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.
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
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
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.
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