Gustave Ulrich

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Gustave Ulrich (1893-1958) was director of the Fabrique Nationale de Spiraux and was deeply involved in the production of springs in the 20th century.

Early Life

Gustave-Adolphe Ulrich was born into a family of brewers in 1893 in La Chaux-de-Fonds. His father was also named Gustave-Adolphe Ulrich (1861-1934) and his mother, who came from a watchmaking family, was Anna-Maria-Louise, née Maurer (1862-1950). The elder Ulrich was director of the Brasserie de la Comète, a notable local brewery in the town, working with his brothers, Wilhelm and Charles. He taught young Gustave to become a business manager. On the death of his father in 1934, Gustave inherited his share of the family brewery.

The young Gustave completed his commercial studies in La Chaux-de-Fonds and showed great promise. He then took a rapid but serious technical study in Germany.

Bucher-Moser and La Nationale

A relative of Gustave Ulrich's mother, Fritz Bucher-Moser began manufacturing balance springs in Saint-Imier by 1902 but soon moved to La Chaux-de-Fonds. He soon formed a company called Bucher-Moser & Cie with funding from brewer Charles-Auguste Girardet. His factory was located at Rue de l'Industrie 16 but soon relocated to Rue de la Chapelle 3. The company used a fox as its logo. The firm failed by 1914 and was closed.

Alphonse Gogler (editor of Indicateur Davoine) was a dissident who opposed the Fabriques de Spiraux Réunies cartel and was a founding member of the Société Suisse des Spiraux in 1898. He took over the SSS spiral spring factory at Charrières 37 in La Chaux-de-Fonds under the name La Nationale-Spiraux in 1905.

Fabrique Nationale de Spiraux

Sensing an opportunity, La Nationale purchased the Bucher-Moser factory assets in 1916, forming a new company called Fabrique Nationale de Spiraux. Gogler brought in the young Gustave Ulrich to manage the operation, which was now located at Rue du Pont 8 and 10.

Ulrich proved to be a shrewd businessman and developed this business into a success over the following decade. He impressed Gogler enough to be brought in as a board member for a new graphic design and printing business called Artographic in 1917. The third board member was none other than Saint-Imier balance spring maker Emile Schweingruber. Although the company failed in 1923, it brought together these "dissident" balance spring makers.

When Fabrique Nationale de Spiraux was reorganized in 1926, Ulrich was the sole owner. The factory was now located at Serre 106. He soon brought in his brother Arthur Ulrich, who assisted him for decades.

Fabriques de Spiraux Réunies

The hairspring operation of Fabrique Nationale merged with Ernest Dubois' Stella in La Chaux-de-Fonds and W. Ruch & Cie in Saint-Imier in 1929 under the overall ownership of Fabriques de Spiraux Réunies, with Dubois and Ulrich joining the board of the cartel. Ulrich resigned in 1932, however, to focus on other types of springs. Fabrique Nationale thus became a leading producer of non-balance springs, with Ulrich managing the company. He brought in Louis Huguenin and Albert Perret in 1946 and renamed the company Fabrique Nationale de Ressorts in 1952.

Ulrich also served on the board for W. Ruch & Cie after Nivarox was split off, joining in 1944 along with Ernest Dubois and Louis Huguenin. The trio continued to run the company after the sudden death of Werner Ruch in an automobile accident in 1952, though all three left and handed the company to a new generation in 1959 following Ulrich's death.

Ulrich remained involved in balance spring production, however. He was part of the management committee for FSR and was specifically the commercial director for the La Chaux-de-Fonds branch of the cartel from 1953.

Ulrich's La Chaux-de-Fonds factory soon became the Jardinière branch of the Fabrique Nationale de Spiraux and Fabrique Nationale de Ressorts. Ulrich himself was director of the new cartel while remaining managing director and commercial director of his own factory.

Gustave Ulrich remained on the management committee for the La Chaux-de-Fonds and Geneva branches of the Fabriques de Spiraux Réunies as well as his own Fabrique Nationale de Ressorts until his death in 1958.

It was Mr. Gustave Ulrich who represented these companies in the watchmaking organizations, in particular the UBAH.

Gustave Ulrich died on March 18, 1958 after a long illness. He was 66 years old.