Jump to content
  • Sign Up to reply and join the friendliest Watch Forum on the web. Stick around, get to 50 posts and gain access to your full profile and additional features such as a personal messaging system, chat room and the sales forum PLUS the chance to enter our regular giveaways.
Sign in to follow this  

Decline and Fall of Sheffield Watch from Swiss newspapers

Recommended Posts

I'm posting edited Google translations of these Swiss newspaper articles on the demise of Sheffield Watch Inc, on the basis they may be of interest to a few. Quite a long read, and it throws no light on the Matthey-Doret brand, but interesting on Sheffield's operations in the US and Switzerland and their mechanical brands.

@Balaton1109 @Always"watching"

L'Impartial 15th June 1971
A wide American ...

The 142 people employed by Sheffield Watch Inc. in Muttenz, near Basel, await with some apprehension the end of the week. It is indeed on June 18 that their fate will be fixed in ... New York, during the meeting of creditors of the Sheffield Watch Corporation, majority owner of Sheffield Inc. Switzerland.

On May 11, Sheffield USA suddenly announced a deficit of 32 million francs, which we could learn by following the course of American values; since that date the shares of Sheffield USA are no longer listed on the stock exchange. According to the "North American News" of September 9, 1970, Sheffield USA planned to make 100 million francs of turnover in 1970 (80 million in 1969) which indicates the size and the appetites of the company.

Sheffield Watch Corporation was the largest importer American of movements and watches Roskopf and Swiss pin levers. Imports of this category of watches accounted for 70 percent of the turnover of the American company. Sheffield still produces 17 ruby lever watches in the Virgin Islands and Guam (20 percent of sales). The remaining 10 percent was supplied by the importation of Swiss and German clocks and alarm clocks into the United States.

All of these products were marketed in the USA under the Sheffield brand in high-end stores. Distribution in major chain stores of everyday products was under the brands "Sheraton" and "Norbee". Wholesalers supplied Sheffield with "Saxony" watches.

Thanks to a very large advertising budget (7.5 million francs in 1970) Sheffield was constantly present not only in 350 American newspapers but also on the pages of the most prestigious international watchmaking magazines.

And Sheffield collapses suddenly ...

An American does not make America, especially if he already has two or three bankruptcies on his hands, so we will be careful not to generalize the process adopted which consists in "pumping" what we can of a business that it is dropped as soon as difficulties accumulate. But the case is worth considering. Sheffield USA entered the watch scene, with an important role, in 1967, styling Swiss Sheffield.

From the outset the company experienced spectacular expansion in the USA. The 30 percent of sales were made with a men's caliber at $12. In 1969 there was a very marked slowdown in the business of Sheffield USA. The exercise nonetheless ended with a profit of two million francs.

In 1970, sales fell from $19 million to $14.6 million, a loss of 20 million Swiss francs (1). Swiss Sheffield has set up its headquarters in Muttenz, where 120 people are employed. The commercial register informs us that the company was registered there on September 1, 1960 with a fully paid up capital of 100,000 fr. Ten people are employed in a branch in Biel and 12 in Selzach. Following the announcement of the deficit of 32 million francs on May 11, the credits were cut and the group's situation is delicate to say the least!

The management of Sheffield Switzerland has worn out the nerves to properly resolve its affairs, going as far as to warn its suppliers. The rule of "correcting to the end" has been scrupulously observed. But "at the end" there is a meeting of creditors in New York. Directly dependent on the United States, Swiss Sheffield has in hand only limited means of action.

There was nothing to doubt the solidity of the Swiss branch of the American company which suddenly finds itself in front of a vacuum. The alert is serious in some roskopfiers. Thus the future of 142 people is compromised in a company in Switzerland. We can, with a broad gesture, estimate that, given the job market, they will be quickly reclassified in watchmaking or in another trade. But on the merits, it is more than the fate of 142 people that is at stake.

In the watchmaking sector, more than elsewhere, workers fought for "their box", taking pride in legitimizing themselves as being among the best. They put in their work more than what is usually asked in a company. It is this potential for confidence that could be undermined, the individual will to fight, as understood in the "Book of Civil Defense".

An unknown gangrene sets in when man wonders on his soil what he defends, for whom and why? And this gangrene is much more dangerous than stories of contestation ... Gil BAILLOD

(1) Swiss watchmaking June 12, 1969, North American News May 19, 1971.

L'Impartial 12th October 1971
Watchmaking: Swiss response to the USA
SSIH will be majority at Sheffield

The best defense is attack. Perhaps inspired by this principle of the battlefields, the SSIH (Swiss Society for the Watch Industry) has just signed an agreement of principle of majority participation with Sheffield Watch Corporation which was, until last May 11, largest American importer of Roskopf movements and wristwatches and Swiss pin levers.

May 11, 1971, surprise on the New York Stock Exchange: Sheffield shares are no longer listed. The importer announces a deficit of 32 million francs. In 1969, however, they had a turnover of 80 million francs, but a profit of only two million francs. Already before May, there was already concern near Basel, in Muttenz more precisely, at Sheffield Watch inc, supplier to Sheffield USA, because orders were falling rapidly.

On the New York Stock Exchange, the surprise was all the greater since Sheffield had made a very noisy entry into the American watch market in 1967, immediately playing the young people in vogue. Dazzling success. Three years later, the brutal fall: 20 million loss francs. And since May 11, there has been silence.

Suddenly we talk about Sheffield again. A first meeting of creditors was held in New York on June 18. Due debts were suspended to give the company time to catch its breath and find a satisfactory solution to its financial problem. It was found. The situation in Sheffield is currently being resolved and it is a financially "purified" enterprise that the SSIH will take under its wing by becoming largely, very largely, majority in New York.

The agreement will be final in three or four months after meeting the requirements of US legal procedure. The affair was not "torn off at all costs", one suspects at a time when each card counts, where you have to play fast and fair. And experts point out that this is a very good deal financially and commercially.

But what makes the Swiss run? The Swiss yes, but not just any, those of the SSIH, the third largest watchmaking giant in the world behind Timex (USA) and Seiko (Japan).

We can better understand the logic of the tactics of the SSIH by recalling a date: February 5, 1971. That day, the director general of the company announced in Biel the most significant vertical concentration ever achieved in watchmaking, the integration of SSIH and Economy Swiss Time Holding (ESTH), a large group of Swiss Roskopfiers.

Thus the SSIH suddenly burst the range of its products from the prestigious and still expensive quartz watch to the bazaar item!

Suddenly they had in hand a double-edged sword and it is with the second blade that they will be able to carve out a wider place on the American market by marketing their lever and Roskopf products under the Sheffield brands ...

In 1970 Sheffield spent another 7.5 million francs on watch advertising in the pages of 350 American newspapers and international watch magazines. 1970 was less than a year ago. It can be validly considered that Sheffield's clients have not forgot the slogans that were hammered on them.

Roskopf and pin lever imports accounted for 70 percent of the company's turnover, another 20 percent came from the sale of anchor calibers mounted in Guam and the Virgin Islands (an unencumbered sector of the new 10 per cent tax of Nixon ...) The rest of the turnover was provided by the import of Swiss and German clocks and clocks.

The Sheffield brand was the prerogative of high-end stores. Current products were displayed on the shelves of large chain stores under the brands "Sheraton" and "Norbee". Wholesalers found supplies from Sheffield under the brand "Saxony".

When we know that the very first series of some 100,000 pieces of the amazing synthetic watch developed by Tissot in Le Locle, of the SSIH group, was exported to the United States for a chain of department stores, one sees, perhaps, a patch of fog dissipate.

SSIH by absorbing ESTH has made a big bet. It must realize its stake and the push on the American market can effectively contribute to consolidate the operation of integration by the spring. SSIH will inject its products into Sheffield's still hot sales network under the Sheffield brands. There are millions of dollars spent in the USA since 1967 by Sheffield who just want to make something, because it is so sad to invest without return!

Swiss Sheffield was autonomous, but the Muttenz factory depended for the distribution of its products on the distribution channels of Sheffield US. Suddenly deprived of its outlet, it waited on the back burner for its best days while reassembling certain calibers on behalf of the Roskopfiers of the SSIH.

It is therefore very natural that it will find its American customers. No one can yet give a valid opinion on the value of the majority stake in SSIH in Sheffield which will be effective in three months. But in New York, the operation was very well received and commented favorably.

Sheffield's distribution channels should allow millions of watches and movements to be sold per year. There are only three missing, at the SSIH, three million pieces to surpass the volume sold by Seiko and rise to second place in the world of watchmaking. This is perhaps what is called reacting to the economic situation ...


L'Impartial 5th April 1972
Sheffield closes in Muttenz: 55 workers made redundant

The Basel section of the Swiss Federation of Metalworkers and Watchmakers announces that the Sheffield SA watchmaking factory in Muttenz will close at the end of the month. The company had been bankrupt since the end of last year, and was later taken over by two young specialists. Dismissed workers, 15 are Swiss, 40 foreigners. The union is responsible for the redeployment of these 55 workers. The contributions paid by the staff are not threatened, information obtained from the company's insurance company.

On the occasion of the closure of this enterprise, the union published a press release, in which it reads in particular: "This new closure will modify a large number of destinies. A significant part of the workers had been employed in the company since its foundation in 1960 and wished to lead Muttenz a secure existence until retirement. Once again, Swiss watchmaking is proving to be sensitive to the effects of the economic climate”. (ats)

Without flowers or drum

The difficulties of Sheffield Watch SA began on May 10 with the announcement of a deficit of 32 million francs from Sheffield USA, distributor of Sheffield Watch, an independent company based in Muttenz.
On May 11, the shares of the American company were no longer listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Deprived of its main distribution channel, Sheffield Watch, a dynamic and very well-run company, sought to face such sudden difficulties.

The SSIH offered its good offices to employ the 120 people of Sheffield Watch SA while waiting for the establishment of a valid solution.

Then SSIH entered into negotiations with Sheffield USA, which had a solid distribution network. At the end of the discussions, the SSIH decided on the principle of acquiring a majority stake in the American house after the financial consolidation of the latter.

In Switzerland, the offer to buy the Muttenz factory by SSIH encountered a number of difficulties stemming from long-term contracts, so much so that Sheffield Watch SA did not get caught up in the Roskopfian ESTH group of the SSIH.

On September 15, the four principal creditors of Sheffield Switzerland froze a fund of maneuver available to the company and which would have made it possible to cover 40 percent of the debts of the Muttenz factory. Drafts had remained unpaid after the New York crash, which prompted prompt legal proceedings.

Sheffield Watch declared bankruptcy on December 31 the latter by the President of the Arlesheim Court at the request of the SBS, creditor with Ronda, factory of ébauches, Credit Suisse and Ebauches SA, all of which had refused a moratorium.

The bankruptcy office immediately rented the company (premises, machinery and staff) to a group consisting of Mr. Hans Noll from Hanova Bienne, Mr. Kupper de Constructa in Granges and Mr. Mosset de Ronda, in Basel, one of the main creditors of Sheffield Watch.

Ronda, a factory for ébauches, made an offer to purchase which was suddenly withdrawn. This is why, at the end of the rental contract, on April 30, Sheffield Watch will close its doors permanently.

Following the takeover offer, it was Mr. Mosset who led the negotiations when he only had 2 percent of the share capital of the rental company, MM. Noll and Kupper each split the 98 percent into two equal parts. A manufacturer of ébauches, Mr. Mosset de Ronda could not appear to be too big a taker in a setting up business.

It would seem that the offer to purchase was unsuccessful because they were reassembled at Sheffield, during the rental, of other calibers than those produced by Ronda, bound for Hong-Kong. Under these conditions, one could understand that Ronda's interest in Sheffield has weakened!

It is a good factory which ceases its activities without flowers or drum. It is also a solid competitor which is disappearing definitively on the American market.

The misfortune of some ...

  • Thanks 3

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Fantastic research @spinynorman Not sure about anyone else, but I'm speechless and my head's burstin'.

I will take me a few suppers to digest this little lot while you uncover the connection with the Junghans-branded examples:whistle:

  • Thanks 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Balaton1109 said:

Fantastic research @spinynorman Not sure about anyone else, but I'm speechless and my head's burstin'.

I will take me a few suppers to digest this little lot while you uncover the connection with the Junghans-branded examples:whistle:

Probably need a source for German newspapers for that. Voumard and Agon were mentioned as major suppliers to Sheffield, but not Junghans.

  • Thanks 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...