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Independent Swiss watch companies which pre-date the "Quartz Crisis"?

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How many Swiss watch companies which pre-date the quartz crisis are still independent?

I can only think of these none of whom went bust although Breitling came very close and was sold by the family for next to nothing.

  • H. Moser & Cie
  • Carl F. Bucherer AG
  • Patek Philippe SA
  • Audemars Piguet Holding SA
  • Le Petit-Fils de L.-U. Chopard & Cie S.A
  • Breitling SA
  • Rolex SA

Any others?

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1 minute ago, WRENCH said:


I think it was rolled into Allgemeine Schweizer Uhrenindustrie AG in 1970 so there was a 12 year break in its independence until the management buy out in 1982

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13 minutes ago, Mart said:

Who owns Ollech & Wajs these days?

"Charles Paxson, the man behind the brand today. Every bit as committed and fanatical about the brand as the founders, he has made Ollech & Wajs a modern sustainable Swiss watch brand, with the focus still on functional mechanical tool watches in the Ollech & Wajs tradition."

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7 hours ago, Shoughie0 said:

Wow! I didn't know that the innovation of quartz timekeeping had such a dramatic impact on the industry; disruptive innovation, indeed.

It was not just quartz, which the Swiss were also developing (BETA 21 had backers such as Omega, Patek Philippe, Rolex and more, Girard Perregaux made the first watch movement running at 32khz which is now the industry standard), but then there was money thrown at R&D for LED, LCD and still some electronic movements, all of which had a limited shelf life.  One of the other factors was the gold price, which started the seventies at £15 an ounce and finished at £260.  If you are making gold watches and a the case material increases in price at that rate you will struggle

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21 hours ago, Shoughie0 said:

Wow! I didn't know that the innovation of quartz timekeeping had such a dramatic impact on the industry; disruptive innovation, indeed.

It was brutal, around two-thirds of those employed in the Swiss watch industry lost their jobs 

The two big beasts went into insolvency namely:

Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhrenindustrie AG (ASUG) who had in the previous 40 years acquired a large number of ébauches and movement parts companies and were the main manufacturer of movements, they also produced watches under the A. Reymond S.A., Atlantic S.A, Certina, Diantus, Edox, Endura, Eterna, Hamilton, Longines, Microma, Mido, Oris, Rado, Roamer, Rotary, and Technos labels.


Société Suisse pour l'Industrie Horlogère which owned Omega, Tissot, Lemania and A. Lugrin

We have Nicolas Hayek and Ernst Thomke (the former an engineer businessman and the latter a watchmaker) to thank for a big chunk of the industry surviving, the story goes that Swiss bankers dealing with the insolvency asked Hayek to help sell the companies to the Japanese .... the result? The Swatch Group! Thomke took over the running of the movement side of the business and created the modern ETA.

Some watch companies scraped through and survived to fight another day: 

  • Breitling SA - saved from bankruptcy by Ernest Schneider in 1979 who bought it from the family - he was a businessman not a watchmaker
  • IWC scraped through by building high end pocket watches, watch cases and collaborations with Porsche 
  • Zenith were bought by an American investor, stopped mechanical watch production, quartz lines failed, bought back by Swiss investors who put watches together from new old stock movement parts, given a lifeline by Rolex who gave them a 10 year contract to make chronograph movements which allowed them to start production again.

Some adapted 

  • JLC - embraced quartz movements, were very innovative and in a good position at the end of the 80's to rebuild their mechanical business. They produced what was the world's thinnest quartz calibre for example.
  • The much maligned Rolex established an electronics laboratory, developed quartz calibres and produced Oysterquartz watches which sold well, they managed to keep selling mechanical models including the Submariner and GMT Master which had features not generally available in quartz watches, they also had the advantage in that they had kept their business quite simple with most models being two or three handed with well established lines. They believed that mechanical watches would recover and were proved right, the company was well positioned to rebuild its mechanical business.
  • Patek Philippe also embraced quartz technology and produced the 3744 from 1978, the automatic Nautilus also sold quite well, which again put them in a good position to rebuild their mechanical business.
  • Chopard moved into making jewelry and expensive novelties like the Happy Diamonds quartz watch
  • Audemars Piguet introduced the iconic Gérald Genta designed Royal Oak in the early 70's which saw them through the crisis


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I'm struggling to think of any others who were independent, didn't go bust, and remain independent :hmmm9uh:

But - and I'm not 100% sure - Gallet are still going, as are Enicar. I think both meet the criteria.

Please correct me, if I'm wrong :)

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I think you will find that Moser vanished for a while.

The current company, Moser Schaffhausen AG was formed in 2002. It’s actually a newer operation than FP Journe, or Nomos, or Lange to mention a few other Johnnies come lately.

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Most interesting thread. For those of you who are interested in the Quartz Crisis more generally may I direct you to my own work on the subject which was posted on the Forum in November 2016. To find this, just enter "The Quartz Crisis" into the Forum Search feature under topic titles, and you will then obtain the relevant links. This lengthy article was posted in three parts - Part 1, Part 2(a) and Part 2(b), and I hope that I did justice to this most important subject. :)

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