Lebeau-Courally Interview with Enzo Ide
Enzo Ide explains how his family came to enter the world of high-end rifle making and then diversify into high-end watchmaking with the Lebeau-Courally brand.
(Photo: Enzo Ide and his father, Joris Ide)
How has the historic armourer Lebeau-Courally come to be associated with fine watchmaking?
We acquired the armourer Lebeau-Courally in Liège, Belgium in 2008. It has existed since 1865 and we were already customers of theirs because my grandfather was a keen hunter. When the owner wanted to sell we were very keen to acquire the brand. We only make between 15 and 20 hunting rifles per year because the world market for rifles of this quality is only around 100 to 150 per year. So we asked ourselves what we could do with this name. We studied many things, such as producing hunting clothing, but my father decided instead to branch out into watches and look at Switzerland.
Over a period of several years we tried to find a suitable opportunity but it was difficult. We finally had a meeting with Antoine Tschumi, who came up with the design inspired by the top lever on our rifles, and he helped us to look for suppliers. At the end of 2011 we had our first collection using Valjoux movements. These were quite successful in Belgium, where we are well known. At the end of 2014 my father had a chance phone call from a friend informing him that there was a vertically integrated watch manufacturer for sale. We met with Fabien Lamarche, who showed us around IMH and explained what they did and then things moved very quickly. Within two weeks we had bought the company.
What parallels are there between rifle making and watchmaking?
Over the past year since we acquired IMH we have discovered that in the past the armourer and the watchmaker made components for each other and there is some shared terminology, so this was a welcome bonus for us.
Are there also parallels in terms of customer, since you make so few rifles?
Yes, our customers have a certain lifestyle and the watch remains one of the few items of jewellery for a gentleman. Usually someone who has a fine hunting rifle also enjoys fine watchmaking. But there are much fewer rich hunters in Europe than, say, people in the equestrian world in general, so we cannot restrict our target customer just to hunters.
What is your role within the company on a day-to-day basis?
I work in the holding, so I don’t deal exclusively with the watchmaking side of things. Last year I was at the manufacturing facility in Le Locle almost every week, now it’s only once every two weeks and we have people in place to deal with the day-to-day management.
Since the acquisition went through very quickly and you have only owned IMH for just over a year, have you had time to develop a strategy and decide which direction you would like the brand to take?
We will clearly put the emphasis on our very first manufacture model this year, the Phase de Lune. This is our very first in-house calibre for Lebeau-Courally. We have to give it the time to gain recognition and reach our points of sale. So far, it had a very good welcome and, in Baselworld, a good location with lots of visitors and some good meetings. By the end of the year, we will announce our strategy for the two brands [Editor’s note: The Ide family also acquired the Julien Coudray brand with the acquisition of IMH]. IMH is a very productive manufacture that can serve both brands, but each one has to go its own path, ranging from a base three-hand in-house calibre up to a 100% manufacture tourbillon, through a chronograph, for instance. We are working on all options but we want to do them our way, at our pace. That’s the main strength of being 100% independent.
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.Find out more
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