Being young and in charge of a machine that’ s worth a million francs? It’s possible after training as a bar turner! Here in Tramelan, everything blends perfectly, just like the forests and waterways that are the very origin of bar turning and cutting. A little trip to the AFDT association…
By Joël A. Grandjean / JSH® Magazine & Swiss Watch Passport’s Publisher and Editor in chief
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Joëlle Schneiter, Managing Director, has also been for 14 years a key player of CIP Technologie. The dual roles are legitimately assumed in these areas which, because water was the power that flowed through the machines’ veins and cooled the hot chips, are at the origin of bar turning. Further north-east, there is also the Black Forest in Germany and, farther south-west, the famous Arve Valley. Except that these two historical offshoots, which have always been a reference, are more oriented towards larger sizes and diameters, less in phase with the needs of the watchmaking or connector industries for example.
Water and bar turning, the history of these locations
“In the Village of Court, there were more bar turning machines than inhabitants. Many of them were running in private cellars and the wives used to load them. We are in the epicentre of bar turning and the first automatic turning machines came from here“, explains Francis Koller, a retired worker who was at the origin of SIAMS and is in charge of the Association’s ‘marketing’ commission. (read in French the tribute paid to him in 2016 by the Journal du Jura).
Thus, Joëlle Schneiter is legitimately wearing two different shoes: at the same time, she is managing the association and working alongside the head of CIP Technologie, the training centre for the entire region. So the machines and their achievements are next door, in the adjoining workshops. Adults attend further training or retraining courses and apprentices from all over Switzerland complete their inter-company courses in the bar turning sector. Unfortunately, there are still very few women in these careers. “There are about 150 bar turning companies in Switzerland, 50% of which work mainly for the watchmaking industry, 25% for the connector and medical sectors and 25% for other microtechnologies,” added Francis Koller.
Highest representativeness, focus on actions
With its 70 members, i.e. about half of the players in the sector, and with its privileged connections with its German-speaking counterpart Swiss Precision in Solothurn, this institution is a typical example of Switzerland’s industrial wealth: at ease in its cradle, with associative ramifications anchored in the concrete universe of industry. The AFDT therefore truly embodies this particular know-how. Which remains a national pride, one of the most tangible hallmarks of Swiss made. Sadly, an occupation with a range of skills whose image is still slow to benefit from the same ennoblement as those in watchmaking.
So we are talking about information and exhibition platforms. We talk about SIAMS. The ideas are coming… What if a “bar turning and cutting” circuit were to be created at the EPHJ in 2023 (from 6-9 June)? They know each other, they respect each other. The idea has been initiated, and it should gain momentum, especially since most of the association’s member companies meet once a year in the Palexpo halls….