Show Less
Restricted access

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.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Chapter 3: The watchmaking cartel (1920–1960)



The watchmaking cartel (1920–1960)

During the postwar euphoria watch exports grew from 13.8 million pieces in 1913 to 16.9 million in 1919. But in 1920–1922 the Swiss watch industry experienced a deep crisis. Watch exports suddenly dropped from 13.7 million in 1920 to 7.9 million in 1921 and 9.6 million in 1922, causing a large increase of unemployment. There were more than 30,000 jobless in watchmaking during the summer of 1921,166 and the Longines factory, one of the biggest in the country, fired 40% of its employees between 1918 and 1921.167 This crisis led to a shared will to profoundly reorganize the sector.

The consequence of these economic difficulties was a general decrease of prices, which in turn strengthened the crisis, with pressure on salaries, conflicts with trade unions, lack of liquid assets in companies and bankruptcies. Above all, the drop in prices affected subcontractors, who tried to sell off their stock and production, sometimes at a loss, with the aim of creating cash and avoiding bankruptcy. The disastrous effects of the competition between subcontracting workshops played a key role in the awakening of the necessity to adopt a corporatist policy which could help maintain them.

The 1920–1922 crisis had a second negative effect on the Swiss watch industry: it favored the emergence of competitors in other countries through the emigration of Swiss watchmakers, driven abroad by economic hardships. This phenomenon reinforced the feeling of...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.