Flèche d’Orient, about the entrepreneurial Romania of the 1920s
I have known Ion Schiau for over 15 years and I always take pleasure in his projects which show how much he loves Romania and how well he knows Romanian history. After the Tissot limited edition which marked 100 years since the Great Union Day and which was sold out in record time, Albini Prassa, the watch distribution company founded by Ion Schiau, comes back with a new limited edition, also developed in collaboration with Tissot, celebrating 100 years since the founding of the French Romanian Air Navigation Company, a spectacular entrepreneurial project.
Tissot Heritage Navigator “Flèche d’Orient” places Romania back on the map of traditional Swiss watchmaking, being also the first wristwatch to include Bucharest on the 24-timezone dial.
Almost a century ago, the French-Romanian company CFRNA launched the world’s first transcontinental airline for commercial freight, mail and passenger transport between Paris and Constantinople, with stopovers in Strasbourg, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade and Bucharest.
“Flèche d’Orient” is a limited-edition watch, with only 444 pieces, each numbered individually, from 1 to 444. The number 444 represents the average air distance between Băneasa and San Stefano – which was the airport of Istanbul at the time – as well as the distance between Băneasa airport and Pancevo airport in Belgrade.
The watch has a classic, timeless design, and it comes with a COSC chronometer certificate. It is delivered in a special collection box, which includes an additional replacement strap, a leather travel bag, a watchmakers’ magnifying glass, a limited-edition certificate and a microfiber cloth to keep the watch clean.
The watch also comes with a special gift, to complete this limited edition: a book entitled “Săgeata Orientului – Pionierii Cerului”, presenting the history of the French Romanian Air Navigation Company, its excellent achievements and the brave entrepreneurial spirits who were behind this successful story.
Through this book, written on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of “Flèche d’Orient”, the entire epic tale of the company is brought to life with the help of historian Dumitru Lăcătușu from the Historical Consulting Center, and the important input of Ion Schiau, a history and watchmaking enthusiast.
As historian Dumitru Lăcătușu says: “The story of the French Romanian Air Navigation Company (CFRNA) is an extraordinary episode in the history of both Romanian and French aviation. It is a tale of courage, audacity, a story about clear-sightedness, which also shows what we can achieve when our interests align, our cultures work together, and French pilots and officials join hands with Romanian businessmen and statesmen. It is a both memorable and genuinely inspiring chapter in the history of Romanian entrepreneurship, often overlooked. Perhaps it was for this very reason that I found it extremely gratifying to turn my attention to this particular chapter.”
Ion Schiau was born in Romania, but he was raised in Switzerland. He is the founder of Albini Prassa and the initiator of the new Tissot special edition. This is not the first such project developed by Albini Prassa in collaboration with Tissot. Two years ago, the two companies launched another special edition, Tissot 1918-2018 Romania – an anniversary edition celebrating the Great Union Day – together with other two special collections dedicated to Romanian rugby: “Stejarii” (The Oaks) and “Stejarul de Aur” (The Golden Oak). However, as Schiau confesses, the current edition holds a special place in his heart: “Flèche d’Orient is a very dear project to me, because it comes with a unique emotional charge. It is a less documented episode in the history of Romanian aviation and entrepreneurship, which I believe can be an inspiration for us even now, or maybe especially now, 100 years later, through the audacity, courage and clear-sightedness of the people who stood at its origin.”
The French Romanian Air Navigation Company was founded on April 23rd, 1920, as a result of a joint initiative of Aristide Blank, an influential Romanian businessman and heir to the Marmorosch-Blank financial empire, and Count Pierre Claret de Fleurieu, a young French aviator and war hero, with the help of the great Romanian diplomat Nicolae Titulescu and French General Maurice Duval. The company has listed several accomplishments that made history, such as the first domestic and commercial night flight in France and the first international and commercial night flight between Belgrade and Bucharest. It was also the world’s first transcontinental airline, intended for the commercial freight, mail and passenger transport.
In 1925, the company changed its name to International Air Navigation Company, and later on, in 1933, it was one of the companies that set the foundation of Air France. The French-Romanian company had a great impact on the aeronautical industry and history in Romania, paving the way for the Romanian commercial airlines that appeared afterwards (SARTA, LARES, TARS and TAROM).
You can find more details about the story of “Flèche d’Orient” on the website especially created for the 100th anniversary of the French Romanian Air Navigation Company: www.sageataorientului.ro – a website which I strongly recommend, whether you are passionate or merely interested to learn more about an era when people used to talk a lot about Romania – in appreciative terms.
Where to find “Flèche d’Orient”
The limited-edition Tissot Heritage “Flèche d’Orient” timepiece can be ordered on the Albini Prassa website – www.albiniprassa.com, starting December 2nd. The model is also available in selected partner stores in the Tissot network.