Société Suisse des Spiraux
Société Suisse des Spiraux (SSS) was a balance spring factory created in 1898 by major Swiss watch manufacturers to compete with the cartel known as Fabriques de Spiraux Réunies (FSR). The group succeeded in building a competitive factory in La Chaux-de-Fonds and producing springs for their own use, blunting the impact of the cartel. It was merged with FSR in 1955 and dissolved the following year.
When the five largest makers of balance springs in Switzerland came together as a cartel to control the market in 1895 it was met with much controversy. The Fabriques de Spiraux Réunies (FSR) announced that they would immediately double the price of springs and would not allow any competition between member factories. They also bought out (or forced out of business) all other spring makers so watchmakers were forced to buy from a single central depot in Neuchâtel.
Fanned by incendiary articles in La Fédération Horlogère, a group of watchmakers immediately coalesced with the idea of creating a competing spring factory. Meeting in La Chaux-de-Fonds on May 11, 1898, the group agreed to create their own competing balance spring factory. They also heard from Paul Perret, who announced the remarkable properties of Invar balance springs.
300 watchmakers contributed funding to the project, which ultimately raised 125,000 francs to start production of balance springs. On July 28, 1898, the Société Suisse des Spiraux (SSS) was officially organized at an assembly of watchmakers. The group elected Louis-Constant Girard-Gallet (1855-1945), son of Girard-Perregaux founder Constant Girard, as their first chairman. The first secretary was respected La Chaux-de-Fonds watchmaker Paul Ditisheim (1868-1945), best remembered today for the Solvil et Titus brand he later founded. Additionally, Louis Muller and Ernest Goering served as vice presidents and Edmond Picard as treasurer.
Member companies were
- Geneva: Antoine Benassy-Philippe of Patek Philippe and regulator A. Savoye
- Bienne: Louis Muller of La Champagne and Arthur Huguenin
- Saint-Imier: Ferdinand Bourquin
- Tramelan: Ariste Chatelain
- Le Locle: Alfred Besse
- La Chaux-de-Fonds: L.-C. Girard-Gallet of Girard-Perregaux, Paul Ditisheim, publisher Alphonse Gogler, Ernest Goering of Montres Alpha, Edmond Picard of R. Picard (Invicta), and Albert Bourquin-Jaccard
The organization was headquartered at Rue du Parc 8 in La Chaux-de-Fonds with a small factory established in the Montbrillant Watch Manufactory at Chemin de Montbrillant 1. Even at the first meeting the group decided to establish a second factory in Geneva, and the company boasted that both factories were operational by 1900. The La Chaux-de-Fonds operation was moved to Charrière 37, a small building used by various watchmakers for decades, on April 23, 1902, but this operation was closed by 1908. The Geneva factory, Rue Coulouvrenière 40, would remain the sold site of production for SSS and remained in operation through the dissolution of the company in 1955.
It appears that the La Chaux-de-Fonds operation was taken over by La Nationale-Spiraux, which was established by Alphonse Gogler in 1905. The SSS factory at Charrière 37 was taken over by La Nationale (later called Fabrique Nationale de Spiraux) by 1908 and the company continued operating in La Chaux-de-Fonds through the 1920s. In 1929 this former dissident was purchased by Fabriques de Spiraux Réunies and merged with Stella and W. Ruch & Cie.
Businessman Albert Bourquin-Jaccard (1860-1948) soon replaced Ditisheim as secretary, a position he held until his death in 1948. Although he was involved in watchmaking, Bourquin-Jaccard was more of an administrator and was owner of several buildings in La Chaux-de-Fonds as well as the local tramway.
La Chaux-de-Fonds businessman Emile Meyer (1859-1935) became the primary contact for SSS by 1905. He was named secretary in 1930 but died in August 1935, with Albert Bourquin-Jaccard resuming the position.
- May 11 - A meeting is held in La Chaux-de-Fonds with 100 watchmakers attending; they decide to create their own spring factory and learn of Invar from Paul Perret
- July 15 - The start of the SSS is officially back-dated to this day, with a lifespan of 25 years
- July 28 - An assembly in La Chaux-de-Fonds officially ratifies the creation of Société Suisse des Spiraux (SSS); Louis-Constant Girard-Gallet (of Girard-Perregaux) is chairman and Paul Ditisheim is secretary, with Louis Muller (of La Champagne) and Ernest Goering (of Montres Alpha) as vice-presidents and Edmond Picard (of R. Picard) as treasurer
- 1899 - The factory in the Montbrillant Watch Manufactory in La Chaux-de-Fonds is producing soft and hardened springs under the Spiraux Trempés and Excelsior brands
- 1900 - The Geneva factory at Rue Coulouvrenière 40 is operational; SSS springs win a gold medal at the Paris Exposition
- 1901 - June 22 - Paul Ditisheim leaves the board of SSS with Albert Bourquin-Jaccard of Côte-au-Fees taking his place as secretary
- 1901 - March 14 - A new round of funding is raised, with existing shared devalued by 40% and 24,000 francs of new shares added
- 1902 - April 23 - SSS moves from Montbrillant 1 to Charrière 37 in La Chaux-de-Fonds
- 1903 - SSS Springs win first prize at the Greenwich chronometer testing
- 1904 - SSS Springs win first prize at the Greenwich and Geneva chronometer testing
- 1905 - SSS Springs win first prize at the Greenwich and Geneva chronometer testing
- 1905 - November 7 - La-Nationale-Spiraux is established by Alphonse Gogler to take over the Charrière 37 operation as SSS exits La Chaux-de-Fonds
- 1906 - SSS Springs win first prize at the Greenwich chronometer testing
- 1907 - SSS Springs win first prize at the Greenwich chronometer testing
- 1908 - The La Chaux-de-Fonds factory closes by this time; SSS Springs win first prize at the Greenwich and Geneva chronometer testing
- 1909 - SSS Springs win first prize at the Greenwich chronometer testing
- 1910 - SSS Springs win first prize at the Greenwich chronometer testing
- 1914 - Edmond Picard dies
- 1920 - July 26 - The company is revised; the board of directors consists of Louis-Constant Girard-Gallet as president, Albert Bourquin-Jaccard as secretary, Emile Meyer, Ernest Goering, Charles Jeanneret (of La Terrasse), Ariste Châtelain, Louis Muller, French businessman Charles Picard, Hubert Rouge (of Patek Philippe), and Adolphe Eugène Redard
- 1925 - July 6 - Geneva factory manager Eugène Golay is added as director
- 1928 - Ariste Châtelain dies
- 1930 - May 14 - At its general meeting the SSS is reorganized and the board expanded; Louis-Constant Girard-Gallet and Albert Bourquin-Jaccard remain chairman and secretary, respectively, while Louis Muller and Ernest Goering are made vice-presidents and Emile Meyer becomes secretary; the organization's offices are at Rue de la Montagne 5 in La Chaux-de-Fonds
- 1935 - Emile Meyer dies
- 1936 - June 11 and 13 - SSS officially becomes part of ASUAG and is reorganized; the new board members are Louis Berthoud (of Universal Genève), Paul-E. Brandt (Omega), Werner Brandt (Fonderie Boilat and ASUAG), and Sydney de Coulon (Ebauches SA); members Ariste Châtelain and Emile Moyer (both deceased) are removed
- 1937 - Eugène Golay, director of the Geneva factory for nearly 2 decades, dies
- 1938 - June 7 - The SSS is relocated to Geneva and the board is reconstructed: Louis-Constant Girard-Gallet remains chairman, Paul-E. Brandt is vice president, and Albert Bourquin-Jaccard remains secretary; members of the organization are Louis Muller, Louis Berthoud, Sydney de Coulon, Charles Jeanneret, Charles Picard, and Adolphe-Eugène Redard; Ernest Goering and Werner Brandt resigned, while Humbert Rouge and Eugène Golay have both died; the new office is Rue de la Coulouvrenière 40 in Geneva
- 1940 - May 20 - The board consists of Paul Renggli (ASUAG) as chairman, Paul-E. Brandt as vice-president, Albert Bourquin-Jaccard as secretary, with Paul Baehni, Louis Berthoud, Sydney de Coulon, Alfred Pfister, and Charles Picard; Louis-Constant Girard-Gallet, Charles Jeanneret, Louis Muller, and Adolphe-Eugène Redard (deceased) are removed
- 1943 - Louis Muller dies
- 1945 - Paul Ditisheim and Louis-Constant Girard-Gallet die
- 1946 - June 14 - Paul-E. Brandt resigns as Henri Gerber joins the board
- 1953 - June 9 - Fred Pfister is added to the board while Albert Bourquin-Jaccard, Louis Berthoud, and Alfred Pfister (all deceased) are removed
- 1955 - January 12 - The company decides to dissolve operations; the board is Paul Renggli as president, Henri Gerber as vice president, and Sydney de Coulon, Paul Baehni, and Fred Pfister, as liquidators, with Charles Gschwend representing the bank; Charles Picard has died
- 1956 - May 30 - The SSS is officially dissolved