The history of SAT-SAGEM starts in 1849 when Claude Etienne Grammont leaves the company Gindre-Chavany, manufacturer of threads for stitched fabrics, where he was foreman. Grammont founded his wireworks company "La Grammonière" in 1870.1
Alexander Grammont, son of the founder, former student of the Ecole Centrale, directs the activities of the company to wire drawing of copper cables and electric motors. In 1881 the company employed 143 people
In 1891 Alexander Grammont decided to start manufacturing telegraph, telephone and energy cables and soon moves the factory to Saint-Tropez where a 7200 square meters factory becomes operational in 1892.
In 1898 the Compagnie des Signaux was founded in Riom. As orders began to fall in 1906, as a result of the telegraph network becoming dense enough, Grammont encountered difficulties. In addition, the company did not own a cable ship unlike the competition. In 1913 the cables factory of Saint-Tropez was mothballed. The year after, on the eve of the First World War, Grammont employed 2,150 people.
During the first World War Grammont was involved in industrial production required by the war, producing shells in their Pont Chéruy factory. In the meanwhile (1915) Grammont started to manufacture amplification lamps for radio transmitters and after the war addressed the field of amplification equipment for telephone lines over long distances (repeaters).
1921 saw the construction of cable factory in Riom by the Compagnie des Signaux. That same year saw the establishment of the Société d'Etudes pour les Liaisons Téléphoniques (SELT), which included the SIT (Société Industrielle des Téléphones), the SACM (Société Alsacienne de Constructions Mécaniques) and the Grammont businesses. Their cooperation was limited to research.
Jacques Roussel joined Grammont in 1923 and stayed 45 years, becoming a pillar of the establishment and management consultancies of future SAT.
After his study at the Polytechnic Institute of Grenoble, Myron Lebedinsky entered the telephone company Grammont in 1924 where he worked on equipment amplification and termination of cables.
Between 1925 and 1927 the cables manufactured by SELT are of poor technical quality, with a lot of waste. Despite that it was decided in 1928 to try one last attempt with SELT. A cable had to be made for the Angoulème-Limoges link (102 km). Thanks to new knowledge and proper project management the whole cable was manufactured by 17 November 1928. A French chain of long distance cables was born, an event that was the founding document of SAT.
In 1931, following the success of Grammont, PTT decided to take control of two cables: Le Mans-Rennes and Le Mans-Angers. But they required that the production be supported by the team that was successful on the last cable. An agreement was signed between Grammont and the Compagnie des Signaux on 9 December.
On February 6 1932 the first SAT (Société des Applications Téléphoniques) was founded, their first president being Georges Bertrand, engineer at Grammont.
The consequences of the economic crisis of the early 1930s and lax financial management at Grammont leads PTT to promote the resumption of SAT by a more credible firm. Wanting to diversify, SAGEM takes control of SAT in August 1939. Felix Verny, father in law of Marcel Mome and President of SAGEM is the first President of the Second and final SAT (Société Anonyme des Télécommunications).
France declared war to Germany on 2 September 1939 and many men of SAT were mobilized. At the first general meeting of the SAT on 27 December 1940 Marcel Mome, President of SAGEM became President of SAT. In the period 1942-1943 SAT produced the "source K" listening system to tap off communication of the occupier from the French cables. At the request of PTT, much of the material produced is hidden in 42 farms around Montluçon in the period 1942-1944 and particularly at the mill Allorant Sainte-Severe-sur-Indre. In 1942 Paul Gellos became President of the SAT. André Hardy is Chief Executive Officer and Leon Parcé Director.
On the night of 14 to 15 September 1943, Hall 9 in Montluçon, which housed SAT, was destroyed by allied bombing aimed at the Dunlop factory. The allies landed in Normandy on 6 June 1944 and on 25 August Montluçon was liberated (and so was Paris the day after). In September the SAT personnel returned to Paris, but Montluçon remained their main manufacturing workshop. SAT staff is about 200 people in 1945.
In the period 1949-1951 the general economic situation is difficult. The work schedule is reduced from 45 to 40 hours. In 1951, an important export order returns the schedule to 45 hours.
SAT incorporated the workshops of Jean Turck in 1956. This was the start of a diversification of activities to the field of infra-red detection and gear for the defence industries. Jean Turck arrived with 120 people including Pierre Lamelot, Roger Bouchard and Rene Bertelet who became directors. SAT staff reached 800 people.
The transistor matures by 1958 and was used in the equipment instead of the usual amplifying lamps. In 1960 the research for the first infra-red seeker, the AD530, was started as well as the research for telemetry system AJAX. The flight test centre chooses SAT as prime contractor for the telemetry system AJAX in 1961, primarily for the development of military launchers.
In 1962 the first modem was made with speeds at 1200 bit/s. 1963 saw the start of a research of the single-line infra-red analyser.
First AD530's were manufactured in 1964, 1500 copies of which were delivered between 1964 and 1979 and in the meanwhile the research for a new infra-red seeker, the AD550 (which would become the MAGIC 1), was started in 1965.
Digital telemetry system proposed by SAT for the European ESRO 1 satellite was selected by ESRO (the later ESA). SAT provided the encoder and integrated transmitters (Sud Aviation) and recorder (LOCKHEED).
Early research on an infra-red multidetector started in 1971. First they managed creating strips, then matrices, based on own technology or inspired on those implemented in silicon technology. This research would lead to high performance sensors, in particular for infra-red imaging. In 1972 it resulted in the Minilir, a theodolite capable of following any mobile infra-red source.2
The turnover reached 979 million francs in 1974, an increase of 170% compared to 1969 at constant prices.1 Staff now reached 6,000 people. The growth in activity led to the construction in 1979 of the La Chaume, including an infra-red laboratory. Michel Comte Blache was appointed Director of the establishment of Dourdan. The fabrication of PbS and InSb detectors and the optical workshop were transferred to Poitiers.
By 1978 the revenues generated by the infra-red activity reached 300 million francs, nearly 20% of sales of the SAT. The following year the research of infra-red seeker MISTRAL began. In 1982 a three-party cooperation (France, Germany, Great Britain) started in the field of detection and infra-red guidance. It took 3 years to start and 15 years to complete!
At the behest of the General Delegation for Armaments (DGA) in 1984, SAT and Thomson are "invited" to bring together, in a joint venture, all French skills in the field of infra-red components technology. SAT lost a large part of the investments it had made for nearly 40 years with the Turck establishments in this strategic sector. This year, for the first time, SAT is losing 45 million francs, while the forecast for 1985 was a 227 million francs loss.
The production of 4000 copies of the seeker MAGIC 2 in the factories of Poitiers and Montlucon started in 1985, while in Poitiers the manufacturing of infra-red equipment for the navy (the Vampir, PIRANA and SEID) started.
In 1987 SAT won a contract to supply the high performance thermal camera ATHOS for the LECLERC tank. 30 cameras were produced monthly by the Poitiers factory.
In 1988 SAT was re-organised into three divisions: the Division Télécommunications (DTEL), the Division Communications d'Entreprise (DCE), and the Division Optronique et Défense (DOD).
The production of a new infra-red seeker, the MISTRAL, started in 1988. 15,000 copies were manufactured at a rate of 2,000 per year. The next year early research was done for a new bi-spectral IR seeker for the MICA missile.
In 1996 the DOD merged with the Division of Navigation and Defense of SAGEM to become a new Division of SAGEM: Defence and Security. This is the end of the infra-red activities at SAT that they exercised for nearly 40 years (and 60 years if the company Turck is included). DOD staff is dispersed between various SAGEM establishments.
Although the result of SAT rose as a percentage of turnover (6%) and in francs in 1998, at the general meetings of SAGEM and SAT, held on 19 May that year, it was decided to merge SAT into SAGEM by absorption. The decision took effect from 1 January 1998. The second SAT had lived a little less than 57 years, while it had been 128 years since the beginning of the activity of Grammont in the field of cables.
Instrument(s) in the collection
Notes: Histoire de la SAT. Repères chronologiques, Edition du 24 janvier 2011
: SAT web site Histoire Générale
All figures were taken from the Classements des photos page of the SAT Souvenir web site.
If you have any questions and/or remarks please let me know.
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Ahrend Askania Carl Zeiss Jena Chesterman Doyle & Son Jenoptik Jena Kern Aarau Keuffel & Esser Lerebours SAT-SAGEM Secrétan à Paris Société des Lunetiers Tibaut Desimpelaere Wild Heerbrugg