With the exception of hydroelectricity, wood, a little agriculture and tourism Switzerland has no natural resources beyond the skill and ingenuity of its people. Happily the latter have proved remarkably adept at not only running a democracy that reaches right down to village level, but also achieving great success in the manufacture of high-class, value-added goods notably precision machine tools, engines, pumps, clocks, watches, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical, technical and electronic equipment..
Born in 1883, in Waldenburg, Charles Schaublin started his business in April, 1915 in Malleray, then a small rural town - though with a small but established watch and clock-making industry. The aim of the Company, once known as CH. Schaublin-Villeneuve, was to make lathes for the Swiss horological trade - though very few of these early machines have survived - with the manufacture of collets beginning in 1920 before being moved to a dedicated plant in nearby Delémont. Further expansion saw the construction of another factory at Bévilard (a location that was to become the Company headquarters), lathe and milling machine accessories in Tremelan, an experimental department and training school at Malleray and the manufacture of spare parts in Orvin. At its peak Schaublin employed around 1400 people and in 1971/2 opened a new, air conditioned factory at Delémont, just a few hundred metres from the original site. In the year 2000 Schaublin were bought out and split into three parts, with three or four Swiss machine-tool dealers (including the well-known 'Muller" Company) buying the one-third that produced conventional lathes together with a section responsible for gears and pinions for the machine-tool industry. Production of other precision machines, machining centres and various other items continued in Bévilard, with a subsidiary also operating in Germany.
Today, Schaublin continue in business as Schaublin Machines SA (www.smsa.ch) and are based in Bern, the second-largest watch-making Canton in Switzerland. With a resurgence in the traditional, high-class Swiss watch-making industry, Schaublin, in addition to their modern CNC machines, still provides supports to the estimated 50,000 people in the 600 or so companies involved in the watch trade - with the great majority of these based around the Jura mountains in the Cantons of Geneva, Neuchatel, Jura, Vaud, Solothurn and Bern.
Through the 1920s and 1930s the founder of the company, Charles Schaublin, played a personal part in maintaining and improving traditional Swiss quality standards by running the works as a personal fiefdom. He kept a close eye on everything: from the important - the initial designs of new machines and selection of metals - to the mundane, the choice of materials for export packaging. His original products were exclusively for the Swiss horological industry (and as such would have included numerous one-off items to assist with specialist manufacturing processes).
Directed at the precision instrument trade, in addition to lathes, Schaublin's products included miniature precision drills, tapping machines, automatic multiple drilling machines, machines for sharpening flat drills, taps, cutters and gun-boring drills ("D" bits), manual and tooth-rounding machines and other specialised equipment. The lathes, initially all plain-turning types, were similar in concept to the well-established American design of "bench precision" models as made for many years by, amongst others: Stark (the originators) Levin, Bottum, American Watch Tool Company, B.C.Ames, Bottum, Hjorth, Potter, Pratt & Whitney, Rivett, Wade, Waltham Machine Works, Wade, Pratt & Whitney, Rivett, Cataract, Hardinge, Elgin, Remington, Sloan & Chace, UND, Van Norman and (though now very rare) Frederick Pearce, Ballou & Whitcombe, , Sawyer Watch Tool Co., Engineering Appliances and Fenn-Sadler. However, one early Schaublin model was rather novel, the "65", a lathe that, with a 65 mm centre height, was appreciably smaller than the usual type; this version proved so handy and popular that it continues in production today as the Type 70. The earliest complete information available to the writer dates from 1933 - by which time lathe manufacture was well established, with a growing international reputation and increasing export sales. The lathe range consisted of six plain-turning models (suffix numbers refer to the centre height in mm): the SV-8 (short-bed), SV-65, "Jura" (a less expensive version of the 65), SV-70, SV-90 and SV-102 together with the backgeared and screwcutting SV-150 and SV-130 (the latter built in at least three distinct versions before disappearing in the early 1940s) and a backgeared and screwcutting version of the 102.
To expand the appeal, of their lathes, Schaublin always took care to offer a wide variety of well-engineered and appropriate stands and drive systems. Either immediately after or in the closing year of the war the 120-VM was announced, a larger plain-turning precision lathe with a capacity between centres of 500 mm. A comparatively rare model, the 120-VM was described by Schaublin as a "Toolmaker's" lathe and, looking just like a larger version of the 102-VM, is always found mounted on a very heavy cast-iron stand usually with a variable-speed drive system. In later years the range was expanded to include more modern designs: the 135 and 125 being especially successful. Even the venerable 102-VM (the backgeared and screwcutting version of the 102) continued until the end of the 20th century - a typical example, from the 1980s, being the superb 102N-VM
Although by the end of WW2 the company had also branched out into the manufacture of larger milling machines, their early models (thought to have been introduced early in 1930, had all been restricted to smaller types, such as the ingenious, miniature ram-head Type SV-11 and the SV-12 horizontal/vertical with its multi-angle swivelling and tilting table - an arrangement not unlike that used on, for example, the well-known German Thiel, Mayo and Deckel models and the Swiss Aciera. The factory also turned out a vast range of collets, a number of small, bench-sensitive drills for use in precision workshops and toolrooms, an automatic multi-head drilling machine for the production of watch plates; a lathe for the finishing of cams used by Swiss autos, drill tap and die sharpeners, moulding machines, automatic gear-tooth rounders, compressors, lapping machines, letter and number stamps and other rather more specialised items such as an automatic multiple drilling machine for watch plates and a tool and cutter grinder dedicated to the sharpening of the "D" bits used in gun-boring lathes. From 1945 onwards (as far as can be established) Schaublin machine tools were to be painted in four different colours: until the late 1950s a green-grey was used - for which no specification exists - and from the 1960s until the late 1970s a blue-grey close to, but not identical with DIN 37020. After that, and running until the early 1990s, a change was made to RAL 6011, a form of the "standard European machine-tool green". More recent colours include a "Machine light-blue" to NCS 1020-R80B - but with fabricated benches painted in a textured finish to RAL 5012 and cast-iron stands in NCS 3030-R90B. As the factory would also finish machines to a customer's specification it is impossible to be categorical as to what is original - but, please don't paint your Schaublin in General Motors Pulsating Primrose…...
Has your Schaublin been rebuilt - and if it has, how do you tell? Reconditioning undertaken by the factory was marked by a plate engraved "BR", followed by a number, for example "79" - this indicating the year of the work: 1979.
Model 65 & 70 Lathes
Model 90 & 102 Plain Lathes
102 Stands and Drives
Schaublin 125 Lathe
Schaublin SV-130 & SV-150
Schaublin 135 Lathe
Schaublin SV9A Cam-forming Lathe
Schaublin Milling Machines
Schaublin Tapping Machine