Charles-Auguste Paillard (1840-1895) was a watchmaker who investigated the properties of stainless steel and palladium balance springs in the 19th century. Old age and illness left him out of the 1895 cartel to corner the production of these springs, Société des Fabriques de Spiraux Réunies (FSR).
Charles-Auguste Paillard was born into a watchmaking family in 1840 in La Chaux-de-Fonds. His family was French but had been part of the expulsion of the Hugenots from France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. His father was a watchmaker and his mornther made balance springs at home, undoubtedly a major influence on him. It is likely that his father was Auguste Paillard-Gauthier, listed at Rue du Soleil 48 in La Chaux-de-Fonds from 1842 though 1849 in Indicateur Davoine.
Due to the political strife in Neuchâtel in 1847 and 1848, the Paillard family was forced to relocate to Sainte-Croix in the Canton of Vaud, and this is where Paillard received his only education. He attended a Moravian school there for two years until he left in 1852. He spent the next three years as an apprentice watchmaker. Paillard-Gauthier appears in Sainte-Croix in Indicateur Davoine in 1853 as a watch regulator. Another Sainte-Croix operation, E. & A. Paillard-Gauthier Frères, is listed at this time as a maker of watches and music boxes and this could be Charles' brothers or his father and uncle.
In 1857, Paillard's father sent the young Charles-Auguste to Brazil. He lived there with his uncle and assisted in his shop, repairing marine chronometers. But the young man was struck by fever and forced to return to Sainte-Croix to recover. In 1862, Charles-Auguste Paillard relocated to Geneva to become a watch adjuster. He is first listed in Indicateur Davoine in 1875 as "réglage de precision" (like his father and uncle) and located at Montblanc 7 before relocating to Kléberg 27 in 1877.
His trip to Brazil made Paillard realize the effect of heat and rust on the balance spring, and he began to focus on this key component. Without a formal and complete education, Paillard was unaware of the failed experiments of Arnold and Dent on alternative balance spring materials (glass and gold alloys) or the work of J.-G. Ulrich who had considered using alloys of palladium for balance wheels and springs. Undeterred by their failures, Paillard began experimenting with various steel alloys and with palladium, which he demonstrated in 1877 in collaboration with Charles Haas. Paillard experimented extensively with stainless steel as a balance spring material in the 1870s and regularly corresponded with other watchmakers on the subject. A series of letters and publications beginning in 1877 in Journal Suisse d'Horlogerie involved Paillard, C. Crausaz, and Moritz Grossmann, John Huguenin, Marc Glaser, among others, discussing the properties of stainless steel hairsprings. Paillard soon began working with palladium as a balance spring material, and this gained a great deal of attention for its chronometric properties after it was endorsed by Théodore Le Roy in London, among others.
By 1880, C.-A. Paillard was manufacturing and selling palladium balance springs from his shop in Geneva. Located at Rue Kléberg 27, the small workshop soon became the key producer of these springs for the entire chronometer industry. Although there was much controversy about the suitability and cost-effectiveness of palladium, notably from leading producer of steel springs Charles Dufaux, the material certainly had superior inherent characteristics. Paillard received many medals, and watches using his springs scored many victories, in the 1880s. He was awarded the De la Rive prize by the Société des Arts de Genève in 1881 for the most useful discoveries for industry.
In 1885 Paillard began producing pendulums and balance wheels from palladium. These had the benefit of being anti-magnetic, resistant to oxidation, and to resist the effects of temperature. Paillard attempted to prosecute other makers of palladium springs but was ultimately unsuccessful in defending his invention.
In the 1890s Paillard's health was failing and he was forced to withdraw and slow his experiments. He was uninterested in joining the FSR balance spring cartel in 1895, preferring to give up the manufacture of balance springs instead. Charles-Auguste Paillard died in 1895, the same year that the cartel was established.
Production of balance springs re-started at the Kléberg 27 factory in 1898 under Mme. Junod. This operation did not last long but was one of the earliest attempts to compete with the nascent cartel to corner the production of these springs, Société des Fabriques de Spiraux Réunies (FSR).