You may not be able to believe your eyes if you visit Bandi SA in Courtételle, near Delémont: What looks like gold dust could actually be a cluster of tiny cog wheels when looked at under the microscope. We visit the manufacturer of precision parts for the luxury watch industry.
A modern Swiss wristwatch comprises several hundred components, and in some cases more than a thousand. Bandi SA produces cog wheels, pins, small screws, and many other complex parts for the watch industry. Considering the size of a finished watch, it doesn’t take much to understand that the components within the casing have to be microscopic in size. Yet most visitors to the factory floor are surprised when one of the smaller parts is placed in the palm of their hand with the help of tweezers: Without a microscope you'd think it was a speck of glitter in your hand – it's only through the magnifying glass that it becomes clear: This is a highly complex little screw. Yves Bandi, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bandi SA, explains: "Our smallest products have a diameter of 0.1 millimeters, the largest have a diameter of around 13."
From watchcase polisher to manufacturer of precision parts
Bandi SA entered its current field of activity in a roundabout way. Founded in 1970 by Jean-Jacques Bandi, the father of Yves Bandi, the company started out by polishing casings for the watch industry before making a detour into electronics, and then returning to the watch industry to manufacture precision parts. "Today, there are 160 CNC machines in our factory buildings. They're highly flexible and can produce something different every day if need be," explains Yves Bandi. Along with high precision, this is one of the strengths of Bandi SA: The company supplies a large number of prototypes and limited editions to companies in the luxury segment. One particular milestone in the company's history was reached not all that long ago: In mid-2015, then CEO Yves Bandi sold a majority of his stake and withdrew from day-to-day operations. He nevertheless wanted to play an active role in the company and became Chairman of the Board of Directors. "I came to the realization that neither of my two daughters would ever join the firm. At the same time, the interest shown by a group of investors including Credit Suisse Entrepreneur Capital Ltd. presented the perfect opportunity to hand over part of my business in the knowledge that it would be in safe hands," says Bandi. Johannes Suter, the long-standing CEO of Credit Suisse Entrepreneur Capital Ltd. and now CEO of Helvetica, which manages Credit Suisse Entrepreneur Capital Ltd.’s investment portfolio on its behalf, adds: "From our point of view, Bandi SA is the perfect example of an established company where, due to a lack of succession planning in the past, our involvement can have a positive impact on Switzerland as a center for business and employment."
Now led by the new CEO and long-standing employee Paul-André Tendon, the 50 or so employees will be keeping their jobs in Courtételle. "This continuity in the Canton of Jura is also supported by the new Swissness legislation, which states that at least 80 percent of a 'Swiss watch' must be manufactured in Switzerland," explains Yves Bandi. While the subject of "deindustrialization" is on everyone's lips, Bandi SA is heading in an anti-clockwise direction ‒ as it were – by investing in production and boosting its productivity. To regard this as merely a consequence of the new legislation would be too simplistic: The largest watchmakers appreciate the high quality and reliability of the Jura-based supplier: "I am proud that we've become a flagship for the watch industry, and that all major brands come to us with orders," says Yves Bandi. When you enter his modern office, it becomes clear what the watch supplier is dedicating his newly acquired free time to: A stuffed stag's head with gigantic antlers hangs on the wall and looks down on the proceedings. "Yes," he acknowledges with a smile: "That's my passion – my father and I now spend a lot of time hunting."