Edwin Wyndham Hettich, who founded the business at the age of 21
Founding of the business
Edwin Wyndham Hettich, the founder of Hettich, was born in Cardiff in 1879. He was the son of Julius Hettich, a German clock maker and jeweller. He was educated in Wales, then sent to Germany to learn the fundamentals of watch-making before joining his father's business in Cardiff at the age of 14.
His father heard of an opportunity in Jersey, and in 1900 bought premises at 1 King Street, the home of Hettich to this day. Julius decided to stay in Cardiff and Edwin, at 21, took on the shop. J Hettich and Sons began trading as jewellers, opticians and later radio repairers.
The early days
Ethel Frances Saunders, a staff member from the previous proprietor, who continued to work under the new ownership, married Edwin in 1901.
The following year their daughter Agnes was born. She was to become a key member in the running of the shop. Their second daughter Freida was born in 1904. The family lived above the shop.
In July 1921, King George V, Queen Mary and Princess Mary came to Jersey. The photo of the Royal Visit shows that the lines of the building have changed very little in 90 years.
At the time services offered included eye tests. As well as measuring sight and providing and repairing spectacles, Edwin also fitted artificial eyes. Diamonds, pearls and other gems were displayed at the front of the shop, with china eyes of all shapes, sizes and colours discreetly and neatly in rows on flat trays at the back.
In 1934 Hettich became a limited liability company and Edwin moved from town to live in a newly built house above First Tower. An innovator and always interested in technological developments, he was the proud owner of one of the first cars in the Island.
The shop was one of the earliest to have gas powered electric lighting.
In the same year, Antony Chinn, 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.
The German occupation of Jersey began in July 1940. During the course of the 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.
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. 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 1953-1966 he was President of the Public Works Committee and, under him, work began on building the Victoria Avenue dual carriageway.
As he dedicated more and more time to public service, the optical side of the business was phased out and it fell to his daughter Agnes to take more responsibility in the shop. She was a meticulous and astute business woman with great integrity.
In 1954 Tony Chinn returned from his London training at The Central School of Art, to begin working in the shop. He was the first Jerseyman to become a Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain.
He planned a careful refurbishment, which was to herald the most significant advance in the Hettich story. 1 King Street was modernised in 1966 with windows of laminated glass, designed by a Swiss architect.
The remodelling of the shop and the new sophisticated image gave Hettich suitable surroundings in which to sell new products. Hettich took on the exclusive rights to Patek Philippe, strengthened its position with Omega and Rolex and introduced a new range of Italian jewellery.
In 1959 Tony's first son, Jeffrey, was born. He 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 gained a Diploma of the National Association of Goldsmiths and, like his father, became a Fellow of the Gemmological Association. He was managing the business in 2018.
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. 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 6 April 2000, ready for the next century with contemporary offices, updated archive rooms and a refurbished workshop. New foundations and additional supporting steel columns secured the building, with new wiring, IT and security equipment.