Whether a fan of rare watches or a fan of jewelry, there are two names that will pop up during your time of researching, and possibly owning pieces from during your time collecting. One of those is Eterna, the other, Birks. One a shop with humble beginnings dating back to 1858 in Grenchen, Switzerland. The other, a small jewelry shop founded in Montreal, Quebec. So, let’s dive into this special, rare, and somewhat unknown piece.
First, let’s look at Birks. The company began in 1879, founded as ‘Birks’, by then sole proprietor Henry Birks in the heart of the Montreal financial district. 14 years later, with his three sons, they became ‘Henry Birks and Sons’, and as popularity grew, so did the company. Partnerships with other jewelers also happened, spreading the Birks name everywhere across the country. Over time, because of this popularity, it could be safe to say that they became Canada’s most famous jewellery company. In 1955, they even managed to successfully sue the City of Montreal and the Supreme Court of Canada to remain open on Catholic holidays. From then to today, they continued to grow across the world and have been the jeweller of choice for the 2010 Olympic games and the jewellery maker for members of the Royal Family.
Now, the other name on the dial, Eterna-Matic. Eterna has beginnings, as mentioned, in Switzerland, more specifically, the town of Grenchen. Founded by Dr. Joseph Girard and Urs Schild, the company began by producing just movements as it was a growing industry. Down the road, after the industry wasn’t profitable as it once was, Schild became the sole proprietor of the company. After that, ‘Eterna’ began to create fully functioning and assembled timepieces. In 1890, just a year after he died, while the company was run by his sons, the Eterna name began appearing on the dials of the watches they made, and as they say, the rest is history. One thing that the Eterna is famous for, is the revolutionary design of the automatic rotor. By adding five ball bearings under the rotor to help provide it with balance and support, it changed the way pieces were designed, and it is a method still used today. That redesigned automatic movement would be etched in their name, becoming Eterna-Matic, and their logo, 5 ball bearings.
Last, but not least, why, or what is KonTiki? The KonTiki expedition, as its widely referred to, is named after the balsawood craft that was created by a Norwegian team of explorers to prove the method of travel was possible from south America to the Polynesian Islands using the currents. 101 days later, the point was proven. The story is highly interesting and there are many books out there as to how and why they did this. So, what's the connection between Eterna and Kontiki? Well, during the expedition, it was documented that the team wore Eterna watches. A respectable choice seeing as it was a watch that would be able to be accurate and be reliable on the open seas. Obviously though, the KonTiki branding wasn't on the pieces yet. That came 11 years later as a way to market their pieces and celebrate their collaboration. Today, these two companies are still in existence and the KonTiki legend lives on.
Now let’s look at the star of the show. The Birks Eterna-Matic KonTiki Edition. I’m sure you’ve most likely never seen this model, because neither have we. We’re doing our best to learn more and gain more information regarding this model because as the story goes, 10, or less, have ever been created in this particular configuration. We’ve seen the stainless-steel models before, but never a KonTiki/Birks collaboration in a dress watch style piece in a beautiful gold case. Wearability is also amazing, at 36mm, it’s super versatile and can be worn by just about anyone.
Condition wise, it’s immaculate. From the lume plots to the raised stick numerals with the bevelled edges, the raised Eterna-Matic ball bearing logo. There’s the Stamped Eterna-Matic logo, the Birks, and the KonTiki, all in different fonts to stand apart from one another. Flip it over, then you have the engraved vessel that the KonTiki expedition that is ever so popular and gaining more and more fans over time.
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