From the 1920s until World War II, the Swiss managed to regain the world palm in the watch industry. This was facilitated by the Great Depression in the U.S., and technological advances themselves Swiss manufacturers who were able in many respects ahead of the Americans.
Therefore, after the war when the U.S. acquired the status of world power, the population began to grow rich quickly, began to develop the technical industry, requiring precision instruments (notably space exploration), as if nothing could prevent the Swiss brands to begin an active expansion in the U.S.. Even established in 1942, dying on the spot Waterbury brand Timex, which took hours by replacing the cheap steel and stone on aloynye alloys, could not compete with the Swiss in the reliability, accuracy and prestige. But now on the way America watches in rose … patriotism.
The most typical story faced by European watchmakers in the United States in the second half of XX century, connected with the space program NASA.
During the first program of “Project Mercury» watch not included in the mandatory equipment of astronauts, and offered only as optional equipment for the control of measuring instruments on board the time.
Accordingly, the choice of models depend on the desires themselves astronauts. Thus, the first astronauts Gris, Shepard and Glenn wore no watch, and Scott Carpenter wore a Breitling Navitimer. Preference astronauts gave the chronograph to mark the duration of an operation, so their attention was attracted released in 1959, Omega Speedmaster Professional model with three counters, luminous hands, antimagnetic and waterproof protection.
In 1962, Walter Schirra first wore Omega SP during the flight of Sigma 7. In the same year with the closure of the project and the launch of Mercury Gemini and Apollo, NASA evaluated the need to watch the astronaut and began to look for models that have withstood the tests would work in space. It is known that such hours are Omega Speedmaster, they eventually were declared official hours of NASA.
But it was not so easy. American watch manufacturers in the first place is oblivious of its European origins of Bulova, wrote a complaint to the Senate, appealing to the law Buy American Act, passed in 1933. This law is designed to support domestic producers during the Great Depression, was that all government programs should give preference to American goods, what are considered to be made in the USA and at least 51% of the price of which fell on the American part.
“Swiss watch in space will not” – says Bulova, and supported by the majority of senators. Bulova itself at the beginning of the project Mercury had its own chronograph, but the launch of Gemini and Apollo company already prepared, with the asset not only electric Accutron Astronaut (their take on board the Gordon Cooper, one of the last missions of the project Mercury, to compare with Omega . Astronaut opted for the latter), but quite ordinary chronograph with manual winding, which in the early 1960s were considered the most suitable for the NASA space.
Even after a successful landing on the moon in July 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin with Omega SP Bulova continued to bombard the government petition that the U.S. space should be only American watch. In December 1972, when the latter was to be held on the landing of Apollo 17 Moon, Bulova still won the right to submit their hours in this mission.
However, the astronauts said that since they impose Bulova, they still put on more and Omega «for the insurance.”
Patriotic senators insisted that the clock must comply with all rules of Buy American Act and in the end made sure that this requirement is signed by the President. In August 1972, an official competition for the title of hours of NASA “American” brands from 16 companies competed for the right to be the official clock astronauts, 10 were Swiss and a Japanese (Seiko). In order to meet the Buy American Act, they all had to organize an assembly production in the U.S., as well as purchase items from U.S. manufacturers.
That is what Omega. Enclosures for Speedmaster was manufactured by Star Watch Case of Luddingtona, Michigan. The glasses were brought from Switzerland. Assembly buildings, dials and windows made in a factory in Hamilton Lancaster, Pennsylvania, after which the clock was brought to Bienne, where Omega has established its own mechanisms, and then disassembled again sent to Hamilton, where it was the final assembly and testing.
And the clock appeared desirable Omega markings made in USA.
Even more interesting is entered Bulova. The fact is that by this time most American of American watch brands was no domestic production in the United States. So the company bought 16 mechanical chronographs at Universal Geneve, and then dismantled them in our own laboratory and collected again by replacing some parts of the body, but leaving intact mechanisms.
When this trick was discovered, Bulova justified by the fact that spent 23 thousand dollars for the manufacture of new machines to “optimize the assembly process o’clock.” These expenditures on R & D is formally given the right Bulova chronographs meet the 51 percent standard Buy American Act. History is instructive that the R & D, which is often in the eye and no one sees – the perfect cover for a modern Swiss made.
Whatever it was, again, NASA test stand only model Omega, assembled at the factory Hamilton, and that they were poisoned in the last flight of Apollo 17 on the moon.
Buy American Act has had an enormous impact on the U.S. market time: in order to participate in any governmental program relating to the Army, Navy, Air Force (which sought to get Breitling), hours were necessarily made in the USA. Therefore, we must remember that, for example, Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, taken into service by U.S. submariners – they are not the most Fifty Fathoms, which were created at the factory Blanpain-Rayville in Villeret.
The Swiss just sold a license for the technology, and going to watch is already in the U.S. under a different brand. Assembly and test departments in America have a Breitling, Rolex (watches sold in the U.S., released American Rolex Company) and Girard-Perregaux. Buy American Act was repealed only in 1996 when the U.S. signed an agreement with the WTO on freedom of public procurement tenders.
But after the last bastions collapsed, stood in the way of Swiss watches in the U.S., has begun the process of reverse migration. And to follow my dear Charles Lindbergh was much easier. Marks, who spent decades on to become American, literally for some two or three years, returned to his Swiss origin. Moreover, American companies are beginning with no less rapidity find a new home in Europe. For example, Longines, which has never renounced European descent, just closed its U.S. branches, leaving Wittnauer without the first part of the name.
Orphaned brand immediately became Bulova, which was not furnished and full American production finally ceased to conceal this fact.
Moreover, now watch and Wittnauer Bulova going to Switzerland with local arrangements. Moving to Switzerland made, even originally an American brand Hamilton. However, it has long belonged to the Swatch Group, but to move the headquarters and manufacturing of Lancaster in Bienne decided only in 2005 when it became clear that more convenient to conquer the world from Europe than from America.
The last of his Swiss roots remembered company Concord. Despite the fact that it is part of the American company Movado Group, two years ago, after almost 70 years of exile, marked by loud, but purely American fame (Concord were three American president, and watch Concord Delirium in the U.S. are considered the finest in the history of hours), the brand is completely replaced the manual, the place of production and concept. Now that’s luxury mechanical copies of luxury with proprietary complications, this Swiss Haute Horlogerie.
Now, when the U.S. consumer market is in decline, Atlantic winds are many on hand. The question is: if ever the situation will change, what efforts will have to Swiss producers to re-cross the Atlantic.