Table of Contents
SSIH (Société Suisse pour l'Industrie Horlogére SA) was a group of Swiss watch companies. It was formed in 1930 and merged with ASUAG in 1983, becoming ASUAG-SSIH, then SMH, which was renamed Swatch Group in 1998.
History of the SSIH
Cutthroat competition among watch producers after World War I caused a crisis in the Swiss watch industry. Although the strongest firms had recovered by the late 1920s, there was great concern that the traditional way of watchmaking would not be competitive against high-volume manufacturers in Germany, France, England, and the United States. Omega and Tissot had long been leaders in industrial watchmaking, bringing many aspects under one roof in Bienne and Le Locle, respectively, and saw that a combined company would be stronger in the face of competition.
In 1928, Paul Tissot and Gustave Brandt began discussing a merger or the formation of a holding company. On February 25, 1930, Louis-Gustave and Adrien-Gustave Brandt (president of Omega) joined the board of administration for Tissot, and on March 6, Paul Tissot became a director of Omega. This was preparation for the March 8, 1930 registration of Société Suisse pour l'Industrie Horlogére SA (SSIH), a corporation that would own and operate both companies. The board of this holding company was headed by Adrien Brandt as president and Edouard Tissot (president of the Chambre Suisse) as vice-president, with Ernest Brandt as secretary and Gustave Brandt, Paul-Emile Brandt, Emile Ott, Hermann Flückiger, Charles Tissot, Paul Tissot, and Henry-A. Riecket rounding out the board. The new company was headquartered at Rue du Stand 59 in Geneva. Most of these were added to the boards of Omega and Tissot over the next two years as well.
Through the 1930s, Paul Tissot became Commercial Manager while Gustave Brandt directed distribution and branding. Complicated movement specialist Lemania was added in 1930, as the Great Depression began to impact the Swiss industry.
A similar holding company, ASUAG, was formed by Ebauches SA, along with A. Schild, FHF, and AMSA, in 1931, and the two became dominant over the following decades. While many companies joined ASUAG, SSIH was more selective, with Marc Favre bringing ladies watches, Rayville joining as a compact watch specialist, and Lanco, Aetos, and Est bringing low-cost mass-market watches.
In total, SSIH included 28 companies across 12 countries by the 1960s. It included 76,000 employees and sold watches through 15,000 retailers around the world, making it the third-largest watch company in the world at that time. In 1968, the board of directors hired consulting company McKinsey to evaluate the prospects for SSIH as the watch industry changed in the 1970s, and the firm recommended a functional integration of all companies.
Thanks to its diverse output, SSIH was able to weather the global financial shocks of the 1970s, with Omega and Tissot remaining strong even as the other brands (including Rayville's Blancpain and the various companies of Economic Swiss Time Holding, purchased in 1971) lost market share. Hamilton (added in 1974) would also remain active.
Despite the industry consolidation of the 1960s and 1970s, the rising Swiss franc and advent of international competition forced the Swiss industry to consolidate further. In 1980, Nicolas G. Hayek recommended that SSIH merge with ASUAG and weaker components be spun off or shut down. On May 23, 1983, the merger of ASUAG and SSIH was announced, and ASUAG-SSIH was formed in December. A larger holding company, SMH, was created in 1985, and this would be the predecessor for the modern Swatch Group.
- 1930 - Omega and Tissot form a holding company, SSIH, with Paul Tissot as Commercial Manager and Gustave Brandt directing branding and distribution.
- 1971 - Economic Swiss Time Holding (ESTH) is integrated with the budget watch brands AGON, Buler, Continental, and Ferex. With the advent of electronic watches in the “quartz crisis'' of the 1970s, mechanical watch revenues of the SSIH group fall massively.
- 1980 - Management consultant Nicolas G. Hayek is commissioned by creditor banks to restructure the group. This provides the impetus for the merger of SSIH with the competing companies in the ASUAG group. This company becomes known as SMH. Crucial to its survival, and subsequently a great success, is the launch of the Swatch as trend watch.
- 1981 - Blancpain is sold to Jean-Claude Biver and Jacques Piguet of Frédéric Piguet
- 1998 - SMH is renamed Swatch Group.
A 1970 list of members included the following
A 1978 list of members included the following