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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 12 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) 29 2.1 The shock of Philadelphia: the American competitors 30 2.2 The structural modernization of Swiss watchmaking 33 The emergence of the factory 34 Birth of the machine tools industry 42 The modernization of watchmaking schools 44 Banks and the modernization of watchmaking 47 The organization of trade unions 49 A limited industrial concentration 53 2.3 Selling: evolution of products and markets 56 The beginning of mass communication 58 2.4 Towards organized capitalism 61 The blooming of employers’ associations 62 The Société Intercantonale des Industries du Jura – Chambre Suisse de l’Horlogerie 65 The temptation of cartels 66 vi 2.5 The Swiss watch industry during World War I 68 The production of munitions 68 The closure of the Russian market 70 3. The watchmaking cartel (1920–1960) 77 3.1 The problem of chablonnage and the struggle against industrial transplantation 78 The United States 81 Japan 83 3.2 The maintenance of an industrial district structure 85 3.3 The setting up of the cartel 87 The...

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