From the comptoir d’établissage to the factory in Les Longines (1832-1867)
In 1832, Auguste Agassiz entered the world of watchmaking by establishing a partnership with a watchmaking comptoir (the Swiss name for a watch production workshop and dealership) in Saint-Imier. Shortly thereafter, he took control of the enterprise and renamed it “Agassiz & compagnie”. At the time, the company assembled watches according to the établissage method, with people working at home, and developed trade links that enabled the company to sell its timepieces around the world, particularly in North America. In the 1850s, Ernest Francillon, a nephew of Agassiz, took over the management of the company on behalf of his uncle, who was obliged by ill health to delegate his responsibilities. Francillon continued the work of the company, concentrating his efforts on the production of standard watches and aiming to increase production of it. In 1862 Francillon gave his name to the company, although it remained under the auspices of his uncle, being now known as Ancienne Maison Auguste Agassiz, Ernest Francillon, successeur. Immediately, he looked for ways to improve the manufacturing methods currently in force in the watchmaking industry of the Jura region. Referred to as établissage, this method of organising the labour necessary to produce watches is characterised by a very clear division of labour within a network of artisans, each specialising in highly segmented tasks and each working independently. At the head of this diffuse system of production were the watch manufacturers who – like Francillon – owned a watchmaking comptoir. The watch manufacturer distributed the work to be carried out among the independent artisans, co-ordinated production, and was responsible for the marketing of the finished watch. When he took over responsibility for the former Agassiz comptoir, Francillon was fully aware of the deficiencies inherent in the system, and looked for a solution to reduce the effect of these deficiencies on the watch production process. His conclusions led him to attempt to formulate a new method of production which would be based on two principal axes: geographical concentration of labour (which at that time was spread over a wide area within the établissage system), and the use of mechanical production methods which were being developed at that time. In 1866 he bought an old amalgam mill at a place called “Les Longines” on the banks of the river Suze in the Saint-Imier valley. Here he aimed to set up a watchmaking factory, bringing together under one roof some of the artisans who were affiliated with his comptoir.
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- Join date : 2009-12-17
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