Already as a child, I was fascinated by the logo of this historical brand, long associated with the manufacture of such legendary calibres as the Venus. In celebration of its original birthplace, namely the UNESCO-protected city of La Chaux-de-Fonds, this latest iteration to be born of a consummate passion and desire for watchmaking independence, chose to be named after its native city. And as I love the colour green and the kinetic movements of the second retrograde hand, I find it impossible to resist. OK, I must confess, the dial-side tourbillon *is* a spectacular treat for the eyes.
Schwarz Etienne, a manufacture in a class of its own
Whether you're talking to the owner, Rafaello Radicchi, or the Managing Director, Mauro Egermini, straight away you see that the register is different. Direct, transparent - there's no marketing gibberish at Schwarz Etienne!
By Benjamin Teisseire
Schwarz Etienne is an old-established brand founded in 1902. It is primarily a supplier for other major private label brands, such as Chanel, Dunhill, Caran d’Ache and Mauboussin. Following its heyday, the crisis of the '70s wrought havoc on the workshop's business model until, in 2003, the Neuchâtel entrepreneur, Rafaello Radicchi, decided to take over the original building… and with it, the brand. It is now a jewel of the Swiss watchmaking industry.
Manufacture Schwarz Etienne
A group built on in-house competences
Today, Schwarz Etienne is a group built on a rich heritage of combined know-how. E2O Innovations produces watchmaking parts, including balance wheels, springs and escapements. BC Technologies, in whom Rafaello is a minority shareholder, produces cutting-edge machine tools for the watchmaking industry. Its in-house prototype laser cutting machine is currently used to producehands, retrograde springs, wheels, and customizable balances, such asthose bearing the now famous SE stamp of the Schwarz Etienne brand, and even racks for minute repeaters. The third entity, TMH (Tradition Mécanique Horlogère SA), produces all the parts for subcontractors of the watch industry and supplies the Schwarz Etienne brand with its bridges and bottom plates. Atec-Cyl produces assembly equipment, while RSM makes all the components for watch cases and bracelets. Finally, 3DPCI remains the go-to specialist in 3D printing for creating prototypes at least cost and, more importantly, with ultra-short delivery times.
The start-up ethos as innovation motor
Skills are pooled for greater efficiency. The start-up ethos is omnipresent. Everything is possible, from small to larger series, from10 to over 1000 pieces. Everything is on-site. Everything is customizable. The aim is to make everything readily reproducible, achieve the best return and, holy grail of all holy grails, to be entirely independent.
The manufacture now produces its own calibres, the automatic movement ASE 100.00 with its off-centre micro-rotor and modular base with 4 days' power reserve. A new calibre back in 2015, the Irreversible Schwarz Etienne (ISE) was designed on the basis of the ASE, but inverted, and left open to view dialside the subtle workings of the micro-rotor, the escapement bridge and the balance wheel. In 2016, as ultimate proof of the know-how forming its very DNA, the manufacture brought out its own tourbillon calibre, the TSE. Finally, the last movement, produced in 2017, is a tourbillon with retrograde seconds whose works are also left open to view dialside. The modular design of these calibres, devised early on in theirconception, makes them adaptable at a third party's request. A compelling advantage.
Automatic movement ASE 100.00
The basic movement comes equipped with hours, minutes and small seconds, to which further complications may be added in the form of modules integrated directly into the movement: central seconds, GMT, power reserve indicator at 2 o'clock or 9 o'clock.
A family of movements, guaranteed know-how, strong styling
The entire collection is suffused throughout with the innovative ethos of the brand. The Roswell incident thus provided the starting point for the workshop-crafted voyage watch collection. It tooka leap into the unknown, rejecting the ordinary to achieve the extraordinaryand give rise tothe otherworldly reference and sci-fi styling. The reverse-angled horns contrast markedly with the rounded, elegantly chamfered watch case. Even the presentation box is evocative of a flying saucer. The dial leaves open to view the distinctive micro-rotor, a powerful personality trait of the Schwarz Etienne brand, which is accentuated by the SE stamp on the balance wheel. Truly unique, innovative styling with a casual twist that is peculiar to the brand: 'We're serious about our work, but we never lose our sense of humour", Mauro Ergemini mischievously confesses.
Schwarz Etienne Roswell
The Roma collection is built on a more "classic" interpretation of the basecalibre, with its MSE movementand integrated modules for the small seconds or power reserve functions and its ASE movement for the automatic small seconds and GMT functions. Its classically imbued design lends a personal touch, with its varying textures withinthe grainy, gravel-like index circle. The centre of the dial is engraved with the sunburst motif and the subdials carry the groove-like pattern of a vinyl record. Classic, but different.
The workshop-crafted Tourbillons carry the watchmaker's final endorsement, which, for collectors and seasoned amateurs, positions the brand way up there in terms of desirability. Once again, the design stands out, it's astonishing, it's impressive. The 2016 Flying tourbillon comes equipped with a mechanical movement with automatic winding, the TSE irreversible tourbillon. Raised at 1 o'clock and left open to view, its beauty arrests the gaze. It is further enhanced by the counterpoint of the micro-rotor. The whole lifts the timekeeper to new heights of rarity and refinement. A rare piece, indeed, for its exquisite tourbillon and 3 day power reserve! This year in Basel, SE (for those in the know) raised the bar even higher with its Tourbillon Small Seconds Retrograde, the TSE PSR 122.00. The tourbillon complication is enriched with a second retrograde whose fascinating mechanism is also visible dialside. Thehour ring at 5 o'clock and the half ring marking off the seconds at 11 o'clock come in a radiant green Aventurine version for the steel case and in Anthracite Specular Hematite for the version sporting a rose gold watch case. Captivating contrasts for these one-of-a-kind timepieces that are sure to delight the discerning collector.
Schwarz-Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Petite Seconde Rétrograde Tourbillon
All this rich creativity and grouping of cutting-edge businesses place Schwarz Etienne at the heart of a virtuous circle where synergies are innumerable and development possibilities abound. Creative ideas are certainly not lacking, as illustrated by the "Ode to the week" gift box housing 7 unique workshop-crafted tourbillons. A true gem, which has already found a happy owner... a collector, of course.
Schwarz Etienne gift box "Ode à la semaine"
Independence, creativity, differentiation, Schwarz Etienne has everything it takes to be successful. One thing is certain, this one-of-a-kind manufacture has some wonderful surprises in store. We can't wait to find out more…