NIVREL: A history of German and Swiss watchmaking tradition
It all began with a goldsmith. On October 4, 1891, goldsmith Friedrich Wilhelm Kraemer opened a jewelry and watch store on the main street of the German town Saarbrucken. He was a descendent of a craftsman family that had been living in Saarbrucken for over 300 years. In total, five generations of craftsmen and businessmen have formed the Kraemer jewelry business into one of the most traditional and largest businesses for jewelry and watches in southwest Germany.
From Jewelry to Watches
The family name evolved with Hildegard Kraemer’s 1939 marriage to Gerd Hofer. Their twin sons joined the family business in 1956 as goldsmith and salesman apprentices. The boys were encouraged to gain international experience within the industry. Gerd Hofer Jr first encountered the world of watches during an internship in Paris, France for the brands Boeres, Pere et Fils, and Universal Geneve. For the first time he encounterd the world of wrist watches – and he was carried away by his enthusiasm.
His brother took the role of successor to the family store, while Gerd Hofer furthered his education. First he studied at the Design Academy Hanau at Fior Lmt.; and soon after, from 1963-1965 was a commercial clerk at Rene Kern.
Gerd Hofer began working for the Swiss watch company Milus in 1965. By 1978, he was the official sales agent for all of Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. Together with wife Gitta, he worked under the company name ‘Gerd Hofer GmbH.’ Gerd worked as a salesman and designer for Milus watches, and Gitta as the financial manager. They also undertook distribution of the Swiss brands Kelek and Revue-Thommen.
In the 1990’s Milus was sold to an investor in Hong Kong, and Kelek merged with the famous watch manufacturer Breiltling; allowing Gerd and Gitta Hofer the opportunity to pursue their dream. They would continue their watch production and service under their own brand.
The Renaissance of NIVREL
The Swiss brand NIVREL was acquired by Gerd Hofer GmbH in 1993 and production was brought to Saarbrucken.
Historically, Nivrel originated from the brand Marvin. Marvin was founded in 1850 by Marc and Emmanuel Didisheim in St. Imier, part of the Swiss Jura region. Until well into the first part of the 20th century, Marvin mostly produced pocket watches for men and diamond watches for women. The diamond pieces were often integrated into different pieces of jewelry, such as necklaces or brooches. In 1936, the company introduced a new brand, NIVREL. NIVREL featured men’s watches with chronographs and calendars, as well as small ladies watches. Movements were either provided by existing suppliers, or produced in-house.
In the 1970’s, with the so-called “quartz crisis,” came big changes to the Swiss watch industry. Many big brand companies changed hands or died out completely. Unfortuantely, Marvin and NIVREL also vanished from the market; lying dormant for nearly 20 years until Gerd and Gitta Hofer from Saarbrucken revived NIVREL in 1993.
The German Watch with a Swiss Heart
NIVREL was integrated into the German Saarland region and into the tradition of the Kraemer and Hofer family. Originally produced for Milus, the gold and design watches were re-branded into NIVREL. In addition, the first automatic watches were introduced to the market. Through the network Gerd Hofer had created in the watch industry, he was able to secure parts of the original Kelek and other movements for his own production.
Throughout the years, Gerd and Gitta’s children have grown up. Their son Sven took interest to the family business right away, especially to the work of his uncle at the Kraemer Jewelry store. He completed his goldsmith apprenticeship receiving first prize from the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In 1997, he took over as CEO of the Kraemer Jewelry Store.
Daughter Anja, lead by the example of her father, chose a different path, outside of the family business. After a commercial education, she studied business administration at the Saarland University, receiving a PhD in Economics. In 2007 she, along with her spouse Guido Grohmann and with help from Gerd and Gitta Hofer, decided to join and finally, overtake the NIVREL business.