Havana State of Time

Vintage Cuervo y Sobrinos watches are something relatively new to my collection, and I can point to a recent trip with my late father, to Havana Cuba as the impetus to buy one. The watch that started it all was my grandfathers, a 46mm, enamel dial, nickel chrome case with hinged back, pocket watch conversion, Swiss made by Roskopf for Cuervo y Sobrinos, circa 1920s. Cuervo y Sobrinos, as the story goes, was the Tiffany’s of Havana before the 1959 communist revolution. It was Cuba’s most luxurious jewelry and watch store, with multiple locations throughout the island. Much like Tiffany’s, they would sell watches sporting their logo which were manufactured by other watch companies, including many fine Swiss houses.

 

Grandfather's Watch
Grandfather’s Watch

While in Cuba I visited the Cuervo y Sobrinos flagship store at the Plaza Vieja in Havana. The Cuervo y Sobrinos store is really an amazing sight to see considering that luxury retail is very rare in Cuba. So much so that the Paul & Shark and the Cuervo y Sobrinos stores were the only two branded stores that I recognized while in Havana, and maybe that’s a good thing.

The flagship store in Havana is a great place to familiarize yourself with the brand. In addition to selling their current watch line, you could also preview a vast array of vintage Cuervo y Sobrinos watches on display. While having a brief conversation with one the attendants about the history of the brand I learned that there were many watch enthusiasts in Havana who own watch movements from great Swiss houses, without their cases. Apparently after the 1959 revolution, many gold and platinum cases were melted down and the movements were discarded. This particular individual had collected quite a few of these orphaned movements.

I have since made three other vintage Cuervo y Sobrinos acquisitions. For my wife, a matching 36 mm, enamel dial, nickel chrome case with hinged back, Roskopf for Cuervo y Sobrinos.

His and Hers
His and Hers

A Cuervo y Sobrinos, Election, curvex style sterling silver case (25 x 40 mm) circa 1930s; its best feature being the patina on its original silver dial.

Election
Election

And, my latest Cuervo y Sobrinos acquisition, a Ulysses Nardin, gold case (33mm) with a blue and silver dial, circa 1950s.

Ulysse Nardin
Ulysse Nardin

Cuervo y Sobrinos was dead as a brand after the 1959 Cuban Revolution until it was re-launched as a Swiss manufacturer of watches in 2002. This has spurned new interest in the brand, including its vintage watches. The new line has received mixed reviews, however there is no denying that this is a brand with an exciting Cuban heritage completely unique in the watch world. As a collector, and as a Cuban-American, it makes for a very appealing addition.

 

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