Schwarz Etienne is a brand that flies under the radar for many reasons, but if you take the time to look a little closer, you will soon discover that it has a lot to offer. Its product offering is structured around three main collections (plus a few exclusive pieces). Recently we had the opportunity to visit to the manufacture, which was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. The brand has incredible potential and already boasts a surprisingly high level of vertical integration – in particular the in-house production of hairsprings with E2O innovations, their sister company located in the same facilities in La Chaux-de-fonds. That’s rare enough and it really needs an in-depth explanation.
The Schwarz Etienne Roma Power Reserve in steel powered by the MSE111.00 in-house movement.
The story of Schwarz Etienne goes as far back as 1902 when Paul Arthur Schwarz and his wife Olga Etienne founded a fabrique in La Chaux de Fonds, combining their two surnames. Paul Schwarz Etienne, and then his descendants, owned brands such as Alpha and Venus. Schwarz Etienne was later involved in manufacturing activities for prominent clients such as Dunhill and Chanel.
In the mid-2000s a businessman, Raffaello Radicchi, invested in reviving this century old heritage and in 2008, Schwarz Etienne put into action a plan to develop and produce movements in-house. The idea was to develop a modular family of calibers, always with the same fitting caliber, even with the adjunction of additional functions. This led to the introduction of the MSE (Manual Schwarz Etienne) in 2012, a nice movement with vintage look and boasting 6 bridges. 13’’’ ¼ lines in diameter, this twin barrel construction runs at 21’600 vibrations per hour and features a healthy 4 days power reserve.
The MSE movement case in the Roma collection.
The ASE (Automatic Schwarz Etienne) was presented in 2013 with a micro-rotor replacing one of the two barrels. In 2015, the ISE (Irreversible Schwarz Etienne) exposed its micro-rotor and oscillator on the dial side. In 2016, the brand introduced an evolution of the ISE, regulated by a flying tourbillon (TSE Tourbillon Schwarz Etienne).
Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Tourbillon
Today, together with sister companies E2O innovations (also managed by Mauro Egermini, CEO of Schwarz Etienne) and TMH (Tradition Mécanique Horlogère), some 20 people are working in the brand’s facilities in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Overall, the machine set-up is rather impressive, especially for a small independent manufacturer. E2O Innovations manufactures assortments, in particular hairsprings for Schwarz Etienne and a few other manufacturers. The production process is indeed interesting, mixing high-tech industrial precision with manual work. To give you an idea of the level of work involved, it takes approximately a month to transform and laminate a 0.6mm metal wire into a hairspring within tolerances of 0.1 micron…
So, the next time you come across a Schwarz Etienne timepiece maybe take the time to have a closer look. There’s a lot more going on than first meets the eye and I am sure you will not be disappointed. Later, we’ll take a closer look at the watches themselves. www.schwarz-etienne.ch.