Since my post on the tritium time lines I've been researching the background as to what may have created or help to explain the changes dials especially in the early 1960's. Whilst comparing dials and charting the period of application is very interesting, one sometimes has to stand back and look for the empirical evidence/catalysts for change. So her is some of my background research, it may go some way to putting things into context but there again might be entirely co-incidental.
I have been struggling to understand the mechanism by which Tritium was adopted by the Swiss watch industry, there were international conventions include the AEC convention in 1961 and the Convention in Rome in the spring of 1963 which both sets standards for levels of tritium for dials and hands. Radium remained outside of the US AEC control was the traditional material used and the US and Swiss watch industry were in major disputes over tariffs etc during this period.
Key dates we know so far:
First report of US AEC consider releasing tritium for use in watches is July 1960
AEC agrees to release tritium for use in watches Jan 12 1961
RC Tritec one of the Swiss radiation paint suppliers switches from radium to tritium in 1962
Well I may have the final part of the answer, if not the entire rationale for timing of the change from radium which had well documented workers occupational health hazard causing a considerable number of deaths and cancer suffering in the dial painting industry.
The International Labour Organisation based in Geneva holds a convention in 1960 which became known as the Radiation Protection Convention 1960 C115 is designed to o restrict workers from exposure of ionising radiation and to prohibit to engage work that causes such exposure
It was established in 1960, with the preamble stating:
Having decided upon the adoption of certain proposals with regard to the protection of workers against ionising radiations,... Article 2. This Convention applies to all activities involving exposure of workers to ionising radiation in the course of their work. Article 5. Every effort shall be made to restrict the exposure of workers to ionising radiation to the lowest protectable level
Important Convention dates:
Date of Adoption June 22 1960
Date in force June 17 1962
Date adopted by UK March 9 1962
Date adopted by Switzerland May 29 1963
It appears that the convention was never adopted by the USA even though it is a member of the ILO body.
Is it purely coincidental that tritium is being considered for use in watch in July 1960 immediately following on from the June 1960 adoption of the convention and the USA being the main suppliers of radium at that time.
Ionising radiation is created by Alpha, Beta and Gamma emissions which Strontium 90, Radium and Tritium produce, but less was known at that time about tritium effects and it had to be ingested rather than just exposure to that substance may explain a lot regarding its adoption and of course lets not forget the US AEC control of most of its distribution, which it did not have over Radium or Strontium 90.
Just a thought, does it put the timing of exclamation points and underlines into a clearer context?
Just to demonstrate that all was not well in International trade in the 60s and the US actions and protectionism of domestic markets and manufacturers, the US is not alone in this what now seems strange world of protections compared with the levels of free trade today
The US sought to control its markets and imports thru various mechanisms and with regard to Swiss watches in particular, we have chronicled some of the key events:
1. Part of the settlement agreement of the US Antitrust case brought against the watchmakers of Switzerland on the October 19, 1954 concluded in 1966. Rolex USA with 11 other defendants agreed a separate Final Judgement with the US Government on March 9th 1960.
2. Bi-lateral trade agreement or International trade agreements.
The following notes attempts to point to some of the empirical circumstances and timeframes which may point to the adoption of tritium through trade agreements which involved Swiss watches and the various tariffs. The timing of the discussions is very coincidental, but the detail of the discussions has eluded me to-date. The EU (Common Market) Treaty of Rome agreement to reduce tariffs by 10% per annum until completely removed from trade amongst the member states was seen as a real threat and opportunity to US trade. The EU at this point was not a party to GATT.
To begin with.
The US: Swiss Trade Agreement 1954
Restoring US high tariffs on Swiss watch Movements, even though there is a in balance in trade between the two nations to the US benefit, high tariffs were imposed to protect the US domestic industry. Part of the rationale for the tariff was the low cost base overseas compared with the US costs.
These US cost base comparators ascertain was proven to be false in 1963/4 during the GATT negotiations with the then Common Market.
1958 and 1959 US gold reserve losses to meet trade imbalances following dollar revaluation of concern to GATT http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=4LlOAAAAIBAJ&sjid=CAEEAAAAIBAJ&pg=7176,3835933&dq=gatt&hl=en
Fifth Conference of GATT opens in Sept 1960
US agree to discuss tariff reductions on thousands of items
World Trade Conference opens in Geneva in November 1961
Concerns over Common Market exports including wheat may effect US farmers
One must not forget the US: German Chicken War in which the US introduced tariffs on imported Light Commercial Vehicles to punish Volkswagen commercial vehicles as a result of German tariffs on frozen US chickens.
US passes Expansion of Trade Act 1962 Kennedy issues Executive Order 11075 allowing up to 50% reduction in Tariffs
New York Times - ý17 Jul 1962ý
About 4400 concessions were, exchanged, GATT said. I In its initial stage, the negotiations concerned only a readjustment in earlier tariff agreements ...
1963 US reviews tariff on imported watch movements The American Watch Association asked the United States Tariff Commission to recommend cuts in duties on imported watch movements to pre-1954 levels.. The current US hearings on whether to cut tariffs on watches imported into the United States are being closely watched by trade negotiators in Geneva.
President Kennedy intercedes to save GATT talks
1963 Common Market pushes hard negotiation on US tariffs on a product by product basis
1964 Switzerland threatens retaliation for continuing US watch movement high tariffs
1964 during the GATT talks the US lost its case on the effectively double the then EU equivalent tariff rate on Swiss watches. So do we see a trade off, with the use of tritium for lower tariffs, US sales of tritium in 1966 were estimated to be $22 billion!!
1967 US Watch Tariffs reduced.
President Johnson's decision to roll back watch and sheet-glass tariffs--despite powerful opposition mobilized by those industries in a Congress he no longer dominates--was an act of political courage with broader world implications than trade in those products would suggest. It affects the atmosphere of the entire Kennedy Round of trade negotiations now nearing completion in Geneva.
All was still not well; the high tariffs lead to watch importation via duty free zones on US islands to avoid tariffs coupled with continuing devaluation of the $ and lower tariffs would impact Virgin Islands watch assembly and manufacturing industry.
All of this may be totally co-incidental to the adoption of tritium by the Swiss watch industry, it does seem that trade and labour agreements may have lead to its adoption; unless some other US legislative instrument that has evaded me to date came into play.
More than happy to discuss, all my own research so subject to errors and omissions.