The Didisheims

The family originally came from Allschwil, near Basel in Switzerland. They emigrated in 1694 to Hegenheim in Alsace, France. The name Diedesheim changed over time to Diedisheim, Didisheim or even Ditisheim. These three major branches are frequently found in the world of watchmaking.

Marvin was to see the succession of four Didisheim generations, from father to son, who all followed the same formula: a clear distribution of roles, daring, business sense and inventiveness. Here is their story…

Marc & Emmanuel Didisheim were the founding fathers of the Didisheim watchmaking Comptoir in Saint-Imier in 1850. They soon assigned each other roles, Emmanuel being in charge of horology, and Marc taking care of sales. One of the main reasons for their success, besides the immediate reliability of their production, lay in their faith in the mechanization of watchmaking. In 1854, they begin building a workshop which grew rapidly to meet the inrush of orders.

In 1891, Marc’s sons – Henri-Albert, Charles, Edgar, Hyppolite and Bernard – took over the company, as Emmanuel had no children. Here again, the roles were clearly assigned.

Henri-Albert, briefly seconded by his brothers Charles and Edgar, brought recognition to the family company. Early on, under his aegis, the Marvin brand was registered (1893), moved to La Chaux-de-Fonds (1894), and became a Manufacture (1912).

Hyppolite, known as Hipp, inter-nationalised the brand aided by his brother Bernard. He arrived in New York on the 2 October 1893, having travelled with his wife and daughter on the `La Bretagne´ from Le Havre. He is recorded on the Ellis Island registers as an importer resident in the United States. He attended the Universal Exhibition in Chicago, where the models of the Albert Didisheim ET Frères Manufacture are remarked upon: `To conclude, we would like to mention once again the watch collection of Messrs. Albert Didisheim ET Frères from Saint-Imier. They have a wide range of three-quarter platinum caliber pieces of Glassite type, and gold-plated and nickel bridges, all testifying to careful and skilled workmanship´.

`There is a chronograph with a simplified system as well as beautiful engravings and threaded gold decoration’, said the journal Suisse d’Horlogeries in December 1893. Taking advantage of the openings offered by the booming American market hungry for watches of Swiss quality, Hyppolite established a subsidiary in the USA – Hipp. Didisheim co. – which imported the brands Winton, Nassau and lancet.

In 1917, a new generation of Didisheims arrived to take the helm of the Manufacture when Marc, René and Jean succeeded their father, Henri-Albert.

In continuation of the family tradition, they had distinct roles: Marc and Jean took care of trade and commerce, while Jean went on business trips that could last 6 months, René was in charge of management and technique. René and Jean had a social awareness which led them to set up a contingency fund, which allowed sick employees to receive half of their salary for 300 days, and a retirement fund in addition to the payment of old-age insurance.

During the Second World War, Marc moved to the United States, but later returned to La Chaux-de-Fonds where he remained until his death aged 102. Jean died in 1944, and René in 1966.

René had prepared his succession by bringing in his son Pierre in 1939, and his nephew Raymond, Jean’s son, in 1946. Respecting the family custom of the assignment of roles, Pierre, nicknamed `Pistolet´, was in charge of commerce and trade; Raymond took care of management. They found an excellent technical manager in Albert Boillot, and this triumvirate maintained the brand’s reputation of excellence, and successfully oversaw its inclusion into the MSR Group.

  • JEAN DIDISHEIM, 3rd generation
  • RENÉ DIDISHEIM, 3rd generation
  • PIERRE DIDISHEIM, 4th generation
  • HENRI-ALBERT DIDISHEIM, 2nd generation
  • RAYMOND DIDISHEIM, 4th generation