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Coopérative de Fabricants Suisses d'Horlogerie

The Coopérative de Fabricants Suisses d'Horlogerie (“Cooperative of Swiss Watch Manufacturers” or FH) was a group of smaller Swiss watch manufacturers formed in 1960 to enable them to compete in the increasingly vertical manufacturing environment of the 1960s. The cooperative produced watch movements and complete watches under their own names, under contract for others, and using the historic shared brand, Jaquet-Droz.

History

The cooperative was founded on April 4, 1960 and based in Lausanne, Switzerland. It was specifically designed to allow the numerous small member manufacturers to compete with major concerns, including ASUAG and Ebauches SA. From the beginning, the FH was lead by Charles Virchaux, who would remain in charge for two decades.

By 1964, the group claimed 145 watch manufacturers as members, combining orders for over 4 million watch movements. It set up two production lines in Lausanne to produce watch movements as well as a “control centre” in Bienne to ensure quality. The FH operated quietly for the first five years before launching its own brand.

The FH announced the Jaquet-Droz brand in 1965 and launched it worldwide in 1966. The trademark had been held by a small firm, Jaquet Droz SA, which dissolved in 1963. The FH created a “collection” of watches contributed by member manufacturers under this brand. These watches were marked “Jaquet-Droz” on the dial and distributed and marketed by the cooperative, but were designed and developed by individual companies. This gave the new brand instant across the entire spectrum of the market and allowed it to compete with the largest manufacturers. Jaquet-Droz was marketed using a red arrow logo with the phrase, “150 Fabriques = 1 Marque” to explain this unique structure.

By 1969, the FH claimed annual revenue of over 54 million Swiss francs and began a restructuring. It was transformed into a more-conventional “Société Anonyme” (Parsicor Holding SA of Bienne) with 135 shareholding member firms. Some of these firms would be integrated into Parsicor, while others would remain semi-autonomous. Jaquet-Droz claimed the largest collection of watches on the market at that time, over 2000 models by 1973, but this was also a problem as many were dissimilar in style or conflicted. The new company resolved to reduce the number of offerings and variety of movements used.

Although the slogan, “150 manufacturers - 1 brand” was used, the FH claimed only 146 manufacturers for most of hits history. It was unable to attract new companies to join and marketing faltered. The cooperative stuck with “high grade lever watches” through 1974, still claiming production of over 7,000 movements per day, before switching to quartz, primarily their compact 32 Hz movement, JD 1501.

In 1974, the organization was re-formed as a corporation. Société Anonyme de Fabricants Suisses d'Horlogerie (SAH) gradually absorbed many of the previous manufacturers, with the slogan modified to be “150 factories” instead. The initials SAH were used on the dials of some watches, including third party watches built for Orfina and others.

The group remained active through the 1980s, with 90 companies still counted as members in 1980. by this time, the company claimed to be creating 2,000 movements per day in Lausanne and Sierre, and the company had diversified with two additional brands Blita and Monitor. The last gasp of Jaquet-Droz of Bienne was an appearance at the Basel Fair in 1983. This was in association with Boillat, which had apparently been merged with SAH in 1977. But the SAH continued for a while longer, celebrating its 25th anniversary in 1985. By this time, Charles Virchaux had stepped down as President, replaced by Georges Ulmann. Michel Ditisheim was then president of Parsicor Holding SA.

The Jaquet Droz brand was re-launched by an unrelated group in 1993. This was purchased by Swatch Group in 2000 and is part of their Prestige and Luxury banner along with Breguet and Blancpain.

References

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cooperative_de_fabricants_suisses_d_horlogerie.txt · Last modified: 11.10.2021 17:20 (external edit)

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