Société Anonyme de Produits Industriels et Commerciaux
The LeCoultre family formed Société Anonyme de Produits Industriels et Commerciaux (SAPIC) in 1927 as a holding company for their various watchmaking interests including their watchmaking operation in Le Sentier and watch sales and distribution company in Geneva. Majority ownership in SAPIC was held by Jacques-David LeCoultre. In 1937, SAPIC purchased the Paris-based Etablissements Ed. Jaeger, creating Jaeger-LeCoultre.
In 1937, many watchmakers, including Vacheron & Constantin and Jaeger-LeCoultre, were recovering from the Great Depression but were unprepared to meet surging demand for watches. The boards of the companies decided to swap shares to bring Vacheron & Constantin under this holding company, with greater resources and access to capital for investment.
At that time, VC management joined the company as well, including Charles Constantin, marketing director Georges Ketterer and administrative director Paul Lebet. Ketterer purchased Constantin's stake in 1940, taking control of the company away from the Constantin family for the first time. On Lebet's death in 1945, Ketterer became head of Vacheron & Constantin within SAPIC. Chairmanship of SAPIC fell to Roger LeCoultre in 1948 on the death of his father, Jacques-David, but Ketterer continued to amass shares and control of the company, becoming CEO that same year. In 1965, George Ketterer traded his shares of SAPIC for outright control of Vacheron & Constantin, dissolving the partnership between the two companies.
The result of this combination was quite successful for both companies. Jaeger-LeCoultre focused on creating movements, shipping ebauches to Vacheron & Constantin for finishing. This sourcing arrangement would remain in place long after SAPIC was dissolved. Indeed, Vacheron Constantin today still uses some Jaeger-LeCoultre movement designs and the two companies have reunited under Richemont since 2000.
- See Also LMH
SAPIC became SAPHIR in 1965 on the exit of Vacheron & Constantin and was sold to the Favre family in 1969. This brought Jaeger-LeCoultre and Favre-Leuba together under a similar arrangement. Difficult financial conditions in the 1970s meant trouble, and 65% of Jaeger-LeCoultre was sold to VDO Automotive in 1978 and the company was restructured. In 1981, SAPHIR purchased the watch distribution and brand of Jaeger, which had been spun off as a separate concern the prior year. This was renamed Jaeger-LeCoultre France, resolving 50 years of confusion over the name.
In 1986, Audemars Piguet, who used many Jaeger-LeCoultre movements, purchased 40% of SAPHIR from VDO, 25% from the Ketterer family, and 20% from financial institutions. Gunther Blumlein of VDO saw the potential in the rebounding watch industry, and reorganized the watch operations of VDO, including SAPHIR, together as Les Manufactures Horologères (LMH) that same year.