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Claude Crettiez

Rick Hufnagel

Just Rick!
NAWCC Member
Oct 25, 2018
Pittsburgh pa
The factory resided in Cluses of Haute-Savoie, France. It seems to be mostly known for the tragic events in 1904 where a unionized strike led to several workers being shot and killed by the Crettiez brothers. It's an ugly story to read, but if you want it's only a Google search away. The watch, however, is not quite as ugly as the companies history.

This movement is nicely jeweled with a lever escapement. It is 16 jewels with an added cap on the escape wheel. Double roller and overcoil hairspring. Cut bi-metallic balance for compensation.

I really like the design of the click on this watch. It is built into the barrel bridge, held by a pin. There is no spring, the ratchet wheel keeps tension on it. Very easy to operate.

Nice enamel dial. One light hairline. Signed "Chronometre Astro". It is single sunk with a pressed center. The hands, as well as all the movement screws, are heated to a plum color. Beautiful!

The case is nickel but still shows most of its details. It was made by Pierre and Etienne Frainier of Morteau France.
20211201_192509.jpg 20211201_192446.jpg

I had missed the opportunity to photograph under the dial, so here is photo of a parts movement. It looks identical, just not as clean!

The parts movement also had a different balance. Anti-magnetic, mono-metallic and uncut. I just found the difference interesting and wanted to show it. Maybe because it lived in a steel case?

Well... Sorry I do not have a great amount of information about the company. If someone can add to it please do! Thank you for checking it out and have a good day!


Registered User
Apr 5, 2011
The Crettiez story is here, but in French :

Le temps des horlogers militants - HourConquest

Here is a quick translation with Deeple, the text being too long for me to do it myself.
I hope it will help...

At the end of the 19th century, the communes of the Arve Valley and the departments bordering Switzerland saw the installation of a multitude of modest-sized companies which intervened as subcontractors of the Swiss watchmaking factories, which were struggling to meet the exponential demand for pocket watches which were distributed throughout the world.

These specialized companies, often in the "décolletage" and machining of parts delivered without assembly to Switzerland, provide a living for a large number of workers on the French side.

In this context, in 1862, a company was established in Arâche in Haute Savoie which took the name of its founder Crettiez and whose object was the manufacture of watchmaking parts. This company moved in 1872 to Cluses, still in Haute-Savoie. It had 20 employees in 1876.

Claude Crettiez is an enterprising boss with a strong character and proud to have built with his own hands a factory which makes watches but also parts for others and which can compete in the quality of its production with the best Swiss houses.

A versatile company

At Crettiez, not only do we make movement parts for others as well as finishing, but also chronometers, high quality parts and more common watches. In the 1910s, at the time of wristwatches, the company invented a dial without a base with an angular, octagonal or decagonal feature that would allow it to be positioned on demand, simply by turning it, depending on whether it would be fitted for a lady's collar watch or a gentleman's wristwatch. The 12 or 13 line movements are in fact equally useful for both types of models. The clever system will only have a limited success because, already, every wearer of a watch requires a second hand, impossible with this type of dial.

Often, Crettiez watches have no markings on the dial. The firm makes a nice place for itself by leaving the dials free of its name to allow retailers to display their own. This appeals to many retailers at a time when Swiss manufacturers, except for special orders, prefer to assert their brand on the dials, a concern that will pay off in terms of establishing a lasting reputation. In fact, Crettiez is a brand known to professional distributors of products but very little to the general public, who, by owning a watch, installs its name in the collective memory. A Crettiez chronometer will therefore only bear the Chronometer label when delivered, which is often misused by small manufacturers but fiercely defended by the greatest professionals. Crettiez distributes its chronometers with an operating bulletin from the Besançon observatory and competes with Swiss brands in the field of distribution.

No mark on the dial. The size of the balance, the balancing screws, the escapement counter-pivot, the clean bevels, the regular sandblasting and gilding, the blued screws, the quality of the wheels... Crettiez has an undeniable know-how that allows it to compete with the greatest houses.

The manufacture also knows how to seduce by the quality of the boxes and its adaptability to the markets and the customers' demands. At the beginning of the 20th century, Crettiez became a large company with 61 employees, including 17 hard-working women.

The company not only employs its own staff but also employs more than 200 people at home, which makes it one of the biggest employers in the canton. The company has to remain competitive with the Swiss manufacturers and the owner, who has associated his four sons with his business, is constantly pushing the teams to maintain distribution prices and production costs.

His factory is one of the most modern watchmaking factories in France. Moreover, it works a lot for companies located in the Doubs region for which it produces winders and does finishing. It has machines whose energy is drawn from oil engines, then electricity from 1899.

Like many companies of the time, the Crettiez family was always concerned not to let the family business fall behind the large Swiss or French manufacturers, of which LIP was the spearhead. The latter, thanks to major investments at the beginning of the 20th century, were increasingly reducing manufacturing costs and were very active on markets throughout the world, including France, which was Crettiez's main market.

The entry into play of the unions

From the very first years of the 20th century, unions of watchmakers and screw-cutters were set up and, in the common interest, demanded higher wages and better working conditions. The watchmaking professions were still occupied by farmers and agricultural workers who, in addition to watchmaking, had to be present in the fields to ensure the sowing and harvesting of crops. On the Swiss side, as on the French side, this need was the subject of agreements with the workers and their work was adapted as much as possible to give the agricultural work time to be carried out. The Swiss are gradually moving away from this organization to have unshared workers. On the other hand, in France, this sharing was still largely in force and sometimes bothered company bosses.

In 1901, workers in the industrial sector began to strike and demanded, mainly in the watchmaking industry, a monthly payment for their work and a fortnightly advance. The demand continued to evolve until 1904, in the face of bosses who remained firm and refused the idea of wage increases that would force them to raise the price of their products. Crettiez did not escape these protest movements which slowed down the production and created a climate of permanent struggle through a balance of power maintained with the workers. The social tension is strong. The unions demanded minimum wages and better treatment of women, whose labour force was considered to be of secondary importance. This will attract the support of the women to the unions and give the unions more power.

The municipal elections that ignited the fire

In Cluses, on May 1, 1904, people were getting ready to vote for the first round of the municipal elections, just like everywhere else in France. Two lists were competing to win the town hall. One of them was "Conservative" and included one of the Crettiez sons, while the other was pushed by the unions associated with the socialists, with the Crettiez workers as flag bearers. The politics helping, the confrontation becomes fierce between the two rounds of the municipal. Insults rained down and the rancor became irreversible. The conservative party won the second round but the bosses and notables wanted to silence any opposition. They could not forgive the harsh criticism they had received. In two days, as soon as the elections were over, Crettiez washed his hands of the affront he had suffered and fired seven unionized workers. Quickly, on May 10, a little more than thirty workers went on strike and spread to other companies. They demonstrated noisily in the streets of Cluses. Although there was no violence, the police took up their positions.

On May 18, 1904, nearly 400 demonstrators gathered in front of the Crettiez company. They threw stones at the windows and turned the demonstration into a climate of physical violence rather than verbal violence. From then on, the gendarmes first tried to block the demonstrators on a bridge, at a distance from the company, but on May 19 they gave the charge and arrested some of them to set an example. The mayor of Cluses, in a clumsy way, forbade any gathering on the public road and even forbade any whistling or singing likely to provoke the bosses. In an effort to appease them, some small businessmen proposed to compensate Crettiez for the damage suffered by his company because of the workers. The damage was modest and limited to a few windows. Crettiez did not agree and wanted the unions to disappear at all costs. He is not the only one who wants this to happen. The gendarmes can hardly accede to his demands by repressing more popular demonstrations. The workers, who came up against a wall of incomprehension, radicalized their position and on July 11, a general strike paralyzed the work.

The fingers in the gear

The bosses of several companies arm themselves to defend their workshops against what they perceive as an aggression of the workers. The shots fired in the air set the tone for what was to become of this growing social movement. On July 11, a "Bretton" boss pushed the demonstrators back. A week later, on July 18, while the situation was getting bogged down, the workers met in a general assembly. They then set off, nearly 200 strong, to the sound of the International, to march through the streets of the city. When they arrived in front of the Crettiez factory, they stopped. Crettiez and two of his sons, armed with rifles, feared an assault that would be fatal to the company. Under a rain of insults and provocative slogans, taken by fear, they open fire towards the workers. Three of them will not get up and fifty others will be wounded.

The event spread by word of mouth and in a few hours, a thousand workers came to ransack the Crettiez factory and set it on fire. Crettiez became the symbol of the failure of social dialogue between the bosses and the workers. Immediately arrested, Claude Crettiez and his sons were tried by the Court of Assizes of Haute Savoie along with six workers charged with looting the factory and damaging the goods. The Crettier's crime is thus judged next to the workers' crime, as if to calm the two camps it had been necessary to demonstrate that the gravity of the acts of each was comparable. The affair scandalized the press and it was Aristide Briand who personally came to defend the workers.

The Crettiezes were condemned slightly with 8 months of firm prison for the father, owner of the company, and one year of prison for his two sons involved. None of them received the full sentence. The company then resumed its activity and eventually disappeared in the face of competition.

In life and in death

The tragic story of Claude Crettiez shows to what extent watchmaking was involved in industrial and social history. It shows how a man can go so far as to kill in order to defend his work tool and how the workers who supplied the labor force of the great watchmaking companies were exploited and mistreated because, in order to democratize the possession of accurate time, it was necessary to control the cost of watches. What a retrospective paradox to see such a situation when the purpose of the company is, in the end, to provide everyone with the means of keeping accurate time. Crettiez symbolizes the violence of social relations and the difficulty of men to adapt to a modern economy in which social dialogue must remain a constant.

History will show that the watchmaking industry was not immune to social movements as heavy as they were poignant. LIP in France in the 1970s illustrates this analysis, but many other companies in Switzerland have experienced major strikes. Crettiez was only the first in the history of the time to face the wind of the social storm pushed to its paroxysm.

Amicalement GG


Registered User
Jan 13, 2012
torino italy
But the workers' protest was backed by people from Geneva who stirred up the riots to eliminate Crettiez who was building raws movements for Swiss factories at a much lower cost. Audemars used Parrenin Marguet's raws movements and Colonnaz, for Patek Philippe, used Savoy's raws movements.It was an established practice that all Swiss ebauches factories were supplied from France.
Regards enrico


Rick Hufnagel

Just Rick!
NAWCC Member
Oct 25, 2018
Pittsburgh pa
Thanks to both of you for adding this good information to this thread!

There is no good threads on the forum for Crettiez, so it is nice that the information is all now here and searchable!


NAWCC Member
Aug 30, 2017
...It was an established practice that all Swiss ebauches factories were supplied from France.
Thank you for saying this. I had come to the same conclusion viewing the movements--the real scope of the French influence was totally unknown to me. I have been researching Rannaz family (I note the rather grim connection to this incident mentioned in the article you posted), and it is a similar story. Alfred R. working in Geneve with Duret then on his own ("Maison Tiffany") before setting up in Haute-Savoie, supplying many brands across quality ranges. And there's this "extra thin" caliber from Michel Cartier fils that debuted in 1903--where have I seen this before?

9934 fils de michel cartier.png
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