Watch-Jewel Making. The History of a Great Enterprise.

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1001

by: Kirk, Samuel; on: December 21st, 2007

Watch-Jewel Making.
The History of a Great Enterprise.

Author: Unknown
From: The Keystone
Year: 1892

Introduction
Introduction

1002

by: Kirk, Samuel; on: December 21st, 2007

The examples of conspicuous success in modern manufacturing are almost invariably the story of one man's devotion to the idea of the development of a single specialty. This singleness of purpose achieves results far beyond the average conception of the possibilities of human effort. It reveals the invincibility of man's will; it establishes the scope of man's genius; it affirms the potentiality of earnest thinking in one direction.

In every one of these special industries, some one illustrious instance stands as an example of the force of genius, and witnesses to the world the technical skill, the executive capacity, and the inspiring personality of the great manager-inventor. Putting aside the examples in other lines of industry, and considering only the eminent names in the science of horology, no more conspicuous instance of the type can be mentioned than Ls. Ed. Junod, of Lucerne, Switzerland, the head of the largest watch-jewel factory in the world.

We would say, in passing, that America has not as yet made any irruption into this field of industry. She has by gradual stages compassed almost the entire range of manufacture of the materials used in horological science, with the single exception of jewels. It has only been a short time since a prominent American Watch Company discontinued the importation of its balance wheels; within a brief period all our mainsprings came from the other side; the making of watch dials as a separate industry has only recently been heralded in this country. Thus, one after another, within late years, the component parts of the watch have been constructed successfully in America, until the complete watch now is essentially American throughout. But it lacks at least one feature to prevent a sweeping claim of absolute native construction. In the course of time we will likely witness the manufacture of watch jewels on this side of the Atlantic; but that day is as yet in the dim distance. Whether the upbuilding of a plant for this business is of such necessarily growth as to discourage the capitalist who looks for quick returns on his investment, or whether the processes of manufacture are so tedious as to require too large a demand upon the American patience and painstaking care, or whether in the working out of destiny we have not yet been permitted to reach this nice and exact branch of mechanical skill, certain it is that Switzerland must still be acknowledged as preeminent in this industry; and her preeminence is largely due to the remarkable genius of Ls. Ed. Junod.

1003

by: Kirk, Samuel; on: December 21st, 2007

Ls. Ed. Junod, of Lucerne, Switzerland
Ls. Ed. Junod, of Lucerne, Switzerland

1004

by: Kirk, Samuel; on: December 22nd, 2007

Mons. Junod has been good enough to consent that "THE KEYSTONE" shall lay before its readers some account of his great industry in Switzerland. And to assist that account he has taken the time from his busy occupation to furnish some valuable historical particulars and equally valuable comments upon the earlier and the present status of the watch-jewel industry.

He has also put into our hands various photographs of his works, which we have had reproduced in half-tone by the highest procurable skill in America.

It will impress those acquainted with the character of Swiss architecture that the buildings of the Ls. Ed. Junod watch-jewel factory are specially fitted to their purposes, and the idea of system and special provision is prominent throughout. One is impressed by the air of prosperity and content in the faces of the employees; by the provision for their amusement and relaxation, in the fact Mons. Junod has built a theater for their special entertainment; and by various other thoughtful considerations which serve to enlist their loyalty and their best effort. On the question of their wages, Mons. Junod writes:

"A little beyond a quarter of a century ago, a newspaper of La Chaux-de-Fonds ("La Voix de e' Avenir," du 24 Fevrier, 1867) published a statistical sketch of the watch manufactory, and came to the conclusion that a jewel-maker did not gain above two francs a day."

"I am not exaggerating in stating that every good-willed and well-working man or woman of my fabric can easily reach five francs, which is indeed not too much, if one considers the difficult and attaching labor demanding the constant assistance of the eyes, an inconvenience, if you like, which forces most of my people to abandon their occupation at a comparatively early age."

1005

by: Kirk, Samuel; on: December 22nd, 2007

General View of the L. E. Junod Jewel Industry.
General View of the L. E. Junod Jewel Industry.

1006

by: Kirk, Samuel; on: December 22nd, 2007

We have made considerable inquiry into the question of comparative wages in Switzerland, and are convinced that the wages paid in the Junod factory are liberal to a degree, on the basis of contemporaneous wages in other branches of the trade in that country. The proprietor is justly moved to a considerate view, as displayed in his mention of the fact that most of his people must early abandon their occupation because of the severe strain which their work entails upon the eye. The American cannot but be reminded of the vastly higher wages paid in this country to workmen whose employment similarly tells on the faculties; as, for instance, in the case of rollers in the Carnegie steel works, many of whom average ten dollars per day. But we must not forget that the whole question of income and expense of living in Switzerland is on a much lower scale than in America, and the only fair measure of wage is comparison with similar industries similarly environed. On such a basis, this great watch-jewel industry would prove to be very liberal indeed in the compensation of its employees.

1007

by: Kirk, Samuel; on: December 22nd, 2007

Jewel cutting and hole enlarging shop - Exterior view.
Jewel cutting and hole enlarging shop - Exterior view.

1008

by: Kirk, Samuel; on: December 22nd, 2007

He thus writes of the beginning of the business; and it will be seen that he was inspired by a sense of the totally inadequate provisions in vogue at the time of his venture:

"After having devoted several years of earnest labor to different important branches of horology, (rough movements, finishing parts, escapements, etc.,) I began to occupy myself most particularly with the jeweling of very carefully executed watches, such as chronometers and other complicated pieces, with English settings."

"I was really astonished to see the defective stones that were utilized in the latter and found neither regularity in the shapes nor any well-made holes. On the contrary, they were badly polished, too long or too short, scratched, or unround, etc., etc."

"The majority of watchmakers only visit a jewel externally, a way of acting which prevents them from observing its roundness as well as its hole."

"Anxious to remedy these inveterated blameful habits, I decided in 1850 to create a watch-jewel manufactory established on the best of principles."

"Leaving aside some artists of Geneva and the Jura mountains, nobody knew how to produce an irreproachable watch-jewel. I may add that not even two per cent. of the manufacturers and visitors were able to judge a scape-jewel, and there are not many more to-day."

1009

by: Kirk, Samuel; on: December 22nd, 2007

Jewel cutting and hole enlarging shop - Interior view.
Jewel cutting and hole enlarging shop - Interior view.

1010

by: Kirk, Samuel; on: December 23rd, 2007

His impulsive expression of disgust at the very general ignorance, even among alleged "fine" watchmakers, of the nice requirements in a perfect watch-jewel, is uttered with all the spirit which animates the true artisan when he realizes the evils of a half education in technical subjects. Is he quite justified in his assumption that not much over two per cent. of jewelers to-day are able to judge a scape-jewel? At least it is sadly true that the average jeweler does not lay sufficient stress upon the character of the jewel which he puts into a watch, does not "observe its roundness as well as its hole," and fails to critically consider the nice points which are involved in all the questions affecting proper watch jeweling.

Continuing, Mons. Junod writes:

"It was hard, very hard for me to form experienced and conscientious jewel-makers. I first tried to perfect old practitioners in this special line, but very soon saw that it was in vain to lose my precious time in teaching them a new method requiring the entire renunciation of the former fashion of working. So I chose young people having no idea at all of watch-jewel fabrication, and succeeded by a thorough instruction of my principles in erecting an establishment occupying at this moment about 1,000 operatives."

He realized the old, old truth; namely, that it is easier to teach an ignorant mind than to unlearn a wise one. How many managers have failed because of their non-observance of this fact in the economics of manufacture! Indeed, the intellectual character of Mons. Junod, as shadowed to us between the lines of his autobiography as a mechanic, indicates that profound insight into human impulses and that proper weighing of the instincts and prejudices moving to human action which are always found in the leaders of thought, and are ever present with all who successfully direct large enterprises.

1011

by: Kirk, Samuel; on: December 23rd, 2007

Jewel preparing shop - Exterior view.
Jewel preparing shop - Exterior view.

1012

by: Kirk, Samuel; on: December 23rd, 2007

Mons. Junod early realized the prime necessity of an accurate and thorough classification of the various grades of watch-jewels. His statement concerning this feature is exceedingly interesting. He says:

"The quality of any formerly prepared jewel remained incessantly the same, and a watch manufacturer, on ordering a carefully executed stone, only received from the jewel-maker a more or less red colored ruby, depending on the circumstances of the demand. I think not to be mistaken if I say that I have been the first and only one who has classified the qualities of the different watch stones according to their true merit."

"In order to give you an idea of the various qualities made in my factory, I divided the jewel qualities as follows:"

"a, the first quality, with an irreproachable exterior shape, and a well made convex hole."

"b, the second quality, having a true form, without luxury, together with the same kind of hole."

"c, the third quality, also true in shape, and provided with a carefully polished cylindrical hole, very regular in length."

"d, the forth quality, which is nothing else than the badly succeeded third one, having, however, no injurious defects.

"Besides these four qualities, I have created a superior one of a different form, destined for main and pocket chronometers."

But a proper classification on the part of the manufacturer would not in itself insure facility to the factory operative, on account of the inevitable "mixing" of sizes, and because of the constant necessity of using individual judgment in fitting worn parts and meeting odd conditions. The trade has always been more or less embarrassed by different manufacturers, and the consequent confusion growing out of various measurements. This dissimilarity of scale and graduation faced Mons. Junod at every point in the earlier stages of his enterprise, to his great tribulation.

1013

by: Kirk, Samuel; on: December 23rd, 2007

Jewel piercing shop - Exterior view.
Jewel piercing shop - Exterior view.

1014

by: Kirk, Samuel; on: December 23rd, 2007

The need of exact gauges, and of some standard as between various measurements then in use, decided him to invent such instruments; concerning which he writes:

"In consideration of the dissimilarity of scale between the many sorts of gauges for pivots, (for two scales of similar graduations are not to be found, and often a difference of two, three, and even four degrees exists between them,) and the difficulty I had in treating with my correspondents in obtaining the exact size both of holes and outside diameters, I invented, in 1861, a pivot gauge scaled to the 288th part of an English line, as this division was the nearest approach to the Jacot gauge, then in general use."

"I exhibited this new apparatus at London in 1862, and obtained 'Honorable Mention,' with the observation that if it had been based upon the metric system I should have been entitled to a medal."

"I therefore issued, in 1886, a perfected gauge for pivots and measuring jewel holes, an instrument graduated to the 100th part of a millimeter."

"To this I have added, as a special feature, a series of holes to the 1-100 of a millimeter, for the exterior measurement of jewels, the size of pinions, etc."

"In order to avoid counterfeits, I had it patented in several countries - Switzerland, France, and England."

"I am glad to see that the extensive American watch manufactories are already using it, and hope it will soon be adopted everywhere."

"Not yet satisfied, I took further informations about the manner of measuring pins and duplex rollers. Unable to meet there either with the desired instrument of precision, I have not hesitated to fashion another gauge graduated to the 1-100 of a millimeter enabling every watchmaker to measure from the smallest to the largest of the above indicated jewels."

"Both gauges are constructed with the most minute care, warranteed exact and rigorously uniform."

1015

by: Kirk, Samuel; on: December 23rd, 2007

Jewel piercing shop - Interior view.
Jewel piercing shop - Interior view.

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