Working Paper | 2015

The Re-Emergence of an Institutional Field: Swiss Watchmaking

by Ryan Raffaelli


In this qualitative study, I examine the factors that influence the re-emergence of market demand for a legacy technology in a mature institutional field. I extend previous work related to field emergence and institutions (e.g., Hargadon & Douglas, 2001; Holm, 1995; Leblebici, Salancik, Copay, & King, 1991), offering support for a theoretical model of field re-emergence. In addition, I offer data and analysis to illustrate that re-emergence is a viable empirical phenomenon. Focusing on Swiss watchmaking from 1970 to 2008, I present various institutionalization processes, inflection points, and focal constructs associated with the field's emergence, decline, and eventual re-emergence. I find that re-emergence requires components that, paradoxically, facilitate both field transformation and field preservation. Although these processes appear to be at odds with one another, during a period of re-emergence they serve as necessary counterweights, encouraging the preservation of some valued elements of the old institutional order alongside new elements that allow for change and survival.

Keywords: re-emergence; fields; institutions; Technology Evolution;


Raffaelli, Ryan. "The Re-Emergence of an Institutional Field: Swiss Watchmaking." Working Paper, January 2015.