There is a hidden gem on the south-west side of Hong Kong Island, just a few steps away from busy city streets called The Old Alberose, a historic manor completed in 1926. Its owner is a century-old French Jewish watch and jeweler merchant - Albert Weill was none other than the man in charge of the SENNET FRÈRES.  After the death of Albert Weill in 1922, his wife, Rosie Weill, inherited her husband’s will and continued to work hard for his company - Levy Hermanos and Sennet Frères which was founded in Paris in 1870 and then brought to Hong Kong by Albert Weill. In the early days,  Sennet Frères was mainly engaged in the import and sales of European watches and automobiles. After Rosie took over, she spun off the watch business and incorporated the newly developed jewelry business into Sennet Frères.

 

Because of Rosie’s Jewish business acumen and unique vision and taste, Sennet Frères’ business developed rapidly before World War II. The company’s watch production lines remained in Paris and Switzerland, their points of sales had already been expanded too far east including Hong Kong, Hankou, Shanghai, Beijing, Manila, Singapore, etc. In addition to selling its own brand of watches and clocks, it also acts as a distributor of world-famous brands of watches and jewelry. Sennet Frères was the largest distributor of Patek Philippe and other top brands in the Far East. The table clocks and pocket watches produced in-house were carefully selected by the British and French envoys as a tribute to the Manchu imperial family. The Palace Museum in Beijing still houses these exquisite enamel table clocks that were made by Sennet Frères.

Rosie and his four children, Maurice, Leon, Susannah, and Sophie depended on each other since their father, Albert Weill passed away in 1922. Rosie was born in Constantinople in 1880. During her childhood, she followed her family to China and met her husband Albert in Qingdao. The couple later settled in Hong Kong. She is very talented and proficient in five languages including French, English, German, Japanese, and Cantonese. She was in-charge of Sennet Frères' business in Hong Kong and the Far East for over 20 years all by herself. Unfortunately, all four of her sons and daughters are not interested in the watches and jewelry business from their ancestors. During the Japanese Occupation period, many people were trapped in the camps of prisoners of war and could not get the necessary medicines and food. Sophie, the eldest daughter, took the risk of using the mansion Alberose as a secret meeting place to assist Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke, the pre-war Medical Director of Hong Kong, and Japan interpreter Kiyoshi Watanabe to provide humanitarian aid to the prisoners-of-war in the Camps by hiding the medicine such as antibiotics in the lining of Mr. Watanabe's coat and smuggled them into prison camps and detention camps. They successfully rescued more than 200 wounded and sick victims. Rosie also opened her Alberose mansion for women who lost their husbands or were separated from their families due to the war and carry out volunteer work with these women. Unfortunately, his sons Maurice and Leon lost their lives in Shanghai and Sham Shui Po camps due to the war. Rosie was devastated as a mother and gradually faded out of the company's business, and eventually died from depression in Hong Kong in 1952. After Rosie’s death, his daughter Sophie and her husband focused on other businesses. Sennet Frères gradually faded out of the market in the 1950s, and his youngest daughter Susannah followed her husband to the UK.

 

Sophie and her husband Harry O'Dell chose to stay in Hong Kong. Harry O'Dell was in charge of the production and distribution business of Motion Picture General Investment Company. The famous writer Zhang Ailing (Eileen Chang) was one of the contracted screenwriters of Motion Picture at that time. At the same time, Harry O'Dell also invested in the construction of the Empire Theatre ( The Royal Theatre in North Point). During 1952-1957, Harry O'Dell brought a lot of world-class classical music and Western and local singing and dancing performances to The Empire Theatre. The first performances of famous singers Barbara Fei Ming-Yi and Teresa Teng Li-Chun in Hong Kong were all held here.

Hins Cheung, who lives in Alberose in recent years, has always been passionate about historical architecture research and focused on cultural conservation. Since moving into this Grade II historic building under the University of Hong Kong, he began to conduct historical research on the Weill family. The stories and legends behind this family are deeply fascinating. In addition to the preservation and maintenance of the mansion, Hins went to Paris, London, and other places to collect information on the family history, and obtained many important documents and cultural archives, which helped him to consolidate and reconstruct the whole family and brand history.

 

At the beginning of 2019, Molly O'Dell, the third-generation descendant of the Weill family who is over 80 years old now, revisited her old-home at Alberose by the invitation of the conservation organization [Walk-in Hong Kong]. And Molly finally got to meet Hins who has been living in and researching about Alberose. They ignited the idea of ​​reorganizing Sennet Frères, the brand that is full of historical sentiments during the meet-up.  Hoping to continue the story of this century-old brand and reappear in a new image.

After 70 Years, Sennet Frères is Coming Back to Town with Love

 

The reorganization of Sennet Frères officially began at the end of 2019, and the business direction was re-created to bridal gowns and jewelry.  In mid-2020, Sennet Frères officially appointed Mr. Hins Cheung as the Brand History Consultant and invited the renowned designer, Mr. Kev Yiu, as the brand's Chief Creative and Design Director.  Sennet Frères also invited the top-of-the-line wedding brand Alexander Hera as a partner to build a brand-new Sennet Frères for the 21st century.

 

On Christmas Eve in 2020, Sennet Frères will return to Hong Kong after an absence of more than 70 years, and set up the first wedding dress concept store at 22 Russell Street, Causeway Bay, combining 150 years of exquisite craftsmanship in watch and jewelry manufacturing and the spirit of precision pursuit of every small detail. It has become a neon feather garment between the stitches and threads, continuing Sennet Frères's dedication and pursuit of luxury and aesthetics for a century and a half.