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Lebeau-Courally - Five years as a manufacture

Lebeau-Courally Five years as a manufacture

Lebeau-Courally celebrates five years as an integrated manufacture. By insourcing all its own artistic crafts, it has chosen to tread an unusual path between Liège and Le Locle.

Some companies make the most of their decades, centuries even, of experience. In fact, it’s not so easy to remain at the top of your game for such a long time, weathering the storms of competition, fashion, time, crises of all kinds and even just creative exhaustion.

Lebeau-Courally doesn’t have that problem. Not yet. In 2012, the brand was bought by Belgian entrepreneur Joris Ide, who made his name in industrial metalwork. At the same time, he also purchased Julien Coudray 1518 and, more significantly, IMH – Innovations Manufactures Horlogères – the manufacture that supports them both. The aim was to develop both brands and, at the same time, make the manufacture available to third party brands.

Changing direction

So, how did it work out? Since then, the watch industry has been through a crisis, and not everything proceeded according to plan! Julien Coudray 1518 has been able to manage with its existing stocks, and hasn’t needed to produce any more. But that won’t be a problem for the future: when the watches go for as much as CHF 450,000 each, one to three sales per year is all it takes to keep the brand ticking over.

And over at IMH, they have focused mainly on Lebeau-Courally, not really exploring any external options. Only Lebeau-Courally has stuck to the script. The newly-minted watch manufacture (via IMH) launched its Phase de Lune, then two years later, its second 100% manufacture micro-rotor calibre.

Cinq ans de manufacture

Moon phase © Lebeau-Courally

More complex than it looks

This piece, the Micro II (micro for the micro-rotor, and II because it’s the second manufacture calibre) will be available very soon. But the architecture invented by Büren in 1954 isn’t just a smaller-sized oscillating weight. There are major technical challenges. Because the micro-rotor is literally at the heart of the movement, the vibrations associated with its lively rotation must be perfectly contained if they are not to interfere with the operation of the calibre.
What’s more, its winding mechanism must be radically optimised if it is to provide the same capacity as a traditional rotor, with a volume three times smaller. Because of this, the micro-rotor is an authentic haute horlogerie achievement. And that’s why, despite its apparent simplicity, few watchmakers attempt it. The ones that do are generally those with significant technical expertise: Patek Philippe, Chopard, Piaget, Roger Dubuis, Laurent Ferrier and Panerai, to name just a few.

Cinq ans de manufacture

Micro-Rotor © Lebeau-Courally

Belgo-Swiss craftsmanship

What makes Lebeau-Courally unique is that it has been able to retain in-house two highly specialised crafts, alongside its technical watchmaking capabilities. The first is grand feu enamelling. This art is used in the Phase de Lune models, which have an illustration of the moon itself in grand feu enamel – a world first. Very few watchmakers choose to retain this skill in-house – particularly not a niche brand, for deployment in a single model.

The second in-house métier d’art is not practised in Le Locle, and it’s not Swiss Made. Lebeau-Courally has no reason to be coy about it, however. The engraving is performed in Liège, where the company has its historic roots as a luxury gunsmith. It is there that the company artisans produce the hand engraving you can see on the dials of its Micro II watches. The watches are made in Switzerland, transported to Belgium for engraving, then returned to Le Locle for assembly. It’s a unique arrangement in the watchmaking world, and one that will no doubt give rise to more, equally original creations. There are already whispers of a chronograph and a tourbillon to come.

Cinq ans de manufacture

Hand-made engraving © Lebeau-Courally

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Sharing terms such as calibre, lever and barrel, arms manufacturing and watchmaking have certain parallels. Belgian brand Lebeau-Courally has a distinguished history in the latter and is the only brand to bring the two worlds together.

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