Technological Discontinuities and Flexible Production Networks: The Case of Switzerland and the World Watch Industry

Posted: 17 Nov 2009

Date Written: 1991

Abstract

Studies the history of the Swiss watch industry to examine adaptations to external technological change. Until the 1970s, the Swiss watch production system was flexible, cost effective, and extremely profitable. When technological shifts (advancements from electronic to digital to quartz technology) were introduced by foreign competitors, however, the Swiss lost a huge fraction of their output levels. Extensive analysis of the Swiss watch industry's early twentieth-century history -- including market changes, industry structure, global competitors, and technological change -- shows that while the network structure was flexible and effective, it was also fragmented. Thus, when the new technological regime was introduced, a myriad of organizational voices disunified the region's production complex, causing institutional inertia. Elaborate network production systems like the Swiss watch industry are far from immune to the effects of technological change: in fact, the task of shifting established organizing structures within social and industrial networks to accommodate change is even more problematic for such large, diversified entities. Ultimately, findings from this case study show that an industry's innovation and flexibility are fragile and dependent not only on production methods, but on historical circumstances and inter-firm networks as well. (CJC)

Keywords: Production networks, Industry structures, Institutional inertia, Technological change, Market competition, Adaptability, Interfirm alliances, Innovation process, Flexible structures, Disruptive technologies, Organizational structures, Social networks, Cultures

Suggested Citation

Glasmeier, Amy K., Technological Discontinuities and Flexible Production Networks: The Case of Switzerland and the World Watch Industry (1991). Research Policy, Vol. 20, Issue 5, p. 469-485 1991. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1506383

Amy K. Glasmeier (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

University Park
State College, PA 16802
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
721
PlumX Metrics