A Russian immigrant, Isaiah Hirschsohn, arrived in Cape Town with two suitcases. One full of American watches, the other Swiss, with the intention of selling the watches to make a living. After trading from door to door, he started a company called The American Swiss Watch Company and opens his first store in Caledon Street, Cape Town, adding giftware and jewellery to the range.
The American Swiss Watch Company outgrows the Caledon Street store and the decision was made to expand the premises to Parliament Street. The infamous Foster gang holds up Isaiah and cleans out the shop. The gang is later killed in the Kensington Caves in Johannesburg.
Union Special, the first watch house brand is introduced. The American Swiss Watch name is shortened to American Swiss. 1930's: Credit is introduced to help customers during the difficult financial period of the depression. 1942: Isaiah Hirschsohn dies.
By this stage the merchandise range has extended to include leather goods, luggage, optical, photographic and sports equipment. The Hirschsohn family decides to consolidate the business, by buying another jewellery company in Strand Street. 1965: Discussions begin with Stanley Lewis of Foschini. He suggests working together to form a network of jewellery stores across South Africa.
Foschini buys American Swiss. Foschini then buys Markhams and the Foschini Group is formed
American Swiss starts to expand. Eloff Street branch in Johannesburg opens, followed by Springs and Worcester. By 1970 there are 24 American Swiss stores around the country. Head Office still worked with one buyer, one merchandiser and operated on a manual system!
Grandson of Isaiah, Clive Hirschsohn is MD. Concerned about the quiet winter months, he devised the now famous Discount Diamond Promotion which proves to be phenomenally successful.
American Swiss 25% off Diamond Sale launches nationally and becomes an annual event, still running to this day.
Various local celebrities are used to endorse the annual Discount Diamond Promotion including Liberace., Pieter Dirk Uys, The Pink Panther, Doreen Morris, Annalene Kriel, Barry Ronge, Christina Storm & James Small, Bobby Skinstad and Amor Vittone.
American Swiss goes international with the first store outside South Africa opening in Windhoek, Namibia.
American Swiss remains the contemporary jewellery retailer of choice – offering stylish and fashionable jewellery and international watch brands to aspirational individuals in over 200 stores across Southern Africa.
American Swiss moves into Africa, opening a store in Ghana in October 2014.