Although it is located in a tiny village of less than 1,000 residents, the factory in Fontainemelon looms large in the history of Swiss watchmaking. The oldest and largest ebauche factory in the country was established there early in the 19th century, and Fabrique d’Horlogerie Fontainemelon (FHF) was a founding member of Ebauches SA 100 years later. Even today, the Fontainemelon factory remains a cornerstone of the Swatch Group. Let’s look at the history that made Fontainemelon the dominant supplier of ebauches in the 19th century.
1793: Benguerel-Humbert Brings Ebauche Manufacturing to Switzerland
The Fontainemelon factory traces its establishment to 1793, long before mass production. The etablissage system established by Daniel JeanRichard in Le Locle was centered on hand-made products, with most work still dispersed at home workbenches. Frédéric Japy had improved on the machines he brought from Jean-Jacques Jeanneret Gris in Le Locle and had established the first mechanized watch factory in Beaucourt, France in 1777. Over the next 25 years, Swiss watchmakers embraced Japy’s movement blanks (“ebauches”) as a way to make watchmaking more profitable and efficient than hand-cut metal.
By the 1790s, watchmaking in the Swiss Jura had become dependent on imported ebauches produced by Japy, but the tumultuous history of the region caused great concern. When two pairs of watchmaking brothers in La Chaux-de-Fonds decided to try their hands at producing ebauches in the Neuchâtel region, it was met with enthusiasm in the city.
Brothers David and Isaac Benguerel dit Perroud and brothers François and Julien Humbert-Droz signed the paperwork creating the firm of Benguerel-Humbert on October 31, 1793. The new company would “trade in base movements created by the manufacture,” the first such business in Switzerland. It is likely that their initial products were simple plates and designs based on Japy’s ebauches, with which watchmakers were already familiar. Since there was no protection for intellectual property at the time, it would be expected that they would be functionally identical.
But where to locate this operation? The new firm must not compete with existing businesses for workers, but it had to be nearby due to the difficulty of traveling through the mountainous Jura region. Japy had built his factory on stony highlands that were otherwise useless, cleverly avoiding the need to pay rent to a landlord. The Benguerel and Humbert brothers selected a similar location on the cantonal road through the Val-de-Ruz, about half way between Neuchâtel and La Chaux-de-Fonds. A small agricultural community, Fontainemelon was just on the other side of the mountains separating the two valleys and it was home to a few hundred residents who were willing to learn the watchmaking trade. Most importantly, it was just a few hours ride from La Chaux-de-Fonds and Neuchâtel.
The town’s name refers to the multitude of natural springs located nearby, but Fontainemelon lacks a real river for hydraulic power. Japy powered his heavy machinery by a team of oxen plodding around a carousel, and the workshop at Fontainemelon would do the same. The partners selected a large two-story house in the village, which housed both the original workshop and living quarters for the workers. A smaller building served as a forge, machine shop, and rolling mill.
The firm of Benguerel-Humbert was very traditional in its approach, and was entirely unlike the Fontainemelon factory of today. A 1797 ledger shows that many of the 120 employees worked from home in Fontainemelon or the surrounding villages and were paid by the piece. Each produced one component of the ebauche, which were brought together as a kit in the Fontainemelon workshop. The workshop handled the power-intensive cutting of the metal plates. Each Saturday, one of the partners carried these ebauches over the mountains to La Chaux-de-Fonds in a horse-drawn carriage, bringing back food and commodities for the workers. The young company was delivering a range of products by the turn of the century based on the designs of Ferdinand Berthoud and the Japy brothers, but also adapted to the preferences of Swiss (Anabaptist) watchmakers. Interestingly, period documents show that workers were paid in Neuchâtel Batzen, while the ebauches were sold for French Livre, a profitable arbitrage.
At this time, an “ebauche” was a very basic thing. It was delivered “en blanc” (“white”) meaning completely unfinished and did not include any of the gears, let alone the springs or escapement, needed to make it into a working watch movement. And in the time before Lépine’s ideas were widely embraced, these ebauches consisted of simple plates separated by pillars rather than a main plate with machined cocks or bridges. A buyer would need to supply all of these components and to finish and test the movement before it could be cased for sale.
1812: Humbert Frères Builds the First Swiss Ebauche Factory
The Benguerel brothers left the company in 1812, and it was reorganized as Humbert Frères. At this time, the company added a copper foundry and bronze rollers, enabling them to manufacture more of the desperately-needed watch components “as well as all the mechanical works that we can propose.” But they also saw the need to bring more production in-house, since the tools and machines necessary to construct ever more complicated movements were large and required more than human hand power.
In 1816 Julien and François Humbert-Droz built the first factory building in Fontainemelon. Located on the Cantonal road, it featured a decorative steeple with a bell that tolled every hour during the day for over a hundred years. This building would be dwarfed by the later factories built by the company, but it remained a landmark in the town for over 150 years. It no longer stands, but it is unclear when it was torn down.
This was a difficult time in Switzerland, with upheaval brought by the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars hurting most industries. In 1820, the Eguet brothers of Malviliers, just west of Fontainemelon, set up their own ebauche manufacturing business, cutting into profits. And the Swiss firms faced stiff competition from the Japy brothers in Beaucourt, France, who reduced the price of their ebauches by 25% to force the Fontainemelon factory out of business. The Humbert brothers desperately asked for assistance from the government and the watchmakers they supplied, but all they received was encouraging words and advice to streamline production to better compete.
Although the concept of component production in Fontainemelon was desired by all, the reality of producing ebauches there was not yet profitable. Just a decade after opening the first ebauche factory in Switzerland, it appeared that the project was at an end.
1825: Robert et Cie. Re-Establishes the Fontainemelon Factory
François Humbert-Droz died around 1824, and his brother Julien was not interested in continuing the difficult business of ebauche manufacturing. Happily for all involved, hope was at hand in the form of his new son-in-law: Jacob Robert-Tissot (1792-1865). The son of a watch trader and justice of the peace with the same name, Jacob Robert-Tissot was one of fourteen children. Five of his brothers entered the watch trade in La Chaux-de-Fonds, and within a short time he joined three of these to take over their father’s business there. But his legacy lay across the mountains in Fontainemelon.
Around 1821, Jacob Robert-Tissot married Mélanie Humbert (1796-1870), daughter of factory founder Julien Humbert-Droz, and came to Fontainemelon to work in the firm of his father-in-law. It was evident that he was the right man to take over the ebauche manufacture, but handing it over wasn’t so simple. After all, it was a partnership and François Humbert-Droz’ widow would need to be bought out.
In 1824, an arrangement was made that would allow the family to re-establish the Fontainemelon company under new ownership. The “buildings, machines, and manufactures” of the company were put up for public sale, and the winning bid of “77,807 livres and 17 sols” was put up by none other than Julien Humbert-Droz! He purchased his own company on behalf of a new partnership lead by himself and his son-in-law, Jacob Robert-Tissot. Joining this partnership was Frédéric Robert-Tissot, Jacob’s brother, and Julien Benguerel, son of Humbert-Droz’ original partner Isaac Benguerel. Funding was provided by Antoine Fornachon, scion of a Neuchâtel hardware merchant and investor in many such projects in the Swiss Jura region.
On January 1, 1825, Jacob Robert-Tissot, Frédéric Robert-Tissot, and Julien Benguerel established Robert & Cie., the new owner of the Fontainemelon ebauche manufacture. The company was headquartered in La Chaux-de-Fonds, where Frédéric Robert could work closely with customers, while Jacob Robert-Tissot and Julien Benguerel remained in Fontainemelon to focus on the operation of the factory. Satisfied with this arrangement, Julien Humbert-Droz retired to Neuchâtel.
The company was immediately able to grow production to 60,000 ebauches per year, second-most in the world after Japy in Beaucourt. Although Swiss watchmakers were slow to adopt Lépine’s new design, which was introduced in the 1820s, the French Anabaptist immigrants in the Saint-Imier valley gave Robert & Cie. an outlet for these newfangled ebauches as well. Business was going so well that Robert & Cie. were able to build a “Grande Fabrique” in 1827, which could accommodate 400 workers. This larger building dwarfed the bell-tower factory, which was then just 11 years old.
The new factory was able to produce more of the necessary components of a complete movement, and watchmakers were gradually accepting that more of the work could be done in Fontainemelon. Thus, Robert & Cie. began to offer “rolling” ebauches in this period, which included the required gears, though not yet the springs, balance, or escapement. And these were still very roughly finished, requiring a great deal of hand work before they could be sold. But Lépine’s ideas had taken root and ebauches were increasingly integrated, with all of the components mounted to a main plate, even though pillars were still widely used.
Jacob Robert-Tissot’s business savvy and personal drive made the Fontainemelon operation one of the most important elements of Swiss watchmaking in the 19th century, but more trouble lay ahead. His brother and business partner, Frédéric, died in 1831 after just six years of work, and Jacob was forced to take on his role as factory representative. Unable to split his time, the headquarters were moved back to Fontainemelon, leaving sales and distribution of movements in La Chaux-de-Fonds to partners.
1838: Mass Production in Corgémont
Jacob and Mélanie had started a family in Fontainemelon, but their only son died at the factory at the age of 10. He was caught in the wheels of the oxen mill and crushed. Distraught, Jacob ordered the apparatus to be dismantled, leaving the company to rely only on hand-powered machines. This posed serious production issues.
A competitive challenge arose in the 1830s as well. Seeing the potential for water power, the Eguet brothers took on a large loan and built a new water-powered mill in Corgémont in the Saint-Imier valley. Adding insult to injury, the financing for this new factory came from none other than the Fornachon family of Neuchâtel, who had also financed Jacob’s purchase of the Fontainemelon factory!
Water power was quite rare in Switzerland before the Jura water correction later in the 19th century because the rivers were prone to flooding and the lowlands were dangerous marshes. But the site in Corgémont, along the River Suze, proved ideal. In 1834, the Eguet Frères factory became first large-scale water-powered watch component factory, employing 150 workers with the latest machinery.
After just a decade of running the company, Jacob Robert-Tissot confronted the possibility of failure. But a surprising solution appeared when, in 1837, the Fornachon family called in the Eguet brothers’ loan. They were not satisfied with the commercial prospects of their expensive new mill and offered it for sale.
Liberal revolutionary fervor struck Berne and Neuchâtel in the 1830s, with disastrous results. Watchmakers, who had backed the Neuchâtel plot, were expelled to Besançon in France and the then under-developed Saint-Imier valley. And the bankers of Neuchâtel were worried about their investments there. They moved quickly to consolidate their investments behind leaders like Auguste Agassiz in Saint-Imier and Jacob Robert-Tissot in Fontainemelon. Thus, Robert & Cie. was able to outbid their French rivals, Japy Frères, and purchase the Corgémont mill for 100,000 francs in 1838.
This allowed Jacob Robert-Tissot to resume mechanized production of ebauches, and Robert & Cie. production rose to 200,000 ebauches per year by 1843. The business was profitable enough that it outgrew the Corgémont mill, so a second mill there was purchased in 1850 from the Morel family. 16 years before the construction of the Longines factory in Saint-Imier, Robert & Cie. operated two of the largest factories in Switzerland just down the river!
Robert-Tissot had another issue on his hands regarding his partners. Whether he wanted out or was simply not pulling his own weight, Julien Benguerel was removed in 1842, replaced by François Ramus. That same year, Antoine Fornachon was bought out of the firm, perhaps to protect Robert-Tissot from more competitive shenanigans from the Neuchâtel family who had backed his rivals.
Because his own two children had died young, Jacob Robert-Tissot brought in his nephews, Henri Robert and the Auguste Robert-Tissot to train in the operation of the factory. After following their uncle through school, they became partners in the business in 1846. Confident in the future of his business, Jacob Robert-Tissot retired to Neuchâtel, where he died in 1865.
1846: The Second Generation at Robert & Cie.
Cousins Henri Robert (1823-1896) and Auguste Robert-Tissot (1826-1892) owned and managed Robert & Cie. after Jacob Robert-Tissot, but they were not watchmakers. Indeed, they were quite hands-off, placing David-Samuel Mérillat in charge of the factories while they focused on their investments. When Mérillat’s failing health forced him to retire in 1857 he was replaced by Neuchâtel notary and lawyer Charles-Daniel Colomb (1820-1878). Colomb was removed in August 1860 and replaced by Charles-Edouard Ramus (1838-1900) in February 1861.
The firm of Robert & Cie. produced over a thousand different watch movements in the mid 19th century, though exact records were lost. Many were designed in-house and produced in varying states of completeness, though some followed the particular specifications of customers. The progress in design was dramatic, with machined cocks and bridges becoming the norm and most movements delivered with wheels and screws. But the springs, balance, and escapement were still supplied by other companies, many of whom were appearing throughout the Swiss Jura in the middle of the 19th century.
This was a time of technical change, with the anchor escapement replacing the cylinder and more-integrated ebauches being increasingly in demand. Watchmakers also began experimenting with steam power at this time, with the first steam engines installed in Fontainemelon and Corgémont in 1862.
In 1868, Fontainemelon began offering ebauches with keyless works and it quickly became dominant: Just 10 years later, more than two thirds of the 240,000 ebauches produced by the company featured pendant winding! Another change in this period was the embrace of finissage. Where the company had previously produced rough “kits” that required a great deal of re-work, the factory was now turning out a more-refined product. Although still quite raw in appearance, the ebauches of this period required much less handwork from their watchmaking customers.
1876: Fabrique d’Horlogerie de Fontainemelon (FHF)
Brothers Edouard (1847-1910) and Charles Junod (1855-1919) defined the next phase of the company. Although Henri and Auguste Robert remained in control of the firm though the later half of the century, the Junods were responsible for its success from a technical and product perspective.
Edouard Junod was an experienced and inventive watchmaker, and something of a prodigy. Auguste Robert, also serving as president of the Neuchâtel watchmaking school, selected Junod as the first director of the new institution in 1871 even though he was just 24 years old. Two years later, Robert brought the young watchmaker to Fontainemelon to serve as technical director, a position he would hold for 37 years.
Edouard Junod was responsible for the company’s growth over the following decades, and implemented a system of measurement and control that radically improved the quality of the ebauches coming from the Fontainemelon and Corgémont factories. He also reorganized the manufacturing processes and introduced a new line of standard ebauches from 12 to 22 linges. And most of these used interchangeable components, reflecting the manufacturing revolution that was sweeping the world at that time.
Edouard’s brother Charles Junod joined the firm a decade later, becoming director of the Corgémont site in 1884. Formerly the director of the watchmaking schools in Saint-Imier and La Chaux-de-Fonds, Charles was responsible for the mathematical approach to gearing taught there. In Corgémont, Charles Junod was responsible for modernizing that facility with a hydraulic turbine, a steam engine, and, in 1894, a turbine-powered dynamo to generate electricity. By 1895, the Corgémont factory was providing electric power and public lighting to the entire village!
Not all went according to plan. Seeking to expand production further, the company opened a branch in Aarau, near Basel and Bern in German-speaking Switzerland. But the workers there had no experience of watchmaking and chafed under the supervision of the French-speaking Neuchâteloise overseers. This plant was soon closed and later became a Bally shoe factory.
German-born watchmaker Georges Frederic Roskopf invented an inexpensive pin lever movement after 1860 that would enable high-volume watch production. Needing a manufacturer for his new concept, the La Chaux-de-Fonds based inventor naturally approached Fontainemelon. Although his technology would become the volume leader in Swiss watches within a few decades, the Robert brothers turned down the contract, which only called for a fee of 1 franc per ebauche. Instead, Roskopf gave his order to the Société d’Horlogerie de Malleray in the Bernese Jura, bringing new competition for Fontainemelon.
In 1876, Robert & Cie. was incorporated as a public company, Fabrique d’Horlogerie de Fontainemelon SA (commonly known as FHF). Charles-Edouard Ramus would manage day-to-day operations, with the brothers Henri and Auguste Robert moving to the board of directors.
In November, 1880, FHF registered its trademark, one of the first companies to do so. Embracing William Tell’s prominent role in Swiss identity, the firm used an arrow in an apple. But these marks are often hidden under the cocks and bridges of the movement. Such was the place of the ebauche in the hierarchy of watch branding. Lépine’s ideas had firmly taken hold by this time, with the main plate of the movement now hollowed out to hold the wheels and springs and integrated cocks and bridges replacing pillars and plates.
Through the 1860s, the only major players in industrially-made ebauches were FHF’s factories in Fontainemelon and Corgémont, Japy in Beaucourt, and upstarts Paul-Emile Jaccottet in Travers, the “Grande Fabrique” in Moutier-Grandval, and Rosselet & Challandes in Sonceboz. LeCoultre and Vacheron also manufactured ebauches, but these were specialized high-end pieces rather than high-volume factories.
Serious competition emerged in the 1880s both from integrated manufactures like Longines, Zenith, and Brandt (Omega), as well as dedicated producers like Kocher in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Flury in Bienne, Schlaefli in Selzach, and new factories in Langendorf near Soleure and far off in Arogno. More than a dozen ebauche manufacturers started in the 1890s, including Koller in Malleray, Dubail Monnin Frossard & Cie. in Porrentruy, Boillat in Reconvillier, Charles Hahn & Cie. in Landeron, Häni-Kunzli in Court and La Chaux-de-Fonds, Husson & Retro and Court & Ranaz in Geneva, Jeannin-Rosselet in Fleurier, Juillard in Cortébert, Kummer in Bettlach, Lugrin in l’Orient, Weber in Délémont, and Guerne & Cie. of Pontenet. But none could dethrone the mighty FHF operation!
Commercial director Emile Perrenoud (1852-1935) and technical director Edouard Junod ran FHF through the turn of the century. They successfully leveraged the company’s manufacturing power to hold off all competitors for decades, even as dozens of challengers emerged. When Edouard Junod’s health began to fail, his brother Charles was recalled from Corgémont to take over as technical director in Fontainemelon for the entire firm. Edouard Junod died in 1910, while Charles Junod remained until 1919. Perrenoud retired to the board of directors in 1925 and died ten years later.
Fabrique d’Horlogerie de Fontainemelon and Ebauches SA
Although the Robert name was no longer part of the company’s identity, the stylized “R” was often seen on the ebauche plates. And five generations of the Robert family would operate the factory until the financial shock of the 1980s. The great-nephews of Charles Robert-Tissot, Auguste-Charles Robert-Tissot (1857-1907) and Paul Robert (1863-1940), joined the company management in 1890. They would take the firm in a new direction, with the company at first blocking industry consolidation and then driving it forward. Paul Robert especially became the face of FHF until his death in 1940.
With a large number of upstart ebauche factories springing up around the turn of the century, the industry experienced waves of over-production and pricing shocks. Although many saw the need to cooperation and industrial control, FHF resisted these efforts for decades. It was only the post-war price shock, which shook the Swiss industry to its roots, that spurred FHF to accept outside control. They shocked the industry in 1926 when they voted to explore the concept of a holding company for all ebauche production in Switzerland. On June 25, 1926, FHF agreed in principle to join arch-rivals Adolphe Michel SA (AMSA) and A. Schild SA (SA) of Grenchen in the creation of Ebauches SA. Within a decade this cartel would control 90% of ebauche production in Switzerland and would form the basis for the modern Swatch Group.
Postscript: Five Generations of the Robert Family
Jacob Robert-Tissot married Mélanie Humbert, daughter of Fontainemelon factory founder Julien Humbert-Droz, so he could legitimately be considered to be the second generation of the same family to own it. But his contributions were so great that he is typically thought of as a founder of the firm, despite taking over three decades after its creation. The Robert family would continue to own and operate Fabrique d’Horlogerie de Fontainemelon for 150 years, with five generations represented.
Jacob Robert-Tissot’s nephews Henri Robert and Auguste Robert-Tissot took over the company in 1846, though it was operated by the Charles-Edouard Ramus and then the Junod brothers. Auguste Robert-Tissot died on April 20, 1892, after a long retirement in which he focused on supporting a home for elderly women in Neuchâtel. Henri Robert was hit by a train at the Fahys station in Neuchâtel on February 26, 1896. Although he survived the accident, the 73 year old died soon after. It was reported that he had suffered from depression and “sought death,” and his family gave generously to related causes in his name.
The great-nephews of Charles Robert-Tissot, Auguste-Charles Robert-Tissot and Paul Robert took over in 1890, with the latter being largely responsible for the firm after Auguste died in 1907 at just 50 years old. It was Paul Robert who introduced American-style mass production in 1900, and he switched it entirely to electric power four years later. He was also chairman of the board of directors for Zenith in Le Locle.
In 1912, the fourth Robert generation came to the factory in the person of Maurice Robert (1888-1953), son of Auguste-Charles. He was appointed manager in 1918 and remained in charge until his sudden death in 1953. Management was immediately handed to his son, Denis Robert, who had worked at the company since 1945 and would manage it as the fifth generation of the Robert family through 1982. This coincided with the consolidation of the remaining businesses inside Ebauches SA into three companies: FHF, ETA, and EEM. All of this would be dissolved into SMH (the modern-day Swatch Group) just three years later, with movement operations falling under the new name of ETA.
- David Boettcher – Fabrique d’Horlogerie Fontainemelon (FHF)
- “Fabrique d’ébauches de Corgémont (1834)“, Dictionnaire du Jura
- “Fornachon (Banque)“, Dictionnaire du Jura
- “L’Industrie horlogère suisse“, Journal Suisse d’Horlogerie, August 1879
- “L’Industrie horlogère suisse“, Journal Suisse d’Horlogerie, December 1879
- “L’industrie horlogère dans le Vallon de St-Imier”, Journal Suisse d’Horlogerie, September 1917
- “Charles Junod”, Journal Suisse d’Horlogerie, December 1919
- “La Fabrique d’Horlogerie de Fontainemelon“, l’Impartial, June 2, 1924
- “Un centenaire à Corgémont“, l’Impartial, September 5, 1925
- “la fabrication de l’ébauche dans le canton de Neuchatel“, Feuille d’Avis Neuchâtel, October 2, 1938
- “la fabrique d’horlogerie de Fontainemelon“, La Fédération Horlogère, November 5, 1942
- “Le 150me anniversaire de la fondation de la Fabrique d’horlogerie de Fontainemelon“, La Fédération Horlogère, October 28, 1943
- “La Fabrique de Fontainemelon, 157 Ans d’Existence”, 1950
- “Le Feu Ravage ETA“, l’Impartial, September 6, 1995
- “l’Usine s’ébauche“, l’Express, March 2, 1996
- October 31, 1793: Benguerel-Humbert
- David Benguerel, Isaac Benguerel dit Perroud, François Humbert-Droz, Julien Humbert-Droz
- 1812: Humbert Frères
- François Humbert-Droz (-1824?), Julien Humbert-Droz
- About 1821: Jacob Robert-Tissot marries Mélanie Humbert-Droz and joins the firm
- January 1, 1825: Robert & Cie.
- Jacob Robert-Tissot (1792-1865), Frédéric Robert-Tissot (-1831), Julien Benguerel
- 1838: Purchase of Eguet Frères of Corgémont
- 1842: Benguerel departs the firm
- 1846: Henri Robert (1823-1896) and Auguste Robert-Tissot (1826-1892) join the firm
- 1850: Purchase of the Morel mill in Corgémont
- About 1865: Charles-Edouard Ramus and David-Samuel Mérillat become partners
- About 1870: David-Samuel Mérillat dies
- 1873: Edouard Junod (1847-1910) joins as technical director
- 1876: Fabrique d’Horlogerie de Fontainemelon SA
- 1876: Charles-Edouard Ramus becomes operations manager
- 1884: Charles Junod (1855-1919) becomes director of the Corgémont site
- 1890: Auguste-Charles Robert-Tissot (1857-1907) and Paul Robert (1863-1940) join the firm
- 1900: Paul Robert introduces American-style mass production
- 1907: Auguste-Charles Robert-Tissot dies
- About 1907: Emile Perrenoud becomes commercial director
- 1910: Charles Junod becomes technical director
- 1912: Maurice Robert (1888-1953) joins the firm
- 1918: Maurice Robert is appointed manager
- 1919: Charles Junod dies
- 1925: Emile Perrenoud retires to become a board member
- 1925: Charles Hahn & Cie. (Le Landeron) is merged into FHF, becoming Fabrique d’Horlogerie de Fontainemelon, Succursale du Landeron
- 1926: Ebauches S.A.
- December 27, 1926: FHF is a founding member of Ebauches S.A. along with Adolphe Michel SA and A. Schild SA, both of Grenchen
- March 9, 1940: Paul Robert dies
- 1945: Denis Robert (1925-2001) joins the firm
- December 1, 1951: Otto von Aesch is named technical director and Pierre Fallot becomes administrative director
- 1953: Maurice Robert dies and is replaced by Denis Robert (1925-2001)
- 1954: FHF celebrates the delivery of their 20,000,000th ebauche
- 1955: FHF introduces the “standard grade movement”, the most popular in the world
- 1957: A small factory is opened in Isérables
- 1961: The Fontainemelon factory is renovated
- 1962: The Fontaines factory is opened
- Before 1960s: The Chézard factory is part of FHF
- 1968: The southern Corgémont factory is replaced
- 1968: Pierre Fallot and Otto von Aesch retire on the same day
- 1970s: SEFEA is integrated into FHF with the Annemasse factory
- 1973: The Sion factory is opened
- 1979: FHF introduces the “mini quartz” movement
- April 6, 1979: Peseux, Fleurier, Tavannes, Unitas (Tramelan), and Valjoux (Les Bioux) become subsidiaries of FHF
- 1979: Beaumann (Les Bois) is added
- April 7, 1982: Denis Robert takes early retirement, replaced by Ernst Thomke as Ebauches S.A. reduces autonomy and management to just FHF, ETA, and EEM
- 1982: SEFEA Annemasse is attached to FHF under Charles Porret
- 1983: The Le Landeron factory is closed
- April 1, 1983: The Isérables branch is closed
- 1985: ETA
- 1985: Ebauches SA is dissolved into SMH, becoming ETA SA Fabrique d’Ebauches
- 1995: The Fontainemelon factory is ravaged by fire
Chézard, Sugiez France, Isérables VS, Grimisuat VS, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Fontaines, Corgémont
Births, Marriages, and Deaths
- The life of Jacob Robert-Tissot was early enough that press coverage was spotty. Still, his short death announcement in Feuille d’Avis de Neuchâtel was enough to establish his birth and death dates and wife’s birth as a member of the Humbert-Droz family!
- The circumstances of Auguste Robert-Tissot’s death are well-documented and he earned a long obituary in Feuille d’Avis de Neuchâtel.
- It is curious that La Liberté noted the circumstances of Henri Robert’s death while Feuille d’Avis de Neuchâtel did not.
- It is easy to confuse Auguste-Charles Robert with his predecessor, Auguste Robert-Tissot, since he died young.
- There is little information available about Charles-Daniel Colomb or Charles-Edouard Ramus, though I was able to locate their obituaries, and almost nothing on David-Samuel Mérillat.
- Edouard Junod was rarely mentioned in the Swiss newspapers or horological journals, but I was able to locate a definitive announcement of his death and age. According to genealogical researchers, his first name was actually Ami (as was his father’s) but he went by “Edouard”.
- Strangely, I could find no record of the death of Charles Junod in the Swiss papers, even though he merited a four-page obituary in the Journal Suisse d’Horlogerie. I will assume that their information is correct and reliable since it is so detailed and was published the year of his death.
- Paul Robert earned a long obituary and a story on his funeral in Feuille d’Avis de Neuchâtel, as well as obituaries in l’Impartial and La Fédération Horlogère.
- Auguste Roulet earned a long and detailed obituary that never mentions FHF!
- Emile Perrenoud’s obituary in La Fédération Horlogère shows the esteem he earned in watchmaking circles.
- Maurice Robert was equally well-remembered, with an obituary in Feuille d’Avis de Neuchâtel, l’Impartial, and a mention in La Liberté.
- The career of Denis Robert was well-covered in many Swiss papers, with l’Impartial and Nouvelliste covering his retirement. But it was harder to find his death notice. We are not 100% certain that the 2001 notice in l’Impartial is correct.
- Pierre Fallot’s death notice was easy to find but I found nothing about Otto von Aesch.