Cuba isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think about watchmaking. Cuervo y Sobrinos is arguably the only luxury watch brand with true Latin roots, born in Havana’s San Rafael Avenue. Now headquartered in Le Noirmont, Switzerland, the brand combines contemporary Swiss craftsmanship with design inspiration from Havana’s golden years. The Historiador Pequeños Segundos was inspired by a vintage company piece from 1946, but also carries a modern vibe with both classic and edgy design elements. Let’s look at a deceptively conservative piece that celebrates the Latin spirit.
Founded in 1882, Cuervo y Sobrinos quickly became known for both fine jewellery and watches. The name is derived from Armando Río Cuervo, who in 1900 worked with his family to expand his uncle’s company – Cuervo y Sobrinos translates to Cuervo and Nephews. In 1920, the brand expanded to Europe, networking in Pforzheim, Germany and on Rue Mezlay in Paris. A production site would be set up a decade later in the heart of Swiss watchmaking, La Chaux-de-Fonds. By 1950, the Havana boutique had become a popular destination for the famous and elite – Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Clark Gable and Ernest Hemingway were among its patrons. Political events would prove disastrous for the brand in the late 1950s, however, and by 1959 it disappeared entirely.
Over 40 years after its demise, current company president Marzio Villa relaunched Cuervo y Sobrinos in Europe with a new collection shown at Baselworld in 2003. The Boutique Museum in La Habana was opened in 2009 as the brand returned to its birthplace with a shop and museum in Havana. The resurrected company may manufacture watches out of Le Noirmont (Swiss Jura) today, but its heart and soul will always remain in the streets of Havana.
CASE AND DESIGN
The case of this Cuervo y Sobrinos hits that contemporary sweet spot at 40mm in diameter and 11.5mm in height. The entirety of the 316L stainless steel is polished, but it reinforces the mid-century aesthetic. Long, angular lugs give it an edgy vibe and resemble those on the Tissot T-Complication Squelette (see photo below). The ones here are a bit longer with softer edges and have an ergonomic purpose as well, aiding in a comfortable fit around the wrist.
The watch is covered by a double curved sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating, while an interesting sapphire exhibition caseback shuns the norm. It’s not uncommon to find custom printing on back crystals (think MeisterSinger or Frederique Constant), but the Historiador Pequeños Segundos goes even further with an elaborate design that obscures much of the movement. The company logo sits in an open circle at the centre, which doubles as the clearest window to the mechanics underneath. The signed knurled crown doesn’t screw down and the case is water-resistant to only 30 metres. It’s clearly a dress watch without aquatic aspirations but is safe from splashes and rain.
DIAL AND HANDS
The black dial of the present Cuervo y Sobrinos Historiador Pequeños Segundos has two main textures, starting with a deep matte section in the centre that expands to a ridged ring at the perimeter. Large applied Arabic numerals sit at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock with an engraved Cuervo y Sobrinos emblem applied at 12, all with rhodium treatment. A bevelled date window with a matching black background sits at 3 o’clock.
Filling the gaps are applied spear-shaped indices that encroach into the centre section, adding a bit of depth. A seconds sub-dial sits just above 6 o’clock in a cut-out that provides additional depth with a simple, detailed track. The sword-style hour and minute hands are also rhodium-plated with small Super-LumiNova inserts near the tips. It’s not much but gets the job done in darkness. A narrow minute track spans the outermost perimeter. The culmination of these elements – spear indices, font, textures and applied emblem – give the dial a subtle yet unmistakable Latin vibe, while the overall monochromatic theme keeps it dressed in a suit.
The heart of the Historiador Pequeños Segundos is the CYS 5157 calibre, based on a Sellita 260-1 automatic. It has 31 jewels, beats at 28,800vph (4Hz) with a 38-hour power reserve. A solid, easily-serviceable movement. Partial views through the printed exhibition caseback show a custom rotor with a fan decoration and company engraving. This Sellita base movement is decorated with Côtes de Genève and perlage.
The 20mm strap is black Louisiana alligator with a stainless steel deployment clasp. The CyS emblem is engraved on the buckle and the strap features the always appreciated quick-release levers. As I’ve often said in the past, I’m not the biggest fan of deployment clasps as I have small wrists and they rarely sit well. And although the supplied strap really suits the watch aesthetically, I’d likely swap it out for a pin buckle counterpart. Cuervo y Sobrinos, fortunately, makes this easy. There’s also an optional stainless steel bracelet.
There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking with the Historiador Pequeños Segundos – the Sellita-based movement, polished steel case and matte black dial are generally standard fare. The details, however, are very well executed. The multiple dial textures and spear indices really catch the eye, and the long, angular lugs not only look cool but genuinely add to wrist comfort. The polished silver against black gives it a dressy vibe, while the edgy lugs and dial elements have a retro, Latin feel.
I’m a little torn with the caseback. The complex print under the sapphire is cool but also obstructs the majority of the mechanics for a look that’s more solid back than exhibition. It does, however, continue the Latin vibe that I appreciate. Overall, it’s a well-sized, well-thought piece with enough style and eccentricity to really stand out.
Price and availability
The Historiador Pequeños Segundos retails for CHF 2,900 and comes with multiple dial options – colour, finish and indices. A stainless steel bracelet is also available for all models and surprisingly doesn’t raise the price. For more information and orders, visit the Cuervo y Sobrinos website.