Thursday, March 5, 2020


An important note to this story - in the time since my visit, my partner Rick Marei and I have been in discussions with Lip to represent them in North America and sell them through our soon-to-open online store.  So while everything I am writing here about Lip is absolutely from the heart, it is important to disclose to you, the reader, that I am in discussions to make that relationship more of a business one, so I am biased, and I do have a potential business interest.  They have not paid for this content, it is my own.  Both Rick and I are looking forward to bringing Lip Watches to North America.  Stay tuned!

I have held off on posting this because I was still taking some time to digest my visit to Besançon this past November.  

I feel it is safe to say that if you are looking for technical content, or brownie hounding then Tempus Fugit is probably NOT the outlet for you.  

But, contrary to what some brand managers out there might think, I do have feelings, and sometimes my heart will draw me in what I would honestly say are unexpected directions.
And this past Thanksgiving week, I returned to Besançon pretty much four years to the day that I first visited.

And while there were some touristy things that I did, the most important part of this one-day stop was to visit Lip. 
Lip has become something of a cult figure here in the US.  Not for nothing, the Mach 2000 is something of a anomaly in the world of watch fans.  If we are honest about it, in its current format is essentially, a quartz chronograph.  But this is a watch that demonstrates that a watch is far more than the sum of its parts.  Think I'm kidding?  While in France I received a Facebook message from a fellow watch journalist stateside asking me to pick one up while I was there and bring it back for him.  There are certain watches out there that hit visceral nerves, and for me Lip has a few models that speak to me on levels I can't really quantify.  They are emotional as much as pragmatic.  Lip, at its very heart, is as much a feeling as it is a brand.

I refer you to an article by Adam Sofineti -

A part of Lip's history is a "passing around" of the brand.  When I visited four years ago, Lip had been living sort of a diluted life, really treated by the (then) owners as a label to brand watches under, and not the watch brand that they truly were.  

Enter the Berards - Philippe and Pierre-Alain.  In the time since my last visit, they have taken ownership of Lip, and reinvigorated it.  I am not here to criticize the previous owners.  I am, however, here to applaud the Berards, and the entire team at Lip.  

How do you manage a legend?  Curious to relate, Lip stirs a LOT of emotions in not only watch fans, but in the French consciousness.  But prior to the Berard's, that emotional connection was more of a sense of nostalgia.  

Since the Berard's?  I hate hyperbole, but walking around the streets of Besançon, Paris, and the offices and workshop at Lip, I really felt the energy, the passion, I really felt why some brands connect on the level that they do with fans and the public at large.
It would be easy to do a Blancpain and "start from year zero", but the team at Lip live in the real world, one where you don't manufacture history.  To that end, they have a rather unusual (in today's watch world) department that handles vintage Lip questions, assessments, and if I understood correctly, possible restoration (but my French is lacking, so I will need to get clarification on that point).
And while it would be easy for the Berards to simply have bought the label and turn to a white label company for everything, it was very clear to me that Lip clearly represents something special to them, and I got that same feeling touring around the new facilities that they have installed for mechanical watches.
It is not enormous, but it is not insignificant either.  And I think what is encouraging about it to me, is that it represents the first step forward.
It also bears mentioning that Lip has stayed true to its roots.  

While it would be easy for them recreate themselves as something that they are not, and never were, they have held the line on pricing.  In a world where brands both big and small jack up their prices only to jettison their unwanted stock to the grey market where it is discounted down to the bare bones, Lip offers something novel - a great watch at a fair price.
Now I realize that everyone wants to go to Switzerland to visit the historic Maisons, and that's fair enough.  But if you are really a fan of watches, history and culture?  Get yourself to Besançon and soak up all of the history and charm that this wonderful city has.

and pick up a Lip watch while you're at it, either here, or the City of Lights.  You don't have to be a Hipster to be a Lipster ; )

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