«Never give up»
— Louis Chevrolet's motto suits perfectly the small family business established in Ajoie, firstly in Courgenay then in Porrentruy, for more than a decade.
Revue FH - December 10, 2009Corinne Palladino
It was in 1998 that Josette and André Saunier founded AJS-Production SA. Today the company, specialising in the design and manufacture of watch components, has more than 240 clients, whose increasingly rigorous requirements it is well placed to meet. Wishing to remain at the cutting edge of technology for the production of watch components, it regularly renews its inventory of machines. In a constantly changing marketplace, its dynamic approach and the know-how of its team of 25 employees enable it to satisfy a customer base that includes the most prestigious watch brands. Laser engraving, 3D cutter engraving, decoration of movements, transfers, screen process printing and the application of lacquer are just some of its many skills.
André Saunier dreamt for many years of owning his own company. Therefore when he learned of the proposed sale of the Louis Chevrolet trademark, which had been registered for the production of a watch commemorating the 60th anniversary of the death of Louis Chevrolet, he did not hesitate for a second and with his wife founded the company Louis Chevrolet Swiss Watches. Registration of the trademark proved however to be something of an obstacle course in some countries as a result of numerous oppositions, particularly on the part of GM (General Motors), owner of the Chevrolet (car) trademark. But after many discussions with the car manufacturer's controlling authorities, the latter finally withdrew its opposition leaving the way clear for the Saunier family.
At that point, little by little, the Louis Chevrolet brand began to grow. Currently around 1,000 pieces leave the workshops each year. In the medium term however, the aim is to meet a production target of 5,000 watches per annum.
In 2007, joined by their son Anthony, André and Josette Saunier launched the Frontenac collection: limited edition quartz and mechanical watches for men and women at prices ranging from 900 to 6,000 francs. Technical and aesthetic development is carried out by the company, which also produces decorative parts. The Frontenac collection celebrates the strong points developed by Louis Chevrolet in his car designs: reliability, efficiency, attention to detail, innovation and performance. The back of each watch proudly displays the emblem «Lucky 8» (Louis Chevrolet's lucky number for his racing cars) decorated with laurel leaves. Through their transparent case-backs, the mechanical timepieces reveal the beauty of a finely decorated movement: circulargrained bottom plate and bridges, blued screws, the symbol «8» and a decorated and engraved oscillating weight. The dial calls to mind the dashboard of early 20th century racing cars, adding a vintage touch to the collection.
Early in 2011 the Frontenac collection will be joined by the Driver 1911, a watch produced in a limited edition of 100 pieces to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the creation by Louis Chevrolet of the Chevrolet Motor Car Company.
Inspired by motor racing, this timepiece creates a passionate link between two arts that have left their mark on the history of engineering. With a neo-retro feel straight out of Anthony Saunier's imagination, its curves retrace the silhouettes of old Chevrolet Corvettes. The mechanical opening on the wheel and pinion shows the power of the V8 engines on which the reputation of American cars was built. Its display inclined at 45 degrees makes the watch easier to read in the driving position. The crown of the main movement is designed to evoke the look of a petrol filler cap.
This piece surrounding the entire upper part of the wrist has an imposing width of 55 mm and a height of 22 mm. The main LC-01 movement is a complication of the ETA 2892-2 automatic calibre with hour, minute and power reserve functions on the right-hand counter and the service hand on the left-hand counter (the latter indicates the time remaining before a general service of the timepiece falls due, i.e. after being worn for 20,000 hours). The second movement is a wheel and pinion which derives its energy from a going barrel wound manually by the right-hand piston. The mechanism will be activated by pressing the left-hand piston. This accelerator will have a direct effect on the speed of rotation of the engine as well as on the rev counter hand located above the watch proper. Both decorated movements are partially visible from the rear of the timepiece.
To coincide with publication of the Michel Vaillant archive – a comic strip devoted to the life and work of Louis Chevrolet – the company organised «Open Days» on 5 and 6 December this year during which Pierre Van Vliet (author of the text of the archive) and Alain Menu (Chevrolet driver in the World Touring Car Championship) held a book signing session. Philippe Siffert (son of Jo Siffert, former Formula 1 champion) for his part presented the car with which his father won the Monaco Grand Prix in 1970. The Michel Vaillant archive, which combines text and period photos in a comic strip format, retraces the still relatively unknown adventure of a man, Louis Chevrolet, with a fascinating destiny. It also throws light on the exploits of Chevrolet's greatest drivers (such as Fangio), American NASCAR races and the WTCC. A hundred years later, it is once again a Swiss driver, Alain Menu, who today is leading Chevrolet to victory, taking up the torch of Louis Chevrolet.