Charles-Louis Huguenin

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Charles-Louis "Louis" Huguenin (1869-1940) was the second generation of the Huguenin family to produce escapements in Le Locle. He worked with his brother Charles-Adolphe Huguenin-Perrenoud as "Chs et Ls Huguenin" and later under the name the La Concorde. Commonly called Louis Huguenin (like his son), Charles-Louis was deeply involved in the consolidation of the Swiss watch industry, serving on the board of FSR and as a founder of ASUAG and FAR. His son (also called Louis Huguenin) followed in his footsteps.

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 Brevine 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-Louis Huguenin was born in 1869. Sharing his formal name with his father, who typically went by Charles Huguenin, the young Charles-Louis was commonly called Louis Huguenin. He would have helped around the house and in the workshop but was too young to have been involved in his father's medal at the Exposition of 1878. Still, the family business was rapidly growing and Louis Huguenin 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.

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 & 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 Huguenin 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.

Louis Huguenin's contributions to the watchmaking industry extended beyond his own company, and he replaced Jules Huguenin on the board of Fabriques de Spiraux Réunies in 1897 following his death. He would press for greater consolidation following the establishment of FSR and was a driving force behind the setting up of watchmaking organizations. As part of FSR he was active in the conclusion of agreements and the constitution of ASUAG, where he was part of the management committee. He pressed for the creation of the Fabriques d'Assortiments Réunies, which took over his family firm and others in the 1930s, culminating with a monopoly on production of assortiments in 1945.

Louis Huguenin Junior

Charles-Louis Huguenin married Adèle Favre in 1891 and the two welcomed a son in 1894. He was named Louis-Edouard Huguenin but was commonly called "Louis Huguenin" like his father. Along with his father, the young Louis Huguenin dedicated his professional career to advancing the interests of his family, his home town and its workers, and the Swiss watchmaking industry.

In 1917, Louis and his brother Willy were brought into management of the La Concorde factory. It was soon updated with the modern hipped roof, and was growing rapidly. His father remained active in management of the factory as well as industry groups like FSR and Louis became interested in the emerging cartels.

On February 20, 1928, the family firm (officially called "Chs et Ls Huguenin") was reorganized as a Société Anonyme called La Concorde SA. This new company was capitalized with 250,000 francs, 187,000 going directly to Louis Huguenin senior along with 179 "profit-sharing certificates" totaling a 412,000 franc payout for the former owner. The new company was administered by a board composed of Louis Huguenin senior, Louis Huguenin junior, and Charles-William Huguenin.

After Ebauches SA was created, Louis Huguenin and his father pushed for the creation of ASUAG and a cartel of assortiment factories within it. This would become Fabriques d'Assortiments Réunies, which was founded in 1932 with Louis Huguenin senior serving as vice president. This was a radical move, uniting La Concorde with its local rivals, G. Perrenoud, Stella, and Pierrehumbert Frères, as well as national rivals in Bienne, Le Sentier, and Reconvilier. Each factory became a branch of FAR, with La Concorde becoming "Branch B".

Charles-Louis Huguenin died on April 4, 1940 at 71 years of age, leaving Louis Huguenin junior to take up management of the various business activities of the family. The younger Louis Huguenin immediately joined the board of FAR, though he did not yet become vice-chairman like his father.