There were many conversations in the Lounge about this fascinating aspect of Swiss watchmaking history, which continues to this day through the auspices of specialty component manufacturers. Karl Marx, in Das Kapital, had these very informative details on the manufacturing of watches:"Formerly the individual work of a Nuremberg artificer, the watch has been transformed into the social product of an immense number of detail laborers, such as mainspring makers, dial makers, spiral spring makers, jewelled hole makers, ruby lever makers, hand makers, case makers, screw makers, gilders, with numerous sub-division, such as wheel makers (brass and steel separate), pin makers, movement makers, acheveur de pignon (fixes the wheels on the axles, polishes the facets, etc.), pivot makers, planteur de finissage (puts the wheels and springs in the works), finisseur de barillets (cuts teeth in the wheels, makes the holes of the right size, etc.), escapement makers, cylinder makers for cylinder escapements, escapement wheel makers, balance wheel makers, raquette makers (apparatus for regulating the watch), the planteur d’échappement (escapement maker proper); then the repasseur de barillet (finishes the box for the spring, etc.), steel polishers, wheel polishers, screw polishers, figure painters, dial enamellers (melt the enamel on the copper), fabricant de pendants (makes the ring by which the case is hung), finisseur de charnière (puts the brass hing in the cover, etc.), faiseur de secret (puts in the springs that open the case), graveur, ciseleur, polisseur de boite, etc., etc., and last of all the repasseur, who fits together the whole watch and hands it over in a going state."
I feel it was a gradual process to consolidate these seperate functions, beginning perhaps in 1810 when V&C opened their first self-declared "factory" in Geneva (as opposed to cabinoteers and finissage, I suppose) and, of course, accelerated when they took on Georges-Auguste Leschot in 1839. Again just opinion, but in part due to long-time business and familial relationships, there always seemed to be an expectation that watchmaking in Switzerland should not concentrate in a few centers but spread the economic benefits as widely as possible. Our current preferences, even prejudices, in favor of in-house manufacture are not really relevant to the vintage period and still remains a novel idea in terms of Swiss horological history.