Monochrome Watches
An online magazine dedicated to fine watches

The Historiador Tradición San Rafael is Taking Cuervo y Sobrinos Back to its Cuban Roots

A watch that pays tribute to historical models, but also to the golden era of the brand in La Havana.

| By Brice Goulard | 5 min read |

Cuervo y Sobrinos is a brand like no others. If today the brand is headquartered and produced watches in Switzerland, it was originally established in Havana in 1882, before the brand was revived in the late 1990s. And that is very tangible in its creations, with Latino design cues and a flair that is unique to the brand. Cuervo y Sobrinos is all about recreating the mood of the Golden Age of La Havana in the 1950s when socialites and celebrities flocked to the exotic island playground. And the new Historiador Tradición San Rafael not only plays on these nodes, but it also pays tribute to the brand’s historical boutique, and to historical models. Back to the roots in all aspects!

Today you’ll be reading about is a watch brand with Cuban roots, pre-Castro roots, needless to say. The story starts in Cuba in 1862 when a Spanish immigrant, Don Ramón Cuervo, opened a jewellery and watch repair shop in Havana. Twenty years later in 1882, the business expanded with the incorporation of the owner’s nephews to become Cuervo y Sobrinos. As the most luxurious establishment on the island and the premier Cuban luxury brand, Cuervo y Sobrinos specialised in the sale of prestigious imported timepieces and even established its own manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1928 to keep up with demand.

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By the 1950s, Havana had established itself as a luxurious playground for the rich and famous, and the Cuervo y Sobrinos boutique enjoyed the patronage of illustrious visitors like Caruso, Gary Cooper, Hemingway, Einstein and Neruda. Ultimately, the company moved to a new boutique on Calle San Rafael, a prestigious boulevard in Havana. This became a must-see destination for the great and the good. The Cuban Revolution and the rise of Fidel Castro put an end to the partying. The Cuervo family fled Cuba, the brand was nationalised in 1965 and even produced a watch for the Cuban army. After decades of slumber, an Italian antique watch specialist, Marzio Villa, came across Cuervo y Sobrinos, and he knew he’d stumbled upon a tiny gem of a company.

The latest addition to the Historiador collection, watches that are deeply inspired by the brand’s past, honours this rich history, but also a specific watch named Tradition and produced during the 1950s. This watch, which you can see below, was positioned in the mid-high segment. These references were endowed with Adolph Schild or Felsa movements and featured simple complications. The dials were marked with ‘Tradition’ in English text and bore the company’s logo.

The new duo of watches, the Cuervo y Sobrinos Historiador Tradición San Rafael, are built around the classic Historiador case. This modern-day watch is not per se a replica, but a contemporary reinterpretation of the design and flair of the Cuban era of the brand. This case has great charisma and charm, and feels rather unique in the watchmaking scene. Measuring 40mm in diameter, for a height of 10.7mm, it features bold jutting lugs, a design feature inspired by the tailfins of American cars popular in Havana in the 1950s that imprint the watch with its singular identity. The case is topped by a box-shaped sapphire crystal that once adds retro charm to this new vintage-ish watch.

An important element of this Historiador Tradición San Rafael is its caseback. For once, Cuervo y Sobrinos has decided not to display the movement but to use the solid steel back as a canvas for a nice, historically-inspired decoration. It comes with a depiction of the brand’s former boutique on Calle San Rafael in Havana and the company’s nomenclature in cursive text.

The dials offered on this new Cuervo y Sobrinos Historiador Tradición San Rafael are also an ode to the past, and to specific textures and production techniques not often seen anymore. As such, CyS offers two colours, a classic silver and a bolder champagne, which are enlivened with a grid-shaped motif termed frappage. Composed of small raised dots, it is paired with Dauphine-style hour and minute hands conversed with circular indexes, save for 3 and 9 o’clock which featured trapezoidal indexes and 12 o’clock which was denoted with an applied brand logo. A touch of colour and originality is brought by the central second with red arrow tip, and at 6 o’clock you’ll find two apertures for the day and the date. The company’s name and the word Tradición are presented on two prominent cartouches.

Depending on the version, the Historiador Tradición San Rafael plays on classic/cold tones, or warmer hues. The silver model has white metal markers and blued hands, paired with a glossy blue alligator strap. The champagne version features hands and markers that are gold plated, and is worn on a matte honey strap. Both are closed by an openworked CyS-branded clasp. The straps feature quick-release spring bars.

Under the nicely decorated caseback is a classic, solid movement provided by Sellita. The Calibre CyS 5203 is based on the SW 240-1, an automatic movement that runs at 4Hz and stores 38h of power reserve. The main difference with the usual SW 200-1 base is the presence of the day-date function.

Availability & Price

The Cuervo y Sobrinos Historiador Tradición San Rafael is released in two limited editions of 188 pieces per colourway. It is now available from the brand’s website at a price of CHF 2,700 or EUR 2,700.

For more details and orders, please visit

1 response

  1. Excelente articulo. Gran investigación histórica. CyS sufrió la suerte de tantas empresas saqueadas por los barbudos de Castro. Un país congelado en la miseria por 60 años y aun sigue el robo. La boutique que mantiene CyS en la Habana tiene los precios inflados al 300 porciento. Concuerdo en que la caja Historiador se desmarca con elegancia de la competencia.


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