Henri Duvoisin is a Swiss traditional watch brand whose origins can be traced back to 1904 when a Belgian watchmaker named Paul-Fritz Duvoisin opened a watch-making factory in the rue des Tilleuls.
For more than 500 years, the inhabitants of Les Geneveys-sur-Coffrane had earned their livelihood from agriculture and livestock breeding. Then in 1860 the new railway linking Neuchâtel to Le Locle aroused this sleepy little village located in the Val de Ruz.
The local authorities realized that a prosperous village must also depend on secondary activities, and resolutely opted for industrialization. They started looking for outside investors, but were also willing to contribute financially from village funds. They made available a building site opposite the station for a watch-making venture.
Competition between villages was rife, and the increasingly higher offers made the prospective manufacturers greedy. In addition to the land, the developers wanted building materials, and even the building itself. The total cost would amount to Fr.90’000.
On 9 May 1894, after 2 years of bargaining, the Geneveys-sur-Coffrane town council proposed a credit of Fr.30’000 in addition to the development of the water supply and access roads, etc. The final agreement was signed in the offices of Frédéric Soguel, a Cernier notary.
Five years later, the manufacturer became insolvent and was eventually declared bankrupt. His successor, Emile Perrenoud, was granted a loan of Fr.25’000 voted by the local council. Hope faded after a 2-year trial period. Confusion and dismay were widespread.
At that time, the village was home to a brewery, a herbalist’s shop, a pasta factory, two dial factories, one spring factory and a furniture factory… However, a new investor, a watchmaker from Courtelary (BE) began to show interest. He commenced negotiations with the village authorities in 1903, enquiring about the basic infrastructure and, having obtained sufficient guarantees, opened a watch-making factory in 1904, in the rue des Tilleuls.
This new investor was Paul-Fritz Duvoisin, born on 6 August 1854, husband of Emma née Chodat. He worked together with his son Henri-Paul (1882-1947), who took over the business on his father’s death in 1912.
They manufactured pocket watches with a visible balance wheel and during the First World War also worked for the Army, manufacturing ammunition (shell noses). In this connection, he was granted a derogation of the labour laws enabling the factory to work overtime in 1916 and 1917.
His son Henri settled down well in the area and married. In later years he remarried, his second wife being Sophie-Elisabeth L’Eplattenier (1896-1980). In 1921, he moved his factory to a new site rue de l’Horizon (in the New Quarter). Two extensions would be added to this plant – in 1927 and later in 1946.
Henri Duvoisin & Co. employed workers both in the workshop and at home; the majority of the employees were from the villages of Les Geneveys-suf-Coffrane or from Coffrane.
From 1921 to 1955 the main activity of the Duvoisin factory was the assembly of movements; the factory also worked for Luxor, fitting clock cases with a 22-line movement. In 1946, one year before his death, Henri took his two sons, René (1922-2003) and André (1925-2004), into the business.
After his death in 1947, Henri’s wife Sophie-Elisabeth née L’Eplattenier took over the business in association with the two sons, under the new name Veuve Henri Duvoisin & Co. In 1948 she created a welfare fund in favour of the employees of Veuve Henri Duvoisin & Co.
In 1965 the two companies Valruz and Albona Watch were founded – Valruz supplying the Scandinavian market while Albona Watch traded with Latin America.
Sophie Elisabeth retired in 1975 at the age of 79. Her retirement however would only last five years. In 1975 René left the company while André remained in sole charge until 1966. In 1970 the company name was changed to Henri Duvoisin & Co., Valruz and Albona Watch, in Les Geneveys sur-Coffrane. Sophie-Elizabeth left the company to her son, André.
Family businesses sometimes outlast the family. With the passing of André Duvoisin in 2004, however, it seemed that Henri Duvoisin & Co. was finished. And, it would have been, if it were not for an old friend of the family.
Jean- Dominique Cornu , a client and a friend, Cornu was persuaded by André into taking the reigns of the company. Collaborating with professional photographer Jean-Marc Breguet and gemmologist Sebastien Rousseau, Cornu has sought to maintain the brand’s historical roots, classical tradition, small size and unique appeal.
Henri Duvoisin & Co. unearthed movements manufactured by Fabrique d’Ebauches de Fleurier, a factory famed for its production of fundamental movements in the 1920s.
With Rousseau’s experience working with antique movements, Cornu’s team plans to base its company on this tradition. Together they produced two collections: the Classic and the Regulator, running in limited editions of 35 and 25 respectively in either steel or rose gold.
Presently, the flagship watch models of the brand are Monopusher 19″ , Regulator 19″ and Classic 19″.
The Henri Duvoisin monopusher chronograph is a limited edition of five pieces in stainless steel and five pieces in 18K red gold. This timepiece is equipped with a historic manual winding Valjoux movement.
The Henri Duvoisin Regulator watch is available in stainless steel and 18K red gold models. This timepiece houses a 1950s manual-winding 19” Fleurier (FEF) calibre. Each version is limited to 25 pieces.
The Henri Duvoisin Classic watch is driven by a 1950s Fleurier (FEF) 19” hand-wound movement. Featuring a small seconds at 9’o clock, this model is available in a limited edition of 35 pieces in 18K red gold and 35 pieces in stainless steel.
Montres Henri Duvoisin Sàrl
Grand-Rue 16a, PO Box 135
2054 Chézard, SWITZERLAND
Official website : http://www.henriduvoisin.com