Who was Henri Wauquiez ?
Henri Wauquiez was born on February the 18th, 1934, son of Henri, owner of the Henri Wauquiez tannery family business.
Brother of 7 siblings, he started secondary education at the Carmes d’Avon high school, immortalised in the beautiful Louis Malle film “Au revoir les enfants”.
He then continued his studies in England, in the Northampton tannery school where he earned an engineer’s diploma and an organic chemistry degree.
It is during his military service in ALAT (“Aviation Légère de l’Armée de Terre”, the air-mobility operations of the French army) that he indulges his first passion and obtains his pilot’s licence. As a second lieutenant assigned in 1955 in conflicts ridden Algeria, he carried out numerous low altitude reconnaissance missions in the Djebel mountain range, despite the risks and dangers. Those unarmed light aircrafts were indeed obvious targets for FLN snipers hiding in the bush. Henri experienced the deep sadness of losing his roommate who perished in one such mission. But he carried on nevertheless and his exemplary courage got him to be awarded the “Croix de la valeur militaire”.
As he was also passionate about sailing from his youngest age, he got the idea in 1965 to use an empty space of the family tannery to build his first boats. The Elizabethan, manufactured under English license, reached such a degree of perfection that their architect Kim Holman soon started to design new models exclusively for the Wauquiez boatyards. Thus appeared the first designs of the now world famous Centurion range.
At the same time, the leather industry experienced an unprecedented economic crisis and Henri Wauquiez senior was forced to close the tannery. Henri Wauquiez junior had then the idea to recruit his dad to set up a subsidiary of the Wauquiez boatyards in the south of France, in Port Grimaud. Henri Wauquiez senior is still remembered fondly today in the lakeside town.
Did you know ?
The names of Centurion, Gladiateur, Prétorien come from a literary work that Henri Wauquiez loved: “Guerre d’Algérie” – The War of Algeria – by Jean Lartéguy, in two volumes, “Les Centurions” (Vol. 1), “Les Prétoriens” (Vol. 2)
For the company’s achievements in international trade, and for his presidency of the National Federation of Boat Industries (Fédération des Industries Nautiques), Henri had the honour to be decorated with the “Ordre National du Mérite” by French President François Mitterrand in the Elysée palace courtyard in 1985.