Villeret’s watchmaking tradition began in 1858 when brothers Charles and Hyppolite Robert founded the company "H. & C. Robert", later becoming just "C. Robert" when only Charles remained, then changing again to "Robert Frères Villeret" in 1878 when his sons Charles and Georges, and later also Yvan Robert (1840-1912), took over the leadership of the company. The company began registering brands in 1886, starting with "Mercure", adding "Minerva" (the goddess of farming, craftsmanship and science) in 1887, and "Ariana", "Tropic", and others in 1898. Each with its own logo and products, these brands were associated to the "RFV" logo characterized by an arrow, a symbol which became a signature of the brand.
Initially operating as an “etablisseur” of pocket watches using movements of third parties, "Robert Frères Villeret" took part in the "Expositions universelles" in Antwerp and 1889 at the Paris World Exhibition winning medals for their watches at both exhibitions.
From 1895 "Robert Frères Villeret" began with the production of its own watch movements.
The first was the 18-ligne No. 1 movement with cylinder escapement which remained in production until 1941, as well as the No. 2 caliber 18- or 19-ligne movement with a Swiss lever escapement.
Minerva referred to their calibres by size, in ligne, and sequence number. Therefore all calibres sized around 18 ligne would be called "Calibre 18” followed by a number. So its first calibre was known as Calibre 18-1.
The third, introduced in 1903, was Calibre 19-3 and became known for its superior finish.
In 1902 the company moved in the buildings that are still in use today. The uninterrupted production of mechanical movements in the same location for more than a century and through the 1970s quartz crisis is definitely a rarity in the Swiss watchmaking industry.