New building for Metalem

Active in dial-making for almost nine decades, Metalem supplies the major Swiss watch brands. It is proud of offering 100% Swiss made products developed in its various entities, including the brand-new factory on the Rue du Midi in Le Locle.

Historical background
Metalem SA is a Swiss watch dial-maker firmly embedded in the watch industry fabric of the Jura region since 1928. Next year, the Maison will celebrate 90 years of activity which it began in Renan, before rapidly relocating to Le Locle in 1932. The company, whose name is a contracted version of metal and émail (enamel), has developed steadily ever since. It really took off in 1953 after the construction of the factory on the Rue du Midi.

Over the years, Metalem continued to grow, with the acquisition of a wing of a building currently occupied by Precinox in La Chaux-de-Fonds, and then the purchase of the FAR (Fabrique d’Assortiments Réunis) building in Le Locle.
These two sites in Le Locle (on the Rue de la Concorde and the Rue du Midi) now constitute the backbone of Metalem which has for half a century employed between 150 and 250 people in its home town in the Canton of Neuchâtel.

The company’s local presence has been further strengthened this year with the inauguration of the extension of the site extension on the Rue du Midi. It can indeed be referred to as a new site, since its usable surface area has virtually doubled.

New premises and a young and close-knit management team provide all the ingredients required to ensure Metalem’s durability and its success for many years to come. Ensuring the sustainability of the company has indeed always been the key motivation of the successive management teams.

Metalem currently has 200 employees between the two sites: the brand-new factory on the Rue du Midi handles dial-making, the R&D department as well as the production of rough appliques; while the one on the Rue de la Concorde houses the jewellery department, applique finishing, as well as the administrative services.

Metalem also has three “daughter” companies. RvK Guillochage in Chézard in the Val de Ruz is 100% owned by Metalem and consists in a workshop exercising a skill well-known to the entire Fine Watchmaking business: hand-crafted guilloché work. Gravage SA in La Chaux-de-Fonds is a dial blank and stamping factory jointly owned by Metalem and Montremo. And Escad SA in La Chaux-de-Fonds is a dial varnishing, lacquering and machining factory belonging to Singer & Cie, Montremo and Metalem.

Enjoying in-house mastery of the entire dial-making process, from the blank through to appliques, Metalem certifies all its products as 100% “Swiss made”.

Making a dial is a particularly demanding process that calls for mastery of more than 40 professions in fields as different as micromechanics, polishing, electroplating, varnishing, engraving, gemsetting and many others, all of which call for both deftness and meticulous care.
In busy periods, Metalem produces more than 400,000 high-end dials per year intended to adorn watches from the greatest Swiss brands. More than 10,000 High Jewellery dials are also developed in an independent department ensuring in-house mastery of all kinds of gemsetting, engraving, marquetry and enamelling. This department naturally benefits from the synergies generated within the company as a whole.

Metalem also has a large department dedicated to producing appliques intended not only for the company’s internal requirements, but also to supply competitors who lack this in-house production competency.

Research & Development
Historically speaking, Metalem has a large and well-reputed Creative department. Today, thanks to the extension of the facility, this division has been transferred to the production site and is incorporated within a brand-new open space regrouping the Technical Bureau, Quality Control, R&D and Procurement. The resulting synergy gives a dynamic new boost in terms of responsiveness and proactive creative force.

Ongoing R&D activity regularly results in patent requests and the development of new processes, products and materials. The new construction enables the lean manufacturing and 5S approach to become even more significant.

The concepts of social and environmental responsibilities have always been present in Metalem’s actions. The Manufacture is certified by the RJC (Responsible Jewellery Council) and is careful to meet all REACH standards. From an energy standpoint, the company – which is considered a large-scale consumer – has for several years been fully complying with an objectives agreement signed with the Swiss Federal Government. With a view to further improvement of its ecological footprint, a group of photovoltaic cells is currently being installed on the roof of the new building.

On a social level, Metalem has undertake concrete cooperation with the State Council within the framework of a cantonal project aimed at revising occupational integration, which has notably led to the Neuchâtel “New Deal”. The company in Le Locle was one of the first firms to sign the charter. More than 20 employees have been hired to date via the Regional Work Placement Office (ORP), with a long-term success rate of around 50%.

Through represented within a number of professional associations (Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH), the Employers’ Federation of the watch industry (CP), economiesuisse, etc.), Metalem is an extremely active training company. It also provides support – in proportion to the current economic climate – for local societies active in the field of culture and sports.

September 14, 2017