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background/report: MIMO, Otto Graef and Girard-Perregaux

MIMO Watches may be a forgotten brand nowadays. However, its place in history, especially for Girard-Perregaux is fundamental. It is probably fair to say that without MIMO and its owner Otto Graef, Girard-Perregaux would most likely be a forgotten brand as well today. So let’s look how this came about.

mimows
a superb and simple Mimo with pencil hands

Otto Graef was a watchmaker of German origins that lived and worked to Switzerland, La Chaux-de-Fonds. Graef founded MIMO (Manufacture Internationale de Montres Or) in 1918. At Girard-Perregaux on the other hand, after the death of Constant Girard in 1903, his eldest son, Constant Girard-Gallet took over the firm and aimed to continue the heritage of his father. In 1906 he bought the Bautte Company to fuel more growth. However, the first World War was an economic shock for Girard-Perregaux and business was failing more and more.

When in 1928 Constant Girard-Gallet retired, only a shell of the brand Girard-Perregaux was left and production had been ceased. Otto Graef together with his 3 sons Willy, Paul and Jean bought the remains of Girard-Perregaux. At that time MIMO had established itself as an innovative brand of wrist watches and soon after the take over of Girard-Perregaux, they launched the brand Girard-Perregaux new in North America, branding mostly MIMO watches that also remained on sale in Europe under the MIMO brand.

mimold
MIMO Large Date, watch belongs to Blomman

Within a few years, Jean Graef paved the way for a successful brand with many innovative watches, such as the Mimorex (a kind of Reverso with T.W.O dials), wristwatches with date display, even large dates with 2 discs or the Mimo Loga, a watch with a calculating ruler. You can even track back the since 1968 produced Girard-Perregaux Olimpico chronographs to a MIMO of the 1930s. The Mimolympic was a tank watch with a basic single pusher chronograph function, likely released for the Olympics in 1936.

With the growing success, the Graef family built a new headquarter in La Chaux-de-Fonds at Place Giradet 1 in 1948, where till today the famous blue house on the hill is situated.

bluehouse
Place Giradet 1, today the “blue house on the hill”

In the 1950s, the third generation of the Graef’s took over management and they managed to bring back the old glory to the brand Girard-Perregaux with such success that soon the brand MIMO will disappear and Girard-Perregaux was established again as a global brand. This period will almost last 3 decades and has been one of the most successful in the history of Girard-Perregaux with outstanding technical innovations and a rich history of superb watches.

So therefore, the brand Girard-Perregaux would not have been what it is today without the Graef family and the little not so well-known watch brand MIMO, all the more reason to look at MIMO watches for any Girard-Perregaux collector. Besides, most of those MIMO’s are also outstanding and very advanced watches of their time and collectables on their own.

gpmimo
A Girard-Perregaux branded early wristwatch with date, most likely a MIMO design, watch belongs to the GP Museum

[some historic facts are from the book “Girard-Perregaux”, F. Chaille, 2004]

 

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