Lonville: Modern Fine Watchmaking Reimagined From The Classic Car Era
Cars and watches have long had a synergy. It’s something about the magic of the mechanics, the construction, the performance, the power… And for some, there’s the sensation of owning something that feels alive and the satisfaction that comes from resurrecting human achievements that lay dormant, and giving them a modern reboot.
Which is exactly what happened when Joost Vreeswijk found a Lonville.
Vreeswijk, a Dutch watch and classic car enthusiast living in Switzerland, came across a pocket watch bearing the Lonville name. After acquiring it, he decided to do a bit of digging. Having discovered that the brand had gone quiet for 50 years, in a moment of madness, Vreeswijk re-registered the name and set about becoming a watchmaker.
The original iteration of Lonville started in 1873 as an ébauche watch movement company in Langendorf, a Swiss village whose French name is Lonville. In 1880, the brand decided it was time to stop making base calibres for everyone else and start making branded timepieces instead. Everything was made in-house and the brand was successful until the 1950s when the company made the decision to focus on its other more mainstream brand, so the original name was abandoned.
Until Vreeswijk decided to resurrect it. The idea was not to pick up where it left off, but to imagine how the watches would have leaped forward to the modern day.
To reimagine and conceive the inner workings, the expertise came from a small company in La Chaux-de-Fonds (the valley of traditional Swiss watchmaking) that had been slowly making its own movement from scratch; a movement that was to become the LV1, which is either automatic with a micro-rotor or in a manual-wind twin-barrel version. It would take eight years to complete the development, before the first collection ‘Virage’ was ready for launch.
The collection took design cues from the classic cars of the 1950/60s – Vreeswijk’s other passion – featuring a variety of functions from small seconds to second time zones. Yet when you look at the watches, there is a sense of elegance that is very contemporary. The fine details and exceptional finishing just instantly make you fall head over heels. They are powered by the LV1 calibre, which is rather an “above and beyond” move, Lonville decided to ensure all the movements are COSC certified – meaning their accuracy is guaranteed by the Swiss official and independent body.
The runs on each were limited to 18 pieces as Vreeswijk wanted his Lonville’s to be special; something that connoisseurs would seek out and then tell their friends about.
For the next watch, Lonville looked to Le Mans and more specifically a friend of the brand, the Swiss racing driver Gabriele Gardel. Vreeswijk joked that he should wear a Lonville prototype for his upcoming participation in the Le Mans, a notorious 24-hour endurance race, but only if he was going to win again. Gardel did win his class, and the G24 collection was born in commemoration.
Extending the automotive connection, Lonville teamed up with Matthew Humphries, a car designer for Morgan, an iconic British motoring brand, to try his hand at watch design instead.
The resulting G24 is a muscular manly watch that cleverly blends sporty with sophisticated to produce the perfect daily wearer.
For a select few who have the chance to immerse in the world of Lonville, once a year there is the Lonville Classic, an intimate classic car rally that has taken its participants around Lugano, Piedmonte and even Scotland in style.
The rally is an event that serves as a metaphor for Lonville – a brand that is unique and special, that only the true enthusiast knows about. And now, we have lifted the veil for you!
Joost Vreeswijk picture from Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times