Graf has written history
Sometimes it is nice when one can take a look behind the "scenes" - getting to know one's counterpart better. We would therefore like to recount a small part of history to you:
In 1947 - having behind him imprisonment and the chaos of war - with skilled but almost empty hands, Erich Graf founded the watch strap maker enterprise, “Graf Uhrarmbänder”, in Holzen near Schwerte at the Ruhr River. Vital start capital was provided in the form of sweat bands taken from all the old steel helmets, which were remoulded in the neighbourhood to produce cooking pots. Through bartering it was possible to procure an old punching machine and a number of tools, and together with family and befriended housewives the hourly production of watch straps, hand-painted bookmarks for children and further small leather items began in a makeshift heated shed.
Only after the company had been in existence for a full year was a move made to the more hospitable saloon of an inn, whereupon the staff grew within just a few months to an impressive six employees. By this time work "real" leather was being processed and the focus was now exclusively on the production of watch straps. The company vehicle fleet – comprising a motorbike manufactured in 1938 – could be expanded by a 1936 Opel P4.
The start-up years
In 1950 the first sales force employee began working for the company at last. Admittedly with some difficulty because he had to travel by public transport when visiting his customers. The enterprise remained next the inn site until 1959, but renovation and extension work created additional space for production.
At that time industry in the Ruhr region was booming and workers became scarce. Erich Graf then made a quick decision to relocate the company, and moved to today's Grenderich site in 1960. Now occupying its own rooms, it was not only the company's staff that expanded but also the company’s product range. In addition to the standard leather types available up to that point, watch straps were now also produced from snake, lizard and crocodile leather.
In 1968 Graf's daughter and son-in-law Herbert Scheuer assumed the responsibility and the manufacturing programme was completely revised. The previously rather conventional range was transformed into a much noted collection, which appealed not only to the small specialist retailer in rural regions, but also to the jeweller in the major city. The company continued to place great value on exemplary quality. The high quality leather was exclusively processed with PUR glues, which guarantee a skin-friendly as well as oil-, petrol- and sweat-resistant joining of the upper and lining leather.
However, there were setbacks too. The innovative attempt to offer watch straps with closed strap lugs under the motto "specialised in a specialist retail” was unsuccessful, although already more than 90% of all watches had a spring bar at that time. Specialist retailers - with the exception of the city shops - were not prepared to fit these straps.
Der Wandel zur Moderne
Natürlich war das Haus Graf auch der in den 70ern aufkommenden Breitband-Mode gegenüber aufgeschlossen, man vergaß jedoch nicht, das Standardband weiter zu verbessern. Herstellungsmethoden wurden rationalisiert und ein großer Teil der Fertigungsanlagen selbst konstruiert – ein wichtiger Aspekt der Qualitätssicherung.
Seit jener Zeit werden auch Werkzeuge überwiegend im eigenen Werkzeugbau gefertigt, damit schnell auf die Gegebenheiten des Marktes reagiert werden kann.
Inzwischen produzieren rund 50 Mitarbeiter täglich fast 4.000 Uhrarmbänder für Damen- und Herrenuhren in allen Breiten und Zwischenbreiten. Nicht mitgezählt die speziellen Sonderfertigungen für die feinsten Uhren-Manufakturen.
Eine interessante Unternehmensgeschichte. Wir werden sie konsequent fortschreiben.