Adolph Schild (1844-1915) was a prolific Swiss manufacturer of ébauche movements from the late 1890s. His company was active until the 1970s. Ébauches are movements that contain the most basic structural elements, but are not equipped with a mainspring or the escapement. These are sold to watch manufacturers and retailers for assembly and branding. Adolph Schild invented and made a great variety of movements and became a major supplier to nearly all Swiss watchmakers.
The Schild watchmaking story actually starts with Adolph’s older brother Urs Schild (1829 – 1888). The story began in 1856 when Dr Joseph Girard and Urs Schild, a 28-year-old school teacher, joined forces. They realised that, with the emerging Swiss watch industry, there was a huge opportunity for a company producing ébauche movements. They established the watch movement factory “Dr Girard & Schild” in Grenchen, Switzerland (canton of Solothurn). Soon they started producing both semi-finished movements and fully finished watch movements. Prior to this watchmaking in Switzerland was a cottage industry, whereby individual households produced specific components, rather than complete movements.
Dr Girard & Schild
“Dr Girard & Schild” was a successful business, however, Dr Girard retired in 1866 and left the company in its entirety to Urs Schild. The first pocket watch, entirely manufactured in Grenchen, was presented in 1876 with great success. To reflect this change and in consideration of the fact that his brother Adolph had in the meanwhile joined the company, Urs modified the factory name to become “Präzisionsuhren-Fabrik Gebrüder Schild” (Precision Watches Factory Brothers Schild). The company was known as “Schild Fréres & Co.”. Obviously, Adolph served his watchmaking apprenticeship under his brother’s watchful eye.
In 1888 Urs Schild died at the age of just 58 years old and his two sons, Max and Theodore took over the company. In 1905 the company changed its name to Eterna. The assumption here is that Adolph continued working with the brothers after the death of Urs.
In 1896 Adolph Schild opened his own movement factory in Grenchen. Perhaps there was a disagreement with his nephews or possibly he had higher personal ambitions. Either way, he branched out on his own. The move was a successful one. A. Schild or ASSA as it was later known, produced ébauche movements in vast quantities for virtually every known Swiss watch manufacturer. His movements carried the AS calibre mark showing the watch was made by Adolf Schild whose initials AS were used as the factory’s name from 1896.
Adolph Schild produced many different movements and became one of the largest movement makers in Switzerland by the 1920s. In 1926 they became a founding member of Ebauches SA, a holding company, tasked with bringing order to the chaotic watch movement manufacturing industry. There were so many movement manufacturers that prices were falling and companies were failing. Manufacturers were selling cheap ébauches abroad where they were sold in inexpensive watches, branded with the ‘Swiss Made’ name.
Adolph Schild’s movements are greatly respected today for their reliability. The company Ebauches SA suffered during the quartz crisis in the 1970s and as a result, was forced to merge into the ETA group to survive. For such a prolific movement manufacturer it has been surprisingly difficult to piece together, even this scratchy history. Adolph Schild doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry. It is surprising that there is no consolidated history anywhere online. I can only presume that the movements were solid and reliable, yet unremarkable. Perhaps, they flew under the radar because of their unspectacular reliability.