Etablissage is a method of watch manufacturing where existing components are assembled rather than manufactured from raw materials.
The mountains of the Swiss Jura were a desperately poor region without raw materials. The manufacture of watches there began in the 18th century in small workshops and at home. Most of these home workers had previously been working in textile processing, but became unemployed due to automation of English textile production, increased tariffs and a decline in domestic demand. Rather than build large factories, these workers assembled components of watches and movements at home for delivery to workshops to then be combined into finished products This assembly of watches from purchased components is called "établissage" in French.
This type of home production was so efficient that it dominated watch manufacturing in Switzerland dominated until the end of the 19th century. Additionally, it resulted in reasonably high quality products, with the watchmaking knowledge gained through this kind of work contributing to the rise of Swiss watchmaking and its international reputation.
Today, a company is known as an etablisseur if it combines finished components into a product rather than producing the components in-house. It is the opposite of today's manufacture movement, where watch components are built from raw materials inside a company's facilities.
There are four main methods of manufacturing watches:
- Mass production applies modern manufacturing principles to produce many watches
- A manufacture builds some or all components in-house, mainly by hand and in a smaller workshop environment
- An etablisseur buys completed components and brings them together into a finished watch
- An OEM (original equipment manufacturing) model sees the production outsourced to another manufacture or mass-producer