Founding of J.Hettich & Sons
Edwin Wyndham Hettich, the founder of Hettich, was born in Cardiff in 1879, the son of Julius Hettich, a German clock maker and jeweller. In 1900, Julius bought premises at 1 King Street, the home of Hettich to this day, and Edwin, at the age of 21, took on the shop. Hettich began trading as a jeweller and optician.
The Early Days
Taking on the shop proved a wise investment in many ways! In 1901, the same year as English was accepted as Jersey's official language, Ethel Frances Saunders, a staff member from the previous proprietor who continued to work under the new ownership, married Edwin.
The following year, their daughter Agnes was born. Agnes would go on to play a key role in the future of Hettich Jewellers. Edwin and Ethel's second daughter, Frieda, was born in 1904. The family lived above the shop.
Hettich in the Twenties
In July 1921, King George V, Queen Mary and HRH Princess Mary visited Jersey. Photographs of the Royal Visit show that the lines of the Hettich building have changed very little in almost a century.
At the time, Hettich's services included eye tests. As well as sight tests, and providing and repairing spectacles, Edwin also fitted artificial eyes! At the front of the shop, diamonds, pearls and other gems were displayed, while at the back of the shop, glass and porcelain eyes of all shapes, sizes and colours were discreetly and neatly placed in rows on flat trays.
Looking To The Future
In 1934, the same year the first passenger plane arrived in Jersey, Hettich became a limited liability company and Edwin moved from above the shop to live in a newly built house above First Tower. A keen innovator, and always interested in technological advancements, he was the proud owner of one of the first cars on the island of Jersey.
The Hettich shop was one of the earliest in Jersey to have gas-powered electric lighting. But even with an eye on the future, traditional customer service values have always remained one of Hettich's trademarks.
In the same year, Antony (Tony) Chinn, the son of Edwin's second daughter Freida and James B. Chinn, was born. Having no son himself, Edwin earmarked Tony to be his successor in the business.
War Time & Occupation
In 1939 England declared war on Germany, and the German occupation of Jersey began in July 1940. During the course of the island's Occupation, Edwin's home at First Tower was commandeered by the German Army as an officers' billet, so he and his family moved back to live above the shop once more.
Because of his German name, Edwin encountered certain hostilities during the Occupation. However, in general, he was highly regarded and recognised for his contribution to public service and his ability to translate optical prescriptions into German was greatly valued.
Apart from repairs, there was very little business during the years of the Occupation. The shop stayed open as long as it could, but by Liberation Day in 1945 only three silver hatpins remained in stock.
The Next Generation
Edwin was elected to The States in 1948, as Deputy for St Helier. From 1953 to 1966 he was President of the Public Works Committee and, under him, work began on building the Victoria Avenue dual carriageway.
As Edwin dedicated more and more time to public service, the optical side of the business was phased out and it fell to his eldest daughter Agnes to take more responsibility in the running of the shop. She was a meticulous and astute business woman with great integrity.
In 1954, Edwin's grandson Antony (Tony) Chinn returned to Jersey to begin working in the shop. He had just completed his studies at the London Central school (Central St Martins) where he focused on Jewellery and Design. He was the first Jerseyman to become a Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain. In 1958, he went on to win the prestigious George Greenough Trophy, a National competition in which jewellers demonstrated how to achieve excellence in their profession.
As Jersey started to enjoy the prosperity of the Financial Services Industry, wealthy residents moved to the island and soon became loyal customers of Hettich. Tony completely transformed the business by finding new suppliers, reinvigorating the Rolex relationship and securing the highly prized agency for Patek Phillippe. Through all of these developments, Tony’s loyal Assistant Director Barry Matthews was by his side.
Just like his Grandfather, Tony was also prominent in local affairs. He was the Chairman of the Jersey Branch of the Institute of Directors and was elected Senator to the States of Jersey in 1990.
In 1959, the same year that an automated telephone exchange was introduced in Jersey, Tony's first son Jeffrey was born. Jeffrey studied jewellery in London at St John Cass College, followed by further training at Sotheby's and Asprey, and entered the business in 1984. He soon gained a Diploma of the National Association of Goldsmiths and, like his father, became a Fellow of the Gemmological Association.
To this day, Jeffrey still manages the business and is committed to maintaining the high standards of the past whilst keeping Hettich's ranges at the forefront of design and innovation.
Building a Business to Last
1966 saw the introduction of the first States Lottery tickets. Hettich, however, was not going to gamble on its future and Tony planned a careful refurbishment which was to herald the most significant advance in the Hettich story. The shop at 1 King Street was modernised in 1966 with windows of laminated glass, designed by a Swiss architect.
The re-modelling of the shop and the new sophisticated image gave Hettich suitable surroundings for a range of world-class brands. Hettich took on the exclusive rights to Patek Philippe, strengthened its position with Omega and Rolex and introduced a new range of Italian jewellery.
Moving Into The 21st Century
At the end of the century, Tony and Jeffrey Chinn realised that, once again, the business had outgrown its surroundings. Within the constraints placed on a listed building, work commenced including a thorough internal overhaul and a gentle facelift. New foundations and additional supporting steel columns secured the building, and Hettich was fitted with new IT and security equipment. The building was rewired, the roof restructured, the floors strengthened and everything brought up to modern regulatory standards for fire and safety.
Hettich reopened on 6th April 2000, welcoming in the 21st century with contemporary offices, updated archive rooms and a refurbished workshop. Yet while the shop underwent a design evolution, Hettich made sure to retain its traditional character and elegant ambience.
Hettich was delighted to welcome another member of the family to the business in 2010 when Nick Chinn, fourth child of Tony Chinn, returned to Jersey after getting married. Following a career in London as a Chartered Surveyor, Nick and his wife moved back to Jersey, where Nick retrained as a gemologist with the GIQ Gemmological Institute of America in Diamonds and Gemstones, along with undertaking professional work experience in London's Bond Street.
Our family-run heritage is something we are very proud of here at Hettich, and the arrival of new generations ensures not only that our business is kept in family hands for the future, but also that we can add modern perspectives while still retaining our reputation for the highest standards of customer service and quality.
Keeping anything precious in perfect condition requires expert care and attention. So when it was time for our King Street shop to undergo a refurbishment, it was important to ensure our new showroom would reflect our values and retain the air of elegance Hettich is known for.
With the help of a team of expert craftsmen and fine materials, we embarked on a seven-week refurbishment, creating a lighter, brighter shop interior, better suited to our customers’ needs. And as a final touch, a custom-built crystal chandelier now hangs in pride of place in the centre of the new shop.
We also completed a state-of-the-art workshop update, in keeping with the high standards of the watch houses we represent. This allowed Hettich to continue to offer the very best service for many years to come. Undeniably elegant and unmistakably Hettich, we are proud to welcome our customers to discover fine watches and jewellery in an updated environment.
Looking forward to the future
The future for Hettich is looking very exciting as the business prepares to expand into neighbouring premises at 3 King Street. Retiring family-run business Pearce Jewellers has passed the baton on to Hettich after serving the island for 110 years. We wish the Pearces well with their retirement, and have been pleased to be able to step in and make sure that another retail property continues to be in local family ownership. This expansion represents our confidence in the local market and our positivity around the future of local retail.
The acquisition of the neighbouring premises will allow Hettich to expand their own store considerably, doubling the retail space and creating a customer experience that will be unrivalled in Jersey. All of us at Hettich are excited about moving into a new era of Hettich development, and look forward to sharing more details on our expansion plans soon.