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ASUAG (“Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhrenindustrie AG”, French “Société Générale de l'Horlogerie Suisse”) was a group of Swiss watch companies formed to protect the industry from financial collapse in 1931 and which became part of SMH (now the Swatch Group) in 1985.
Like SSIH, ASUAG was a grouping of independent Swiss watch and component companies. Although they joined together under this umbrella, they remained quite independent. ASUAG allowed the companies jointly to set pricing and limit exports, reducing competition and increasing profitability of the industry. It also acted to push for mergers of smaller member companies as needed to support production.
During World War I, many Swiss watch component makers turned to production of armaments and ammunition. This provided much-needed employment and financial resources and allowed many to grow. But after the war, when these companies turned back to watch production, their newfound strength led to a glut of product on the market. Soon, the component makers especially began to undercut each other, “dumping” product in America just to keep operating. When the great depression hit, the industry was greatly in debt and over-extended. The drop was dramatic Swiss watch exports fell in value from 307 million Swiss francs in 1929 to 86 million in 1932, while the average price of Swiss watch movements was reduced from 13 Swiss francs to 7 in 1935.
The Swiss banks invested in ASUAG as a way to rebuild stability in the Swiss Swiss watch industry, and the group was founded on August 14, 1931. They invited many of the ebauche and parts manufacturers to join the group and set limits on pricing, production, and exports. The initial talks to form the Société Générale de l'Industrie Horlogère Suisse were held in July on 1931 at the direction of the Swiss banks, the FH, the UBAH, and Ebauches SA. The group would include Ebauches SA (which by that point included a dozen of the strongest ebauche makers) as well as makers of assortments, balance wheels, and hairsprings. At a meeting on August 14 at the Banquet Cantonale Neuchâteloise, the Société Générale de l'Horlogerie Suisse or Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhrenindustrie AG was officially organized with 10 million Swiss francs of share capital. The board of directors included bankers, Ernest Strahm of Zenith, Ebauches SA, and makers of components including Fabriques de Spiraux Réunies, with M. Hermann Obrecht as President. Longines, Mildia, Kummer, and Schild Frères were involved in the creation but were not represented in management.
In addition to Ebauches SA, ASUAG was founded by Fabriques de Spiraux Réunies (FSR), a holding company for makers of balance springs. Two more such holding companies were quickly registered: Fabriques d'Assortiments Réunies (FAR) was registered on September 9, 1932, and Fabriques de Balanciers Réunies (FBR) on October 24, FAR was composed of many makers of balance springs and was headquartered in Le Locle. FBR was a holding company for balance wheels and other small mechanical components and was located in Ponts-de-Martel nearby.
By the 1970's, ASUAG was the world's largest producer of watch movements and components.
- 1931 - Ebauches SA is a founding member of ASUAG. It includes A. Schild, FHF, and AMSA.
- 1932 - Gebrüder Schild & Co is divided into two parts within ASUAG Watch production was reorganized as Eterna SA under General Watch Co., while the movement manufacture ETA SA Fabrique d'Ebauches (ETA) became part of Ebauches SA.
- 1932 - Fabriques d'Assortiments Réunies is created as a holding company for makers of assortments.
- 1932 - Fabriques de Balanciers Réunies is created as a holding company for makers of balance wheels.
- 1932 - Fleurier Watch Co. is split, with movements going to Ebauches SA.
- 1932 - Auguste Reymond is split, with movements (Unitas) going to Ebauches SA and watches (ARSA) in ASUAG.
- 1932 - Manzoni, Moser, and ED Kummer become part of Ebauches SA.
- 1933 - Peseux SA becomes part of Ebauches SA.
- 1941 - Derby becomes part of Ebauches SA.
- 1944 - Valljoux SA becomes part of Ebauches SA.
- 1948 - Eterna produces its first automatic watch, the Eterna-Matic.
- 1966 - ASUAG creates Chronos Holding SA, which took over the newly-defunct Cyma and Tavannes brands, as well as taking a stake in Gruen.
- 1967 - Ebauches SA creates Ebauches Electronic SA and begins production of quartz crystals, integrated circuits, and other electronic watch components.
- 1968 - ASUAG creates Pierre Holding SA in Bienne for member manufacturers of watch jewels.
- 1968 - Chronos Holding creates Synchron, which includes Cyma, Doxa, and Ernest Borel.
- 1974 - General Watch Co. is expanded with five more companies added.
- 1979 - ETA SA and A. Schild (AS) are merged to become the modern ETA (Fabrique d'Ebauches ETA. SA) and movement production is focused from 136 to just 40.
- 1979 - ASUAG becomes a majority shareholder in Statek Corporation USA, which produces quartz crystals and electronic components.
- 1980 - Synchron is sold, including Doxa, and Ernest Borel.
- 1981 - One more company is added to General Watch Co.
- 1982 - Eterna is sold to PCW (Porsche Design) and then to International Volant (now Citychamp) in 2012.
- 1984 - Auguste Reymond is spun out in a management buy-out.
- 1985 - A massive reorganization of the Swiss watch industry results in the creation of SMH (Swiss Corporation for Microelectronics and Watchmaking Industries Ltd) as a holding company for Asuag-SSIG and all of its components.
Merger with SSIH into SMH
The quartz crisis of the 1970's greatly affected ASUAG, with production falling by 80% and many companies in crisis. It was merged with SSIH to become Asuag-SSIH in 1983 and finally SMH in 1985. Unlike ASUAG, SMH sought aggressively to merge companies and reduce costs. All watch movement was consolidated into ETA, formerly the watch movement arm of Eterna.
Numerous watch brands were shut down or spun out of SMH due to market overlap. The following would no longer continue
- Auguste Reymond (Independent by management buy-out in 1984)
- Eterna (Sold to PCW (Porsche Design) and then to International Volant (now Citychamp) in 2012)
- Rotary (Management buy-out to become part of Dreyfuss Group Holdings, which was purchased by China Haidian in 2014)
- Technos (Now part of Technos Brazil and no longer Swiss Made)
SMH was renamed Swatch Group in the 1990's and is today the largest Swiss watch company.
The companies joining ASUAG mainly fell into two categories
- Watch companies became part of General Watch Co. after 1971
Ebauches SA would be the holding company for most watch movement and component production under ASUAG, Asuag-SSIH, and SMH. Most of these operations were merged into the modern ETA in 1979, with the remainder added in 1982. Nearly all of these companies, along with their factories, are now part of ETA or are defunct.
- A. Schild (founded Ebauches SA in 1926)
- FHF (founded Ebauches SA in 1926)
- Charles Hahn & Cie (joined between 1926 and 1928)
- Ad. Michel (joined between 1926 and 1928)
- Guerrin-Bourquin & Cie (joined between 1926 and 1928)
- Felsa (joined between 1926 and 1928)
- Venus (joined between 1926 and 1928)
- Unitas/A. Reymond (joined between 1926 and 1928)
- ETA SA (joined 1932)
- Fleurier Watch Co. (joined 1932)
- Peseux (joined 1932)
- Derby (joined 1941)
- Valjoux (joines (1944)
- EEM (joined 1982)
- SEFEA (joined 1982)
- Annemasse (joined 1982)
- Durowe (joined 1982)
General Watch Co.
ASUAG also included a subsidiary for vendors of complete watches, General Watch Co. Ltd. (GWC). This is a literal translation of the German expansion of ASUAG's name “Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhrenindustrie AG” means “General Swiss Clock (or Watch) Company.”
General Watch included the following brands
- Auguste Reymond S.A. (Brands Arsa, Damas and Hoga) (spun out after 1977)
- Certina (Still part of Swatch Group)
- Diantus (defunct)
- Dynasty (defunct)
- Endura (Still part of Swatch Group, private label brand)
- Eterna (spun out)
- Hamilton (Still part of Swatch Group)
- Longines (Still part of Swatch Group)
- Microma (defunct)
- Mido (Still part of Swatch Group)
- Oris (spun out)
- Rado (Still part of Swatch Group)
- Roamer (spun out)
- Rotary Watches (spun out after 1977)