Reinhard Straumann was born on November 3, 1892 in Bretzwil, near Waldenburg in Northwest Switzerland. His father, Reinhard Straumann, was a teacher in Beniwil, but soon moved the family to the town of Waldenburg to teach there. His mother was Anna (née Heinimann) and he had two surviving sisters. The three children attended primary school in Waldenburg but Reinhard Straumann retained his allegiance to his home village of Bretzwil through his life.
From 1908 to 1912, Straumann was a student at the cantonal technical school in Le Locle. He focused on watchmaking technology and precision engineering there, the specialty of that school. After graduating, Straumann worked as a technician in Bienne until 1914. He then trained as an engineer at the Ecole Supérieure d'Aéronautique et de Constructions Mécaniques in Lausanne, graduating with an engineering degree in 1916.
Reinhard Straumann entered military service as a technical operations engineer in the air force following his degree. He was responsible for the evaluation and acceptance of aircraft engines and the design and construction of propellors. He would remain active in the military, earning the rank of lieutenant colonel in the air force.
In 1916, Straumann joined Thommens Uhrenfabrik, Waldenburg's prominent watch factory, as a designer. He quickly rose to become technical director of the factory, which was managed by his cousin, Doctor Hermann Straumann from 1932. He mainly focused on the introduction of wristwatches and, during the war, development of aircraft instruments.
In 1919, Reinhard Straumann married Fanny Heid, and she became his partner and secretary throughout his life. The couple had two children, a son and a daughter, and seven grandchildren.
In his personal time Straumann studied the mechanics of ski flying. In 1926 he published a theoretical model for the construction of modern ski jumps based on the aerodynamics of ski flying. He promoted musical concerts at the school in Waldenburg. He enjoyed watercolor painting as a youth and built a valuable collection of the best-known Swiss painters.
Reinhard Straumann was also active in politics, becoming district administrator. But he was drawn into a controversy after World War II and resigned in protest in 1946.
Reinhard Straumann died on October 2, 1967, just short of 75 years of age.
Development of Nivarox
Straumann had a keen interest in materials science and constructed a personal laboratory in Waldenburg. Realizing that the development of watches required new materials, he focused on the formulation of a new balance spring material. In 1931, he developed such a formulation and collaborated with the German materials firm Heraeus in Hanau to get access to a vacuum smelter. He developed a new hairspring material that would not change in elasticity due to changes in ambient temperature. The resulting material, an alloy of nickel, iron, and other metals, was particularly valuable in the production of hairsprings and balance wheels. Named Nivarox ("ni variables, ni oxydables"), it was resistant to fracture, corrosion, and magnetism and was perfected in 1933 and patented in 1935.
The Karl Haas company in Schramberg, Germany took up production of this new material, but the Swiss establishment was deeply concerned about the control this would give the Germans over Swiss watch manufacturing. Straumann left Thommen in 1934 and entered a joint venture in Saint-Imier with Albert Ruch of W. Ruch & Cie, maker of springs under the Berna name. Moving production to Switzerland was a strategic imperative of the new Swiss watchmaking cartels.
The new Straumann Department faced an immediate challenge as Albert Ruch died in 1935. Straumann split his department and re-formed it as Nivarox SA in 1937. Reinhard Straumann would remain on the board of the company through his death in 1967. The company would merge with Fabriques d'Assortiments Réunis (FAR) of Le Locle in 1984 and remains one of the most valuable components of the Swatch Group.
Tschudin + Heid and Nivaflex
In 1938, after the death of his father in law, Fritz Heid, Straumann became director of Tschudin + Heid AG. The Waldenburg company specialized in precision lathe work and cutting for watch components as well as hydraulic and pneumatic machine controls. Under Straumann the firm expanded, adding a facility in Bretzwil to process special materials into high-precision parts and another in Reinach to produce fine components for the electronics industry.
Straumann built a new lab at the Waldenburg facility, and resumed his research into new materials and measurement methods. It was here that he created and patented a new mainspring material, Nivaflex, in 1948. He established a company, Nivaflex SA, to exploit this material in 1951. Straumann's Waldenburg research laboratory became Institute Dr. Ing. Reinhard Straumann in 1954. The institute focused on areas of interest to Straumann, chiefly ski flying, watch materials, and test equipment. The company would be renamed Straumann AG in 1990 and would focus on development of dental implants.
Awards and Honors
Straumann's work was recognized with many honors:
- 1936 - he became an honorary member of the Finnish watchmakers' association with the gold medal of merit
- 1959 - the Austrian Trade Association awarded him the Wilhelm Exner Medal
- 1960 - he was made an honorary member of the Swiss Ski Association
- 1966 - he was made an honorary member of the Swedish Watchmakers Association and was awarded the Viktor Kullberg Medal by the Academy of Engineering in Stockholm
- 1966 - he was made an honorary member of the Société Suisse de Chronométrie
- 1967 - the Fédération Internationale de Ski, honored him with honorary membership
- 1967 - his home town of Bretzwil gave him honorary citizenship
- 1918 - July 17 - CH79859 - Starting device on internal combustion engines on vehicles (deleted December 1921)
- 1918 - September 30 - CH80248 - Rev counter
- 1919 - January 17 - CH30002 - Propeller (deleted April 1924)
- 1920 - February 23 - CH31278 - Electromagnet for carburetor float needles (deleted May 1925)
- 1923 - August 16 - CH110598 - Device for radio-telephony reception that is as noiseless as possible (deleted March 1927)
- 1924 - May 10 - CH108825 - High frequency amplifier circuit (deleted September 1926)
- 1924 - November 21 - CH36794 - Radio coils (deleted March 1930)
- 1926 - June 14 - CH122631 - Procedure for determining the chronological progression of impacts, impacts and the like occurring in a watch mechanism, counter or similar mechanism (transferred to Revue Thommen on June 11, 1928, deleted January 1936)
- 1931 - November 28 - CH160490 - Process for the production of a rust-proof and magnet-resistant balance wheel (related to Revue Thommen patents CH160495 and CH160495)
- 1932 - April 9 - CH160798 - Process for manufacturing nickel-iron alloy springs for thermo-compensated oscillating systems (Nivarox, deleted November 1947)
- 1932 - November 28 - CH166535 - Spring made of nickel-iron alloy, especially for thermo-compensated oscillating systems (Nivarox, deleted January 1948)
- 1936 - November 26 - CH196408 - Spring made of nickel-iron alloy with hardening beryllium additive for thermo-compensated oscillating systems (deleted January 1952)
- 1942 - February 4 - CH224249 - Controllable compensation device for adjusting the temperature coefficient of the oscillating system provided in watch movements (deleted November 1956)
- 1942 - March 30 - CH227628 - Nickel-iron alloy spring, especially for thermo-compensated oscillating systems
- 1942 - November 9 - CH228990 - Method of operating a timepiece
- 1942 - November 28 - CH230107 - Controller with oscillating tongue to keep the running speed of a driven circulation organ constant (revised as CH235718 on February 16, 1943)
- 1949 - January 28 - CH273747 - Nickel alloy (Nivaflex?)
- 1949 - April 5 - CH274902 - Escapement for watch movements
- 1949 - April 13 - CH281495 - Process and device for testing clockworks (with Polymetron AG, deleted November 1956)
- 1951 - January 15 - CH289756 - Anchor escapement for watch movements
- 1951 - January 24 - CH292475 - Watch component
- 1952 - January 14 - CH294397 - Process for the manufacture of a mainspring for clocks, and mainspring obtained by this process
- 1951 - August 7 - CH295440 - Watch component
- 1952 - January 14 - CH299223 (CH294397) - Process for the manufacture of a mainspring for clocks, and mainspring obtained by this process
- 1952 - January 14 - CH300260 (CH294397) - Process for the manufacture of a mainspring for clocks, and mainspring obtained by this process
- 1952 - February 12 - CH306697 - Iron-nickel-cobalt alloy particularly suitable for watch springs
- 1952 - February 12 - CH306698 - Nickel alloy
- 1953 - October 22 - CH309228 - Mainspring barrel with mainspring and slipping clutch, for self-winding watches