Fábrica Nacional de Relógios, Reguladora SA. , or just Reguladora, or more dearly A Boa Reguladora, in Vila Nova de Famalicão, is the oldest watch and clock manufacturing companies in the Iberian Peninsula and, one of the most appraised brands in it’s sector in Portugal, with an history of time and through time since 1892.
Reguladora, The beginning
In 14 February of 1892, a business partnership between João José de São Paulo, natural for Oporto and, José Gomes da Costa Carvalho, from Mouquim, was set in Vila Nova de Famalicão for the purpose of clock and clockmaking market and all other aspects related to that industry with a focus on manufacturing.
A small workshop/factory was settled in Rua Gomes de Freire in Oporto.
São Paulo was the clockmaker and Costa Carvalho was the business manager.
The products from the newly founded company appeared in the market by 1894 and by 1895 they are awarded with a gold medal in the VilaNova de Gaia Agro-Industrial exhibition.
From Oporto to Vila Nova de Famalicão
Due to illness, João de São Paulo concedes his partnership quota to José de Carvalho who brings two new partner to the business, his brother Lino, also a clockmaker, and Joaquim Martins de Oliveira Rocha, the main creditor of the São Paulo share part.
The society is the relaunched in 11 July, 1895.
In the meantime, João de São Paulo dies somewhere between this period.
The company is now called “Carvalho, Irmão & Cª.” and it’s reallocated to Calendário, in Vila Nova de Famalicão, in 1896, near the railroad.
Lino de Carvalho, who owned a small watch-house in Famalicão (R.de Santo António) leaves his business to start administrating the new factory along with his brother.
Production and sales were prospering and by 1901 , the creditor Joaquim Rocha is compensated of the São Paulo debt.
The sole owners are now the Carvalho brothers and once again the company name changed to “J.Carvalho & Irmão, Lda.”
Time and energy
By May 1903, it’s announced that the company was intending to acquire a massive steam-engine for the company’s own power plant, and with that, proposing a public service, supplying the village with electricity for public lighting.
The steam power plant is built in 1907 and, in 16 October, grants the public lighting service in a 2 Km radius, and, during a period of 30 years.
Reguladora – expansion
With electrical sustainability for it’s own consumption and to support the community , came a business expansion with the business now embracing complementary areas like a wood mill, sawmill, carpentry and, a mechanical workshops. Starting from replicas of some clock elements from the United States, the company covered all the aspects of production.
In 1923, the main production facility is built. An imposing all concrete building, with a massive tower clock, that is still today easily recognized by everyone and, one of the most important industrial patrimony of the region.
Like many other industrial companies of those days, social care and wellness of the workers were assured by infrastructures build in the vicinity of the factory. Working class neighborhood, and respective cultivable terrains, a church and a social center. All projected by Francisco Caldeira Cabral, and a role model for future neighborhood infrastructures to be built in late 50’s and 60’s
The war period was complicated to A Boa Reguladora, with scarcity of goods and products to be plugged by some ingenious alternatives like the smelting of the used cables ad brass of the Bom Jesus tram elevator for producing mechanical parts that otherwise couldn’t be made due to wartime shortage.
From mid 50’s , the company started to enter in the metrology sectors of electricity and water meters and was supplying almost every clock to every rail station, post offices and the banking sector existing and operating in Portugal.
Reguladora was marking the time in every corner of the country.
The times changed
By 1974 the metrology sectors of electricity and water meters were spinned-off to a Spanish company.
Later on, Reguladora was incorporated into the international US group Schlumberger, who was now in charge of the metrology sector. Schlumberger, was a centenary electricity meters manufacturer, Schlumberger was later bought by Itron Inc. in a multimillion business of $255m concluded in 2003.
Reguladora, faced many changes throughout it’s history but in the end it was time itself that marked it’s doom.
Changes within the Carvalho family , alongside with the lack of adaptability to new design trends and consumer requirements, the invasive market of digital cheap watches from the Asian markets, the factory was now in decline and no longer manufacturing the mechanisms and moving parts, now imported from Germany.
The factory was in agony for more than 10 years.
Never disappearing or closing, the memory and legacy of the brand still exists today by the joint venture of former workers that in 2007 who bought the rights to the brand name and started to produce branded watches, with parts and mechanisms imported from an exclusive manufacturer in Germany, under the name “Regularfama”, and operating in the old Reguladora factory premises.
As one of the most admired and recognized companies in the Portuguese industrial history, we hope that the brand will stay alive for the years to come and, finding new values in different present perspectives.
Not only it has a very robust name and fame, Reguladora has all the knowhow it needs as a brand to assure it’s memory to be kept and preserved for future generations.
Time starts once again to Reguladora and, time will be the judge.