Fabriques de Spiraux Réunies
Fabriques de Spiraux Réunies (FSR or SR) was a holding company for production of hairsprings for watches. Formed in 1895, it was a cartel and controlled all production of these springs for a few years. It was incorporated into ASUAG in 1932, and later merged with rival Nivarox SA and sister companies, Fabriques d'Assortiments Réunies (FAR) and Fabriques de Balanciers Réunies (FBR) to become Nivarox-FAR in 1984.
The Société des Fabriques de Spiraux Rèunies (FSR) was founded in 1895 as a cartel to control the manufacture of balance springs. This was the first example of industry consolidation and became the template and lesson for later efforts. The company incorporated the five major producers at that time, buying out the others, and becoming the sole maker of these critical components for a few years. Although competing factories and technology changes soon brought new competition, FSR remained a major concern for decades.
Initial members of FSR included the following companies, with specific directors noted:
- Baehni & Cie of Bienne (Eugene Baehni)
- Huguenin-Girard of La Chaux-de-Fonds (Louis Huguenin)
- G. Sandoz of Geneva (Georges Sandoz)
- Chs. Dufaux of Geneva (Charles Dufaux)
- Guye et Cie of Geneva (Professor Philippe-Auguste Guye)
The creation of FSR also resulted in the end of spring production for some existing companies:
- C.-A. Paillard of Geneva
- Julien-Albert Courvoisier-Clément of La Chaux-de-Fonds
- Montandon-Lütz of Geneva
One of the first balance spring factories to be set up to compete with FSR was the firm of Borle et Jéquier in Fleurier. C. Jequier-Borle had operated a silver watch case factory since at least 1894 but this new factory was established by Paul Jéquier and William Borle (originally of Renan) on June 15, 1896 specifically to produce balance springs. Samuel Graf of Ramsen (Schaffhausen) joined the company as manager in 1900. The firm was boasting of "non-magnetique" springs by 1901. Borle & Jequier Spiraux SA was incorporated on December 20, 1911 with William Borle and Paul Jequier-Auroi as directors. Jequier left the firm on March 26, 1918 and it was dissolved in 1932.
A larger challenge came from the Société Suisse des Spiraux, which was formed by a number of large watchmaking companies specifically to take on FSR's monopoly. Officially incorporated on July 28, 1898, the company established a spring production facility at the Montbrillant building in La Chaux-de-Fonds and an office at Rue du Parc 8. SSS continued to produce watch springs until it was dissolved in 1955.
Paul Perret was an early follower of the work of Charles-Edouard Guillaume, corresponding with him about his new nickel steel, dubbed Invar, and producing a sample balance spring of the material. By 1899, Perret's factory was established in Fleurier and was producing patented Invar springs by 1901. It was located in Quartier-Neuf quite close to the Borle & Jéquier spring factory. But Perret died suddenly and the company was sold to FSR.
Two old competitors in Geneva springs began producing again in 1898: J. Montandon (in a new factory at Boulevard James Fazy 5) and Mme Junod (in the old C.-A. Paillard factory at Kléberg 27). La Chaux-de-Fonds based precision tool maker Pierre Roch also produced balance springs for a few years after 1900. And Emile Schweingruber of Saint-Imier posed a serious challenge with his "Sonia" brand springs in 1900. Finally there was the Manufacture Française de Spiraux under Ed. Robert, established by 1900. Another Geneva factory was L. & F. Cattelain at Rue du Rhône 19.
Another challenger was Paul-Ernest Dubois who established a factory later called Stella in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1901. A follower of Charles-Edouard Guillaume, the Dubois factory would be the last spring factory to resist cartel control in the 1920s. But when the firm was handed down to his son (also named Paul-Ernest Dubois) following his sudden death, an opening appeared. Ernest Dubois junior agreed to sell the company to FSR on the condition that he be given a board seat in the cartel. He rose to take charge of the entire operation in later decades.
Next was the Fabrique Nationale de Spiraux in La Chaux-de-Fonds at Rue de la Charrière 37, Bucher-Moser & Cie (later called G.-A. Ulrich) at Rue de la Chapelle 3, both established by 1908. Schweingruber became known as Fabrique de Spiraux by 1913.
Spiraux Factories Absorbed Into FSR:
- 1863-1954 - Baehni et Cie, Chantier 9-11, Bienne
- 1847-1912 - Charles Dufaux, Route de Lausanne, Geneva (formerly Dufaux, Lutz et Fils)
- 1835-1905 - Guye et Cie, St-Jean 8, Geneva
- 1845-1900 - Georges Sandoz, Montbrillant 42, Geneva (formerly Rivenc-Paquet et Sandoz)
- 1852-1901 - Huguenin-Girard, St-Pierre 20, La Chaux-de-Fonds (Ressorts prior to 1894, pendants and crowns were L. Huguenin after 1900)
Left Out of FSR:
- 1877-1895 - C.-A. Paillard, Kléberg 27, Geneva (exited the business at the start of FSR)
- 1877-1895 - Montandon-Lütz, Geneva (failed after the formation of FSR)
- 1889-1898 - J.-A. Courvoisier, Demoiselle 14a/Serre 61, La Chaux-de-Fonds (from 1892, formerly A. Bourquin & Cie, St-Georges, failed after FSR founded)
Rebel Spiraux Factories:
- 1896-1932 - Borle et Jéquier, Quartier-Neuf, Fleurier
- 1898-1955 - Société Suisse des Spiraux, La Chaux-de-Fonds and Geneva
- 1899- - Paul Perret, Grenier 14, La Chaux-de-Fonds and St-Georges, Fleurier
- 1898-1900 - Mme Junod, rue Kléberg 27, Geneva (Réglages from 1901)
- 1898-1903+ - J Montandon, Bd. James Fazy 5, Geneva
- 1898-1908 - Emile Schweingruber and Sonia, Saint-Imier (renamed Fabrique de Spiraux de St. Imier in 1901, taken over by FSR in 1908)
- 1900-1903+ - Pierre Roch, La Chaux-de-Fonds (precision tool maker before and after)
- 1900-1903? - Manufacture Française de Spiraux
- 1900-1908 - L. & F. Cattelain, Rue du Rhône 19, Geneva (reglage)
- 1904-1914 - Fabrique Nationale de Spiraux, Charrière 37 (representing Paul Perret until 1908, them moved to Parc 12)
- 1908-1929 - Paul-Ernest Dubois and Stella, La Chaux-de-Fonds (purchased by FSR in 1929)
- 1905-1929 - La Nationale-Spiraux, Rue de la Charrière 37, La Chaux-de-Fonds (became Fabrique Nationale de Spiraux in 1916, purchased by FSR in 1929 and merged with Stella and W. Ruch & Cie)
- 1902-1914 - Bucher-Moser & Cie, Saint-Imier and Rue de la Chapelle 3, La Chaux-de-Fonds (established by Fritz Bucher-Moser in Saint-Imier in 1902 and moved to La Chaux-de-Fonds soon after. Called G.-A. Ulrich in 1913. Failed in 1914 and purchased by La Nationale-Spiraux)
- 1916-19?? - Fabrique Nationale de Spiraux, Pont 8
- 1914-1954 - Ernest Dubois, Terreaux 33 (joined FSR in 1929)
- La Chaux-de-Fonds
- 1902 - Agence Commercial des Spiraux, Serre 15 (L. Huguenin)
- 1903-1907 - Mlle. Calame, Numa Droz 70
- 1911-1913 - B. & C. Calame, Parc 84
- 1899-1913 - Etienne Haldimann, Grenier 6
- 1899 - Louis Humbert-Prince, Serre 10
- 1903-1913 - W. Hummel Fils, Léopold-Robert 30
- 1899-1913 - C. Jeanneret-Jornod, Paix 9 then Manège 14
- 1899 - Catherine Kaenel-Perrelet, R. T. 52 (FSR)
- Krauss & Co, Léopold-Robert 37
- U. Kreutter et Cie, Rue Jaquet-Droz 32
- Victor Perrin, Léopold-Robert 78
- 1913- - Perrenoud & Ludy, Parc 39
- 1899-1913 - Sandoz Fils, Neuve 2 (formerly Henry Sandoz)
- 1902-1913 - Albert Schneider, Fritz Courvoisier 3
- 1913 - Th. Vital-Gabrie, Paix 49
- Philippe Faure, Grande-Rue 32, Le Locle
- Haldimann et Perrenoud, Temple 7, Le Locle
- Henri Houriet et Cie, Grande-Rue 16, Le Locle
- Alfred Chapuis, Rue des Malvoisins, Porrentruy
- Victor Donzelot, Porrentruy
FSR in the 20th Century
La Chaux-de-Fonds watch dealer Charles-Albert Vuille was made administrator-director of FSR by 1901 and was appointed to join the board in 1902. Lawyer Henri Lehmann of La Coudre was made chairman of the board in 1902 as well; he also served on the board of Zenith Great Britain in 1914 until his sudden death on April 8, 1915. Philippe-Auguste Guye was replaced by his brother Charles-Eugène Guye in 1907, enabling the former to focus on his studies in applied chemistry. Henri-Auguste Herren of Geneva replaced Lehmann after his death in 1915. Vuille became Managing Director in 1917, the same year he also joined the board of FBR, which he had also served in management for a decade. George Sandoz was removed as director in 1918 and Charles-Eugène Guye was removed in 1920 with George Sandoz restored. The company raised 50,000 francs of new funding in 1921. Frédéric Dufaux replaced Charles Dufaux in 1923 and he would remain on the board until his death in 1962. Charles-Eugène Guye rejoined the board in 1925 following the deaths of Philippe-Auguste Guye (in 1922) and Henri-Auguste Herren.
FSR hired architect William Henssler to design a new home for the company in Geneva in 1910. The building is located on Rue de Saint-Jean, a short distance from the former Guye et Cie factory that had been the Geneva home of the cartel since its creation in 1895. The building features a curved entrance and mansard roof at the corner of Saint-Jean and Miléant and remains standing to this day.
Share capital was increased to 900,000 francs in 1928 with new shares issued and the old restructured. Eugène Baehni (deceased) and Charles-Eugène Guye were removed from the board, replaced by William-Ernest Baehni and John Herren. 600 more shares were issued the following year and the board was shuffled again, with Ernest Dubois and Gustave Ulrich joining president Georges Sandoz and secretary John Herren. Commercial direction of the company was given to Charles-Albert Vuille in 1930, assisted by Albert Perret and Louis Huguenin (younger).
FSR was entirely modified in 1932 as it became part of ASUAG. George Sandoz had died on March 27, 1930, while John Herren, Louis Huguenin, William Baehni, and Gustave Ulrich all resigned. The new board of directors retained Frédéric Dufaux and Ernest Dubois, while Paul Baehni, Hermann Obrecht, banker Ali Bingguely (of the bank "Reutter & Cie"), Albert Mosimann, and Henri Calame, former politician, chairman. Ernest Strahm replaced Calame as chairman in 1933. Paul Baehni was specifically appointed manager of the Bienne operation that year, and this branch was given greater autonomy. In 1936 Sidney de Coulon replaced Albert Mossiman on the board. On his death, Strahm was removed from the board in 1938. Ali Bingguely was removed in 1942, two years before his death, replaced by Charles Turler. De Coulon resigned in 1948 as Gaston Nardin joined the board, with Paul Baehni promoted to the management committee. Marguerite-Emilie Guinand joined management in 1954.
- 1901 - February 22 - The official offices of the FSR are moved to Rue du Parc 6 in La Chaux-de-Fonds; share capital is 550,000 francs; directors are Georges Sandoz, Philippe-Auguste Guye, Charles Dufaux, Eugène Baehni, and Louis Huguenin; Charles-Albert Vuille is made manager
- 1902 - January 29 - Lawyer Henri Lehmann is named chairman of the board and Albert Vuille joins the board
- 1907 - Charles-Eugène Guye replaces his brother Philippe-Auguste Guye on the board
- 1908 - March 2 - FSR takes over Emile Schweingruber's Saint-Imier balance spring company, forming a new Société Anonyme called Fabrique de Spiraux de St Imier; share capital is 50,000 francs and the board consists of Charles-Albert Vuille of FSR as chairman, Saint-Imier businessman Baptiste Savoye as vice chairman, and Paul Charmillot as secretary; Emile Schweingruber remains as manager but turns his focus to the manufacture of mainsprings with a new company
- 1913 - The offices are transferred to the new FSR building at St-Jean 19 in Geneva; directors are Georges Sandoz, Charles Dufaux, Eugène Baehni, Charles-Eugène Guye, Louis Huguenin, Henri Lehmann, and Charles-Albert Vuille; Charles-Albert Vuille remains the manager
- 1914 - Baptiste Savoye and Paul Charmillot leave Emile Schweingruber's company in Saint-Imier; the new board consists of Schweingruber, Charles-Albert Vuille, and Louis Huguenin
- 1915 - Henri-Auguste Herren, commercial director, replaces Henri Lehmann (deceased) on the board
- 1917 - Charles-Albert Vuille, formerly administrator-director, is made managing director
- 1918 - Georges Sandoz is removed as a director
- 1920 - The board of directors is Henri-Auguste Herren (also commercial director), Charles Dufaux, Eugène Baehni, Louis Huguenin, Charles-Albert Vuille (also managing director), Georges Sandoz, and Philippe-Auguste Guye (replacing his brother Charles-Eugène Guye)
- 1921 - 100 new shares are issued, increasing capital to 600,000 francs
- 1925 - Charles-Eugène Guye again replaces Philippe-Auguste Guye; Henri-Auguste Herren has died and is removed from the board
- 1928 - Share structure is revised and share capital is increased to 900,000 francs; Eugène Baehni (deceased) and Charles-Eugène Guye (retired) are removed from the board; William-Ernest Baehni and Geneva lawyer John Herren (son of Henri-Auguste Herren) join the board
- 1929 - 600 new shares are issued, increasing share capital to 1,050,000 francs; Ernest Dubois and Gustave Ulrich (balance spring makers from La Chaux-de-Fonds) join the board; Georges Sandoz is chairman of the board and lawyer John Herren is secretary
- 1930 - Albert Perret and Louis Huguenin, Jr. are made commercial directors alongside managing director Charles-Albert Vuille
- 1931 - Managing director Charles-Albert Vuille resigns
- 1931 - August 14 - FSR founds ASUAG with Ebauches SA, A. Schild, FHF, and AMSA, along with a group of Swiss banks
- 1932 - April 15 - FSR is reorganized within ASUAG; Georges Sandoz (deceased), secretary John Herren, Louis Huguenin, William Baehni, and Gustave Ulrich are removed from the board; the new board is Frédéric Dufaux, Ernest Dubois, Paul Baehni, Hermann Obrecht, Albert Mosimann, banker Ali Bingguely, and former state councillor Henri Calame, who is made chairman of the board
- 1933 - Ernest Strahm replaces Henri Calame as chairman of the board
- 1933 - FSR Bienne is officially established at Werkhofstrasse 9-11 in Bienne; the board is made up of chairman Ernest Strahm, Frédéric Dufaux, Ernest Dubois, Paul Baehni, Hermann Obrecht, Albert Mosimann, and banker Ali Bingguely, the same as the main FSR; Paul Baehni is made manager of the branch
- 1933 - A branch of FSR in Ponts de Martel is incorporated into FSR Bienne; branch manager Georges Perrenoud, Louis Huguenin, and banker Adolphe Lehnen join the board
- 1936 - Sydney de Coulon of Ebauches SA replaces Albert Mosimann on the board
- 1938 - Ernest Strahm has died and is removed from the board
- 1939 - Paul Renggli joins the board of FSR Bienne and is made chairman; Ernest Dubois becomes vice chairman; Sydney de Coulon, Frédéric Dufaux, Paul Baehni, Ali Bingguely, and Maurice Alcide Vaucher make up the board; Albert Perret is commercial director and Paul Baehni remains manager of the Bienne branch
- 1942 - Ali Bingguely is removed from the board of FSR; Charles Turler joins the board
- 1948 - Sydney de Coulon resigns from the board of FSR and FSR Bienne; Gaston Nardin joins both boards
- 1952 - A branch of FSR is established in La Chaux-de-Fonds; Paul Renggli is chairman, Ernest Dubois is vice chairman, Paul Baehni, Frédéric Dufaux, Maurice-Alcide Vaucher, Charles Turler, and Gaston Nardin make up the board; Gustave Ulrich is manager of the branch, which is located at Rue Jardiniére 33
- 1954 - Marguerite-Emilie Guinand is made a manager of both the La Chaux-de-Fonds and Bienne branches
- 1956 - Charles Turler resigns and is replaced by Henry Droz
- 1959 - Maurice-Alcide Vaucher (deceased) and Gustave Ulrich are removed from the board of FSR; Gérard Bauer joins the board and Théodore Renfer joins as a manager; the same changes are also made to the Bienne and La Chaux-de-Fonds branches
- 1960 - Jules-Louis Steinegger and Willy Zenger join the board of FSR La Chaux-de-Fonds and Bienne; Philippe Baehni is made a manager; Albert Perret is removed from management in Bienne
The force behind the formation of the SR was Charles-Edouard Guillaume, director of the International Office for Weights and Measures who won the Nobel Prize in 1920 for his discovery of self-compensating alloys including Elinvar. This material was brought to market by SR in the 1920s.
This concentration did not last long. By 1901, a rival firm was set up at the Montbrillant Watch Manufactory to distribute hairsprings from smaller firms, Société Suisse des Spiraux. Another major rival, Fabrique Nationale de Spiraux was also set up in La Chaux-de-Fonds, and numerous smaller firms joined the competition. Many of these would later be folded into SR as the industry continued to consolidate, especially after World War II. Guillaume's work was also the impetus for the creation of the Société des Spiraux Francais in 1919.
A major new rival to appear in the 1930s was Nivarox SA. Begun by Reinhard Straumann, inventor of the namesake material, Nivarox SA was set up in Saint-Imier to commercialize the alloy in 1934. It would grow to be a major competitor for SR through the war years.
By 1966, SR was affiliated with Fabrique National de Ressorts of La Chaux-de-Fonds, enabling the production of precision springs, wire drawing, lamination, and pre-assembly of complete hairspring assemblies. SR was producing hairsprings using their Isoval alloy, which boasted great thermal resistance and was nearly anti-magnetic.
During the ascendance of quartz, the industry no longer needed as many hairsprings. In 1984, long-time rivals Nivarox SA and SR were merged, creating the modern company Nivarox-FAR. This was the only producer of balance springs in Switzerland by 1990, but even this was not enough demand. To save the company, Nicolas Hayek directed Swatch to sell a mechanical watch. This would provide just enough sales to keep Nivarox-FAR in business.