Portescap was the common name for Le Porte-Echappement Universel SA, the maker of Incabloc, Triovis, Vibrograf and other watch-related devices. Today, Portescap SA continues as a maker of miniature electric motors while Incabloc SA, a separate company, continues in the watchmaking field.
Founded in 1931 as Le Porte-Echappement Universel SA, Portescap introduced the famous Incabloc shock protection system in 1933. The company was founded by Frédéric “Fritz” Marti, with Georges Braunschweig, owner of the Election watch company, joining soon after his family firm went bankrupt in 1931. Portescap was located across the street from Election's massive factory in La Chaux-de-Fonds, and Braunschweig would lead the company to become a dominant factory in the city.
Fritz Marti was a prolific inventor, having patents for numerous inventions including electric clocks and watch cases in the 1920s and 1930s. His system, which would become known as Incabloc, used cone-shaped jewel and distinctive lyre-shaped spring embedded in an easy to apply chaton. The system was extremely successful, and Portescap encouraged or required companies to use the Incabloc name widely, including adding it to the dial of watches so equipped. In 1938, the double-cone shock protection system was introduced, which remains dominant today.
In just 15 years, it came so synonymous with anti-shock devices that the company was forced to take aggressive legal action against competitors and counterfeiters. Competing systems, notably KIF from Parechoc, were eventually able to offer similar performance without the advertising and dial labeling requirements. Portescap also produced testing equipment throughout the 1950s under the Vibrograf brand. With high-beat watches appearing, Portescap introduced the Triovis fine regulator in 1968.
Georges Braunschweig turned over management of Portescap to his son, Philippe Braunschweig, in 1960. He had been deeply involved with the company for many years, and would lead it for decades. Georges remained Chairman of the Board until 1973 and died in 1975 at the age of 83.
By 1970, Portescap was the largest employer in La Chaux-de-Fonds but had diversified into the production of electric motors and linear actuators. These would find use throughout the Swiss quartz watch market, making Portescap as important to high-end quartz movements as it had been to mechanical movements.
Portescap introduced a lower-priced alternative in 1974, Antichoc 2000. This used a synthetic material as both bushing and anti-shock membrane, replacing the cone jewel entirely. A later addition was Novodiac, a lower-priced jewel-set shock absorber with a three-leaf clover look reminiscent of KIF Trior.
In 1987, Portescap divested the watch testing market to Greiner, and the company divested Incabloc and other watch shock absorber technologies the following year. Incabloc SA, founded in 1988, received the equipment and some staff and began a new era of production in La Chaux-de-Fonds. In 2003, Incabloc became entirely independent of Portescap, which continued to focus on DC motors.