The Acrotec Group, an industrial jewel in the independent Swiss Made sector

With its healthy growth policy and set of non-negotiable values, the Acrotec Group, its 20 companies and over 1,200 employees are gliding serenely towards a possible stock market launch.

By Joël A. Grandjean

Few businesses adhere more closely to the EPHJ ethos: a culture of cross-sectoral cooperation and complementarity between all areas of high-precision micromechanics, three sectors and three divisions – Watch and Jewellery, Precision High-Tech and Medtech – mirroring the show’s layout at Palexpo.

Cross-sectoral cooperation and synergies

It all started back in 2001 with the first of the takeovers, that of Vardeco. Originally a watchmaking company, Vardeco made the move into electronics – a major consumer of all kinds of connectors – after the quartz crisis caused an upheaval in the watchmaking industry. The machines were the same, it was just a question of boosting them and increasing their output to make up for the high cost of the Swiss franc and Swiss labour.

It was a gamble that paid off for Vardeco’s new owner, François Billig. His employees gave their all, each willing to take their share of the risk. The episode taught him a lot about staying resilient and about the survival strategies needed to weather economic storms. Today, under his leadership, the Group consists of 20 companies serving over 1,500 customers and generating turnover of around CHF 270 million.

Acrotec Group meets selection criteria

Over time, a number of precious pearls of the watchmaking industry, from the Jura Arc to Geneva and the Vallée de Joux, and some across the border in France, were added to this necklace of expertise, starting with Kif Parechoc. This was all done in an exemplary, healthy and ethical way that fully respected the people without whom success and enhanced performance cannot be achieved. Acrotec’s growth philosophy encourages the seller to take a stake in the holding company that owns the Group. That way, the person that founded the business, or the heir to the family firm, or the main shareholder/CEO not only gets to remain in charge after doing a great deal but also benefits from the synergies that any growing business needs and which their company previously lacked.

After a series of takeover binges, the all-powerful brands eventually realised that they could not verticalise the entire watchmaking supply chain and would have to rely on external expertise for some delicate or recurring work. However, they remain very particular about their selection criteria. Thus, a company that doesn’t generate all its turnover from watchmaking will be more appealing than one that does, because, big or small, it will not be at greater risk in the event of a market collapse.

Cherished independence

Belonging to an independent group of entities fighting for their region – which is the real strength of Swiss Made – remains another key criterion since it safeguards many jewels in Switzerland’s industrial crown from being sold to foreign interests, particularly in Asia.

On top of these guarantees, other criteria include complete independence from watchmaking groups, and substantial investment in the development and upgrading of tools and machines as well as continuous R&D. This is one of the Group’s strengths, as shown by the recent establishment of an R&D department covering all its member companies.

The 20 companies in the Acrotec Group are: AFT Micromécanique, Butech, Décovi, Diener Precision Machining, Diener Precision Pumps, DJC, Générale Ressorts, H2i, KIF Parechoc, Mimotec, mu-DEC, Petitpierre, Pierhor-Gasser, Precipro, Roch Mécanique de précision, Sigatec, STS, Tectri, Vardeco and WatchDEC.

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