Finding inspiration is always a tricky thing. One can find it in the conviction of a certain theme, or in an innovative (and sometimes difficult) new way to indicate time, or in the historical perspective (to give just three possibilities). The “easiest” of these is resurrecting a brand that has been long gone. It gives you reference, backstory and something to build on. You already have some sort of foundation. Let’s investigate this with a Monochrome-style review of the Lebois & Co Avantgarde Date Re-launch Edition, an example of a brand that has been out of business for about 80 years now!
A new brand seems to be founded on a daily basis. Lots of these fail to impress us, the hardcore watchnerds. That could either be because they cover an area of watchmaking we do not focus on, or simply that we don’t like it. Every now and then though, something comes along that ticks a few of our boxes, which sparks our interest. Over the last years, you can see more and more of these examples on Monochrome, for instance the recent Revolo Concept, the Creux Automatic or the REC Watches P-51 collection. Some of these turn to crowdfunding such as the obvious Kickstarter-platform while others tend to try it on their own (think EZA Watches).
Lebois & Co decided to combine the resurrection of a brand formerly in existence, and launch a new collection through a series of three Kickstarter-campaign, all of which seems to be doing quite well! Now, we’ve covered the brand before with the release of their primary campaign, the Avantgarde Date Re-Launch Edition #1 and #2 and now the third Re-Launch Edition is underway (more about that later this week). The middle sibling, the Lebois & Co Avantgarde Date with blue dial you see here, is already launched through Kickstarter and fully funded. All three are limited to 100 pieces but with non-limited collections following if the project seems viable enough.
Brief history of Lebois & Co.
Just prior to the outbreak of all the turmoil in Europe leading to World War II, a member of the Dodane-watchmaking family (known primarily for their epynomous brand) founded Lebois & Co in 1934. Not the easiest period to launch a new brand perhaps, but demands were still strong. Raymond Dodane, third generation of the French Dodane family, started the brand in Besançon, France after the family moved the manufacture from La Rasse, which was on the edge of the Swiss border.
In 1947 the brand is handed over to Italian importers, who outsource the production to the Dodane manufacture and some other Swiss manufacturers. After that, production seized in 1972, at the start of the quartz crisis that killed so many brands, and was never to be seen again. Dutch entrepreneur Tom van Wijlick and his wife Eveline came across an image of a vintage chronograph by Lebois & Co a few years ago and used this as inspiration to re-launch the brand. The name was once again registered and the first watches saw the light of day in 2015. A satin white dial and blue leather strap, paired with modest and dressy dimensions, make this an attractive watch to begin with. The second and third design in the Avantgarde Date Re-Launch collection feature the same design but in different color combinations.
Overall Appearance and Features
As mentioned, the Lebois & Co Avantgarde Date collection is on the dressy side in terms of dimensions. An almost full polished case, with the exception of the area between and on the lugs, make this stand out on the wrist. It sparkles in sunlight, especially when it is combined with some of the other design cues I’ll cover in a bit. The watch is well balanced – even on larger wrists like mine, it doesn’t seem out of place. This blue dial and blue strap second iteration has some classical features that work really well. The watch still has a modern edge to it, a combination which is pretty hard to nail.
In terms of appearance, the dial is the strongest focal point. In some watches the case or strap grabs equal or more attention but here it is about restraint. The mulit-layered dial grabs the sunlight and plays around with it. If we talk features, it is a classic piece. Time and date is all you get, but to be honest that is really all you need in a watch, maybe a day indication. There is no need for complicated indications other than to show it can be done. There is a Dutch catchphrase that comes to mind that translates to ‘Not because we must, but because we can…’ (Dutch: Niet omdat het moet, maar omdat het kan), which pretty much sums it up.
Dial and hands
The sapphire-blue dial is very striking and perhaps the most eye-catching of the available options. This is of course subject of your own tastes and desires but blue seemed to be very popular over the last few years. It offers up a contemporary feel but shying away from the classical white, silver or black dials you see in all collections. It also allows a brand to play a little with the tone of blue, with some being very bright and some having a very dark blue shade almost turning to black. The beauty of the multi-layered blue dial in this Lebois & Co Avantgarde Date Re-Launch Edition #2 is that is catches sunlight, and throws it around a little. It sparkles under direct light, also due to the facetted and polished hour markers, but also due to the various layers.
On the very edge of the dial you will find a minute track, with facetted and polished, applied hour markers as said. In between are printed white minute markers to indicate the passing of the minutes. One step inward is a narrow circular, guilloche-like track that gives the dial a bit of texture. The second track on the dial is the minute track with Arabic numerals. The trademark red “60” is present in all three Re-Launch Editions of the Avantgarde Date, as is the red seconds hand with lollipop counterweight. This minute track is interrupted with the date window at three, lined with a polished steel edge and showing a black-on-white date disc. Between 30 and 40 along this track you can find the model name; “Avantgarde”. The dial is finished with Lebois & Co, 1934 and Automatic printed in white on the most inner circle.
The seconds is always done in red, whether you opt for the white dial #1, the blue dial #2 or the black dial #3. The hours and minute hands are extremely long compared to other watches. Something I really like about this one, as both stretch all the way out to the edge of their respective tracks. The slender, sword-shaped hands are polished and feature a slim line of Luminova.
Case and strap
The 40mm steel case is well executed. It is nothing out of the ordinary, or extra-special but it does the job very well. The thickness of the case, at 10,5mm, is a welcome feature as it keeps the watch extremely wearable. The case and bezel feature mostly polished surfaces, with the exception of the top of the lugs and the area in between them. The lines and adjustments are very crisp, no gaps can be found here, everything lines up beautifully. The lugs have a nice angle and the screw-in caseback doesn’t lift the watch off of your wrist too much. This is a watch you can strap on, look good, and basically forget that you are wearing it. This might sound bad (You can’t forget your watch as a watchnerd, blasphemy!) but I simply mean it is that comfortable that it doesn’t bother you one bit. Some watches tend to be top-heavy, pinch your skin or pull out hairs. This simply doesn’t, period.
The small crown is a bit fiddly for my fingers but that is more my problem than the watches’. It is on line with the shape and dimensions of the case, and features an engraved Lebois & Co logo. Operating it is as straightforward as you’d expect: two pull-out positions, one for the date, the other for time. The non-screw down crown is protected by two slim crown-guards. The caseback for the first and second model are fully closed and engraved with brandname, model and limitation.
This second Lebois & Co Avantgarde Date Re-Launch edition comes on a supple, lightly padded Louisiana alligator strap, in blue. Attached is a straightforward double folding buckle with one end being screwed in place to ensure a secure fit. All Lebois & Co watches (so far) come with a second NATO-strap of your choice.
The movement for this second model is the same basic workhorse we all know very well. The ETA 2824-2 is true all-rounder, and comes in watches of all shapes and sizes. It packs 38 hours of power and indicates time and date. As said, it can’t be seen here (but the third edition to be launched soon will correct this).
As a concept, and the way that has been executed, this Lebois & Co Avantgarde Date collection is a proper watch. A well-thought out design with hints to classical watchmaking but still maintaining a contemporary feel. The watch is very comfortable and can be easily matched with business attire, red-carpet events, or with a smartly casual combination. And if you want to wear this with a sweater, jeans and sneakers, simply switch the leather strap for the NATO one and you’re good to go.
With this Avantgarde Date, you buy a little of history and a watch with a story. And that is always a good thing. I am curious to find out what happens after the trilogy of Re-Launch Editions is done. Seeing that the inspiration of the entire project was an image of a vintage Lebois & Co Chronograph, I can’t help but imagine this is the direction the brand should go. At 1,700 Euro outside of the Kickstarter-campaign, this is a reasonably priced watch (especially considering that it comes from such a small company), and truly one to consider if you’re shopping in that price bracket.
- Affordable timepiece with genuine historical backstory
- Well-executed design and build
- Slim dimensions making it an extremely wearable watch
- A limited run of 100 pieces could make it a bit more attractive, you are “one of the first”
- Relative small size of the crown (Personal con for me, but one to overcome)
- Maybe a bit too conservative for some
- Case: 40mm diameter – stainless steel, brushed and polished surfaces – sapphire crystal on front – 100m water resistance
- Movement: ETA 2824-2 – Automatic – 38h power reserve – 28,800vph / 4Hz – 25 jewels – Hours, minutes, seconds, date
- Strap: Blue Louisiana Alligator leather strap with double folding clasp, complementary NATO strap with free choice of color upon ordering.
- Price: 1,700 Euro outside of Kickstarter-campaign, various pledges during campaign available
All Re-Launch Editions of the Lebois & Co Avantgarde Date are limited to 100 pieces and are priced at 1,700 Euro outside of the Kickstarter-campaigns, with potential non-limited versions coming in the future if the project is successful. The campaign for the third edition is now running and allows you to get one at a reduced price (we’ll cover this new version later this week). More details can be found on Lebois&Co.com or on the Kickstarter-page.