Packed, so to speak, among the 750 exhibitors that filled the halls of this year’s EPHJ – the trade fair for suppliers to the watch industry held this June – was Geneva Time Made Industrial (GMTI), a company that would probably have something to say about the skills shortage within the industry, the subject of a survey commissioned by this fast-growing fair. Indeed, GMTI works closely with the horology department at IFAGE, an adult education foundation based in Geneva. It takes the most promising students training for a federal diploma as an opérateur* and offers them a springboard towards a career with the brands in contact with the company, or hires them itself.
Indeed, GMTI is a growing concern. Established in Geneva in 2011 by Nicolas Commergnat and Sébastien Billières, the company has gone from strength to strength. No doubt the combined expertise of the two watchmakers is behind this success. They cut their teeth in restoration and prototyping under Svend Andersen, co-founder of the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants. “We soon realised we complemented each other well,” notes Nicolas Commergnat. “This motivated us to start our first company, Alliance Genève, specialising in the creation and production of movements and the restoration of complicated timepieces. While we were in our stride, we laid the foundations for industrial production by setting up GMTI.”
Geneva Made Time Industrial
From its initial activity casing movements and packaging finished products, GMTI expanded into assembly. At the same time it made its name for original electroplating and chemical processes for watch decorations and, the cherry on the cake, as a creator of calibres. To take just one example, Chaumet can thank the sister companies for the mechanism of its “Attrape-moi… si tu m’aimes” watch. In this original movement, the hands are replaced by the brand’s favourite bee and a spider which chase each other around the dial. The relatively recent Geneva brand Emile Chouriet also called on the duo for a tourbillon and a large moon phase.
From complications to base calibres
“To be perfectly frank, it’s hard keeping up with demand, although we’re always on the lookout for new mandates,” adds Nicolas Commergnat. “We’re structured in such a way that we can take various types of project from conception to production, with specially trained and qualified staff. Currently we employ some twenty staff which corresponds to production in the range of 30,000 units a year. Our workshops are configured to accommodate up to 60 opérateurs meaning we have room to expand on-site” An expansion that is far from wishful thinking. But even if GMTI has set its sights high, these are still early days. “We started with highly complicated calibres as a means of absorbing understanding and expertise. It’s always been our principle to work with local partners for the production of parts that fall outside our skills set. Hence the Alliance Genève name, an alliance of Geneva’s savoir-faire.” The company is working on a long-term project to develop and produce two base calibres (12.5 and 8.75 lignes) that can be used in men’s and women’s watches. These new “workhorse” movements have reached the pre-series stage. The objective is to propose reliable movements, suited to large-scale industrial production which can take additional complication modules, and offer an alternative to established companies. What’s more, GMTI has its bases covered: were an essential part lacking, such as the balance spring, the company and its partners have developed a solution to produce this all-important component. It may not be long before GMTI will be needing that extra space…
*An opérateur en horlogerie assembles the different movement parts, fits the dial and hands, cases the movements and attaches the strap. Under supervision, they carry out precise adjustments at every stage.