Gaston Schwarz

From Grail Watch Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Gaston Schwarz (1893-1952) was the eldest of three brothers who inherited Paul Schwarz-Etiennes La Chaux-de-Fonds-based watchmaking business, to which he added Astin. He also re-established Sultana with his sister and took over Le Phare, which was merged with Sultana under the leadership of his sons, Gaston and Frédy.

Life and Family

Paul Gaston Schwarz was born on September 23, 1893 in Renan, Canton Berne, Switzerland. He showed aptitude for business at a young age, and his father Paul Schwarz-Etienne, founder of the Schwarz-Etienne watch company, taught him the ropes. His sister and brothers, Helyette, Herbert, and Henri were also deeply involved in the business.

Gaston Schwarz and his sister Helyette joined their father's workshop by 1914, with Gaston working as a remonteur like his father. Helyette joined Gaston and his family at their home at Rue Léopold-Robert 58 shortly afterward. On May 6, 1916, Gaston married seamstress Marie-Pauline-Léontine "Léontine" Froidevaux (1887-1918) but she died on November 25, 1918, likely of the flu. He had used the alliance name Schwarz-Froidevaux at this time. It is likely that she was related to Poldy Froidevaux, who was adopted by Gaston's sister Helyette.

Gaston continued working with his father through World War I, and his younger brothers Herbert and Henri also joined the firm by 1918. After the death of their mother Olga Schwarz-Etienne in 1931, their father began to step back, and the three brothers took over the firm entirely in 1936.

Gaston later married Marguerite Laubscher (1901-1970), who survived him, and had two surviving children, Gaston Schwarz-Silbermann and Frédy Schwarz, both of whom followed him into the watchmaking business.


In 1935, Gaston's sister Helyette created the Sultana Watch Company, purchasing a firm founded by Antoinette Arnould in 1933. Gaston was administrator of this firm, and seeing a success, raised funds and bought out his sister in 1939. After his death, Sultana passed to Gaston's widow and then eventually to his son Frédy Schwarz who took over as administrator in 1954 and director in 1968.

Gaston turned his attention to a struggling but famous maker of complicated watches in 1941. Le Phare was founded in Le Locle in 1888 and taken over by Jämes Favre, heir to Zénith, in 1914. But Favre fell afoul of the banks and was forced out, leaving Le Phare to industrialist Georges Perrenoud, who split off the Dixi tool-making business. The watchmaking component moved to La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1939 with a new ownership group but continued to struggle. Gaston Schwarz purchased a controlling interest and took over Le Phare on December 8, 1941. Just three years later, Gaston turned over ownership of Le Phare to his brother Henri Schwarz, who passed it on to Gaston's own son, also named Gaston, in 1950. Le Phare and Sultana were merged in 1973.

Gaston purchased another company, Maxima, from its founder in 1941. The company was located in Geneva at Rue du Marché 40.


Gaston Schwarz died on January 7, 1952 after a long illness at the age of 58. His passing caused a deep impression in the town where he was well-known and appreciated in many circles, especially the industrial sector. By coincidence, Gaston Schwarz died just two days after two other influential Swiss watch personalities, Georges Perrenoud and Werner Ruch. His brother and sister Herbert and Helyette died two days apart in 1955, while his brother Henri lived to 1976.

Gaston Schwarz was an astute businessman and industrialist, extremely conscientious, and interested in everything. He directed all his affairs with talent recognized by everyone, particularly by his close and distant collaborators. He was much appreciated by his personnel, whom he always treated kindly and generously, as well as by his many friends, who loved his optimistic and cordial character. His opinion, marked by common sense and exact knowledge, was sought after and listened to in horological organizations.

He also managed a popular watch and jewelry store in Geneva, where he promoted the Jura watch industry in a remarkable way. M. Schwarz was an excellent musician and was actively involved for twenty years in the military band "Armes-Reunies," where he played solos on the double bass. He also showed great interest in the fate of the F.C. Chaux-de-Fonds soccer team, which appreciated his enlightened protection and advice.