Moutier

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Moutier-Grandval is a District near Delémont in Grand Val of the Bernese Jura region of Canton Neuchâtel, Switzerland. It is located immediately north of Court, connected through the gorges de Court, and to the west of the smaller towns of Grandval and Corcelles.

Moutier was primarily an agricultural district until the 1850s. It is a low valley not a high plateau with poor soil and interminable winters like the Franches-Montagnes. The land offered agricultural and cultural resources unlike Saignelégier, Noirmont, or Les Bois, and was able to support a good quality of life for resident farmers through the 19th century. There was no watchmaking in the Birse valley until the 1850s, though 400 inhabitants lived there, and the villages upstream were purely agricultural.

Around 1820 or 1830 Isaac Schaffter of La Dozerce made watches with matching wheels as well as weight-powered pendulum clocks. Mr. Mérillat also operated a watch business in Moutier employing two or three workers before 1850.

Société Industrielle Grande Fabrique

Watchmaking in Moutier began with the opening of the "Grande Fabrique" built on the banks of the Birse river at the western end of the village. This spot had previously housed various industries but the new factory erected in 1851 and 1852 housed about a hundred workers in one central building focused on roughing and finishing of watch movements. Because the cost of living was cheap, the work was simple and low-skilled, but this allowed the town to grow to about 1000 at this time.

The Moutier factory grew, producing cylinder escapements and pinions, and the building was enlarged. The factory began to produce complete watches, first key-wound and then crown-wound, between 1865 and 1870. At this point the Moutier company employed 500 workers and delivered 40,000 watches a year. By this time the population of the village of Moutier was 1,946. More specialized workshops were added in Moutier during this period, including a workshop for the manufacture of dials and another for gilding.

The Moutier-Grandval factory is listed in Indicateur Davoine through 1913.

Société d'Horlogerie de Moutier (Moutier Watch Co.) also known as Radium Watch Co. failed on January 27, 1914 and was deleted on November 4. The company advertised that it was founded in 1849 suggesting that it was the successor to the original Grande Fabrique.

Junker

In 1883, Nicole Junker (1851-) founded the Société Industrielle d'Horlogerie to produce lathes to turn bars of metal into spindles and pinions for watches. His company rapidly grew into an important watchmaking supplier. Junker's company was continued as "Pornos" after 1917. Other important industrialists at this time included André Bechler, founded in 1904, and Jos. Pétermann SA.

In 1888 the population had risen over 2,100 and the "Grande Fabrique du Nord" was built, which employed 700 to 800 workers by the end of the century. Other factories for roughing and finishing, assortments, case manufacturing, nickel-plating, gold-plating, oxidizing, engraving, enamelling, and so on were also built.

Two factors contributed to the rise of the watch industry in Moutier at that time: The construction of the Delémont-Bienne railway between 1874 and 1877 and the 1895 installation of electric power and light. The village was home to 2,583 people in 1896, 3,094 in 1900, 4,182 in 1910, and over 4,500 in 1915. By this time the watch industry employed about 750 people, plus about 100 workers from outside who traveled to the town to work.

In the 1930s, Moutier continued to be a center of production for automatic milling and turning machines, adding the "Azuréa" watch factory of Célestin Konrad, the alarm clock factory of Louis Schwab, and the watch ebauche finishing company of Erwin Girard. The population in 1940 exceeded 5,000 people. Another important manufacturer there was Pierce SA.

Vénus

Paul Berret (1888-1949), often mistaken as "Perret", was the son of a wine merchant from Cornol who settled in Delémont as a youth. After his technical studies he became a technical manager at Schild SA in Grenchen. On May 1, 1924, he came to Moutier to purchase the factory of Victor Spozio to set up a new ebauche factory there. The Spozio Frères factory had been set up in 1918 and was focused on precision machining.

Fabrique d'ébauches Vénus SA was established in Moutier on May 14, 1924. The company was operated by Paul and Jean-Baptiste Berret of Cornol and Otto Schmitz of Granges. The firm received its first watch movement patent on April 22 of that year, suggesting a quick development. Jean-Baptiste Perret retired the following year and was replaced by Kurt Henggeler of Unter-Aegeri.

Vénus was acquired by Ebauches SA by March of 1928. On May 3, 1933, Henggeler and Schmitz were removed from administration, replaced by Ebauches managers Sydney de Coulon and Paul Berret. Berret would remain in charge of the Moutier factory through May 19, 1947, and died on November 22, 1949 in Moutier.

Ebauches SA and ETA

Ebauches SA absorbed Fabrique d'ébauches Vénus in 1928. This company occupied the former Spozio factory located at Rue du Viaduc 21 along a railroad spur in the center of the town.

Vénus became famous within Ebauches SA for a range of complicated movements, notably chronographs but also alarms. The company was an originator of the cam-actuated chronograph concept that would later be adopted by Valjoux.

The Vénus factory was closed in 1983 as Ebauches SA consolidated into ETA. But in 1992, ETA re-started operations in the town, now located in a different factory at Rue de la Paix 90 near the central railroad barn. A few years later ETA expanded this factory and soon added another factory nearby at Rue des Fleurs 17, the former site of the grand Moutier school building.

Moutier Watchmakers

  • Société Coopérative d'Horlogerie (1880s)
  • 1850s: Fabrique Moutier-Grandval (ébauches)
  • 1865-1908: Société Industrielle, Fabrique d'Ebauches Moutier-Grandval (ébauches)
  • 1869: Bueche, Boillat et Cie. in Reconvilier (ébauches)
  • 1867: Société d'Horlogerie in Malleray (ébauches)
  • 1871: Chodat-Robert (watches)
  • 1873: Kuhn et Tièche in Reconvilier (ébauches)
  • Junker & Mettetal
  • 1889-1908: Louviot Bon & Cie. (just Bon & Cie. from 1894)
  • deleted 1913: Societe de Secours Mutuels de la Fabrique d'Ebauches Bon & Co
  • 1916-1936: E. Girard Ebauches (then Erwin Girard FdH)
  • May 15, 1924-1970s: Fabrique d'Ebauches Vénus SA (ébauches)
  • 1970s: Charles Georgé SA (escapements)