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The Jeanneret name is associated with many watchmakers in Switzerland, notably in Saint-Imier but also in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Le Locle, and elsewhere. The family is best-remembered for Excelsior Park but was also key to the development of Moeris, Leonidas (along with Junior and Berna), and others.

The Origin of the Jeanneret Family

The Jeanneret dit Grosjean family emerged in the village of Fenin in the Val-de-Ruz in the 16th century. This valley lies between Neuchâtel and La Chaux-de-Fonds in the Swiss Jura, and the family appears to have been clustered on the Southern side in the villages of Engollon, Fenin, and Valangin. They later migrated to the Northern side of the valley and the towns of Dombresson and Villiers before crossing the mountains to Le Locle, Reprises, and Saint-Imier.

The earliest direct ancestor is Philippe Henri Jeanneret (1804-1845), who was born in nearby Engollon. Just 14 years old, he married Marianne Besson in Le Locle on August 7, 1828. Four of their five sons and one daughter were born in Le Locle, which was actively engaged in watchmaking in the first half of the 19th century. But Philippe Henri Jeanneret died at the age of 40, leaving his wife to support the children. It is likely that all were involved in various trades, including watchmaking apprenticeships.

Two of the sons of Philippe Henri and Marianne Jeanneret were Jules-Frédéric Jeanneret and Ulysse Jeanneret. Both initially moved to Dombresson back in the Val-de-Ruz before going their own way as adults: Ulysse settled in Villiers in the Val-de-Ruz while Jules-Frédéric moved to Reprises near La Chaux-de-Fonds and ultimately to Saint-Imier. Their only sister, Marie Elise Jeanneret, married Clement Frédéric Guillaume "Fritz" Thalmann on December 15, 1855 in Dombresson, around the same time Jules-Frédéric married Cécile Sandoz there. Thalmann was already engaged in the manufacture of stopwatches and chronographs in Saint-Imier and likely brought his brother-in-law to the town.

Jules-Frédéric Jeanneret and Saint-Imier

Jules-Frédéric Jeanneret (1830-1892), originally from Valangin, moved to Le Locle as a young child. His mother Marianne Besson was from the town and four of her children with his father Philippe Henri Jeanneret were born there. It is likely that most of these children were apprenticed to local watchmakers after the death of their father in 1845.

Like his brother Ulysse and sister Marie Elise, Jules-Frédéric moved to Dombresson as an adult. He married Cécile Sandoz there, around the same time that his sister married Saint-Imier watchmaker Fritz Thalmann. The family soon included two daughters and six sons, all of whom became watchmakers. The children are listed as being from Le Locle so it is likely that the family returned there when they were born.

Jeanneret established a watchmaking workshop in the area of Reprises between La Chaux-de-Fonds and Saint-Imier by 1865. This is a rural area and the location, listed as Reprises 7, still exists as a small farm. It is likely that this was a home-based workshop where the Jeanneret family finished watches assembled by others in the area. The small company soon failed and was listed for liquidation in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1868.

Jules-Frédéric's sister Marie Elise had married Saint-Imier watchmaker Fritz Thalmann, and it is likely that Thalmann encouraged him to relocate his business to this growing town of watchmakers. Jeanneret and Thalmann would remain closely connected, with both using the Colombe brand and Thalmann distributing his watches. The eldest Jeanneret son, Albert, would marry one of Thalmann's daughters, as would his business partner Fritz Moeri and clockmaker Ernest Künzli.

Jules-Frédéric Jeanneret entered a partnership in Saint-Imier with François Fallet (sometimes named as Edouard) called Jeanneret et Fallet by 1869. This workshop was listed at Rue de la Malatte until 1873 when it is shown as Rue de Tramelan, with the number 34A soon added. Historic maps show that these are likely the same roads, renamed and re-numbered at this time. This would be the home of the Jeanneret watchmaking family for decades, and the small workshop at the corner of Rue de la Serre and Route de Tramelan still exists as Serre 14 today. Jeanneret et Fallet produced stop watches and chronographs, a specialty of the family. Fallet left the partnership around 1880 and starting in 1881 it is simply listed as Jeanneret et Fils.

Jeanneret et Fils was an etablisseur of high-quality anchor watches as well as stop watches, some with minute counters. The firm received a diploma in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1881 and Zürich in 1883 and won a silver medal at the Antwerp exhibition in 1885. The Jeanneret family had registered the Pigeon brand by this time and focused on selling in England and the British Empire.

The sons of Jules Jeanneret left their father's firm in 1886. Albert and his brother formed Alb. Jeanneret & Frères, occupying the new Usine à Vapeur du Parc (later called Usine du Parc and namesake of Excelsior Park), registered on April 22, 1886. With his sons gone from the business, Jules-Frédéric Jeanneret re-formed his company as Jules Fc Jeanneret on July 21, 1886. Although technically separate, the companies remained closely associated for many years.

Jules-Frédéric Jeanneret died in 1892 but his widow continued to operate the firm as Vve. Jules-Frédéric Jeanneret. It continued to produce complicated watches, including chronographs, rattrapante watches, and clocks, now also for the American market. In 1895 the firm's address is shown as Rue de Tramelan 18, which is likely a new wing on the side of the former building, which was renumbered that year as 14A.

In 1892, Jeanneret licensed 1890 patent CH359 from Alfred Lugrin of l'Orient for the smooth and precise engagement of a chronograph with a minutes counter. Lugrin would go on to found Lémania, a competitor for Leonidas and Excelsior Park, the later Jeanneret family firms.

Samuel Jeanneret

Cécile died in 1899 and the firm was taken over by Ulysse Jeanneret's sons, Samuel (1866-1939) and Paul Jeanneret (?-1902?) as S. & P. Jeanneret. The company added a 13 ligne chronograph movement by 1901, and this would eventually be used in one of the first wristwatch chronographs. The company was called simply Samuel Jeanneret in 1902 after Paul's death and specifically offered a 19 ligne bracelet chronograph by 1913.

The firm of Samuel Jeanneret, direct successor to the 1866 firm established by Jules-Frédéric Jeanneret, was deleted from the register of Swiss companies on October 1, 1940 just one year after the death of Samuel Jeanneret in December of 1939. His obituary notes that he was a "pioneer of alpinism" and was active in the Club Alpin Suisse Groupe Chasseral.

Albert Jeanneret

On April 22, 1886, Jules-Frédéric's son Albert Jeanneret (1855-1899) set up a firm of his own known as Albert Jeanneret et Frères along with his younger brothers Henri Jeanneret-Brehm (1856-1932) and Constant Jeanneret-Droz (1858-1916). The sons moved their family and production to "Le Parc" across town from the family home. Jules-Frédéric Jeanneret and Fritz Thalmann had purchased an existing steam-powered factory there in 1885, and it would become known as Usine à Vapeur du Parc (later Usine du Parc).

Albert also founded another company with his brother in law and former Jeanneret apprentice Fritz Moeri in 1892. By 1894 he was more actively involved in this firm, Moeri & Jeanneret, and used both Usine du Parc and a new factory in town, Usine Centrale, for manufacturing. Albert Jeanneret died in 1899, with Fritz Moeri taking over the firm, which would later be called Moeris and would build a large factory across the street from Usine du Parc.

Note: Some sources claim that Albert is the brother of Jules-Frédéric but the name of the company ("Albert Jeanneret et Frères" or "brothers") confirms that he is the brother of Henri and Constant and not their uncle.

Henri Jeanneret-Brehm and Excelsior Park

Main Article: Excelsior Park

As Albert focused more on Moeri & Jeanneret after its founding, his younger brothers Henri Jeanneret-Brehm and Constant Jeanneret-Droz took up this branch of the family firm. They would run the park factory as Jeanneret Frères until about 1904. At this point, Constant left the firm to start his own company, and it was known thereafter as Jeanneret-Brehm.

In 1891, Jeanneret et Frères received a patent for a new stopwatch movement with a distinctive J-shaped bridge. This would soon be sold under the newly-registered brand name, Excelsior. In addition to Excelsior, Usine du Parc produced watches under the Colombe, Diana, and Cervin brands.

The factory began producing a 13 ligne chronograph movement around 1902, and this would become popular a decade later as the basis for some of the first wrist chronographs. It was notably used by Gallet, Zenith, and Girard-Perregaux.

With great success for these complicated movements, Jeanneret-Brehm purchased the Le Sentier firm of H. Magnenat-LeCoultre in 1911. This company was well known as a producer of minute repeaters, some with chronograph functions, under the Le Resoud brand name. Gallet supported this purchase financially, and encouraged the company to focus on the Excelsior name, since it was well-received in the English-speaking market. Soon the Anglicized name of the factory was added, giving us Excelsior Park, and this would become the name of the entire company.

Henri Jeanneret-Brehm died on August 4, 1932 at 76 years of age, but Excelsior Park continued in the Jeanneret family for many decades. It was taken over by Robert-Henri Jeanneret (1885-1970), who presided over its 100th anniversary in 1966 even as his son Robert-Edmond Jeanneret (1913-1985) was already director of the company. Representing the fourth generation, Robert-Edmond ran the factory from the heyday of the 1950s and the troubles of the 1970s. Production stopped and the company was closed in 1984, one year before his death.

Constant Jeanneret-Droz, Junior, and Leonidas

Main Article: Leonidas

Constant Jeanneret-Droz founded Manufacture Junior by 1902 even while still working with his brother Henri at Jeanneret Frères. The company sold anti-magnetic watches very similar to Fritz Moeri's, and given the family connection we can assume they leveraged Moeri's patent. Indeed they might even have been produced at Moeri's factory, since Jeanneret-Droz set up nearby at Rue du Pont 16.

Montres Junior also licensed a keyless works patent from Charles Perrin-Debrot in 1904, suggesting that the company also produced its own watches. Another business taken on by Constant Jeanneret-Droz was wholesaling of chronograph movements produced by rival firm LeCoultre of Le Sentier.

Constant left Jeanneret Frères by 1905 to focus on went out on his own company. He soon expanded his product range to include higher-quality anchor watches in 17 and 19 ligne sizes as well as American-style 16 ligne movements. He even offered silver and gold cases in addition to steel.

In 1911, Constant Jeanneret-Droz invested in the Leonidas Watch Factory. This brand was registered by 1902 by Ferdinand Bourquin (1845-1903) and was distributed by J.-H. Jeanneret of La Chaux-de-Fonds. Bourquin came from a Saint-Imier watchmaking family dating all the way back to 1841 and founder Julien Bourquin (1815-1897). The new factory was located on Beau-Site, just up the hill from both Usine Centrale and the Jeanneret home.

Leonidas had done well in the decade of its existence, but the death of Ferdinand Bourquin in 1903 likely posed issues. The company became a joint stock company in 1910 but went bankrupt in 1911 and the entire Bourquin estate was liquidated in bankruptcy. It was purchased by Constant Jeanneret-Droz and registered as Leonidas Watch Factory SA in 1912. Jeanneret-Droz replaced the La Popular brand with his own Junior, merging the companies to offer a complete range of pocket watches.

But Constant died in 1916, just as Leonidas began offering wrist chronographs. The business was then run by Charles and Ernest Jeanneret as Leonidas Watch Factory, Les Fils Jeanneret-Droz. Leonidas was merged with Heuer in 1964 to become Heuer-Leonidas, with Charles Jeanneret on the board.

Charles Jeanneret

Main Article: Berna

Charles Jeanneret's firm in Saint-Imier continued to use the Colombe brand historically associated with both the Jeanneret and Thalmann families through at least 1926.

After taking over Leonidas, Charles' profile was raised considerably. In 1928 he was asked to preside over the liquidation of Montres Berna, a storied Saint-Imier firm partly owned by Ernest Degoumois. An administrator of the firm had used the company's money to pay his personal debts, and Degoumois sued the former manager that year as well. Charles Jeanneret saw the potential of the Berna company, and the impact that its closure would have on Saint-Imier, and reorganized it himself. In May 1930, Montres Berna SA was officially registered, with Charles Jeanneret as sole administrator.

Jeanneret ran Berna himself for many years, locating it and sister company High Life directly next to Leonidas in the Beau-Site area of Saint-Imier. Ultimately the companies would be so closely linked that they were essentially inseparable. Montres Berna would remain Charles Jeanneret's company until it ceased operations in the 1970s, even after Leonidas was merged with Heuer on January 1, 1964. Jeanneret served on the board of directors for Heuer-Leonidas as well as his own Berna.

Charles died on May 8, 1979 and was celebrated more as a politician and member of the FH than for his involvement in Berna or Leonidas. He was also on the administrative council of Schild & Cie. (makers of the Hebdomas watch) from 1930 through 1946.

Note: A different watchmaker named Charles Jeanneret lived in Le Locle a generation before, and this can be confusing. His workshop was at Rue de France 14 and later Rue Marais 26, and he became president of the Société des Fabricants d'Horlogerie du Locle. He continued to work as a watchmaker there from 1883 through 1933.

Moeri & Jeanneret

Main Article: Moeris

Fritz Moeri was born in Lyss in 1860 and came to Saint-Imier in 1881, working as an apprentice to Jules-Frédéric Jeanneret. He rose quickly in the business and became closely connected with the Jeanneret family. Both Moeri and Jules-Frédéric's son Albert married daughters of Jeanneret's sister and business partner Fritz Thalmann.

Moeri invented an anti-magnetic pin lever watch movement that could be inexpensively mass produced by machines and patented it in 1893. He set up a business with his brother in law Albert Jeanneret in 1892 to exploit Moeri's patent CH7547. The new company, Moeri & Jeanneret was initially based at Usine Centrale on Rue de l'Hôpital 6, just a few blocks from the Jeanneret home, but also used the Jeanneret family's Usine du Parc across town. Moeri also developed new techniques for automated machining of ebauches and was dedicated to simplicity and interchangeable parts.

A scandalous 1894 account in the Socialist La Sentinelle newspaper describes Albert Jeanneret as a large "captain-preacher" in contrast to his brother in law Fritz Moeri, a "little man in the guise of a saint." Although the content can be taken with a grain of salt, it is interesting to note that this account describes them being cautious about the morality of their employees and freely moving them between the Parc and Centrale factories.

After Albert Jeanneret died in 1899, their joint venture became known as Fabrique d'Horlogerie Fritz Moeri, with all patents and designs taken over. Moeri soon began construction on a large new factory across the street from Usine du Parc, which would literally overshadow theirs. The company would soon begin using the Moeris brand, which would continue for decades and would eventually be taken over by Longines and Tissot. Fritz Moeri died on October 23, 1935 at the age of 75.

Jeanneret Timeline

  • 1865-1866 - Jules-Frédéric Jeanneret is listed as a finisseur at Reprises 7 in "environs de la Chaux-de-Fonds" (Indicateur Davoine)
  • 1869-1871 - Jeanneret et Fallet is listed at Rue de la Malatte in Saint-Imier (Indicateur Davoine)
  • 1873-1880 - Jeanneret et Fallet is listed at Rue de Tramelan in Saint-Imier (Indicateur Davoine)
  • 1881 - First mention of Jeanneret & Fils in Journal Suisse d'Horlogerie
    • 1883-1886 - Jeanneret et Fils is listed at Rue de Tramelan in Saint-Imier, and specifically number 34a in 1886 (Indicateur Davoine)
    • January 30, 1883 - "Le chef de la maison «Jeanneret & fils», à St-Imier, est Jules Fréderic Jeanneret, du Locle, à St-Imier. Genre de commerce: Fabrication d'horlogerie. Bureau : St-Imier, rue de Tramelan." is listed in the first edition of Schweizerisches Handelsamtsblatt
    • 1885 - J. Jeanneret & Fils wins a silver medal at the Exposition universelle d'Anvers
  • 1886 - The firm Jeanneret & Fils is officially renamed Jules-Frédéric Jeanneret on July 21
  • 1892 - Following the death of Jules-Frédéric Jeanneret the firm is reorganized and named Vve. Jules-Frédéric Jeanneret under Cécile Jeanneret (née Sandoz) on May 12. Samuel Jeanneret and Paul Jeanneret also join management at this time.
  • 1900 - Cécile Jeanneret leaves the firm on March 1, with Samuel and Paul Jeanneret renaming the company S. & P. Jeanneret
  • 1902 - The firm of S. & P. Jeanneret is renamed Samuel Jeanneret following the death of Paul Jeanneret
  • 1940 - The firm of Samuel Jeanneret is deleted following his death in December 1939

Jeanneret Genealogy