Helyette Schwarz

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Helyette Schwarz (1890s-1955) was the eldest of the children of watchmaker Olga and Paul Schwarz-Etienne of the namesake 20th century watchmaking company of La Chaux-de-Fonds. Helyette and her brother Gaston Schwarz purchased Montres Sultana in 1935 and this became a key component of the Schwarz family watch firms.

Personal Life

Paul-Arthur Schwarz (1870-1940) was a watchmaker known for the La Chaux-de-Fonds firm of Schwarz-Etienne which he founded in 1905. He married Olga Etienne, taking on her name to become Schwarz-Etienne, which the family firm still uses. Paul Schwarz was born in 1870 in Lauperswil in German-speaking Canton Berne, and his three sons, Gaston, Herbert, and Henri, were born in nearby Trubschachen between 1893 and 1896.

Helyette was the first-born child of Paul and Olga Schwarz-Etienne, however, and was born around 1890 in Le Noirmont. This watch town is located in the French-speaking Swiss Jura near the border with France, and it is likely that Paul and Olga had moved there to begin a career in watchmaking. But Schwarz-Etienne moved the family to La Chaux-de-Fonds by 1898, and this would be their home for generations.

It appears that Helyette married Roger Froidevaux by 1918 and that the couple lived in Geneva and then in Brussels, Belgium around that time. Her son Poldy Froidevaux (1920?-1985) was was born around this time. Roger must have died by 1932, when Helyette was noted to be engaged to René Martin in her mother's obituary. It does not appear that the two were married, and Helyette remained unmarried throughout the remainder of life. Poldy long survived her and was active as a leading maker of watch crystals and other glass articles.

Early Watchmaking Activities

Helyette and her brother Gaston joined their father's workshop around 1914. She focused on regulation of the watches, and was likely primarily responsible for this important task for the first decade of her career. Gaston married and started his own household at Avenue Léopold-Robert 58, and Helyette soon moved in with his family. During World War I Helyette worked as a tailor even as her brothers Herbert and Henri joined the family watchmaking business.

Olga Schwarz-Etienne died on January 23, 1931 after a long illness, and Paul stepped back from the business in June of that year. The firm was renamed Paul Schwarz-Etienne & Co., reflecting the increased importance of Gaston, Herbert, and Henri, though they remained limited partners legally. Helyette was not formally involved as a director in the family firm, which moved to the famous and iconic "Palais Invar", formerly the home to Achille Hirsch's Montres Invar, in 1936. Paul Schwarz-Etienne suffered a long illness in the 1930s and died on October 22, 1940 in Berne.


See Also: Montres Sultana

Montres Sultana was registered by Helyette Schwarz on November 30, 1935, taking over the brand that Antoinette Arnould had registered in 1933. The company was valued at just 5000 francs, a nominal amount suggesting that it was a reseller of watches rather than a producer. She was sole owner of the company, though her brother Gaston served as administrator. Their brothers Herbert and Henri do not appear to have been involved with Sultana. Oddly, the Sultana trademark remained in the hands of Antoinette Arnould until 1946 when Montres Sultana took over.

Sultana took over the assets of Onésime Favret, watchmaker in Tavannes, on September 15, 1937. Onésime Favret was a merchant active since 1922 who focused on watches since 1928. Favret attempted to use the brand Favret Watch but this was nullified by the court in 1932.

In February 1939, Gaston Schwarz took over Montres Sultana from Helyette Schwarz, raising 45,000 francs of capital and paying her 20,000 francs for her shares.

Gaston Schwarz died on January 7, 1952, leaving ownership of Montres Sultana to his widow, Marguerite-Lucie Schwarz-Laubscher. The company was consolidated with the Schwarz-Etienne business and officially moved to the high-profile showroom and office at Avenue Léopold-Robert 96 in October of that year.

In 1954 Gaston's younger son Frédy Schwarz took over as administrator of the company, replacing Henri Buffat. Frédy became director of the company in April 1968. In the 1960s, Sultana also used the brand Carsic in certain markets.

Later Life

Helyette died on July 16, 1955, just two days after her younger brother Herbert. The death appears to have been a surprise, and the siblings' funeral was combined.