René LeCoultre was a significant figure, albeit not a widely known one, in the history of Swiss watchmaking. His surname may be one giveaway. René’s family founded the eponymous Swiss maison, and naturally René continued in his family’s horological tradition for most of his life. He was a one-time Director of Research and Development at Rolex, and he was also a member of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.
His most significant contribution, however, came with the founding of the Electronic Watch Centre (Centre Électronique Horloger SA, or CEH) in 1962 in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. A joint venture of about 20 brands (among them Omega, Piaget, and Patek Philippe), the Center’s primary role was the development of a reliable and manufacturable analog quartz watch. Four years later, the world saw the introduction of the Beta-1, the codename for the first prototype quartz wristwatch ever produced. The award-winning Beta-2 was produced shortly thereafter, followed by the Beta-21, and the rest is history.
In 1984, René also played a role in the founding of the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (Centre Suisse d’Électronique et de Microtechnique SA, or CSEM)—also in Neuchâtel.
René LeCoultre passed away this past Saturday, just three weeks after celebrating his 100th birthday.