The passion for watches is something that needs to be shared, and this is what we try to do with this column. While we often discuss watches with men in the Collector’s Series, there are also some women who have an utter passion for watchmaking. And today, we have both a story of transmitting the passion from a husband to his wife, who now also collects watches from indie watchmakers. @herindependentstyle is a 47-year-old watch aficionado from Utrecht, the Netherlands, with a passion for independent brands. Her watch, a Schwarz Etienne Fiji Floral Seconds in steel, is not a dime a dozen. The Dutch watch lover explains why this watch made her heart skip a beat.
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME – The watch you are wearing is not a household name. How did you get to know this brand?
@herindependentstyle – Well, my husband @watchonthewrist (who also participated in this series, talking about his Vianney Halter) is an indie watch collector. He passed on his love for independents to me. I personally think that an independent brand has a lot more depth to give to its customers than the regular mainstream brands. As a buyer, you are involved in your watch purchase from start to finish. I first laid eyes on Schwarz Etienne in early 2019, and I loved it.
Can you tell us more about the history of the brand?
The company was founded in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1902 by Paul Arthur Schwarz and his wife, Olga Etienne. So you see where the company name comes from. Schwarz Etienne has always been an innovative company, making components and movements for others. It was taken over by the sons of its founders in 1940. Schwarz Etienne may be an unknown name to many; it has supplied parts and movements to major names, such as Chanel, Dunhill, Mauboussin and Caran d’Ache. The brand developed from the 1970s and 1980s onwards and gradually became recognised as a real manufacturer, with its own brand name established in 1985.
It was fascinating for me to learn about the story behind the brand, which originally started out as a creator, developer and producer of watch movements as opposed to a brand, to the moment it started making its own branded watches. The people at Schwarz Etienne gave us a warm welcome. I found it intriguing to see how the company creates and manufactures its own movements and components, including the regulating organ, the balance. This is made possible thanks to the skills of its sister companies E2O innovations (also managed by Mauro Egermini, CEO of Schwarz Etienne) and TMH (Tradition Mécanique Horlogère), specialists in escapements and the oscillating organ (including the hairspring). E20 Innovations manufactures hairsprings and balance springs with very high precision. A difference of 0.1 microns (or 100 nanometres) on the springs’ profile can impact the running rate of a movement by up to 300 seconds per day (check out our article to find out more).
Is that what you admire most in this brand?
The brand has opened my eyes to the independents’ market for ladies’ watches. Most independent brands fully manufacture their watches in-house, and they have a very personal approach when it comes to their customers. When we were invited to the factory, we were able to admire all the processes that a Schwarz Etienne watch goes through. And yes, I found the development of their own hairspring the most inspiring of all. The techniques have always really fascinated me in the independent brands. And this tour was incredible. They gave me the full experience of what makes the brand so special. I’m in love with this brand.
Why did you choose this particular model?
This watch would be my first indie watch, and it really matched my taste. I love salmon dials, and the combination with the blue and extra brown strap was just wonderful. I decided to buy it, and on 11 July 2019, it became mine when I collected it at Schwarz Etienne in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The whole buying process was a fantastic experience. When we got to Switzerland to collect it, we were pampered from start to finish, got a tour around the manufacture, our guide explained everything we wanted to know; it was fascinating. And to top it off, we went out for dinner with Schwarz’s CEO, Mr Mauro Egermini, that evening. It opened my eyes to the world behind watchmaking, which made me more passionate about watches and especially about the indies.
And what has been your experience with the watch so far?
This watch is so feminine; I just think the entire Fiji collection is exquisite. It feels as if this watch was made for me. The ergonomics are magnificent, it sits comfortably on the wrist, and in my opinion, a 38mm size is perfect. I love the open caseback, enabling you to see the guilloché parts of the ASE 200.00 manufacture movement.
Because of the two straps in light blue and brown, the watch is wearable both in winter and summer. The straps can easily be interchanged because of the quick release system, and they have a beautiful finish: leather with a silver-grey technological satin lining. The buckles are engraved with the brand logo. When I received the watch, it was packaged in a nice grey leather bag and a watch pouch of Noleti Switzerland. Everything was perfect.
Do you wear the watch a lot?
I wear it as often as I can, but it has to match my clothes and style. I like to wear coordinated outfits! The watch attracts a lot of attention. I get many positive reactions when I wear it. People who see it always ask what brand it is. I’m quite active on Instagram, and the watch is highly appreciated there, as it is on dedicated watch sites. People who know me know that I am not very brand-steady, but they say that this watch is really made for me.
The retail price of this watch is around CHF 7,700. Would you ever consider selling it?
No, I won’t ever sell it. Its financial value is not important to me; this watch stays in my collection!
How would you describe your watch collection?
It is very diverse and ranges from Seiko to independent brands. I love simplicity with a touch of glamour. Whether a watch is vintage, independent, or a EUR 35 model, they all have something special to me.
Is there already a new watch on your wishlist?
I don’t really have a wishlist, but if I could choose, a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso or an F.P. Journe Elegante would be the ones. Both have the elegant styling I love.
What would your advice be to people who are interested in buying a Schwarz Etienne watch?
First, visit the Schwarz Etienne website or contact me. I can refer you to one of my contacts at SE. On the internet, and especially on IG, all sorts of information can be found. Then, when you have bought the watch, be careful with it. Personally, I take very good care of my watches. I take it off when I am close to water, especially when I’m on holiday and lying by the pool or on the beach. No watches there! And I don’t wear it at night. After cleaning it, I keep it in a watch box. This way, your watch stays beautiful for a long period of time.
Any more general tips for people who’d like to start collecting watches?
One tip I can give you is to start following watch collectors on IG. Just type in ‘watch’, and you’ll easily find the right people. Follow them and ask questions. This is the way my own network has been expanding since I started collecting. Since everyone has the same passion, this is an interesting way of connecting to others. By now, I think it’s safe to say that friendships have developed. I would especially like to recommend that ladies start collecting watches. I am connected to many female collectors, and these connections are really precious to me. Although some may think otherwise, the watch world certainly isn’t a man’s world. I feel highly appreciated as a woman.
All in all, if you want to start collecting and you have the financial means, just go for it. A watch can be as expensive as you choose. And don’t forget that you have a choice between new and vintage. I have a couple of vintage watches in my collection, and they are wonderful.