Cuervo y Sobrinosis a brand with a fascinating and dynamic history that is almost antithetical to the staid and stoic past of most Swiss watchmakers. Rather than tracing its roots to oil lamp-lit workshops nestled in a Swiss alpine valley, Cuervo y Sobrinos was born in the vibrant and bustling streets of Havana, Cuba. If you detect a distinctly Latin flair and an exuberance of style and panache in Cuervo y Sobrinos’s watches, that’s certainly no coincidence. In the Historiador Luna Negra, Cuervo y Sobrinos looked to the night sky to create an elegant full calendar moonphase watch. I like to picture the designers sipping mojitos on the white sands of Santa Maria del Mar under a full moon while dreaming up the ideal watch to wear for an evening of dancing at Jardines del 1830 or one of Havana’s many trendy nightclubs.
It’s worth spending a moment on Cuervo y Sobrinos’s history, as it translates directly to the brand’s ethos and design language. Back in 1862, Spanish immigrant Ramon Fernandos Cuervo opened a jewelry store on Calle de la Amistad in Havana. Over the ensuing decades, the store changed locations and opened new stores, eventually setting up boutiques in Germany and France. In 1928, the brand established its own factory in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, allowing the store to expand from selling the likes of Patek Phillipe and Rolex to producing its own watches. That said, the brand maintained a warm relationship with those famous Swiss brands, going so far as to create co-branded watches – but good luck finding one today.
What started as a humble jewelry store became a Cuban institution – a place to see and be seen – attracting everyone from Winston Churchill to Albert Einstein to Ernest Hemingway. That Golden Era of the 1950s, in which Havana was the gem of the Caribbean and stars like Clark Gable could be spotted watch-gazing in the Cuervo y Sobrinos, would soon come to a crashing halt as the boutique was nationalized in 1965. Though it continued to produce watches for the military for some time, it was the start of a period of dormancy; the brand halted watch production until its resurrection in 1997. Today, it retains the trademark Latin style of its heyday in the 1950s, while simultaneously experimenting with colors, textures, and calibers. In other words, Cuervo y Sobrinos, today, produces what is every bit a modern and elegant Swiss watch, but does so in a style that is true to its Cuban heritage.
That’s a lot of background to get us to the main topic, but understanding the brand’s history is key to understanding its unique design aesthetic. In the case of the Historiador Luna Negra, we have a dressy and elegant watch teeming with novel visual elements. The Historiador Luna Negra is housed in a 40mm stainless steel case (with a 51.55mm lug-to-lug height) that’s instantly recognizable by its clawed lugs – a design element you don’t see often, but can be found across a number of watches in the brand’s catalog. Despite the multiple complications, the watch retains a slim 11.25 case height. The high-polish finish, along with unique lugs. gives the watch a distinct sculptural elegance.
Moving on to the dial, there’s a lot to take in. The Luna Negra, designed for the Northern Hemisphere, is available in both a sand and anthracite version, while the Doble Luna – the same watch, but with a moon phase complication intended for both the northern and southern hemisphere – comes in a blue dial. The anthracite dial features a Clou de Paris guilloché pattern, which is open-worked to reveal the day and month discs and a small glimpse of the movement beneath. The 4N gold-colored stainless steel hands and applied indices offer a warm and classy contrast to the anthracite dial. Accompanying the usual hour, minute, and seconds hand is a pointer hand that indicates the date running along the periphery of the dial. Top that all off with a moon phase above 6 o’clock, and there’s a whole lot going on with this dial.
The finishing is excellent, and the result is visually dynamic, yet legible. Really, it comes down to taste. If you prefer the simplicity of a dress watch like the Patek Philippe Calatrava, this likely won’t be up your alley. However, if your tastes are more flamboyant and you’re looking for some Latin spice, the Luna Negra has you covered.
Powering the Luna Negra, and visible behind the sapphire caseback, is the CYS 6331 caliber. This movement is based on the ETA 2892-A2 automatic movement but outfitted with a Dubois Dépraz module, allowing for the movement to feature hours, minutes, seconds, date, day, month, and moon phase complications. The CYS 6331 features 31 jewels, beats at 28.8kbph, and has a 42-hour power reserve. Cuervo y Sobrinos finishes the movement off with a custom black rotor with gold accents. It’s a nice touch.
The Luna Negra comes mounted on a black alligator strap with engraved Cuervo y Sobrinos emblem – a choice that definitely fits the dressy, elegant look of the watch. That said, if you’re after a slightly sportier aesthetic, there is the option to pick up a matching stainless steel bracelet. The Cuervo y Sobrinos Historiador Luna Negra will set you back $7,250 USD. Though playing in an incredibly competitive price bracket, the Cuervo y Sobrinos offers a distinct, flamboyant Latin flair that you simply can’t find anywhere else. For more information on Cuervo y Sobrinos and the Historiador Luna Negra, visit the brand’s website.