Jean Schwarzentrub

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Johann "Jean" Schwarzentrub (1850-1912) was involved in the establishment of industrial watchmaking in Grenchen in the late 19th century. Although he was associated with many successful firms, including Obrecht & Cie and A. Michel, Schwarzentrub was not able to build long-term success himself and is more associated with failed companies than successful ones.


Johann "Jean" Schwarzentrub is said to have been born in Grenchen in 1850 and died in 1912.

The earliest reference to Schwarzentrub is a legal notice from 1883 that "Johann Schwarzentrub", Eduard Kummer (sic), and Peter Obrecht are founders of the firm called P. Obrecht & Cie. Schwarzentrub is noted as "illegit." and as being from and living in Grenchen. The company was a maker and finisher of ebauches and is the predecessor to the successful ebauche maker Obrecht & Cie. Schwarzentrub is noted as having resigned from the company in 1892 after Emil Obrecht-Hugi takes over the company.

On October 3 1893, Schwarzentrub registered another watchmaking company. This time partnering with Arthur Müller, the firm of Schwarzentrub & Müller was located at Schützengasse 424 in Grenchen, establishing a major factory complex at Schützengasse that was later the home of A. Michel SA. Surprisingly, Müller leaves the company just 2 months later, with the company reorganized simply as Jean Schwarzentrub on December 26 of that year. Schwarzentrub then registers two watch movement designs for protection, which he received in 1894. In 1895 a massive strike hit Grenchen and Bettlach and Schwarzentrub is listed among the major manufacturers in the region along with his former firm, now called E. Obrecht, and Gebr. Schild & Cie and Ed. Kummer.

It is noted in the press that Schwarzentrub did not abide by minimums or wage agreements, fired six workers who refused to take a pay cut, and held wine-fueled "orgies" at the factory. Jean Schwarzentrub is listed as a member of the Comptoir Général des Ebauches, founded March 1 1894, along with P. Obrecht & Cie, Ed. Kummer, and many others. The company is listed as a minor manufacturer of ebauches in Indicateur Davoine in 1895.

In February of 1896 Schwarzentrub set up another business. In partnership with Bienne businesswoman Hulda Grünberg and her husband Adolf Grünberg, Schwarzentrub & H. Grünberg is located at number 324, presumably this is also on Schützengasse and just down the road from his existing factory. But the Grünbergs abandon Schwarzentrub nearly as quickly as Müller, dissolving the company in September of the same year.

The firm of Jean Schwarzentrub does not last much longer than his partnerships, being dissolved in September of 1898 due to bankruptcy. All of Schwarzentrub's efforts are said to have been focused at Schützengasse 4 in Grenchen, the same location as the later landmark A. Michel factory.

Even before his own company is bankrupted, however, Jean Schwarzentrub set up another partnership. Friedli, Triebold & Cie is registered in July 1897 as a maker and finisher of ebauches and escapements, the same business as the company he founded 14 years earlier with Obrecht and Kummer. His partners are Louis Friedli and Auguste Triebold. But this firm too was unsuccessful until the trio brought in Johann Michel in February of 1899 to manage operations. He quickly purchased the company, replacing the founders with Ernest and Arnold Baumgartner and renaming the company Baumgartner & Michel.

This experience likely connected Schwarzentrub to the Michel family, and formed the basis for his most famous collaboration. In September 1901 Schwarzentrub and Adolf Michel established a new ebauche factory in nearby Lengnau. The company, known as Ad. Michel & Cie, is the predecessor to the very-successful firm known as A. Michel. This company moved to a factory in Grenchen in 1903 and was taken over by Emil Obrecht-Hugi in February 1904. Jean Schwarzentrub remained connected to the company after this, but he was no longer mentioned in official documents. This company was located at Mitteldorfstrasse 36 in Grenchen.

Thus, Jean Schwarzentrub was a partner or founder of many of the most successful businesses in Grenchen: A. Michel, Obrecht & Cie, and Obrecht-Hugi.

No other details of Jean Schwarzentrub's life are known, though we may presume that he was born prior to 1860 in Grenchen and died after 1904. Some sources list 1850 as his birth year and 1912 for his death.


  • Before 1883 - Peter Obrecht establishes P. Obrecht-Schild in Grenchen
  • 1883 - January 1 - P. Obrecht & Cie. is established by Edouard Kummer, "Johann Schwarzentrub", and Peter Obrecht
  • 1886 - April 23 - Hulda Grünberg (née Hennig) establishes H. Grünberg in Bienne
  • 1889 - February 3 - Obrecht-Hugi takes over P. Obrecht-Schild
  • 1892 - Jean Schwarzentrub resigns from P. Obrecht & Cie of Grenchen
  • 1893 - May 1 - Hulda Grünberg reorganizes her company with Gabriel Bernheim and Leon Pistner as limited partners and her husband Adolf Grünberg as manager
  • 1893 - August 1 - Jean Schwarzentrub and Arthur Müller form Schwarzentrub & Müller in Grenchen, establishing a factory at Schützengasse 4 that would later house A. Michel
  • 1893 - December 26 - Schwarzentrub & Müller is dissolved with the operation taken up by Jean Schwarzentrub alone
  • 1895 - Jean Schwarzentrub is listed among the major Grenchen/Bettlach factories along with Gebr. Schild & Cie, E. Obrecht, and Ed. Kummer
  • 1896 - February 17 - Hula Grünberg and Jean Schwarzentrub partner as Schwarzentrub & H. Grünberg with her husband Adolf Grünberg as manager
  • 1896 - September 12 - Schwarzentrub & H. Grünberg is dissolved
  • 1897 - March 25 - Hulda Grünberg and her husband Adolf Grünberg reiterate their control over the firm H. Grünberg
  • 1897 - July 6 - Friedli, Triebold & Cie is established as a maker and finisher of ebauches and escapements; Louis Friedli and Jean Schwarzentrub are managers
  • 1898 - December - Jean Schwarzentrub is bankrupt and his namesake company is deleted
  • 1899 - January 30 - Friedli, Triebold & Cie is closed by the owners
  • 1899 - February 20 - A new firm called Friedli, Triebold & Cie is established by Louis Friedli, August Triebold, and Johann Michel to manufacture ebauches
  • 1899 - August 1 - Ernest Baumgartner, Arnold Baumgartner, and Johann Michel form Baumgartner & Michel and take over the assets and business of Friedli, Triebold & Cie
  • 1901 - September 1 - Schwarzentrub and Adolf Michel establish Ad. Michel & Cie, Ebauches-Fabrik in Lengnau
  • 1903 - June 26 - Ad. Michel & Cie, Ebauches-Fabrik is moved to Grenchen
  • 1904 - February 9 - Ad. Michel & Cie is taken over by a new firm, Obrecht-Hugi & Cie, in Grenchen, with Emil Obrecht-Hugi and Jean Schwarzentrub as directors; the firm is located at Mitteldorfstrasse 36
  • 1932 - September 17 - The firm of Obrecht-Hugi is deleted following the death of Emil Obrecht-Hugi

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