Marcel Môme, founder of Sagem
Sagem, now known as Safran Electronics & Defense, was founded in 1925 by Marcel Môme, an engineer from French Auvergne area, motivated by a fierce determination to succeed. It's the story of an SME that became a subsidiary of Safran, a world leader in number of its markets.
Born in 1899 in Clermont-Ferrand, Marcel Môme enrolled at the prestigious engineering school “École des Arts et Métiers” in Cluny in 1917, looking to hone the technical education he'd already acquired. Diploma in hand, the young "gadzart" started his career as a fitter, first at Michelin, then at the Company of Signals and Electrical Enterprises (CSEE).
An unwavering sense of pragmatism
In 1925, he "moved up to Paris", and finding the conditions highly favorable, he founded the Société d'applications générales d'électricité et de mécanique (Sagem*). Every opportunity was seized to ensure the development of the company's operations in this broad field. So, Sagem manufactured Pathé Baby cameras and projectors, repaired railway carriages, made a name for itself in energy supply and telephone exchanges and installed electric systems in buildings, and it was this pragmatism that would allow the company to weather crises and war.
Precision mechanics and defense
The company soon began an initial technological shift towards precision mechanics with the manufacture of precision equipment for the French Navy, including gun emplacements, range-finders, and gyrocompasses in particular. In the space of ten years, Sagem increased its human and industrial resources tenfold. 1936 saw the company listed on the French stock exchange and commanding a workforce of 1,000 employees.
Rock-cutters and teletypewriters
The Occupation years marked a period of reflection on the civilian and military products that would be needed at the end of the Second World War. Hence the arrival of teletypewriters! The company took on a large number of engineers to carry out the necessary research on these new products. At the end of the war, and despite a financial crisis, two of Sagem's activities came to the rescue: the licensed manufacture of rock-cutters for coal mining, and the industrial production of teletypewriters. Meanwhile, armament orders had also resumed as early as the 1950s.
By the time of Marcel Môme's death in 1962, the group, which now employed 10,000 people, was already leading the world in inertial navigation and thermal imaging (infrared), both of which are still areas of excellence for the company today...
*It was in 2005 that Sagem and Snecma merged to create Safran.
- © Cyril Abad / CAPA Pictures / Safran