Home / Factories / Private Label Trade Names on American Pocket Watches: The Non-Magnetic Watch Company: Part 40: The Swiss Operation – The Aeby Factory

Private Label Trade Names on American Pocket Watches: The Non-Magnetic Watch Company: Part 40: The Swiss Operation – The Aeby Factory

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Early Columbus Watch Company Movement Manufactured by the Aeby Factory in Madretsch [Image Courtesy of Jones & Horan Auctions]
Pictured: Early Columbus Watch Company Movement Manufactured by the Aeby Factory in Madretsch [Image Courtesy of Jones & Horan Auctions]

The business operation of the Geneva Non-Magnetic Watch Company in Switzerland was more complex than most American watch factories. Production spanned several factories, with many different companies working together to manufacture the non-magnetic watches for the American market.

In January 1888, James Haswell visited the offices and factories managed by the company and published a summary in the March 1888 issue of The Horological Journal

Aeby & Co. was selected as the second manufacturing partner by the Geneva Non-Magnetic Watch Company to manufacture watch movements for the American market.

According to Haswell, the Aeby factory was thoroughly equipped for watch production:

“Here also an extensive factory is in full operation, with steam power, and replete with modern machinery: presses, drilling, shaping, milling, and cutting machines, pentagraphs, wheel-cutting and round machines, barrel and other automatic lathes, tolls for pinion and arbor polishing and pivoting, machines for jewelling, damascening, balance-making, and other purposes in endless variety.” James Haswell, March 1888 issue of The Horological Journal

The extensive Aeby factory was located in Madretsch, a small suburb of Beinne, Switzerland. Leo Aeby had been the primary manufacturer of the imported Swiss movements sold by Dietrich Gruen when he started the Columbus Watch Company in 1874.

Around 1882, the Columbus Watch Company decided to build an American factory to manufacture watch movements and terminated the partnership with Leo Aeby. 

When the Geneva Non-Magnetic Watch Company began searching for manufacturers, Leo Aeby became an ideal partner due to his unique experience producing movements for the American market. Aeby worked with Charles Willis Ward to patent several improvements to be implemented in the new non-magnetic watch movements.

The company contracted with Aeby to exclusively manufacture up to 3,000 movements per month from the factory in Madretsch, likely using the same machinery that produced the early products sold by the Columbus Watch Company.


Example of the Aeby Model (Model 2 in Material Catalogs), Manufactured for the Non-Magnetic Watch Company
Example of the Aeby Model (Model 2 in Material Catalogs), Manufactured for the Non-Magnetic Watch Company

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