Time To Tell Chronographs for collectors

The true story of Mido

20 May 2024

Joël Pynson.

Mido is a typical example of a discreet Swiss brand, little known to the general public, but particularly appreciated by collectors. What collector doesn’t dream of owning a Multicenterchrono chronograph, a Multifort from the 1950s, or even a more recent Ocean Star?

Although the company is still active within the Swatch Group, its “official” history is very patchy. So it’s best to delve into the company’s watchmaking archives to discover the full richness of its past.

  1. From start-up company to Swatch Group

Mido was founded in Solothurn in 1918 by Georges Schaeren and Hugo Jubert[1]. It was therefore a “young” watchmaking company, compared to the venerable Omega, Longines, Tavannes, etc., all founded in the previous century. The Mido trademark was registered the same year.


From the outset, Mido specialized in “small anchor watches”: ladies’ wristwatches were indeed a specialty of the Biel region.

In 1925, Henri Schaeren, Georges’ brother, joined the company, which moved into new buildings in Biel[2]. From then on, Mido’s evolution accelerated.


As early as 1925, Mido registered wristwatch models whose cases reproduced automobile radiators[3]. In 1930, these superb watches were offered in a table-clock version.

In 1926 Mido launched a range of pocket watches. Around this time, 10.5 and 16-line calibers (23.7 and 36.1 mm) signed Mido were introduced[4]. It is possible that these calibres were manufactured by Mido, or exclusively for Mido.


Around 1930, Mido launched highly original watches such as the Verynew, housed in a round case shaped like an automobile tire, or the Verysmart, whose triangular case slides to reveal the watch.

As early as 1931, Mido exhibited in the Watchmaking Pavilion at the Basel Fair[5].


From 1934 onwards, although the production of original watches continued, such as the Melik-Mido, the Horseshoe pendant watches and the Excentro, the company’s strategy shifted towards the waterproof automatic watch. It was a bold strategy at the time. On the one hand, automatic calibers were still in their infancy, and most of them, created in the early 1930s, were on the verge of extinction due to the mass buyouts of ébauches companies by Ébauches SA. The only one available was the A.Schild 913 calibre, derived from the EMSA-Autorem calibre. Stainless steel, preferable for a water-resistant watch, had only been introduced into Swiss watchmaking in 1930, and was particularly expensive. In addition, Mido wanted a shock-proof system for its movements, even though the first shock-proofs had only been available for a few months.


That’s why the automatic waterproof Mido Multifort watch, released in 1934, was a model far ahead of its time, and its success did much to establish Mido’s worldwide reputation.

Water-resistance thus became a company specialty. The 1937 launch of the Multichrono chronograph, considered to be one of the first water-resistant chronographs, is a case in point[6].


In 1939 Mido presented two remarkable models: the Datometer and the Radiotime. The Datometer is a hand-wound watch with calendar, the date being given by a hand on the periphery of the dial. The Radiotime watch was highly original. It featured a pusher coaxial with the crown, enabling the watch to be set to the second, for example when the radio signal was given, a very common way of getting the right time in those days. This was possible 4 times an hour: at 15 min, 30 min, 45 min and on the hour. At this point, pressing the push-button set the 3 hands to the corresponding correct time.

In 1942, Mido introduced one of the finest chronographs of the 1940s: the Multicenterchrono. It was the first wrist chronograph to feature a minute counter with a central hand, making it possible to produce particularly elegant watches with uncluttered dials. It was, of course, a waterproof chronograph.


After the war, in 1947, Mido inaugurated a new factory in Biel[7]. It’s a superb building with no fewer than 264 windows to let in the light for the watchmakers’ work. The complex can accommodate 500 employees and is equipped with the most modern facilities: indoor telephone network, overhead heating, advanced air conditioning with filtered air to prevent dust, and windows that must always be closed.


In 1957 and 1958, the Schaeren brothers, Henri and Georges, passed away. It was the second generation of Schaerens, Walter and Henri Jr. who ran the company from then on, with great success. In 1959, Mido launched a new flagship model: the Ocean Star. This watch inaugurated a new design, with an extremely slim bezel giving the impression of a huge dial, and would be produced in numerous versions. A crowning achievement for the company, the Ocean Star was chosen as the official model for the Swiss pavilion at the 1967 Montreal World’s Fair[8]. And it’s still in the brand’s catalog.


From 1954 onwards, Mido submitted many of its watches to the Bureaux Officiels de Contrôle to obtain chronometer bulletins. The number of Mido chronometers increased exponentially: 78 in 1959, 566 in 1964, 1883 in 1965, over 5400 in 1966 and over 11,000 in 1967[9] ! The number of chronometers continued to rise, reaching a total of 100,000 in 1973[10]. At the time, Mido was the 3rd largest producer of Swiss chronometers, behind Rolex and Omega.

Curiously, while Mido is a specialist in waterproof watches, no diving watches were offered by the company in the 1950s, even though many Swiss manufacturers such as Rolex, Omega, Blancpain and Longines already had a model of this type in their ranges. Mido was, however, interested in diving, having joined forces with the Naval Training Center at Sand Point in the USA to study the effects of prolonged scuba diving[11]. But it wasn’t until the early 1960s that Mido quietly brought out a beautiful diving model with decompression stop display.


In 1969, Mido launched a new model with a more conventional design: the Multi Star, and the following year the Schaeren family took a radical decision: Mido joined ASUAG via General Watch Holding SA. It’s a time of consolidation. Since the end of the statut horloger, a highly protective statute for Swiss watchmakers, competition has intensified, and foreign companies have been able to buy up Swiss firms: Universal and Büren, for example, have gone under the American flag. ASUAG encouraged the concentration of Swiss manufacturers with the creation of Chronos Holding (bringing together Cyma, Ernest Borel and Doxa) and General Watch Holding. The latter holding company was quite impressive, encompassing Certina, Edox, Era, Eterna, Oris, Rado, Technos and Mido in 1971[12].

Initially, this integration worked in Mido’s favour: in 1971, the company launched the world’s smallest automatic watch, using the A.Schild 1775 calibre with a diameter of just 13.7 mm[13], launch of high-frequency automatic watches (36,000 vph), in particular the chronometer-certified Executive model in 1972, new Multi Star designs, launch of quartz watches in 1974, etc.



But Mido was not spared the collapse in sales that followed the “quartz crisis”, caused by the mass arrival of cheap American quartz watches, and the rise of the Swiss franc during the various currency crises. In 1976, the Eterna and Mido production units were merged[14], then short-time working in 1978, and closure of the Biel workshop in 1983[15].

Yet Mido doesn’t give up, launching the Pharaon, Baroncelli and Cleopatre quartz watch ranges in 1977, moving upmarket with the Dreamline gold watch collection in 1979, and sponsoring tennis player Björn Borg in 1981.

Salvation came with the ASUAG-SSIH (Omega-Lémania-Tissot) merger in 1983, and the buyout of the whole group by Nicolas Hayek and a group of investors in 1985, with the creation of the SMH Group (future Swatch Group). Many of the companies controlled by the group were resold: Oris, Eterna, Technos, etc., but Mido remained, and became a full member of the group, with its own management, even if the company’s directors succeeded one another at a frenetic pace!

The Tool

After the launch of esoteric watches such as The Tool (with flashlight and saw!) and the Bodyguard (with shrill 100 dB-plus alarm) in 1997, Mido returned to a more sensible range of watches, including modernized versions of the great classics Multifort and Ocean Star.

  1. Noteworthy models

Two major models made Mido’s reputation: the Multifort and the Ocean Star. In between, Mido’s superb chronographs had only a brief existence.

2.1 Mido Multifort


The Mido Multifort was historically the second water-resistant automatic watch to be launched, one year after the Rolex Oyster Perpetual in 1933. It even had an anti-shock system that the Rolex lacked.

It featured all the technical refinements possible at the time: antimagnetic (beryllium bronze assortment, glucidur balance wheel and Nivarox hairspring), shockproof, watertight cases (manufactured by Taubert) and automatic movement. To demonstrate this, Mido had designed an original display unit that watchmakers could install in their showcases: the watch was subjected to the effect of a magnet, then dropped onto a metal tray before falling into the water[16] !

Two models were in fact available when it was launched in 1934: a “standard” model and a “luxury” model, with a dial marked “Extra”. Both models were available in automatic or hand-wound versions, and only the “luxe” was available in gold.


In 1936, smaller, non-automatic versions for ladies were offered, as well as a non-automatic version for men with a central seconds hand.


In 1938 the Multifort increased in size due to the use of new calibers with 12 lines instead of 11, and the following year Mido offered gold-plated Multiforts and square non-automatic models. It was also in 1939 that Mido named its automatic movement “Superautomatic”, derived from the A. Schild automatic calibers with stop oscillating weight, but with in-house improvements.

From 1939 onwards, Mido supplied watchmakers like Rolex with the Mido-Watertest B, a device for testing the water-resistance of watch cases up to a pressure of 3 atmospheres[17]. Special wrenches and jibs are also available for easy revision.

The Multifort then benefited from improvements in automatic calibers: a rotor to improve winding, and in 1954 the Powerwind system reducing the number of mobiles from 16 to 7, compared to calibers with oscillating masses with bumpers, to simplify the movement.

Ladies were not forgotten, with the 1955 launch of an automatic model considered the smallest water-resistant automatic model of its time.

Both ladies’ and men’s models were equipped with a date window at 3 o’clock in 1957. But these would be the last changes for Multifort, with the arrival of the Ocean Star model.


2.2 Mido Ocean Star

 Always with the aim of improving the water-resistance of its watches, Mido launched the Ocean Star in 1959. The case is made in one piece, so there is no screw-down back, and opening is from the top. During servicing, a special key is used to remove the glass and bezel, while the crown remains in place. The same key is used to replace the glass. The watch is of course fitted with a Powerwind automatic movement, and was also available with date (Ocean Star Datometer).

The design of the Ocean Star was highly innovative: narrow lugs, a very thin bezel giving full prominence to the dial, an invisible crown embedded in the bezel, and only 4 minimalist hour markers. The date aperture was particularly large, making it unnecessary to use a magnifying glass on the crystal.

In 1963, Mido introduced a new no lug version, with the strap appearing to pass under the watch. There was also a ladies’ model based on the same principle.


In 1964 Mido introduced new versions with 11 indexes (the 12th was missing because of the date window), and in 1966 Day Date versions with day and date indication. It was also around 1966 that Mido launched chronometer versions of the Ocean Star, with the word “Chronometer” embossed on the dial.

In 1967, the “Commander” version was fitted with a special metal bracelet.


In 1968, an “Electronic” version was introduced, without the Ocean Star inscription on the dial. The watch was equipped with the ESA 9154 electronic balance-spring caliber, supplied by Ébauches SA. The following year, this model was fitted with luminescent indexes in a beautiful blue color.

From 1970 onwards, Mido offered luxurious versions of its Ocean Star model, adding semi-precious stones to the indexes. There were 5 different types: grossular (green), tiger’s eye, chrysoprase (blue-green), lapis lazuli (blue) and carnelian (red)[18].

After the Executive model, the Ocean Star was fitted with “High-Beat” calibers (36,000 vph) in 1973.

In 1974, the Ocean Star was fitted with quartz movements with day and date, but the watch’s design had been modified for the occasion and it had lost its discreet bezel. The following year, the design was again modified, with massive, two-tone dials that were a far cry from the original model. The automatic movements had a frequency of 28,800 vph.

A new range launched in 1979 featured very conventional designs with quartz or automatic calibers. 


Finally, with the agreement of the world’s No.1 tennis player at the time, Björn Borg, Mido launched the Ocean Star N°1 model, in steel with a plated case and sapphire crystal, with the bracelet clasp bearing the famous champion’s signature.

This will be the last version before Mido joins SMH and the Swatch Group.

2.3 Mido chronographs


It was always the concern for water-resistance that led Mido to work on its first chronograph in 1937. The Multichrono was one of the first to be made of stainless steel and to have round pushers, making it easier to design watertight joints. Numerous dial variants were available, with different scales: tachometric, pulsometric and others.

The caliber used came from the Minerva manufacture. This is rather surprising, since Ébauches SA already offered Vénus and Landeron calibers, but Mido, although not officially a manufacture, has always remained fairly independent of Ébauches SA, using it as a supplier but modifying its movements. It’s worth noting that the Multichrono was equipped with an anti-shock system right from the start.


Mido’s most famous chronograph, the Multicenterchrono, was launched in 1942. It owes its particularity to its central minute counter and the absence of small seconds: the dial is thus similar to that of an ordinary watch, apart from the metric scales on the periphery. The case, from the famous manufacturer Taubert, successor to Borgel in Geneva, was of course water-resistant.

Here again, the caliber did not come from Ébauches SA but from Valjoux[19]. It was modified to have the minute counter in the center, and was called Mido 1300.

Like the Multichrono, the Multicenterchrono existed with multiple dial variants, in different colors, and with different metric scales.

The Multicenterchrono was produced for around ten years and never really had a successor: it wasn’t until 1974 and the availability of the Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph that new chronograph models appeared in the Mido ranges.


[1] La Fédération Horlogère, 1918, 93, p. 813

[2] La Fédération Horlogère, 1925, 46, p. 453

[3] FOSC, 29 octobre 1925, p. 1817-1818

[4] Revue Internationale d'Horlogerie, 1928, 9, p. 135

[5] Revue Internationale de l'Horlogerie, 1931, 7, p. 78

[6] It seems that other manufacturers were producing waterproof chronographs in 1937, such as Liema, a company founded in Biel in 1917 by Sigmund Liebmann.

[7] Journal Suisse d'Horlogerie, 1947, 5-6, p. 257-261

[8] Journal Suisse d'Horlogerie, 1967,

[9] Figures published in La Suisse Horlogère, weekly edition

[10] La Suisse Horlogère, édition hebdomadaire, 1973, 1, p. 10

[11] Revue Internationale d'Horlogerie, 1959, 12, p. 13

[12] Journal Suisse d'Horlogerie, 1971, 2, p. 138

[13] La Suisse Horlogère, 1971

[14] La Suisse Horlogère, édition hebdomadaire, 1976,

[15] La Suisse Horlogère, édition hebdomadaire, 1982,

[16] Journal Suisse d’Horlogerie, 1936, 3, p. 33

[17] Journal Suisse d’Horlogerie (Genève), 1939, 7, hors texte

[18] Journal Suisse d'Horlogerie, 1970,

[19] Valjoux joined the Ébauches SA trust in 1944

©Time To Tell, 2024

Reproduction forbidden without authorization. Any use of this article by an artificial intelligence is strictly forbidden and will be considered as copyright infringement.


Most of the watchmaking archives were consulted at the Musée International d'Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds, and I'd like to thank the museum's curator, Régis Huguenin, and his team for their warm welcome.

The archives of the Fédération Horlogère, Le Davoine and L'Impartial are available online at www.doc.rero.ch

About Time To Tell: Time To Tell has one of the largest private digitized databases on the history of Swiss watchmaking, with over 2.3 TB of data on more than 1,000 Swiss watch manufacturers. This database has been built up over a period of some thirty years, and continues to be fed with around 50 to 100 GB of data every year. The database is made up of old documents, mostly Swiss trade magazines, dating from the late 19th to the late 20th century. Most of these documents are not available on the Internet. Historical articles published on time2tell.com always cite the sources used.

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