L. Sandoz-Vuille

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Louis Sandoz-Vuille was an inventor and industrialist active in watchmaking in Le Locle in the first quarter of the 20th century. His 8-day alarm watch resembled the famous Hebdomas, and he also created table clocks and automobile clocks. After his firm went bankrupt in 1935 the factory was taken over by Luxor, which operated it into the 1980s.

Louis Sandoz-Vuille

Louis-Augustin Sandoz was born around 1872 in Le Locle and lived in Le Brévine as well. After marriage he took the name Louis Sandoz-Vuille, connecting two well-known Le Locle families. Among the couple's children were Richard-André and Louis-Edgar, both of whom became deeply involved in the family business.

Sandoz received his first, and most important, patent on October 7, 1904. CH31781 specified a watch that greatly resembled Irénee Aubry's famous Hebdomas 8-day watch, with an exposed balance below the dial supported by cross-wise decorated bridge. But Sandoz' watch added an alarm function, a signature complication in Le Locle, and was different enough to be unencumbered by the Aubry patents, which were soon exploited to great impact by Arthur Graizely and Schild & Co of La Chaux-de-Fonds.

The firm of L. Sandoz-Vuille was formally established in April 1908 in Le Locle. The company used the brand name Presto, registered that same year, and soon offered portable and automobile clocks as well as Sandoz' signature 8-day alarm watch.

The H. Moser & Cie. and L. Sandoz-Vuille factories at Rue Alexis-Marie Piaget in Le Locle, 1925

In 1905, Louis Sandoz commissioned a grand villa on the terraces above Le Locle. The house, located at number 20 rue Alexis-Marie-Piaget, was designed by architect F. Maspoli and remains a landmark to this day. This was the original location of the L. Sandoz-Vuille watchmaking company. In 1911 the growing firm connected the villa to the building located at no. 18 (built in 1902) with three levels of workshops. The company soon boasted a telephone extension, a rarity in this time. But business must have been challenging, as Louis Sandoz-Vuille was forced by the court to sell his country house and farm in 1914.

By 1916 the company boasted of being a maker to the British Admiralty and offered a wide variety of 8-day watches and clocks, many with alarms. The firm used the UIT brand, registered in 1913, in the pre-war period but relied on the Goliath name in the 1920s. By this time the company produced 8-day watch movements from 13 to 24 ligne and focused on automobile and airplane clocks as well as table clocks.

Sandoz' son Richard joined the firm in 1922 and took over with his brother Louis in 1928. Now known as Les Fils de L. Sandoz-Vuille, the sons would soon encounter financial troubles. Louis Sandoz-Vuille himself relocated to Auvernier and opened a watch dealing firm under his own name in Lucerne in 1932. It was located in the stalls in front of the Bourbaki Panorama, a popular tourist destination. But the entire Sandoz enterprise failed in a highly-publicized bankruptcy in the early 1930s. Covered as "L'affaire Sandoz-Vuille", it forced both the business and the two sons into bankruptcy and liquidation 1935.

In 1935, after the failure and bankruptcy of Sandoz-Vuille the villa and factory was purchased by Hermann Brunner and housed the Luxor factory for many years. Luxor continued the production of clocks, and retained the 8-day clock line established by Sandoz-Vuille. The Luxor company was merged with Paul Buhré and Zenith under Dixi in 1978 but the factory remained in operation until 1987. As of 2012 it houses an artists workshop operated by the Luxor Factory Association.

Louis Sandoz-Vuille died on June 16, 1949 at the age of 77.

Sandoz-Vuille Timeline

  • About 1872 - Louis Sandoz is born
  • 1896, July 1 - Richard-André Sandoz is born to Louis Sandoz-Vuille
  • 1904, October 7 - L. Sandoz-Vuille receives Swiss patent CH31781, "Mouvement de Montre-Réveil" for an 8-day alarm watch that resembles the famous Hebdomas invented by Irénee Aubry.
  • 1908, March 28 - Louis-Edgar Sandoz is born to Louis Sandoz-Vuille
  • 1908, April 24 - The house L. Sandoz-Vuille is registered in Le Locle under the management of Louis-Augustin Sandoz, allié Vuille, of Le Locle and La Brévine. The business is focused on watch production and is a factory and warehouse located at Rue Alexis-Marie Piaget 20.
  • 1910, August 25 - L. Sandoz-Vuille receives Swiss patent CH53289, "Mouvement de Montre" for an 8-day watch movement without alarm that also strongly resembles the Hebdomas watch.
  • 1913 - Emile Droz of Le Locle is made a manager of the factory between February and December
  • 1914, July 1 - Louis Sandoz-Vuille is forced to sell his large rural farm and home outside Le Locle by a tribunal.
  • 1922, May 30 - Richard Sandoz, accountant of Le Locle, is made manager of the factory
  • 1928, January 1 - L. Sandoz-Vuille in Le Locle, and its branch in La Chaux-de-Fonds, is dissolved in favor of a new firm, Les Fils de L. Sandoz-Vuille, established by Richard-André and Louis-Edgar Sandoz. The firm remains a manufacturer of watches and is located at Rue Alexis-Marie Piaget 18-20.
  • 1932, April 4 - A new company called Louis Sandoz-Vuille is established in Lucerne by Louis Sandoz-Vuille, who now lives in Auvernier. Lisa Wildisen is made manager. The company is located at Löwenplatz 11, immediately in front of the Bourbaki Panorama, a popular tourist destination.
  • 1934, October 13 - Lisa Wildisen is removed as manager of Louis Sandoz-Vuille in Lucerne.
  • 1934, November - Les Fils de Sandoz-Vuille is sued by creditors and begins a long trial known as "l'Affaire Sandoz-Vuille".
  • 1935, January 15 - Les Fils de L. Sandoz-Vuille in Le Locle is deleted from the commercial registry.
  • 1935, February 5 - Louis Sandoz-Vuille in Lucerne is deleted from the commercial registry.
  • 1935, February 14 - Louis-Edgar and Richard-André Sandoz declare bankruptcy in Le Locle.
  • 1936, September 30 - The liquidation of Les Fils de L. Sandoz-Vuille in Le Locle is completed.
  • 1949, June 16 - Louis Sandoz-Vuille dies at the age of 77