“Time For A Change”, a beautiful book dedicated to Enicar Watches

Last December, Martijn van der Ven distributed the book Time For A Change, Discovering Vintage Enicar. Although he launched his book without the assistance of a publisher, it has turned out to be a beautiful and well-informed endeavor. In addition to the fact that it describes the rise and fall of this remarkable watch company, however it also features great adverts of the time, individuals behind the brand and the troublesome times the watch industry had to endure during the quartz crisis. It is, therefore, more than a watch book. We addressed Van der Ven to discover exactly what sort of book is this?

Flipping through the pages of Time For A Change, Discovering Vintage Enicar is surely a journey through time. Enicar was established by Ariste Racine in 1913 in the famous watchmaker’s town La Chaux-de-Fonds. Like most watch brands from that time and place, growth was assured in the first decade. At its heyday, it possessed two factories, in Lengnau and Oensingen. Together, they produced around 800,000 wristwatches per year. And it was a remarkable company. Take for example its name, which is essentially the last name of its founder written backwards. The last watch left the factory in 1987, as Enicar petitioned for financial protection in the wake of the quartz crisis.

I’ve always cherished the stories of underdogs‘, explains van der Ven. ‘That attracted me about Enicar. Not in the way that they became bankrupt, but rather by the way they were thinking. They made very a few innovations and did some great marketing stunts, yet they never reached the statures Rolex or Omega have. That simply speaks to my imagination.

A weird obsession

Van der Ven (44) understands what it is to speak from the situation of the underdog. He has worked in advertising for about twenty years, as creative and copywriter. First at a bureau, later he started his own company. In 2018, he quit that as well and returned to basics. Which was (copy)writing and storytelling. This book, he advises me, is a result of that decision. ‘It’s really a passion project. I don’t earn an euro with it. I did everything without anyone else, from idea to distribution.’

The book isn’t just a compilation of great images and advertisements. The research he did in this book is amazing. It is developed around five pieces van der Ven chose because he thought those watches are representative of what Enicar represented. In 2014, he started an Instagram account completely dedicated to the terminated brand . In 2018, he traveled to Switzerland to discover the roots of this company and to interview former representatives. ‘I also went to see the old factory. It currently houses a site company, a kitchen store and two watch companies: Atlantic and Epos watches. I tried to speak to as many individuals as conceivable to get a broader perspective on the company. I got a great deal of cooperation, yet initially, the family heirs didn’t want to talk to me about it.

Speaking to Racine III

In 2019, van der Ven returned to Lengnau, where he met the major of the city. He associated him to the grandson of the founder of the company, Ariste Racine III, presently 76 years old. ‘It took some persuasion to gain his trust,‘ says van der Ven. ‘I imagine the closure of the company left its scars in the family. So initially they weren’t very able to talk much about the past, which I completely understand. He revealed to me they had destroyed all the archives after the bankruptcy. Be that as it may, before the finish of our gathering, he gave me a heap of old papers, which turned out to be the company releases. From 1954 to 1973, they had a company journalist working for them, so the history of the company was all around reported. He gave me all the access I expected to dive deeper into the corporation. And it confirmed what I had already felt: they really did astonishing things.’

Van der Ven makes reference several marketing stunts Enicar did. ‘We all realize Rolex was on the Mount Everest in 1953. Before long, Enicar did pretty much the same with a watch they gave the name Sherpa, introduced in 1956. In 1957 they went above and beyond with that watch. An Enicar Sherpa was attached to the bow of the Mayflower II boat, which went sailing from England to New York. After this 51 day trip, the product manager of Enicar took the watch from the bow and investigated it. No water damage, and no time lost.

A true recommendation

It is stories like these, and many others, combined with beautiful new and old photography, that give Time for a Change, Discovering Vintage Enicar its appeal. Van der Ven hired some great photographers, to create the brochure this company never had; a trip through the company history. The book is ‘hybrid‘, as its author calls it. ‘It is part watch book, part marketing case study and part photobook‘, he says. It is in a way as quirky as Enicar itself.

The book tallies 280 pages book and combines the company history with great imagery. The book is out now and costs EUR 65. For more information and orders, visit enicar.org .


Photographers Geertjan Cornelissen and Nancy Ostermann, of Versebeeldwaren , did five product shoots and photographer Maarten Coolen did several additional photoshoots and portraits in Switzerland.