A Swiss maker with a strange history! Notable wearers include Beatles producer George Martin
The history of MuDu watches begins in 1955, with the name being registered in Switzerland on 5 July 1957. It is listed as belonging to Brevinex SA/Kurt Dubach, Geneva Switzerland. In the registration of the MuDu name, the manufacturer is stated as also making clocks, chronometers, and stopwatches. It is thought that the name is a shortening of name of Muller and Durbach in Geneva.
The 'Illegal' Brand
There is a rumour that MuDu watches were actually made as a secondary brand of Blancpain watches, with a another theory that Blancpain workers made the watches out of hours, and a third that disgruntled ex-employees walked out with suitcases full of movements and cases and started up a new manufacture. All extremely unlikely. This strange alternative back-story is inspired no doubt by the illegal manner in which MuDu watches entered Britain.
From the mid 1950s and through the whole of the 1960s, MuDu watches were smuggled into the UK through various ports of entry on the southern coast of England, including Southampton and the old City of Bristol docks. They were then sold in pubs and other "unofficial" outlets, with no retail shops selling them. When the watches were smuggled in, probably to avoid the high duties imposed post-War on imported goods and precious metals like gold, they had no straps or boxes. The UK was the main export market for MuDu watches and they are rarely found in other countries.
There is one story of smuggled goods being seized from a well-know London gangster in 1961 which has been confirmed. It is reported that a large number of MuDu watches were in the haul. On on watch forum (Christopher Ward) a member said ' I purchased a MuDu 25 jewel doublematic for about £5 from a Customs & Excise sale of seized goods in 1961.' No doubt a lot of watches seen today came from this notable source.
The Swiss-made watches were of pretty decent quality and often had multi-jewel movements. They are sometimes seen engraved as long-service or retirement gifts from companies located in Southern England.
The most well-known term associated with MuDu is "Doublematic" and this refers to the use of Felsa movements in which the rotor moves both ways thereby winding the watch in both directions - similar to a bumper movement. Some Doublematic watches have the Felsa 1560 movement, while others use the Felsa 4002 movement and MuDu watches with the latter movement have 25, 30 and 41 jewels. Sometimes the jewel count is even higher and there are reports of 55 and 56 and even 75 jewel dials.
Pick of the bunch is the classic 1960s triple date Moonphase.
The full story may never be known about MuDu... Were they:
- secretly made by workers of Blancpain from stolen parts? Most likely untrue.
- smuggled into the UK to get around customs duties, through the docks at Bristol and Southampton, and sold in portside pubs? Most likely true.
- simply a brand name of Muller and Durbach in Geneva? Probably.