According to news.ch, on Sunday, December 29, around 9 a.m., there was heavy smoke coming out from the building. I was just around 11 a.m that the firefighters managed to control the fire.
Swatch Group CEO, Nick Hayek declared on radio that the fire hit the heart of the production. Damages are important,
but nobody was hurt according to this press release by the Solothurn Canton Police, one firefighter had to be rushed to the hospital and despite the strong smell of smoke in the city, there was no danger for the population. To assess the exact extent of the blaze and its impact on the production will be analyzed on Monday.
Update (Monday, December 30, 2014) – According to Reuters, Nick Hayek said that watchmakers that buy watch parts from ETA would be most affected, rather than Swatch itself. “We need to clean all the machines and reorganize. There will be a small delay of three or four weeks to production, maybe a bit more,” Hayek told Reuters by phone.
Hayek, played down the impact of the fire on Swatch Group, calling it a “relatively minor event”.
The French version of 20min.ch is reporting that the cause of the fire is still not elucidated. Nick Hayek was heard on the radio, estimating the damages between 5 to 10 millions and the reconstruction might take up to 6 to 8 months. In the mean time, production could be transferred to other facilities.
ETA is the result of successive consolidation of the Swiss watch industry, a combination of several former Swiss watch movement manufacturers including Valjoux, Peseux and Lemania. Though ETA was founded by Eterna in 1856 some part of its production line can be traced back to the 1793 founding of Fabriques d’Horlogerie de Fontainemelon.
Today, ETA is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Swatch Group Ltd. and is specialized in designing and manufacturing mechanical and quartz watch movements and ébauches (an incomplete or unassembled watch movement). These movements beat inside watches by sister Swatch Group brands and in many of their competitors’ timepieces.
Back 2002, Swatch Group announced that they would stop supplying ébauches to brands outside The Swatch Group, but the Swiss Competition Commission ordered ETA to continue supplying ébauches to companies outside The Swatch Group during their investigation.
In 2005, the investigation concluded that ETA has to continue delivering ébauches and parts at the current level until 2008, after which ETA was allowed to reduce deliveries.
Although the 2005 decision has spurred some watchmakers to invest in the personnel and equipment necessary to produce movements in-house, heavy reliance on ETA continues to the present day. The original finding has been extended, with the Swiss Competition Commission ordering in July 2012 that based on 2010 supply levels, ETA may reduce the level of supplied movements by 30 percent in 2014-2015, 50 percent in 2016-2017 and by 70 percent by 2018-2019.
The blaze covered by other medias
Bloomber.com – Swatch Falls as Factory Fire Disrupts Watchmaker Industry
20min.ch (in French) – Cause de l’incendie chez ETA toujours pas connue