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History of the Swiss Watch Industry

From Jacques David to Nicolas Hayek- Third edition

Pierre-Yves Donzé

This book tackles the history of the Swiss watch industry in a global perspective: it gives particular attention to rival nations such as the United Kingdom, the USA and Japan. The author demonstrates how Swiss watchmakers succeeded in facing various challenges: the industrialization of production at the end of the 19 th century, the delocalization of production in the interwar years and globalization since the 1960’s. These challenges helped Switzerland to maintain and strengthen its position as a leader on the world market. This study shows how innovation and new technologies, the industrial policy of the Swiss authorities, the industrial district organization and the relations with trade unions explain the worldwide success of the Swiss watch industry.


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Table of Contents


Introduction 1 1. The Swiss Watch Industry during the fi rst part of the 19th century (1800–1870) 5 1.1 The triumph of établissage 7 An example of an établisseur: the DuBois family of Le Locle 9 Why was établissage successful? 12 1.2 The technical evolution of products 14 An innovation directed to the quality of products 15 The hard beginnings of mechanization 18 1.3 The outlets of the Swiss watch industry: the global market 19 1.4 Rival nations 22 2. The challenge of industrialization (1870–1918) 27 2.1 The shock of Philadelphia: the American competitors 28 2.2 The structural modernization of Swiss watchmaking 31 The emergence of the factory 32 Birth of the machine tools industry 40 The modernization of watchmaking schools 42 Banks and the modernization of watchmaking 45 The organization of trade unions 47 A limited industrial concentration 51 2.3 Selling: evolution of products and markets 54 The beginning of mass communication 56 2.4 Towards organized capitalism 59 The blooming of employers’ associations 60 The Société Intercantonale des Industries du Jura – Chambre Suisse de l’Horlogerie 63 The temptation of cartels 64 vi 2.5 The Swiss watch industry during World War I 66 The production of munitions 66 The closure of the Russian market 68 3. The watchmaking cartel (1920–1960) 75 3.1 The problem of chablonnage and the struggle against industrial transplantation 76 The United States 79 Japan 81 3.2 The maintenance of an industrial district structure 83 3.3 The setting up of the cartel 85 The...

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