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Watch Mainsprings

From The American Horologist magazine, July, 1944

Watch Mainsprings

Editors Note: (Following letter may help you to understand some of your problems.) Lynn R. Edminster, Chairman Committee for Reciprocity information 
Tariff Commission Building Washington, D. C.

In establishing a group of facts relating the subject of discussion to our proposal of objectives, We recite the results of surveys.

Our subject of discussion, Watch Mainsprings.

The history of watch mainspring manufacture has been of special interest to the designer, builder, and repairer of time pieces. It is the source of power harnessed to deliver action to the balance of the mechanism used in the measurement of time. Producing the first springs for this purpose was a hand operation-then came mechanical processes increasing production of springs: without relative improvement in the spring's ability. Further progress was wade in rolling mills improving grade of steel for mainsprings. This new steel spring provided a more dependable power plant for time pieces, yet much was desired to more completely fulfill requirements of the mainspring.

About 1910 Swedish steel mills became interested in producing a superior grade of steel especially adaptable to mainspring manufacture.

Switzerland had become the world's greatest producer of watches and of mainsprings, had already started using the Swedish steel. They had produced mainsprings in amazing quantities so cheaply, no other section of the world attempted the manufacture of springs.

In the knowledge and practice of our Horological technicians there was yet much improvement to be made in mainsprings. Swedish-American Horological genius was at work on the problem and after several years experiment the most satisfactory improvement and development was obained - the only scientific advance in mainspring manufacture in sixty years.

The factory using this process is in America-started in a small way, gradually grew as they were able to train workmen in this new industry -and are today the only source of supply for both-Swiss type and American mainspring. 75% of their production goes into war projects time fuses in bombs and cannon projectiles-mainsprings for another of America's newest industries, chonometers, tachometers, Army and Navy watches, and aeroplane clocks. The remaining 25% goes to repair of civilian watches. They have expanded their facilities -and production four times in those years. In 1943 they produced five million hairsprings.

That is only one fourth of the mainsprings needed to repair civilian watches annually. America is using ninety million serviceable watches. Sixty million are offered for repair annually and twenty million of that amount are requiring mainsprings.

Shipment of Swiss mainsprings' to this country began to decline in 1940, tapering off to zero in 1944. The stocks of Swiss mainsprings in America are practically exhausted. We have only this one source for mainsprings, the Watch Motor Mainspring Company, who are now' importing Swedish strip steel at $100.00 a pound to produce mainsprings based on 1942 cost of manufacture. They are in a position to expand facilities :end equipment sufficient to produce twenty million springs annually. They hesitate to do so.

Switzerland has accumulated ten million mainsprings and can produce several times that amount annually, which they are ready to pour into the American market at the resumption of commercial shipping the moment their borders are freed of the Nazi. If these shipments come in, our mainspring factory (producing a spring par excellent to any spring produced in the world) will pass out of existence. The price factor is executioner. Springs are produced and) shipped to this country at a ridiculous price in comparison to cost of manufacture by American labor in our American factory. We stand to loose the greatest scientific advance in spring construction since spring:s were first made. Some recognition should be given to the possibility of Swiss springs being dumped on American market before our American factory can divert to civilian channels any larger part of their production.

Let us take another view of why this American factory should be given consideration. Steps were taken on a national scale to prevent a breakdown of rubber-borne transportation because we were shut off from raw rubber sources. Our nation has been cut off from source of mainspring supply for our time pieces. We are in a perilous position. We could have a breakdown of our time mechanism.
America is on a time table production schedule. Rail and air-borne transportation are vulnerable. They operate on time piece control.

The mainsprings manufactured in America are in action on all fronts, while the Swiss, supply only our enemies. They do not sell us now, but will throw an avalanche of their products on the American market at first opportunity.

We have& awareness that your acquaintance with this situation-will cause immediate remedial action of such sound, satisfactory nature that the Watch Motor Mainspring Company may be justified in proceeding to more adequately meet the demands of the American market.

If informal conference with the Committee would be acceptable we will indeed look forward with pleasure to the meeting.

We present these proposals as evidence in amelioration.

R. W. Applegate, Special Representative, United Horological Association of America, Washington, D. C.
Sigfrid Strommer, Vice President, Watch Motor Mainspring Company, New York. 

June 22, 1944

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