History of ETA
ETA SA Manufacture Horlogère Suisse was formed from a number of independent factories that were set up at the end of the 18th century.
This historical account gives a brief view of the development of the chief companies in the group and of the products which still today make up the most important part of our range.
At Fontainemelon (Neuchâtel), Isaac and David Benguerel, Julien and François Humbert-Droz set up the first factory to make ébauches (movement blanks).
Fabriques d'Horlogerie de Fontainemelon (FHF) built its first factory
Purchase of Corgémont factory in order to benefit from the hydraulic energy provided by the River Suze.
At Grenchen, Urs Schild, a schoolmaster, and Dr. Girard set up an ébauches factory which was to be the first watch factory in the canton of Solothurn and the origin of ETA.
The first steam engine was built at FHF.
ETA expanded its operations to make complete watches, thus becoming a «Manufacture». FHF, now a limited company, had 400 employees and produced 240 000 ébauches per year.
Adolf Schild-Hugi set up the AS ébauches factory in Grenchen. He began with 19 employees and produced 12½´´´ cylinder calibre and pin-pallet ébauches.
Paul Robert equipped a whole FHF workshop with new American machines to make tools, some of which were unknown in Europe until then. In this way he introduced a spirit of industrial innovation in the company which is still seen today
At AS (Grenchen) the first jewelled-lever ébauches were produced. Building no 2 was constructed.
FHF produced 1 million ébauches with 1'030 employees.
Interchangeability of parts was used for the first time in the watch industry by AS, AS also won a Gold Medal at the National Exhibition in Berne.
The first AS automatic watch, based on the Harwood system, was manufactured. The work force reached a figure of 2'100. ETA, AS and FHF took part with other companies in the creation of Ebauches SA
Ebauches SA created a social fund which was to serve as the basis for the employees' future Pension Fund.
Start of the Second World War. The production of ébauches was kept going in all the factories in spite of enormous difficulties.
ETA established itself as the leading manufacturer of ébauches for automatic movements
Creation of the Foundation in favour of the personnel of Ebauches SA.
Creation of Ebauches SA's independent Pension Fund providing compensation in case of death as well as pensions for men from the age of 65 and women from 60.
ETA and Eterna set up the first workshop for apprentices in the watch industry.
FHF introduced the principle of cutting stems and pinions on an automatic lathe and later granted Tornos a licence for this technology.
Ebauches SA controlled nearly 20 production and sales companies. Complete ranges of products were offered to the «établisseurs» (assemblers) at published tariffs
FHF developed simple, reliable and low-price mechanical calibres designed for mass production. They were later named «Standard calibres».
FHF introduced the first electronically-controlled linear transfer machine for making main plates. The Fontainemelon East factory was built for the Mechanical Engineering department.
The three large companies affiliated to Ebauches SA - AS, ETA and FHF - employed over 5'500 people. Each of the companies had its own product range.
FHF built a new factory at Fontaines for the manufacture of pinions.
At ETA, the first movements for men's automatic watches with day, date and rapid correction were made.
FHF celebrated its 175th anniversary: the factory employed 1'450 people.
The first ladies' electronic balance wheel movement, calibre 9200, was developed and a new factory at Corgémont built to profile-turn parts on automatic lathes.
ETA took over the Felsa ébauches factory at Grenchen. Jewel-setting was automated: a breakthrough in the watch industry.
At Ebauches Electroniques Marin (EEM), manufacture of first quartz movements with digital and analog displays started
The first ladies' automatic movements including day, date and rapid corrector were made at ETA.
FHF opened the Sion factory to manufacture mechanical parts. Tape transfer machines, combining blanking and milling, started operating.
ETA brought out the men's flattest automatic mechanical movement, with centre second, date and rapid correction, to be mass-produced (calibre 2892). Manufacture of integrated circuits began at EEM, ensuring the group's technological independence.
The effect of the world recession was felt. ETA employees were retrained internally to make quartz movements. ETA launched the first Flatline quartz movement with date and centre second, with a height of 3.6 mm (calibre 940).
ETA and AS merged. The calibre range was replanned.
Production of tuning fork quartz resonators began at ETA's diversification department which was to become Micro Crystal.
The «Delirium», the world's flattest quartz watch, with a height of 1.98 mm was produced following revolutionary principles, with the movement integrated into the case-back.
FHF brought out the mini-quartz, the world's smallest movement.
The ladies' «Delirium» model and the world's first watch measuring less than one millimetre (Delirium IV, 0.98 mm) made their appearance.
The number of ETA employees reached 2'200.
ETA Grenchen celebrated its 125th anniversary. Two new movements were added to the quartz range.
«Flatline II» now had a height of 2.5 mm.
The 9´´´ Elegance calibre 210, with a height of less than one millimetre, was launched.
Due to the economic situation, the ETA, FHF and EEM organizations were simplified. The general management was established in Grenchen, with marketing at Marin and the chief production units at Grenchen, Fontainemelon, Sion, Les Bioux and Marin.
In November, «SWATCH», a fashion watch made of synthetic material and based on an integrated system, produced and sold by ETA, was successfully launched in the United States.
The success of «SWATCH» was confirmed on the European markets.
«Flatline III», a line of products that are flatter than 2 mm was launched.
The rapprochement between the two big watch groups
- SSIH Société Suisse de l'Industrie Horlogère SA, including watch factories and manufactures and
- Asuag Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhrenindustrie AG, a producer of piece parts and watches with its own brands
was realized at the end of 1983 on the industrial advice of Nicolas G. Hayek, HAYEK ENGINEERING SA, Zurich. The new company resulting of the merger has taken the following names:
- 1984: Asuag-SSIH Société Suisse pour l'Industrie Horlogère SA and
- 1985: SMH Société Suisse de Microélectronique et d'Horlogerie SA.
End of the internal reorganization: ETA SA Fabriques d'Ebauches took in all the activities done before by Ebauches SA and employed more than 4'000 people.
The 10 millionth SWATCH was produced in September.
On the whole, more than 44 million pieces have been produced. The transfer machines of the plant of Fontainemelon were celebrating their 25th anniversary.
The installation of a new automated assembly line for SWATCH significantly increased production capacity for this mass consumption watch.
Total production reached 47.5 million units.
ETA produced the Rock Watch marketed by Tissot and launched the ECOLINE family.
The TwoTimer, distributed by Tissot, a combined multifunction watch with an analog and digital display and an integrated case, started coming off the robotized production lines of ETA.
The FLATLINE range was extended by adding the «Old Timer» specialities, with a choice of moon phases, centre date hand, and month and day indicated by 2 small hands.
ETA launched the FlikFlak watch for young children.
The 50 millionth SWATCH was produced.
ETA launched a revolutionary line of quartz chronograph movements whose most complex model, with 5 motors and dual display, measured the time to 1/100 second (calibre family 251).
ETA engineers developed a new mechanical movement with perpetual calendar (calibre 2890). First SWATCH chronographs came out of production.
ETA engineers presented a new electronic quartz movement with perpetual calendar programmed up to the year 2099 (calibre 252).
The «Viatech», a round, non-repairable multifunction quartz watch with analog and digital display, distributed by Tissot, started coming off the ETA production lines.
The first SWATCH automatic mechanical models were launched in the European markets.
Fabriques de Fournitures FFB of Bonnétage (F) joined the ETA group.
On 7th April, the 100 millionth SWATCH came off the ETA production line, an event widely reported by the media.
Michel SA and SMH Engineering SA became part of ETA SA. Production at the former components factory «Vénus» in Moutier was started again.
ETA bought up Parrenin factory in Villers-le-Lac (France), which was integrated into FFB (F).
Many new products were launched, f.ex. the SWATCH Pager (Tone-Only and digital versions) and the Stop SWATCH. The following new calibres were introduced for the traditional clientele:- very flat 8¾´´´ automatic movement - 2000
- Ecoline 800 - 805 family of quartz movements of synthetic material.
For Ulysse Nardin, ETA fitted the Mecaline 11½´´´ calibre 2892-2 with three special mechanisms, a micromechanical marvel.
With the development of a miniaturized stepping motor for dashboard instruments, ETA launched out into the promising automotive market amongst others under the name oftec.
The race to innovate continued for SWATCH with the launching of the following new products:
- a chronograph displaying 1/10th second and calendar
- Aqua Chrono water-resistant to 200 m
- SWATCH the Beep pager (450 MHz).
The Normflatline 6¾´´´ - 8´´´ quartz calibre 902 was launched, ideally combining metal and synthetic material.
A very substantial investment was made to reinforce the production facilities, notably for the automated assembly of SWATCH watches and mass consumption quartz movements.
Diantus, the watch and movement assembly facility, was set up in its new Mendrisio factory.
1993 marked the 50th anniversary of the training of apprentices and the announcement of a year of ecology in ETA.
ETA now had 15 factories intzerland, 3 in France, 1 in Germany, Thailand and Malaysia, a total of 21.
In October, the first watch cases of stainless steel for SWATCH came off the production lines, using the MIM technology (Metal Injection Moulding).
A new system of thermocompensation was built into 6 FLATLINE 8¼´´´, 10½´´´ and 11½´´´ movements. This system improves precision 20-fold as compared to a standard quartz movement. The 11½´´´ 252.611 calibre also has a perpetual calendar (programmed up to the year 2099), a time-zone mechanism and a battery end-of-life indicator, and runs on a lithium 3V battery (life-span 10 years).
On 1st August, ETA opened a sales office in South Korea.
On 5th September, a fire completely destroyed the southern section of the production unit at Fontainemelon.
Innovation: An important task facing ETA for SWATCH, which launched the following models:
- SWATCH Loomi with a multicoloured, luminous dial
- SWATCH Solar fitted with solar cells
- SWATCH Irony with an aluminium alloy case
- SWATCH Irony chronograph version with a fitted case in stainless steel (MIM)
- SWATCH Access Control can be programmed with individual ski pass data for easy access to ski lifts.
On 20th January, ETA Thailand officially opened its new watch-parts factory which has an overall surface area of 7,136 m2.
The beginning of March saw the laying of the foundation stone for the new wing of the production unit in Fontainemelon, which had been destroyed by fire the year before.
At the Basle Fair ETA introduced some major new products, including:
- the ETA Autoquartz 11½´´´ movement (205.111), the «automatic movement with the precision of quartz», marketed first by Tissot, and
- the automatic chronograph 12½´´´ movement (2894-2) which is only 6.10 mm high.
Wearing a SWATCH Access, thess astronaut Claude Nicollier orbited the earth 251 times, clocking up 6.5 million kilometres. Upon his return he presented it to Nicolas G. Hayek, Chairman of SMH, in perfect condition.
The 200 millionth SWATCH came off the assembly line at ETA only 4 years after the 100 millionth model.
ETA now had 15 factories intzerland, 2 in France, 1 in Germany, Thailand, Malaysia and as of this year also in China. The newly built southern section of the production unit in Fontainemelon, destroyed by fire in 1995, was officially opened.
Several important novelties were added to the movement range of ETA:
- The 11½´´´ ETA AUTOQUARTZ 205.911 calibre with an autonomy of 100 days
- The 11½´´´ ETA 955.812 movement with a solar cell integrated into the dial and a lithium ion accumulator, which increases the autonomy to 100 days
- The multifunction quartz chronograph 10½´´´ ETA 251.471 for ladies' watches
- The quartz movements 4 7/8´´´ ETA E01.001 and E01.401 (24H), with a height of 2.60 mm they are among the smallest movements on the market
Important innovations were realized also for SWATCH:
- SWATCH Skin, the flattest plastic watch on the market with a height of 3.95 mm only
- The new models «Big» and «Scuba» of the SWATCH Irony line, made of aluminium and equipped with a luminous dial
- Two new SWATCH Automatic models in standard and skeleton version, the case being made of stainless steel and produced in the MIM process (Metal Injection Moulding)
- The new SWATCH Access models «Pop Midi» and «Access Scuba» with a transponder and additional functions
- Two different alarms, the perpetual calendar and the luminescent dial further improved the performance of the SWATCH Pager Box.
Michel, a division of ETA, received the «Best Improver Award» from Philips for their first-class quality as a supplier of components for razors.
First year of activity in the new production unit Zhuhai SMH Watchmaking Company Ltd. (China).
ETA concentrated the entire stock of movements and parts in a new modern building in Grenchen.
ETA put the following new products on the market:
- The round calibre ECOLINE 10½´´´ ETA 804.191 with 12-hour analog alarm and hour, minute, second and date display.
- The calibre ECOLINE «ss Made» 13¼´´´ ETA G10.711 is a chronograph made of plastic, equipped with an analog display of hours, minutes, small second and date as well as with ADD and SPLIT chronograph functions. This calibre offers new perspectives to the big family of ECOLINE products.
- The calibre NORMFLATLINE 5½´´´x 6¾´´´ ETA E03.001, 1.35 mm high, is a movement for jewel-watches displaying hours and minutes.
- ETA applied for a patent for the invention of «ETASTABLE», a procedure consisting of a thermic treatment of the balance spiral spring, which considerably improves the shock-resistance of mechanical movements.
Equally important novelties in the field of SWATCH:
- The «SWATCH Autoquarz»: the first quartz SWATCH with a micro-generator charging an accumulator.
- With the new «SWATCH Irony Scuba 200» a new product line was created, whose characteristics are its revolutionary design, water-resistance until 200 meters and its light weight thanks to the aluminium case.
- The new «SWATCH Chrono Alarm» offers an alarm function – 12-hour alarm in addition to the traditional chronograph functions. The watch displays hours, minutes, seconds, date, alarm time and chronometers minutes, seconds and 1/10 seconds.
- SWATCH invented the «BEAT» or internet time. This occasion has given the «SWATCH BEAT» world-wide exclusivity. In addition to its numerous functions, it incorporates the new concept of internet time.
1998 also included important events such as:
- The creation of an ETA web site with the address www.eta.ch.
- June 1998: The «Société Suisse de Microélectronique et d’Horlogerie SA» or SMH changed its name and became «The Swatch Group Ltd».
- 1998 was also the year of quality with the following ISO certifications: ETA Hong Kong, ETA Pforzheim, MICHEL, a division of ETA,TEC, a division of ETA.
ETA completed the family of Autoquartz movements with the calibre 8¾´´´ 204.911, which is the world’s smallest movement with 3 hands and date among the models with generator.
- The calibre 13¼´´´ ETA 206.211 is an Autoquartz with a mechanical chronograph module mounted on the dial side.
- The calibre 13¼´´´ ETA E20.321 with display of hours, minutes and seconds by means of hands, liquid crystal display covering the whole dial and able to indicate another time zone, a perpetual calendar, a daily alarm, a diary alarm, a chronograph mechanism with 1/100 second and a count-down function enlarged the family of multifunctional chronographs.
- The calibre 13¼´´´ ETA 251.292 is a quartz chronograph with the functions fly-back hand and fly-back.
Equally important novelties in the field of SWATCH:
- The «SWATCH .Beat Aluminium»: it takes up the philosophy of the plastic .Beat, but with a metal case, which is water-resistant to 100 metres.
- The new «SWATCH .Beat Access» is fitted with an Access trans-ponder.
- The new «SWATCH Skin Golden Jelly», entirely transparent, with its approximately 60 gold-plated parts.
- And finally the «SWATCH Irony Medium» with hours, minutes, seconds and date, made of inox and aluminium, also avai-lable in chronograph versions for men or women.
- ETA had its quality management system (QMS) certified with success according to international standards. The whole ETA SA now meets the requirements of the series of ISO 9000 standards.
ETA continued to enlarge the family of Autoquartz movements with the calibre 11½´´´ 205.961, equipped with hour, minute and second display and 24H GMT function, i.e. another time zone displayed by means of a second hour hand.
- The calibre 47/8´´´ ETA E01.701 with electronic time setting by means of a push-piece on the side or in the back of the case.
- The calibre 13¼´´´ ETA 251.242 is a quartz chronograph with alarm function without digital LCD display.
Equally important novelties in the field of SWATCH:
- The «SWATCH Irony Scuba 200 Chrono» is a big chronograph, water-resistant to 200 metres.
- The new «SWATCH Skin .Beat» is the flattest watch with digital display world-wide. It indicates the local time or the .beat time (Swatch Internet Time).
- The new «SWATCH .Beat Alumini» is the first small Swatch with digital LCD display.
- A small revolution in the world of watches with «SWATCH Square S2», which is the first rectangular Swatch. It displays hours, minutes and seconds by means of hands.
- The «SWATCH Scuba Access» with two trans-ponders allows the user to refuel at different service stations and to pay with the function «Easypay». The watch can equally be used for the applications of the SkiData systems.
- The general organisation of ETA SA was reoriented in the project «ETA 2000 plus». The responsibility for the quality of products and services was integrated into the corresponding business units (BU) and service units (SU).
- Michel andtec became an integral part of Micro Components SA in January 2001. This grouping in the field of microtechnology allows realistic optimism at the start of this 21st century.
Owing to the entry into force of the new COSC regulations (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres) for quartz movements, ETA adapted ten calibres with a new electronic rate control system ensuring a precision of approx. +/- 10 seconds a year.
- The new ladies' quartz chronograph Ecoline 10½´´´ ETA G15.211 offers numerous casing possibilities thanks to its dimensions, and is notably suitable for rectangular men's watches.
- ETA enlarged the range of traditional decorations for mechanical movements.
Equally important novelties in the field of SWATCH:
- The «SWATCH Skin Chrono» is the world's flattest chronograph.
- Neither tourbillon nor carrousel: the «SWATCH Diaphane One» sets all dial-side elements in motion thanks to its carriage, which makes one complete turn every 30 minutes.
- The «SWATCH Medium .beat Alu» differs from its family by its unisex dimensions.
- «Swatch X-Large»: the innovation consists in its dimensions, which are 30% larger than those of the Gent original model.
The new middle-range movement line TRENDLINE comprising four calibres replaced the Normflatline Standard family. All movements feature three hands and a calendar, they are gold-plated and equipped with an EOL battery end of life indicator.
- The calibre 3¾´´´ x 6¾´´´ ETA 280.702 displays the hours and minutes with hands. Its originality lies in its innovative hand-setting device. An ingenious electronic system enables the user to move the hands forwards or backwards by touching the back of the movement and thus of the watch with a micro magnet.
- The calibre family 7750 was completed by the ETA 7753 movement. Its minute counter was placed at 3 o'clock in order to leave the space at 12 o'clock free for the brand name and logo of the customer.
- The Mecaline Spécialité family was also enlarged by the chronographs 10½´´´ ETA 2094 and 13¼´´´ ETA 7770 with Rattrapante hand.
Equally important novelties in the field of SWATCH:
- The new «SWATCH Square Chrono» completed the family of square Swatch watches by its larger size and its chronograph functions.
- The «SWATCH Diaphane Automatic» marries plastic with aluminium on the basis of an automatic movement.
- The «SWATCH 27th Canton» was launched at the beginning of the national exhibition Expo.02. The 27th Canton is not a state but a state of mind.