Charles-Adolphe Huguenin

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Charles-Adolphe Huguenin (1865-1923) was the second generation of the Huguenin family to produce escapements in Le Locle. He worked with his brother Charles-Louis "Louis" Huguenin as "Chs et Ls Huguenin" before striking out on his own. Commonly called Chs-Ad or simply Charles like his father, Charles-Adolphe was a successful watchmaker and his villa in Le Locle remains an important historic home.

Charles and Lewis Huguenin of Le Locle and La Chaux-de-Fonds

The Huguenin families of Le Locle and La Chaux-de-Fonds were quite large and involved in watchmaking. Many were named Charles or Lewis, and even those that had other names (or hyphenated versions) commonly used these names. It can be quite confusing, since records show "Louis Huguenin" of Le Locle being active in watchmaking from the 1880s through the 1980s, though this represents three generations.

Early Life

In the 1850s, brothers Williams and Charles-Louis Huguenin-Virchaux of La Brévine built a watchmaking workshop in the new "Quartier du Progrès" in Le Locle. They focused on production of high-quality anchor escapements and escape wheels, known in the industry as assortiments. Williams and Charles-Louis married sisters Marie and Sophie Thièbaud, also from a watchmaking family, and their name was sometimes listed as Hueuenin-Thièbaud, though it was most often simply listed as Huguenin. Charles-Louis and Williams Huguenin parted ways by 1871, each setting up a separate workshop in his own name though sharing the same address, Progrès 59.

It was into this family workshop that Charles-Adolphe Huguenin-Virchaux was born on September 16, 1865. He was commonly called "Charles-Adolphe" to differentiate him from his father, who went by Charles alone. His younger brother, born in 1869, was named Charles-Louis and was commonly called Louis. The brothers would have helped around the house and in the workshop but were too young to have been involved in their father's medal at the Exposition of 1878. Still, the family business was rapidly growing and Charles-Adolphe and Louis would have contributed from an early age. He also would have learned affection for his workers and the community from his father, who was part of the Association Ouvrière (worker's association) of Le Locle.

Charles-Louis Huguenin died at just 50 years of age in 1885, leaving his widow Sophie in charge of the bustling workshop. She ran the business with the help of her sons, Charles-Adolphe (20) and Louis (16), until they were old enough to take over the business.

Charles-Adolphe was interested in branching out into watchmaking, partnering with a neighbor Alexandre Dubois in 1889 as A. Dubois et Huguenin and leaving Louis to focus on the assortiment business. He was called Charles Huguenin-Virchaux in the registration, reflecting his use of the name Charles following his father's death. This business was located at Quartier du Progrès 40, just a block away from Charles' home at number 60. This business only lasted a few years before Dubois moved to La Chaux-de-Fonds to go into business producing Roskopf watches.

Charles-Adolphe married Cécie Perrenoud (January 16, 1874-after 1938) on November 24, 1893. The couple had three children. Alice-Sophie Huguenin-Virchaux married ? Dürst, Suzanne-Cécile Huguenin-Virchaux married ? Droz dit Busset, and Charles-Adolphe Huguenin-Virchaux (1906-1947) married 1931 Léonie Marie Känel-dit-Chenaud (March 28, 1907-?).

Charles & Louis Huguenin and La Concorde

Despite his other interests, Charles-Adolphe supported his brother in building up the family business in the 1890s. Taking over officially in 1892, the firm was officially named "Chs et Ls Huguenin," though its importance was revealed in the common name, "Fabrique d'Assortiments pour Echappements à Ancres." At this time it was still located at the family home at 59 and 60 Quartier-Neuf. Under their leadership, the company acquired a reputation for quality and became the largest such factory in Le Locle.

Charles and Louis Huguenin's products were widely recognized, winning silver medals in Paris in 1889 and Geneva in 1896 and five other medals and diplomas by this time. The company boasted of interchangeability (though their products were still produced by hand) and produced artistic levers suitable for the fashionable open heart watches of the time. They also produced escapements for chronometers and Glashütte style movements.

Along the southern axis of the Progrès district is Rue de la Concorde, which connects the district with the center of town. It was here that Charles and Lewis Huguenin hired architect Albert Theile to construct their new factory for the production of assortiments. La Concorde 29 was a landmark in this section of town, and was completed in 1897. It includes both offices and workshops, with limestone masonry, and cement for the former and cast iron posts for the latter. The office was raised in 1899 to add more workshop space, and a 2-story wing was added to the west in 1904. The factory was updated in 1919 with the installation of a hipped roof, and it was further modernized in following decades.

The factory became known as "La Concorde" like the street and remains a landmark in eastern Le Locle to this day, occupied by Metalem. In 1902, Charles-Adolphe hired Albert Theile to construct a villa just up the hill from the factory at Chemin de la Combe-Sandoz 4, and this remains much as it was.

Later Life

Charles-Adolphe lived off his inheritance and investments (as a "rentier") in later life. He invested in an automobile sales and service business in Geneva called Auto-Novo in 1922, just a year before his death.

Charles-Adolphe appears to have died in 1923, though the exact date remains unclear.