hese days, we’re inundated with watch brand relaunches, many of them based on stories that are more fantasy than history. The case of the Adam Benedict brand, spearheaded by Adam Lassner, a 24-year-old New Yorker, stands out in this saturated landscape. In fact, we have found documents from his ancestor’s brand, Benedict Watch from La Chaux-de-Fonds, in our own archives. The company’s Park-o-Phon model, launched in the 1950s, was designed to help car drivers track their parking time, thanks to an alarm.
- The Benedict Watch Park-o-Phon model, Europa Star 1968. It performs the same function as the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox Parking, but the alarm mechanism and design are slightly different.
- ©Europa Star Archives
- A Park-o-Phon timepiece from Benedict Watch
“My ancestors came from Eastern Europe, from Belarus to be precise,” says Adam Lassner. “In the middle of the 19th century, my great-great-great-grandfather Baruch Reinin moved to Moscow, where the family began operating a watch and clock factory. It was one of the most modern of its time, moving to mechanised assembly from components, many of which came from Switzerland. They eventually left the country, like many others, after the 1917 revolution, when their company was taken over by the state.”
“In Moscow, before the 1917 revolution, my ancestors operated a watch and clock factory that was among the most modern in the country.”
Some family members went to France, some to the United States and others to Switzerland. Thanks to their links with the Swiss watchmaking industry, part of the family found refuge in the country and continued the horological tradition under the name Benedict Watch. The company was founded in the 1930s by Leon Zuckermann, a great-uncle of Adam Lassner. “Benedict” derives from “Baruch”, which means “blessed” in Hebrew, and is also the second name of Adam Lassner and many of his cousins (for more information on the importance of Jewish communities in the development of watchmaking in the Jura region, see this article).
- The offices of Benedict Watch in La Chaux-de-Fonds in the 1950s.
- Adam Lassner in front of the Benedict Watch offices, during a journey to rediscover the family watchmaking heritage in 2021.
A newfound passion
It was purely by chance that, a few years ago, Adam Lassner discovered this long-forgotten family history (the Benedict Watch company, like many others, did not survive the era of the quartz crisis). “In 2019, my father gave me a gold watch with this name, Benedict, on the dial,” he explains. “I did some research and realised I still had family in Switzerland. It was quite a surreal moment for me, because I’ve always enjoyed watches. I went there to meet a family member, who gave me more information about the brand. I also visited the cemetery where all my family is buried in La Chaux-de-Fonds.”
- Leon Zuckermann, Adam Lassner’s great-uncle, in his office in La Chaux-de-Fonds in the 1950s. On the wall behind him is a portrait of Baruch Reinin, who started the family watchmaking tradition in Russia in the 19th century.
Benedict Watch’s production volumes were in the range of 15,000 to 20,000 pieces per year, but examples are not easy to find today. The young entrepreneur, who works in sports marketing in New York, managed to buy a few models online. Little by little, the idea of reviving the family tradition took hold (he has mapped out the family’s entire history, which he has written about here and here). And for his generation, the digital revolution has changed everything: unlike his ancestors, he now has the possibility of launching a watch business from his home, far from the Swiss watchmaking industry and in the midst of a pandemic that slowed down logistics.
The digital revolution has changed everything: unlike his ancestors, Adam Lassner can launch a watch production from home!
- An ad for Benedict Watch in Europa Star in 1950
- ©Europa Star Archives
Going beyond vintage
The first collection, entirely self-financed, was launched this year: the Genesis, comprising 200 models in four dial variants, at $295 each. The brand is named Adam Benedict, combining the entrepreneur’s first name with that of the family firm – Benedict Watch. In addition to reviving a family tradition (see our article on the revival of “sleeping beauties”), the brand has another unique feature: it conveys a message based on mindfulness meditation and breathwork, a popular and accessible technique for refocusing, of which the young man is an adept (perhaps, subconsciously, this is how he brings the calm of the Swiss valleys to the frenzy of New York?)
- The Adam Benedict Genesis collection. Note the inhale/exhale markings to aid mindful breathing.
While adding a new dimension can make a brand’s relaunch message more complex, Adam Lassner is keen to include it. “The story and the family aspect is the easiest part of the project to understand, but I also wanted to bring a new message for today, through mindfulness. Other mindfulness watches and tools exist, but most are either digital or use other methods of calculating breath.”
In addition to reviving a family tradition, the brand has another unique feature: it conveys a message based on mindfulness meditation.
The function is very simple to use: the dial is divided into four-second and six-second increments indicated by different-coloured batons, which can be used to control breathing. This time-management function is actually not so different from the Benedict Watch Park-o-Phon that helped users in the 1950s and 1960s avoid parking fines!
“In the US, we like to put a price tag on everything. You can pay $1,000 for a mindfulness meditation session,” says Adam Lassner. “But with a watch, the practice is always at arm’s length. I’m not trying to ‘sell’ mindfulness – I’m just making it easily available to everyone, because the practice has helped me a lot, personally.”
- Adam Lassner above the streets of Valencia (Spain), where he studied, wearing a Benedict Watch he discovered.
His brother is also involved in the adventure, which is turning into a family affair once again. They are both working on a new model, a diving watch equipped with a Sellita SW200 mechanical calibre – a logical next step for a brand whose message is centred on breathing!
The Genesis models, equipped with a Ronda quartz movement, are assembled in America. Having moved from Russia to Switzerland, the family watchmaking tradition is now starting a new chapter in the United States.