When, in 1587, Charles Cusin, of Autun, settled at Geneva and introduced the manufacture of watches there, he had no idea of the extraordinary development that this new industry was to assume. At the end of the seventeenth century this city already contained a hundred master watch makers and eighty master jewelers, and the products of her manufactures soon became known and appreciated by the whole world.
The French revolution arrested this impetus, but the entrance of the Canton of Geneva into the Confederation in 1814, rendered commerce, the arts, and the industries somewhat active, and watch-making soon saw a new era of prosperity dawning.
On the 13th of Feb., 1824, at the instigation of a few devoted citizens, the industrial section of the Society of Arts adopted the resolution to form a watch-making school, which, having been created by private initiative, was only sustained through considerable sacrifices.
CLASS IN ESCAPEMENTS AT THE WATCH MAKING SCHOOL, GENEVA.
In 1840 the school was transferred to the granary building belonging to the city. In 1842, when it contained about fifty pupils, it was made over to the administrative council of the city by the committee of the Society of Arts. From 1824 to 1842 the school had given instruction to about two hundred pupils. From 1843 to 1879 it was frequented by nearly eight hundred pupils, two-thirds of whom were Genevans, and the other third Swiss of other cantons and foreigners.
The school, then, has furnished the watch-making industry with the respectable number of a thousand workmen, among whom large numbers have been, or are yet, distinguished artists.
The rooms of the granary, where the school remained for nearly forty years, became inadequate, despite the successive additions that had been made to them, and it became necessary to completely transform them. The magnificent legacy that the city owes to the munificence of the Duke of Brunswick was partly employed in the reorganization, and the school is now located in a vast building designed to answer the requirements of instruction. This structure, which is located in Necker Street, presents an imposing and severe aspect. The main building embraces most of the workshops, the office, the library, and the classroom for instruction in mechanics, all of which receive a direct light. At right angles with the main building are two wings. The one to the north contains in its three upper stories workshops occupied by classes in escapements, bezil setting, compensating balances, and ruby working. On the ground floor are installed juvenile schools.
The south wing contains halls for lectures on theory, and two workshops looking toward the north. The ground floor is used for the same purpose as that of the north wing.
Finally, in the center of the main building is a wing parallel with its two mates. It is in this that is located the vast staircase that leads to spacious landings at which ends on every story a large corridor common to all the halls and workshops. It is in this part of the building that we find the amphitheater of physics and chemistry and the laboratories. Here also is located the museum in course of formation (gotten up in view of the historical study of watch-making), and the amphitheater designed for certain public lecture courses.
In the way of heating and lighting all parts of the building nothing has been neglected, and special care has been taken to have the ventilation perfect.
At present the instruction comprises a practical and a theoretical course.
This is divided into three sections: (1) an elementary one having in view the construction of the simple watch in its essential parts; (2) a higher section in which the pupils learn to recognize the complicated parts; and (3) a section of mechanics applied to watch-making and to the study of the construction of machines and tools for facilitating and improving the manufacture.
1. Elementary Section, First Year. - The pupil must manufacture all the small tools necessary for making unfinished movements; that is, drills, reamers, punches, files, etc. He must then learn to file and turn, and to make use of the finishing lathe with the bow, or of the foot lathe.
In general, the time taken by an apprentice to manufacture his tools is from two to three months, and he can scarcely go to work on the movements before this.
In this class the regular pupils have to execute seven pieces of work in the rough, two for horizontal escapements with key and regulating wheel, and five for various other escapements. Among these there is one for simple repetition and one for minute piece. Aside from the work fixed by the programme, the pupils may manufacture all the other complicated pieces upon obtaining the authority for it from their masters and the director.
The average time employed in performing the work imposed by the programme necessarily depends upon the capacity of the pupil, but we may say that in general ten months are necessary.
After executing his last piece of work in a satisfactory manner, the apprentice passes into the class in regulators, where he begins to manufacture the small tools that he will require.
In this work, as in the preceding, he must take all his pieces from the crude metal, and he must do the forging himself, as well as the roughing down, the turning, filing, and shaping, and finally the finishing, without the aid of any other machine than the dividing one.
In general, after eighteen months of work, the apprentice goes to the finishing shop, where the delicate and minute work begins, pivoting, putting the wheels in place, and practical study of gearings. After learning how to divide a wheel correctly, he is set to work on pinions and wheels in the rough, which he must rivet, finish, and pivot according to the different planes of the pieces that have been calculated and executed by him under the direction of the master.
The programme to be followed by the pupils of the class in finishing is, as regards number of pieces, the same as that of the preceding classes, that is to say, seven.
In general, the pupil passes from the class in finishing to the class in dial-trains, where he makes two of these for his pieces - one a simple and the other a minute train. The teaching of this part is very important as regards the manufacture of escapements. In constructing the dial train, the pupil perfects his filing and learns to make the adjustments correct.
The last class in the elementary instruction is the one in escapements (Fig. 1), the programme of which includes several distinct parts: (1) The tools that are strictly necessary; (2) escapement and cylinder adjustment; (3) making the compensating balances for the pupil's pieces; (4) pivoting, putting in place, and finishing the escapements in regulating pieces. Here, as in the preceding classes, the pupils must do all the work themselves. During their stay in the elementary classes the work done is submitted to the director, who examines it and sends it back to the instructors accompanied with a bulletin containing his estimate as to its value, and his observations if there is occasion to make any.
Pupils who cannot or who do not wish to go over the entire field of the programme stop here, and are now capable of earning their living and of lightening the load that oppresses their parents. - Science et Nature.