Watches from the cradle of Swiss watchmaking: Factory visit at Milus

By Montredo in Videos
September 16, 2020
Watches from the cradle of Swiss watchmaking: Factory visit at Milus

His name already gives it away: Watchmaking runs deep in the veins of the Swiss Luc Tissot. He represents the fifth generation of the Tissot dynasty and served as Director of the eponymous brand until the beginning of the 1980s, when it was incorporated into today’s Swatch Group.

After a lifetime in the industry, he could be enjoying his well-deserved retirement already. Instead, Tissot decided to take on a new project, namely to lead the traditional Swiss brand Milus back to its former greatness. 

At home in Biel since 1919

Milus was founded over 100 years ago by Paul William Junod and had its heyday only shortly afterwards, in the 1930s and 1940s to be precise. After three generations of family ownership and many awards and honors – in the 1990s, for example, Milus was exhibited at the New York Museum of Modern Art – a change of ownership eventually followed in 2003 (which went hand in hand with a paradigm shift).

While the Junod family always positioned Milus as an elegant and timeless entry-level luxury brand, a Chinese jewelry company as the new owner had different plans, attempting to transform Milus into a high-end luxury brand. Affordable dress watch thus had to make way for diamond-studded watches worth a quarter of a million dollars, boasting such elaborate complications as a minute repeater.

The sudden change of course failed, however, so that the brand soon found itself on the verge of doom.

Back to the roots: Three collections for all purposes

It was in 2019 when Luc Tissot recognized the enormous potential of the brand and decided to take it under his wing henceforth. Not only did he want to breathe new life into Milus, but he also wanted to restore the brand’s reputation it was once famous for. The goal of the 100-year-old start-up (as Tissot affectionately refers to Milus) is to offer honest luxury watches at a fair price again. Just like in the old days.

The brand did a terrific job in doing so: While the LAB 01 collection stands for timeless and elegant three-hand watches with a unique fiberglass dial, Archimèdes watches represent full-fledged divers with an inner rotating bezel and a 300m water resistance. Right in between you find the watches of the Snow Star collection, indestructible everyday watches with a case diameter of 39mm and sturdy textile straps. Especially the story of how the latter collection came about is absolutely worth telling.

The double life of the Milus watches in World War II

In 1942, when the Pacific War really came to a head, US pilots and paratroopers were given so-called “life barter kits”. The idea was that in the event of an emergency landing or accident on a remote Pacific island, soldiers would carry at least some valuables with them, which they could barter for food, information or even their lives.

These survival sets not only contained 24k gold jewelry, but also Snow Star watches from Milus. Since these military operations were top secret, it was only far later that even Milus learned about the curious double life of its own watches that once saved the lives of young US soldiers.

Visiting Milus in Biel

Since pictures say more than a thousand words, we will simply yield the floor to Luc Tissot himself at this point, the interview partner of our latest Meet the Manufacturer episode. Enjoy!

By the way, if you would like to learn more about Milus, we invite you to take a look into our Milus Boutique.

Previous comments (5)

  1. Every good watch needs an even better story, and this one definitely has it. Especially the part about the barter kit, another dark chapter of warfare history. Also nice to see that other brands make use of 904L steel, too.

    September 16, 2020
  2. I’ve discovered a lot of new cool brands with your meet the manufacturer series already.. this one included 😄

    September 18, 2020
  3. Interesting, but personally a “no”. For 2k CHF, there are simply too many brands out there (such as Oris, TAG Heuer or Longines) that offer arguably better watches + with a nicer history…
    But I always hold young watch brands with a coherent agenda in high esteem, so best of luck Mr Tissot.

    September 21, 2020
  4. The barter kit thing is very interesting, the watches less. 🙃

    September 25, 2020
  5. […] have already covered Milus in more detail the course of our Meet the Manufacturer visit article. The independent watch brand from Biel, which has been in existence since 1919, is […]

    November 2, 2020