The Schaublin 70 Lathe

By Hannah, May 20, 2021

anOrdain's high precision cutting machine the Schaublin 70 lathe

anOrdain’s Schaublin 70

At the beginning of the year, we made a very exciting purchase to add to our ever-growing toolkit – a Schaublin 70 lathe.

In the watchmaking world, the Schaublin 70 is a big deal. But for those who may not be familiar with it, the Schaublin 70 is a Swiss-made, high-precision machine cutting tool - or lathe - used in toolmaking, clock and watchmaking. Primarily designed to shape wood and metal, lathes use a rotational drive to turn the workpiece against changeable cutting tools.

anOrdain's watchmaker Naïs working on a Schaublin 70 lathe

anOrdain watchmaker Naïs at work on the Schaublin 70

Our highly skilled watchmaker Naïs, who completed her 3000-hour Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Information Program (WOSTEP) at the BSW (British School of Watchmaking) in Manchester, will be the primary user of the Schaublin 70. She will be employing the machine for several upcoming projects, using numerous techniques in the process: drilling, boring, milling and wheel cutting.

“Using the Schaublin 70 requires a great amount of training and understanding,” she says. “It has so many functions and uses an extremely fast-spinning motor so it’s essential to have a full grasp on the practicalities of the machine before attempting anything on it.

“Once you’re confident enough with your abilities though, it’s a very enjoyable tool to use. Because it’s such a precise cutting machine, making a part from scratch is particularly satisfying.”

Early Schaublin factory in Bevilard, in Jura region, Switzerland

The Schaublin Factory at Bevilard, Switzerland

Founded by Charles Schäublin in April 1915, Ch. Schaublin Villeneuve, as it was then known, was established in Malleray – a small, rural town in the Jura region, just as the seeds of the clock and watchmaking industry were beginning to be sown there. The aim, according to schaublin.ch, was to “make lathes for the Swiss horological trade.”

As the company initially supplied parts and tools exclusively for the Swiss horological industry, according to lathes.co.uk (there really is a site for everything!), many one-off items were made to “assist with specialist manufacturing processes” of Swiss watches. The exclusivity and relative rarity of some of Schaublin’s early goods now heightens the allure of the brand and its products.

However, it is not only the almost collectable nature of Schaublin lathes and accessories that draws industry experts to them. Schaublin lathes are renowned for the high-quality of their manufacturing and their longevity. Indeed, their lifespan is famously known to last well over 50 years.

Cover of Schaublin machine tool catalogue showing lathe bed

Acting as a testament to their durability, the Schaublin 70 carries the same patent as the 1919 original. Beginning life in the early 1920s as the Schaublin 65, the 70 proved popular in the Swiss watch industry as it was considerably smaller than many industrial lathes available at the time and, by the 1930s, the 65 and 70 “had become internationally recognised as top-quality machines for toolroom and experimental shop work.” After the Second World War, production of the 65 ceased, and the 70 took over. Because of its high-quality nature and subsequent popularity, production of the 70 continues to this day.

There are a couple of ways to calculate the rough manufacturing date of a Schaublin model. lathes.co.uk specifies “from 1945 onwards… Schaublin machine tools were to be painted in four different colours: until the late 1950s a green-grey was used, from the 1960s until the late 1970s a blue-grey… After that, and running until the early 1990s, a change was made to… a form of the ‘standard European machine-tool green.’”

Assembly shop of Swiss machine tool company Schaublin

The Schaublin Assembly-shop from General Catalogue 1974

Judging from this standard, anOrdain’s Schaublin can be dated back to the 1960s. However, our model not only carries the rich history of its manufacturer. Its most recent home before anOrdain also ties it to yet more horological heritage.

anOrdain’s Schaublin 70 arrived from the Swiss town of La Chaux-de-Fonds – the capital of the watchmaking industry for over 100 years.

Situated just a few kilometres south of the French border, La Chaux-de-Fonds lies at 1000m altitude in the canton of Neuchâtel. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009 and characterised by its chessboard design, the town is home to the Musée International d’horologie (MIH/International Watch Museum) – a museum “entirely dedicated to the history of time measurement. Dating back to 1902, MIH hosts over 4,500 exhibits, 2,700 of which are watches.

So, while it’s a very specific kind of excitement, we are delighted to include the Schaublin 70 in anOrdain’s watchmaking toolkit. Already at least 50 years old, it is amazing to think of the instruments that must have been manufactured on this machine, and we are excited to continue its legacy.