Paul-Ernest Dubois (1896-1968) was the head of the Fabriques de Spiraux Réunies. His father (1868-1928) had the same name and established the family's balance spring factory in 1901.
Paul-Ernest Dubois Senior
Paul-Ernest Dubois was born in Neuchâtel on May 18, 1868. He was a watchmaker by trade. In June 1895, Paul-Ernest Dubois married Pauline-Estelle Wandfluh of Berne, who was also a watchmaker. They welcomed a son, also named Paul-Ernest, on December 30, 1896.
A watchmaking operation was established in La Chaux-de-Fonds at Rue de Bel-Air 14 on August 1, 1901 by Paul-Ernest Dubois in the name of "Ernest Dubois." The company was located at Rue du Doubs 1 by 1908.
By 1914, Dubois was producing balance springs in competition with the Fabriques de Spiraux Réunies cartel. Dubois was adamantly opposed to industry consolidation and price controls and embraced his position as a challenger to the establishment. Dubois was particularly a follower of the work of Charles-Edouard Guillaume, who developed the alloys known as Invar and Elinvar.
Paul-Ernest Dubois (the elder) died suddenly of an embolism on July 15, 1928. He had just arrived on a train from La Chaux-de-Fonds to La Coudre when he was taken ill. Although he was taken in by a local resident they were unable to help.
Ernest Dubois Junior
Paul-Ernest Dubois junior was born in La Chaux-de-Fonds on December 30, 1896 and lived there most of his life. He attended the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and considered himself a scientist and engineer throughout his life. He researched the properties of various balance spring materials and developed many improvements in the field.
After his father died in 1928, Paul-Ernest Dubois junior inherited the family watch spring firm. At this same time the firm began using the name "Fabrique de Spiraux Stella" and was located on Rue des Terreaux 33. It would remain there through 1958.
In 1935 Ernest Dubois married Else-Maria-Amanda Grathwohl, also from Neuchâtel. The couple welcomed a son in July 1936 who they also named Paul-Ernest Dubois, like his father and grandfather.
Dubois became chairman of the board of the Usine Genevoise de Dégrossissage d'Or as well as vice chairman of the board of Fabriques de Spiraux Réunies.
Paul-Ernest Dubois died suddenly on December 27, 1968 at the age of 72 at his home in Mies, near Versoix.
Dubois and FSR
Although his father was adamantly independent, resisting the control of manufacturers organizations and quotas, the younger Dubois (then just 32 years of age) was more open to it. The Dubois firm was the last remaining dissident to resist the control of Ebauches SA and Fabriques de Spiraux Réunies when, in 1929, Eugène Péquignot (secretary general of département fédéral de l'Économie publique) persuaded him to allow Stella to be acquired by FSR. The young Dubois would only agree to this on the condition that he be made an administrator of the trust.
The economic crisis of 1931 changed his opinion and he spent the remainder of his life leading various consolidated firms. The FSR fell under UBAH in 1930 and was acquired by ASUAG in October 1931.
In 1931, Ernest Dubois was a founding board member of ASUAG and replaced Charles-Albert Vuille on the board of Fabriques Suisse de Balanciers. The following year he joined the board of Fabriques de Spiraux Réunies.
Dubois worked with Gustave Ulrich and Louis Huguenin at FSR and the three (along with Bernard Gabus and Georges Gabus) founded an assortiment workshop in Le Locle in 1931 known as Fabrique Génia. The company was liquidated in 1936.
The only spring factory to remain outside the trust was W. Ruch in Saint-Imier, and this only because they made non-watchmaking hairsprings. This company was used by ASUAG to leverage control over dissident watchmakers in the 1930s by becoming the focus for production of Nivarox hairsprings. Dubois was the founding vice-chairman of Nivarox SA, founded in 1937 by ASUAG to exploit Reinhard Straumann's work. He served under chairman Georges Perrenoud and alongside secretary Louis Huguenin, Paul Renggli, and Straumann himself. He became vice president of FSR in 1939 and president of W. Ruch in 1944. He retained most of these roles, including running his own Stella factory, through his death.
Dubois was also involved in the formation of the Laboratoire Suisse de Recherches Horlogères in 1945 along with many other members of the Swiss Chamber, FH, UBAH, and Ebauches SA.
In 1947, Dubois revealed his secret work to develop an alternative hairspring material based on Elinvar. He had been working with Usine Genevoise de Dégrossissage d'Or in Geneva on the technology through the war. This shifted the balance of production to Geneva for a time and solidified Dubois position in the industry.
Ernest Dubois "Fabrique de Spiraux Stella" remained in operation and relocated to Rue Jardinière 33 by 1954. This was a large new building purpose-built for watchmaking and remains at that location, across from the Parc de l'Ouest, today. But the company ceased operation in 1963, with Stella SA used only as a holding company for the building.
Ernest Dubois died suddenly at 72 years of age on December 27, 1968 at his home in Mies near Versoix.