchange rate.