A. Reymond

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A. Reymond SA, also called Auguste Reymond after its founder and ARSA, is a Swiss watch manufacturer. The company was founded and located in Tramelan-Dessus for most of its history and was associated with the Unitas watch movement factory, which it owned.

Auguste Reymond

Guillaume-Auguste Reymond (1872-1946) was born in St-Sulpice and trained to become a banker. Drawn to the watch business, Reymond moved to Tramelan-Dessus and established a modest watchmaking business in 1898. Contemporary sources say he built the landmark factory in the town in 1903, enlarging it several times over the next three decades.

Aug. Reymond (as he was often abbreviated in this period) was listed in Indicateur Davoine in 1899 as "Reymond, Aug., horlogerie en t. g. et pour t. p. (même maison à La Chaux-de-Fonds pour la pièce or soignée)." The firm produced a movement called "Eldorado" shortly after the turn of the century.

By 1907 Auguste Reymond was operating an ebauche factory in Les Bioux in the Vallée de Joux. This small village was also home to J. & C. Reymond Frères (the future Valjoux), an interesting coincidence given their shared last name. But it is unclear if Auguste Reymond was related to John and Charles Reymond.

In 1909, Reymond filed a patent for a chronograph mechanism without a column wheel, perhaps the first such design. It used a notched rocker similar to the cam-operated chronographs created in the 1930s and 1940s by Landeron, Venus, and Lemania.

The company manufactured thin and extra-thin pocket watches from 11 to 19 ligne (12 to 16 American) diameter. This included both cylinder and anchor movements, but the company concentrated on the mid to high end of the market. Still, the firm boasted annual production of 120,000 watches in a 1908 advertisement. This was increased to 130,000 per year in 1913, with images of a fine pocket watch with a tortoise shell and mention of a gold medal in Brussels in 1910. By 1916 (or perhaps a few years earlier) the firm had introduced a wristwatch with a 13 ligne movement and boasted 150,000 watches produced per year as well as a new gold medal in Berne in 1914.

A 50th anniversary article about ARSA claims that the firm produced a pocket chronograph as early as 1911, and a monopusher wrist chronograph is pictured in 1920. The firm was not well-known in the sports or military segment until the 1930s, however.


The company was incorporated as a public limited company called Manufacture d'Horlogerie A. Reymond SA (ARSA) on March 23, 1918. By this point the company had grown to raise share capital of 500,000 francs, with that much more available as new shares were issued and sold. The president of the board of directors was Auguste Reymond himself, and he was also listed as the owner and head of watchmaking. He lived in Cour near Lausanne by this point. The vice president was Victor-Eugène Bahon and the secretary and head of manufacturing was Henri-Arnold Lohner. The firm was located on Rue du Midi in Tramelan-Dessus. In 1920 the company raised 300,000 francs by a sale of shares and appointed Edouard-Albert Friedrich to be commercial director and board member.

By 1923 A. Reymond SA had standardized branding into three lines:

  • ARSA was for fine and extra-fine watches with precision regulation including ultra-thin and normal dimensions
  • Speranza was for guaranteed quality and regulation
  • Silvana was for regular quality, including a watch with a Breguet hairspiring

The company also boasted of a 13 ligne bracelet watch as well as a chronograph wristwatch. It appears that the Silvana brand was spun out as a separate company by 1924. The Speranza brand remained in the hands of ARSA through 1970 at least.

The original shareholders and board members, Victor-Eugène Bahon, Edouard Friedrich, and Arnold Lohner, resigned from the board on May 19, 1923. The new board consisted of president Auguste Reymond, vice-president Albert Junod, and secretary Ferdinand Kaiser. Auguste Reymond was also appointed managing director at this time.

ARSA and Unitas

See Also: La Trame

ARSA and Unitas are closely associated, but the latter originated separately and was acquired by ARSA only in 1926. Jules Rossel was a watchmaker from Tramelan who established a watchmaking business in his own name in La Chaux-de-Fonds by 1883. This failed in July 1895 but he established a new business back in Tramelan-Dessus with Adrien Rossel (perhaps his brother or son) on April 1, 1896. The firm of Jules & Adrien Rossel registered brands Titania and La Trame but was liquidated in 1903. Adrien Rossel-Conrad took over the brands, becoming known as Fabrique de Montres "La Trame" in 1918.

Rossel-Conrad started a second company, La Trame SA, to produce watch movements for his La Trame brand. This was registered as a public limited company on June 6, 1918 with Jean or Hans Fink as president and Jean Uhlmann as secretary. The company was quickly renamed Unitas Watch Co. SA on October 30, 1918 and registered the Unitas brand on March 4, 1919. Unitas issued new stock in 1921 with Hans Fink as president, Hermann Burri as vice president, and Gaston Girod as secretary and Jean Uhlmann removed.

Unitas and La Trame were independent companies but worked closely together through the post-World War I boom and bust. The La Trame brand belonged to A. Rossel-Conrad under Henri Rossel, and Unitas registered its own brands and began producing complete watches as well. The Unitas watch company specialized in anchor watches in the same market as ARSA. The firm had a patented 19 ligne movement with Lépine or savonette small seconds that was the predecessor of today's ETA 6498, which still bears the company's name.

All watchmakers struggled once post-war over-production took hold, and Unitas was hit particularly hard since it was heavily invested in manufacturing. A succession of investments and managers tried to fix the firm: Hans Fink declared personal bankruptcy and was removed in 1923 with his shares simply cancelled. Bernard Gabus approached the company to distribute its watches abroad alongside Berna but his new High-Life company failed to find a market.

On May 8, 1926 Unitas declared bankruptcy. Sensing an opportunity, Auguste Reymond purchased the company in December. Gaston Girod, Hermann Burri, and Jämes Mathey were removed from the board of directors, replaced by Auguste Reymond himself along with Ferdinand Kaiser, and Georges Capitaine. Bernard Gabus resigned as director as well, ending the short High-Life saga. ARSA took over the Unitas Watch Co. brand for complete watches, while the factory building itself was separated as Les Frẽnes SA.

Auguste Reymond moved quickly, offering Unitas-made ebauches and complete movements to other makers in Switzerland and abroad. His rapid expansion of movement sales caught the notice of the nascent cartel movement, with fears of chablonnage and loss of Swiss dominance. Thus, the Unitas ebauche factory was an early target for consolidation.

Ebauches SA and ASUAG

On May 28, 1928, Bank Director Jacques Bosshart joined the board of ARSA, initiating the involvement of the Ebauches SA cartel in the company. They were likely interested in acquiring the Unitas ebauche operation and Les Frênes factory. Reymond had probably borrowed from the bank to purchase Unitas and keep production running through the bust of the 1920s and found himself increasingly disillusioned with the business.

ARSA introduced its first waterproof and shockproof wristwatch in 1928. This innovation was looked at with skepticism at first but eventually most watches adopted these concepts. ARSA also began mass producing jewelry watches in the late 1920s, a former niche that soon became a global market.

Auguste Reymond announced his retirement from day-to-day involvement in the firm in July of 1931, selling his shares to ASUAG. He remained chairman of ARSA and Unitas until 1936, when he decided to step down for health reasons. Ferdinand Kaiser had also recently resigned from the board in January. On December 15, 1931, Reymond, Kaiser, and Capitaine stepped down from the Unitas board with banker Bosshart solely in charge of the firm. On March 14, 1933 Unitas was renamed Fabriques d'Ebauches Unitas SA as it was officially integrated into Ebauches SA with Bosshart removed from management and Auguste Reymond and Virgile Juillerat forming a new board. Auguste Reymond and Ariste Mathey retained their ownership of the factory as Kaiser left.

The board of ASUAG was revised again on May 19, 1933, with Auguste Reymond remaining as president, banker Jacques Bosshart becoming vice president, Sydney de Coulon becoming secretary, and Ernest Strahm joining as the firm was integrated into the ASUAG cartel. Sydney de Coulon replaced Auguste Reymond as the head of Fabrique d'Ebauches Unitas on April 6, 1937, with Fernand Nicolet joining as director. On June 29, ARSA was acquired in its entirety by ASUAG, leaving just 55,000 francs (6.875%) in the hands of investors. Auguste Reymond was no longer a member of the board of directors, with Ernest Strahm replacing him as president, Sydney de Coulon as vice president, and Jacques Bosshart as secretary.

The Unitas brand was split, with A. Reymond SA (ARSA) taking over the "Unitas" and "Unitas Watch Co" names while the ebauche factory (under Ebauches SA) took the official name "Unitas SA". Advertising from the 1930s to the 1950s reflected this split, with A. Reymond SA producing watches branded with both the Unitas and ARSA names.

ARSA introduced a line of sporting wristwatches in the early 1930s including chronographs. This represented a major departure for the firm, which was best known for upscale slim pocket watches and stylish watches in "fantasy" cases. In 1936 ARSA was showing waterproof, anti-magnetic, shock-protected watches for men and women in a Staybrite stainless steel case. By 1939 the factory offered a range of compact 2-button chronographs with various dial scales including a tachymeter.

During World War II ARSA produced wrist chronometers for military use, many of which came with certificates from the Neuchâtel Observatory. By 1941 the firm boasted of an automatic watch with hand winding, a real novelty at the time. A 1944 ad shows a chronograph with hour counter and full calendar using day and month windows and date by pointer.

Auguste Reymond died in the hospital in Lausanne on September 18, 1946 in his 75th year. ARSA celebrated its 50th anniversary just two years later, with models available in markets around the world.

ARSA in the 1950s and 1960s

The firm had a full range of watches by the 1950s, including stylish ladies models, dress watches for men in round and square cases, chronographs, and pocket watches. The company introduced an automatic watch with full calendar and moon phase at 6 by 1948 and another with small seconds the following year. This was followed by a date corrector using the crown by 1951 and a "Monodate" chronograph with big date at 6 by 1953. Thus, calendar watches became major products for the firm in the 1950s, when the firm adopted the slogan "Art et Technique."

ARSA was also a pioneer in novel product lines as well: A digital watches with jumping hour and Braille watches for the visually impaired. The latter was a key product for ARSA for decades. They entered the mystery watch market with four models in 1954. ARSA also produced the Alertic, an alarm watch, by 1955.

Although they offered an automatic model in the 1940s, this became a key product for ARSA in the 1950s. The firm produced a range of automatic watches for men and women with up-to-date styling including arrowhead markers and a recessed crown. The automatic calendar watches were particularly innovative, as most other companies had not yet introduced complicated automatic models. The firm adopted the "Arsamatic" name in the late 1950s across mens and ladies models.

The first electric watch from ARSA was shown in 1960. It featured a zig-zag design on the hands and dial suggesting lightning bolts. Later models toned down the look, but ARSA remained a pioneer in electric watches.

ARSA focused on technology improvements in the late 1950s. The Super line appeared by 1957 and included 21-jewel slim models with Incabloc shock protection. They adopted the Michel spiral to reduce timekeeping variability in different positions, sought chronometer certificates for hundreds of specialty watches, and introduced new movements, including an extra-thin 13 ligne with optional calendar and direct-drive seconds hand.

Another novelty from ARSA appeared in the 1960s: The Spring Master featured dead beat central seconds. The company jumped into the dive watch market by 1964 with the Hydrabloc, with a triple-gasket crown and screw-back case resistant to 150 meters.

Auguste Reymond in Modern Times

After Auguste Reymond, like almost all Swiss watch companies, had been hit hard by the quartz crisis, a restart happened in 1989. “Montres Nitella SA”, a different watch company in Tramelan and owned by the Loosli family, bought the brand and appointed Thomas Loosli, again also a young man of 27 years, as managing director. Loosli was trained in art history and French literature and had prior experience as a watch designer. He set himself the task to bring Auguste Reymond back to life with "good old" mechanical watches, and in almost two years he designed a completely new collection of mechanical watches.

Honesty and creativity are the two key terms of the company's philosophy. The models whose names are all inspired by jazz music, are designed correspondingly clear and catchy. With their movements by ETA they are positioned in an affordable to very low-price range.



Auguste Reymond SA
Rue de la Promenade 29
Case postale 136
CH-2720 Tramelan

Tel. +44 (0)32 / 487 42 46
Fax +44 (0)32 / 487 47 75