Jämes Favre

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Jämes-Albert Favre-Bulle president of Zénith after he ousted its founder (his uncle and father-in-law) Georges Favre-Jacot. Favre also owned Le Phare at this time but fell on difficulties and was forced out of all of these businesses between 1924 and 1926. He was born in 1869 and died in 1934.

Early Life and Work

Jämes Favre was born in 1869 in Saint-Imier but his family moved to Ponts-de-Martel around 1881 and this is cited as his home town in later legal filings. He was the son of watchmaker Jämes-Emile Favre-Fallet (1848-1895) and Ida Fallet (-1897). His father was the brother of Georges Favre-Jacot (born Georges-Emile Favre-Bulle) who founded the company that would become Zénith; their parents were Jules-Louis Favre-Bulle (1816-) and Albertine Matthey.

Jämes Favre attended the Polytechnic in Zürich by 1889, graduating with a diploma in mechanical engineering in 1891. He worked for his father's watchmaking firm in Saint-Imier, becoming a director of the family firm in 1890. His father was in poor health and turned the company over entirely to Jämes on August 6, 1892. He moved to Saint-Imier to manage the company but found little success and closed the business, known then as J. Favre fils, on July 17, 1895, just four months after his father's death. Jämes instead moved to Le Locle to work at the growing watchmaking firm founded by his uncle, Georges Favre-Jacot, where he started by 1896.

While working for his uncle, Jämes was responsible for commercial operations. He was sent abroad to establish new outlets for the Le Locle factory and to liquidate their outdated products. He is said to have traveled to Russia, England, Manchuria, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Java, and Batavia. The company also collaborated with Favre-Leuba in India, Pakistan, and Burma, and Jämes may have traveled there. With the new Zenith movement ready for production, he undertook a trip to the United States to visit watch factories and establish new distributors in the Americas.

On August 1, 1904, Jämes married Fernande-Amélie Favre-Jacot. She was the daughter of Georges Favre-Jacot and was thus his own first cousin, and her father vigorously opposed the marriage. This placed a strain on their relationship which would result in a massive upheaval.

Zénith and Le Phare

On September 30, 1904, just two months after his marriage, Jämes Favre was named "second manager" of the limited partnership of his new father-in-law. This newly-created position coincided with the creation of a new category of shares in the company valued at 1 million francs. The directors of the company had long butted heads with Georges Favre-Jacot and Jämes was now part of that discussion. Like his father in law, Jämes wanted to be done with the outdated movements he had been selling abroad and focus on the new "Zénith" movement, but he likely also objected to the founder's independent nature.

He joined Montres de Précision Zenith SA in 1910.

The company "Fabriques des Montres Zenith Georges Favre-Jacot et Co." declared bankruptcy on November 2, 1911. The same day, Jämes Favre founded a new company, "Fabriques des Montres Zénith", to purchase the assets of his father in law's company. Capitalized at 1.5 million francs, it would purchase the brands, tooling, and factory of the predecessor. Georges Favre-Jacot soon retired, leaving the management of Zénith in the hands of Jämes and his partners.

On March 30, 1914 Jämes Favre took over a second company, Charles Barbezat-Baillot's Le Phare. Favre's "Fabriques Le Phare" was capitalized at 600,000 francs and purchased the assets of the repeater specialist, which was located next to the Zénith factory in Le Locle.

Jämes Favre was credited as "the great craftsman of the Zénith brand" in his obituary, and directed the company to create complete mass-produced watches. He also focused solely on the Zénith brand, retiring the firm's other makes, "Georges Favre-Jacot", "Billodes", and "Diogène" and more.

Jämes Favre was also one of the founders of the watchmaking association of the district of Le Locle and a member of the Central Committee of the Swiss Chamber of Horology from 1917 to 1919 and assisted in the reorganization of this organization as well.

He managed Zénith through World War I, adapting the factory to produce ammunition, and weathered the post-war economic crisis but was unable to retain his grip on the companies. The post-war competition and subsequent downturn caused issues across the industry, but especially for mass-producers of expensive watches like Zénith and Le Phare.

The fortunes of Le Phare began to turn in 1922, with the company warning bond-holders that it would need to renegotiate the value and repayment terms of a 400,000 franc issue used to capitalize the company in 1914. Favre was forced off the board, resigning on March 15, 1923 and replaced by Georges Perrenoud. In the spring of 1925 Favre was forced out of all of the Zénith entities and indeed the entire watchmaking industry. He left the Swiss Chamber in 1926.

Jämes Favre died in April 1934 at the age of 64 and was buried in Geneva.

See Also