Universo is a Swiss maker of watch hands. Now part of the Swatch Group, Universo was founded in 1909 to consolidate the many independent makers, an effort that was mirrored in the creation of many groups in following decades.
Universo was founded on July 1, 1909, and brought together 14 factories, all focused on producing watch hands. This followed similar attempts in 1890 and 1900. Universo was a way to set aside the ruthless competition then sweeping the industry and allow them to focus on quality and serving the new, larger, mechanized watch factories appearing in Switzerland. The company was located in La Chaux-de-Fonds at Rue Numa-Droz 83.
Universo's advertising frequently mentioned the number of factories participating, but this number varied dramatically over time. A 1916 ad, for example, boasts “14 fabriques reunies” (“14 united factories”) but then lists 12 factories specifically, 7 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, 3 in Fleurier, and 2 in Bienne. It also included an “Atelier de Finissage” at that time. By 1920, just 11 factories were listed, a few with different names. There were 13 factories in 1923, 20 in 1927, and 34 in 1934.
Universo's main office remained at 83-85 Rue Numa Droz for over 40 years, but in 1955 the company moved. This new facility was on the main boulevard through La Chaux-de-Fonds, Rue Leopold-Robert 82. This would be their main office for decades, but the company soon expanded production. In 1959, celebrating their 50th anniversary, Universo built “three towers” at Rue du Locle 28, just a few blocks down from their headquarters. This would be the symbolic home of the company for 50 more years, until 2015 when they moved to a modern facility outside the city formerly the home to the Energizer battery company.
By 1967, Universo was clearly the largest producer of watch hands in the world and also produced drill bits and tooling for the industry. A 1970 article in Europa Star mentions 37 locations plus the La Chaux-de-Fonds headquarters, with the company also involved in polishing, screw cutting, hard metal work, materials science and research, and the operation of two watch assembly factories in Besançon and Vallorbe.
In the late 1970s, Universo was active in developing watch movements as well, introducing their own quartz watch movement at the Basel Fair in 1980. This movement featured a locking stepper motor designed to drive heavier and longer hands with stability, supporting the sale of their primary product. Cal. 4000 measured 8.75 ligne in diameter and used a pusher to set the time.
On June 9, 2000, Universo shareholders agreed for company to be purchased by Swatch Group. The group already accounted for over 50% of Universo's sales at the time, but the company continued to supply LVMH, Richemont, and LMH.
Swatch purchased the former home of the American Energizer battery company outside La Chaux-de-Fonds in 2011. After a long construction process, Universo moved from their other offices, including the “three towers,” to this new facility in 2015.