Experts talking

Every time, the "Experts talking" column develops a different case.
The author's aim, as connoisseur and authority about the matter, is to help you to understand the subject by making these informations comprehensible and digestive.
Presently: The Swiss watch production.

Already available
- Autoquartz
- Chronograph or chronometer
- Shock-absorber
- Water-resistance

- The Swiss watch production
- Material and finishes for watch cases

- Watch Professionals I
- Watch Professionals II
- Watch-cases
- Sapphire crystal
- Boîte et bracelet
- Bevelling and finishes...(I)
- Bevelling and finishes...(II)
- Bevelling and finishes...(III)
- Bevelling and finishes...(IV)
- Bevelling and finishes...(V)
- Bevelling and finishes...(VI)

- Bevelling and finishes...(VII)
- Bevelling and finishes...(VIII)
- Bevelling and finishes...(IX)
- Bevelling and finishes..(X)
- The Tourbillon
- Observations on top-of-the-range mechanical watches I
- Observations on top-of-the-range...II
- Observations on top-of-the-range...III
- Observations on top-of-the-range...IV
- Stricking watches
- The Screws (I)
- The Screws (II)
- The Screws (III)
- The Screws (IV)
- The Screws (V)
- Chronometry

- at present


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The author

Expert in communication and marketing, Pierre F. Brenzikofer was for more than 25 years in charge of the Marketing-Services of an important swiss watch group. He had a deep knowledge of watches communication. He was very active in professional basic and further training, and invested a lot of energy in the management of training centers and the setting up of modern didactic instruments.

Division of labour : an important trump

These last 20 years, the swiss watch industry increased heavily its productivity and intensified seriously its rationalization, but without neglecting to still offer a very large and unequalled range of products of all performances and prices. In 1970 the rate of productivity was 850 pieces per year and per employee. Today the same rate reaches more than 3000 pieces. It is interesting to examine how this industrial sector was able to reach such a result.

The watch industry occupies today in Switzerland 32000 people working within 580 companies employing between one to more than thousand men and women. The watchmaker producing his watch from A to Z is a historical image, which can be forgotten nowadays. The division of labour and functions and the specialisation brought a total change in this traditional belief. The important changes occurred in the watch production these last years make it difficult to classify precisely how these products are conceived, manufactured and assembled today. Nevertheless we will try to give hereafter an idea of the current production processes of the swiss watches.

The finished product (the watch)
A distinction has to be made between :
- the "manufacture"
- the "établissage "
- the "terminage"

The "manufacture" produces on its own part of the basic components of the watches it assembles, especially the "ébauches" (mechanical movements without the regulating parts and the motor springs) and sells its products under its own brand name.

The "établisseur" buys and assembles the basic parts ("ébauches", movements, regulating parts, external parts, etc.) and sells the finished watches under its own brand name.

The "termineur" assembles the watches as the "établisseur". But he doesn't buy the components. He only works for a third (a brand). He does not own the brand and is not responsible for the sales.

A mechanical or electronic watch movement comprises between 80 and 150 parts of different sizes, materials, technologies, functions and of course sources.

This traditional and limpid classification has to be shaded : as a matter of fact, the manufacturing of "èbauches" and movements needs, to be profitable, big series for watches of mass consumption.


On the other hand, quartz movements - set on the market in the seventies - are delivered in one block, ready to function which is not the case for the mechanical movements delivered as a non-finished product.
Consequently we can say :

- The "manufacture" and the "établisseur" are the masters of the design of their watches whom they give their external aspect and their personal character,

- There are today only a few number of "manufacture", mainly in the upper range of the market,

- The technical character of the "établisseur" and the "termineur" concentrates mainly on the design of the product.

One of the ETA SA production centre, today as well movement producer, "manufacture" and "établisseur".

Basic parts and related sectors

Manufacturing mechanical "ébauches" and quartz movements, the hart of the watch, are the base of this industry. Research and development are concentrated in the laboratories of the movement producers. It should be observed that one of them, the first in Europe, ETA SA Fabriques d'Ebauches (member of the Swatch Group) is at the same time movement and components producer, "manufacture" and "termineur". - 2 - On the other hand, there are other producers of basic parts (balance wheels and springs, jewels, integrated circuits, micro-motors, quartz resonators, batteries, hands, cases, crowns, straps) or suppliers of services (electroplating, plating, engraving, etc.).


The external look of a watch is the matter of the brands themselves. According to their strategy, the image they want to give to their product, decide the size, the shape, the material, the personality they want to confer. For this purpose, they need designers who are often free-lances.

Watchmaking is a fascinating world based on a very sophisticated micro-technology (the consumer is mostly not aware of that). On the other hand, the watch is an indicator, a symbol of the personal image the wearer wants to give of himself in his environment. Finally, his requirements regarding precision are considered normal in all conditions : hot or cold weather, dry or wet atmosphere, quite or shock conditions, etc. A terrible, but fantastic challenge for the watch producers !


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