The first French watchmakers were silversmiths, locksmiths, gunsmiths. Little by little, they developed multiple skills to insure the most completed precision in their wheels of gearings.
Artists and craftsmen became industrial. Nowadays, we don't imagine how are the complexity of manufacturing watch or clock. For example, 60 manufacturing operations are required to produce a watch dial. For turning needles, it is necessary to make sure of their good positioning; otherwise the precision of the watch or the clock will not be exact any more.
The horological industry attempted thus to train men and women sensitive to excellence and quality requirements. The quest of precision made watchmakers big pioneers. Multiple high technology industries such as medical, aeronautic and spatial ones benefited from their knowhow in precision.
Don't we say the horological industry is the mother of mechanical engineering industries and micromechanics?
These companies create the models, assemble watches or subcontract the assembly, check(them and insure the distribution.
A first group concentrates the activities on casing: cases, dials,hands needles, crowns and buttons, glasses, metallic bands and leather straps.
The second groups the activities related to the manufacturing of the movement and its components rooms (stones, wheels, bridges, assortments ...).
The third deals with finishing: polishing, galvanoplasty and surface treatments ...
As regards certain elements, manufacturing is made by mechanical process or by injection moulding of metallic powder (MIM) or plastic injection. The pallet of used materials is very wide : stainless steel, gold, ceramic, titanium but also leather or textile for straps.
From alarm clock to railway station or tower clock, from grandfather clock (''comtoise'') to owen or heating thermostat, from cooking counter to airplane or train clock, from parking meter to trigger ... We speak about domestic clock (alarm), time distribution or time synchronization (railway station clock), industrial horology (parking meter).
Regarding the various activities, watch and clock industry includes many jobs which testify of the French knowhow: tool makers, mechanics, automatic setters, CNC timers, watchmakers (encasing movement and assembly of the different components from glass to strap), laqueurs, electroplaters, polishers, electronic engineers, dress makers for leather straps, computer specialist for time sharing.
By making their own tools, the horological companies were led to diversify their activities. The drilling of stones by laser beam allowed the development of cutting and engraving of multiple products than watches. The techniques of clasps and buckles for straps or bands led to the manufacturing of metallic parts for leather products (clasp of bag for example).
But watch and clock makers became also, designers, men of marketing or packaging.
France is also recognized for its Research & Development knowhow and training. Horological schools over all French territory are well known by the Swiss horological manufacturers whose around 50 % of the manpower is French. Time Frequency and Femto laboratories, both located in Besançon, are working for the most accurate precision.