Robert Breitler (1944–1967)

Breitler SA (1967–1975)

“A native of Thurgovie, born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Robert Breitler moved to Sainte-Croix and went to work for Hermann Thorens, whose religious beliefs he shared. He turned out to be an excellent salesman, and was later promoted to Sales Manager of Switzerland.”

1944: First workwhops

“At the end of 1944, he had acquired a lot of experience in the commercial field and seeing that the market for small music boxes was picking up, and anticipating future developments, he left Thorens to set up his own business. Robert Breitler tried to obtain his supplies from local manufacturers but they could not satisfy his demand, because their workshops were working at maximum output. So Breitler created several small workshops, in the Rue de France where he concentrated on die stamping, and in the Rue Centrale where he assembled music boxes and carried out various tasks in the mechanical engineering field.”

1946: 26 workers and a larger number of home workers

“As soon as he set out on his own, he encountered technical problems, in particular with delivery times. Orders were coming in at such speed that delivery times of several months were inevitable. This gave rise to numerous complaints from clients and even damage claims. He asked for the help of all the mechanical workshops flourishing around him, passing large orders for speed governor assemblies, gear wheels, ratchet gears and cylinders with the Calame company. In 1946, he employed twenty-six workers and an even larger number of home workers for cylinder-pinning, comb-tuning etc.”

1946: Basel fair

“The following year, Robert Breitler participated for the first time in the Basel Fair, together with Paillard, Thorens and Reuge. He showed ‘samples of small music boxes equipped with a device to make toys (dolls) dance’.” (FAS 12th April 1947)

1947: Basel fair

“Robert Breitler exhibited ‘small music boxes with figurines, record-players and saphire needles’.” (FAS 1st April 1948)”

Early 1950s: Improvements

“He tried to improve his music production and to find new ideas. In the early 1950s, he filed several patent applications. He also developed a system to block or release the flywheel depending on the inclination oft he piece, and a mechanism to make musical swings. In 1954, he applied for another patent for a new winding device for spring motors.”

Extreme Miniaturization

“In the vast music box market, Robert Breitler looked for a specific niche where he would not have too much competition, so he chose miniature and made movements with twelve and eighteen teeth so tiny (22 x 17 x 6 mm!) that they could be placed in jewelry, keyrings and other gifts. This extreme miniaturization contributed towards the success of his company.”

1967: Robert Breitler†,
Breitler SA (Daniel and Robert Breitler)

“Breitler was managed by his founder, but his two sons Daniel and Robert took on more and more importance, the former in the technical field and the latter in administration and sales. On 21st May 1966, Robert Breitler died and on 19th May 1967, a new company, called Breitler SA, with a capital of 50,000 francs, was created. It took over the assets and liabilities oft he older man´s company and announced “the manufacture and sales of metal and mechanical products, among others movements for music boxes, electric motors and accessories”, in the Rue Centrale 9.”

1970: 33 workers
1975: End of Breitler SA

“In 1970, Breitler had thirty-three employess working at home, fourteen men and nineteen women, but unexpected tightening of the music box market since 1973, Japanese competition in the small movements, then major problems with an important client, led directly tot he surrender of its operations at the beginning of 1975.”
(Compare Piguet, Faiseurs, (1996), p. 280-281, see Piguet, Music Box Makers, 2004, p. 202-203)

Zu den Abbildungen / See the figures ()