Gallet is the world’s oldest watch and clock making house with history dating back to Humbertus Gallet, a clock maker who became a citizen of Geneva in 1466. The Gallet & Cie (Gallet & Company) name was officially registered by Julien Gallet (1806–1849) in 1826, who moved the family business from Geneva to La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Prior to this date, operations commenced under the name of each of the Gallet family patriarchs.
Gallet is best known during the 20th century to the present day for its line of MultiChron chronograph wristwatches. Produced primarily for military, industrial, auto racing, and other professional applications, Gallet’s MultiChron watches often incorporated a number of advanced timekeeping innovations.
A Gallet timepiece of particular renown was the Flight Officer time zone chronograph. Commissioned by Senator Harry S. Truman in 1939 for pilots of the United States Army Air Forces, the Flight Officer (a.k.a. Flying Officer) had a rotating 12-hour bezel and the names of 23 major world cities printed on the periphery of the dial (face). These features made it possible to calculate changes in the time as an aviator flew across lines of longitude. Besides being the first time zone calculating wristwatch based upon a 12 hour system (24 hour world time wristwatches were produced by Patek Philippe in 1937 ), the Flight Officer was the first wristwatch with a rotating bezel and one of the world’s first wrist chronographs to be housed in a water-resistant case. Truman wore a Gallet Flight Officer during his terms as 33rd president (1945–1953).
The modern Gallet Company is one of a small handful of independent Swiss watch brands that still maintain in-house manufacturing facilities. While recently expanding the company’s marketing focus to reach a wider audience of “civilian” consumers for its expensive professional-use timepieces, Gallet continues to privately produce components and modules for a number of other entities within the luxury-class timekeeping industry.
For the Gallet family of watchmakers, the relocation to La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1826 after 350 years in Geneva proved to be a most advantageous move. With the resources available in the “Watch Valley”, family patriarch Julien Gallet (1806–1849) was able to expand the new company’s distribution of its pocket watches to all of Europe.