“Master crafts fuse together again”? What do hunting arms and watches have in common? Hunting arms are meant to kill or to keep wildlife growth under control. Watches may be used to kill time but usually it is to read time. Continue reading if you want to know what the similarities are? And why Lebeau-Courally, a sponsor of the Zoute Grand Prix event decided to acquire the IMH Manufacture in Le Locle? In part 2 of the Zoute Grand Prix coverage we will focus on Lebeau-Courally and its newest mechanical watch, the beautiful Phase de Lune with 18 layers of enamel. We talked with Laurens Peeters, Manager at Lebeau-Courally, about the company, its history, its products and especially the Phase de Lune during the Grand Prix event.
The story of Lebeau-Courally starts in 1865 when Auguste Lebeau created perhaps the most desirable, ultimate hunting arms in his workshop in Liege, Belgium. The story goes that his first fire arms was built for himself to participate in a competition. He was soon ruled out of competition because his hunting arms were just too good. The hunting arms were made to order to fit the owner’s physical characteristics and needs. All were handcrafted and meticulously engraved. Auguste was very interested in making the arms, less so in marketing. So when Ferdinand Courally took over in 1896, he travelled throughout Europe and managed to convince royal families and Russian tsars to buy the arms of Lebeau-Courally. Mr. Peeters told us that today, amongst others, the royal families of Spain and the Netherlands are clients. The arms division employs 15 people who produce 20 bespoke hunting arms per year. That is unbelievable, isn’t it? It takes almost one year to produce one hunting arm!
Joris Ide, a well-known Belgian entrepreneur, who bought Lebeau-Courally in 2010, added watches to the product offering in 2011. Design was done by Antoine Tschumi – who also worked for Vulcan, Greubel and others – while the development was done by a third party. Watches were equiped with ETA-movements and the designs had to show the link with the hunting arms. The Clé de Fusil is an example. Since then an impressive “Royal” collection named the Legacy Collection has been developed with names, such as le dauphin, le baron, le marquis, le marquis haute joallerie, l’archiduc, le comte and le comte tourbillon.
So what do the craftsmanship of watches and hunting arms have in common?
Call me incompetent or blame me from a lack of knowledge, but I never knew there actually is – or better – was a connection. In the early days of clock-making in the Neuchatel (Switzerland) and Liège (Belgium) areas, the fine crafts smiths created the pillar plates for clocks as well as those of arms. Both disciplines required precision and attention-to-detail. The common vocabulary between the crafts may be the result of those days: calibre, barrel, lever, detent, balance, platina (pillar plate). Lebeau-Courally’s press materials quote the Swiss watchmaking historian Marius Fallet: “the gunsmith forging and crafting the pillar plates for guns and cannons, did the first drafts and the finishing” (of pillar plates for clocks). The transfer of skills between various professions was common in those days. Wooden muskets were initially made by carpenters, cannons by blacksmiths, watchmakers created the platina for the arms. In the 18th century Liège hosted 900 watchmakers, including Hubert Sarton, who invented the automatic watch. While linking weapons and watches may nowadays be more controversial, one cannot ignore histoty. Nor can one ignore the craftmanship behind the Lebeau-Courally hunting arms.
Why was IMH acquired?
To be able to offer watches that are on the same level of quality as the hunting arms, early 2015 Lebeau-Courally acquired Swiss Manufacture Innovations Manufactures Horlogères (IMH) based in Le Locle including its 40-person staff and haute horlogerie brand Julien Coudray 1518. The skills of IMH’s workforce includes crafts that require great skill and training, including Grand Feu enameling by hand, engraving, perlage, cerclage, collimaçonnage, soleillage, Côtes de Genève, and others. Currently, all watches that bear the name Lebeau-Courally are developed by IMH.
The overall vision is to “fuse master crafts together again”. This does not just mean that every object must be fully (hand)made in-house, but also that skills are exchanged. For example, currently Lebeau-Courally develops a watch with engraving done by the people of Lebeau-Courally in Liège.
Laurens Peeters of Lebeau-Courally with the Special edition for the Grand Prix, the red gold phase de lune and the white gold Phase Lune
Phase de Lune: Lebeau-Courally’s First Manufacture Watch
While the first prototype was shown during Baselworld 2015, the Phase de Lune is now in production. The LC0040 movement with a power reserve of at least 100 hours is produced fully in-house with exception of the balance spring. The same holds true for case, dial, crown, and hands.
The clef de fusil, the refined quadrillage on the crown and the ring-shaped case stipulate the tradition of the house. Finishing of case, dial, and movement looks very nice at first sight. We cannot wait to do an in-depth review of the Phase de Lune. Especially the white gold version looks absolutely gorgeous. These are the specifications:
- Movement: Manufacture caliber LC0040, 28,800 vibrations per hour, manual winding, power reserve of min. 100 hours
- Case: 43mm, steel, red-gold, white-gold
- white gold version: traditional blue enamel ‘Grand Feu’ crafted by hand, with roman hour indications, Moon in ‘Grand Feu’ enamel
- red gold version: anthracite with Arabic index in red gold 5N, red gold/black hands, moon in traditional Grand Feu enamel crafted by hand
- steel version: silver white with quadrillage and roman hour indicators, blue/white hands
- Front and back made of sapphire glass
- Functions: Date indication on the outer ring of the dial, large seconds, moon phase, the ‘Clé de Fusil’ has 2 functions: adjust the date and the moon phase
- Finishing: components are finished and embellished by hand respecting the Swiss handcrafting tradition
- white gold version: blue alligator – hand-sewn
- red gold version: brown alligator – hand-sewn
- steel version: black alligator, hand-sewn
- Prices including VAT:
- white gold version: 35.600 euro.
- red gold version: 29.500 euro.
- steel version: 12.800 euro.
Photo 4: operating the Clé de Fusil
The Lebeau-Courally Special Zoute Grand Prix 2016 Edition
Mr. Ide is strongly involved in the Knokke community. Therefore it should be no surprise that the year 2016 marked the third time that Lebeau-Courally was a platinum sponsor of the entire event as well as the official timekeeper of the Zoute Rally. To celebrate this, two limited-edition timepieces were launched. The first one is the Dauphine Zoute (the watch on the right side in the first photo) for women. This 38mm model features a white dial and coated hands. The red stitching and the red edge from 12 to 4 – referring to the short times recorded for the race – emphasise the sporting character of the watch. The Zoute Grand Prix coat-of-arms at 6 o’clock should remind you of the event. Just 24 watches will be sold. The price will be 4.950 euro including VAT. A jewelled option is also available with prices starting at 8.720 euro up to 14.350 euro). The second one is 43mm Le Baron Zoute (the watch on the left side in the first photo), powered by an ETA-caliber in a black DLC-treated steel case. The coat-of arms is at the 9 o’clock positions. The Le Baron Zoute is also a limited edition of 24 pieces. The price is 7.950 euro including VAT.
For more information see: website Lebeau-Courally: http://www.lebeau-courally.com