St Imier-based Excelsior Park emerged from a business which was first set up by Jules-Frederic Jeanneret in 1866. Jeanneret’s son Albert took over the business in 1888 before transferring the business to his two sons, Henri and Constant, a couple of years later. They were a prescient company that prides itself on innovation, registering a patent for a chronograph as early as 1891.
In 1901 the brothers split up ‒ Constant bought the chronograph specialist Leonidas (which later merged with Heuer) and Henri continued to manage the company, now called Jeanneret-Brehm & Cie. The name Excelsior was first used for the chronographs, with the word ‘Park’ added later to appeal to the English speaking market. The company was known for developing and making its own calibers for its sports chronographs (and provided movements for Girard Perregaux, Gallet and Zenith, among others) but it also used ones by Valjoux and Venus.
The company never managed to become one of the Swiss big-hitters and by the end of the Seventies it was beginning to fall victim to the quartz crisis and a lack of family successors to carry on the business. It finally succumbed in 1983. Since then a German watch tool supplier tried to resuscitate the brand and made a small series of chronographs bearing the Excelsior Park name but it quickly faded away again. The rights to the trademark are now back in Swiss hands, awaiting some keen benefactor to bring it back to life once more.
Excelsior Park watches were extremely undervalued until a few years ago – considering they had such an excellent reputation – but are now comparable in price to most vintage chronographs by the likes of Zenith and Omega.
An excellent model to look out for is the Monte Carlo, a military dive chronograph from the 1970s, which is run on a Valjoux Caliber 7740 but was limited to just 50 models for the Japanese market.