Lonville’s New Vintage Approach
It’s the age of revivals. For better or worse the decades-dead are arising on TV and film like never before, car marques like Brabhams are returning better than ever and in watch world has been inundated by old names born anew.
This being the Watchmaker’s Club it’s pretty obvious which of those we’re most interested in and it’s not IT part two – though that’s going to be bloody fantastic. No, we’re here to talk about the revival of Lonville.
It’s been five decades since the name Lonville was printed on a watch. That’s a fair amount of time by any stretch of the imagination, but not unusual. They weren’t the only brand to disappear around that time; they are however one of the few that’s come back quite so convincingly.
Their first watch in 50 years is one hell of a piece. The Virage is everything a collector could hope for: small numbers (18 for each model), exceptional movements and the kind of pure, understated elegance that defines the best classic cars.
Not that it’s too classic mind you; think of it more like a new-vintage car or a ‘inspired-by’ limited edition. It shares the same design ethos as the early Lonville pieces but updated for modern wrists. Thankfully that includes a slightly bigger size at 40mm, but plenty of other elements too.
Part of that has to with how it was restarted. Joost Vreeswijk isn’t part of the family that used to own the brand, he doesn’t have some nebulous connection with the Lonville of old. He simply came across the brand in 2007 and fell in love. He shared the love with some of his fellow collectors and so Lonville was reborn.
It means that Joost is coming at it from the perspective of a collector. He knows more than any brand manager or director what his peers actually want. He also loves cars which, if you take even a cursory glance at the watches in question you wouldn’t really need me to tell you.
Just look at my personal favourite from the collection, the Fuel Tank. The individual elements are pleasingly vintage, from the power reserve indicator that gives the watch its name to the stunning bronze dial. You’d never mistake the Fuel Tank for a real vintage watch though – it’s just different enough to be it’s own, entirely new beast.
It’s a good angle to take. It’s easy – some might say lazy – to revive a brand and simply recreate their previous watches. Sometimes it even works. But with ‘vintage-inspired’ such a common buzzword that I have to cringe even writing it, something like Lonville, that seemingly comes from the other way is a breath of fresh air.
Then there’s the G24. The watch created for the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the kind of modern that can’t help but grab the attention. The multi-layer dial looks to have a road crossing directly through the middle, an allusion to the Le Mans circuit at night. It has all the same elements as the Virage, just presented in an entirely different way.
‘Revivals’ are everywhere, enough to become almost as painful to write as ‘vintage-inspired’ but in the case of Lonville, I’m more than happy to make an exception. And hey, soon enough I won’t even need to talk about them in terms of their 50 years of silence, but as a fantastic brand in their own right.