Grenchen is a watch city in Switzerland in the Canton of Solothurn at the German-French language border. It is called Granges in French, but this is also the name of two other municipalities in other parts of the country.
History of Watchmaking in Grenchen
On January 16, 1851, the municipal assembly of Grenchen voted to introduce watchmaking to the village. Then housing just 1,200 inhabitants, this momentous decision would cause the population to grow ten-fold and the city remains an important watchmaking hub today. On April 1, 1952, Urs-Joseph Schild began his apprenticeship with François-Joseph Güggi, shifting his focus from teaching school to bookkeeping for watch production. Schild then joined the new Ebauche factory of the Girard brothers, taking over the business in 1856. Schild's work laid the foundation for the modern-day ETA.
In 1853, a watch movement factory was established under the name Girard Frères and Kunz, but it could not be sustained due to the crisis that occurred almost immediately, which forced it to liquidate. The workshop was later used for a parquet factory.
In 1856, a new ebauche factory appeared under the name of D. Girard and Schild, and this would thrive, becoming the cornerstone of manufacturing in Grenchen to this day. Later, the company was taken over Urs Schild. In 1877, this establishment, in addition to the production and finishing of ebauches and cylinder escapements, created an affordable metal pendant-winding watch. Its daily production amounted to 8 to 10 dozen by the 1870s.
In 1862, E. Girard founded a second ebauche factory, and this also thrived. By the late 1870s it employed around 200 workers and also supplied and finished ebauches and cylinder escapements.
The Société d'Horlogerie de Granges was the third ebauche factory, and it appeared in 1871. It employed around 350 workers by 1879 and focused on higher-quality ebauches and escapements. It was powered by a ten-horsepower turbine which increased production from 100,000 to 250,000 ebauches per year, roughly split between key-winding and crown-winding.
In 1866, L. Obrecht and E. Kully created the first watchmaking workshop, which soon became very prosperous. It was one of the top makers of watches for export, including English gold and silver styles. Because of the firm of Obrecht & Kully, producers of all of the parts of a watch were established in Grenchen, including two workshops of gold and silver cases, a metal case mounting workshop, two workshops of balance wheel makers, gilding workshops, ruby drilling, gem cutters, and more.