Sunday, June 18, 2023

LIP It's Possible!

Lip celebrates a truly unique anniversary this year - 50 years ago the workers of Lip took over the factory in the face of a closure, and taking full control of the operations, manufacturing, and sales they did something that nobody thought they could - they saved the brand and made history.

Courtesy of Lip

And perhaps it's just me, but in this day and age of shitty corporate oversight, ego maniacal management and half-assed management, this is a story that gives me hope for the residents of watch town. 

In a turn of events that would make one hell of a movie, the workers first discovered Lip management's intention to eliminate something on the order of approximately 1/3 of the factory workforce - "450 à dégager", Get rid of 450.

The workers first detained two administrators and one government labor inspector, making them "guests" of the factory. Needless to say, this was during the Pompidou presidency hot on the heels of de Gaulle, let's just say the authorities were not in a mood to muck about, and around the witching hour the boys from the CRS used force and rescued the three with a fairly blunt show of force. 

And you might think that would be the end of it, but the boys and girls of Lip were just getting started. With the not insignificant aid of local supporters, the workers liberated 65,000 watches as well as the plans to the factory and working papers to ensure that these might not fall into the hands of competitors!

And why do I, Henki, find this story and its special watch so very, very cool? I have had the good fortune to visit Lip HQ in Besançon two times, and have also had the opportunity to spend time with the new owners, the Berards. Pierre-Alain Berard has done some truly amazing things in a very short amount of time. And his and Lip's efforts have taken a troubled, fashion brand and turned it back into what it once was - a leader not only in French watchmaking, but a real player around the world.

Courtesy of Lip

But let's get back to this special release. A watch is just that. It is something that tells time. But sometimes a watch can do more. It can tell a story, convey a feeling, become something more than just the sum of its parts. This new model from Lip is not revolutionary in the way that watch marketers go on and on about. It is a basic quartz watch. It tells the time and the date. But this watch from the folks in Besançon does so much more than that. It shares a spirit and determination of a group of employees that refused to roll over and let their company die. And this watch says even more about the Berards and their stewardship of Lip. One thing that Pierre-Alain shared with me nearly four years ago that continues to stick with me, and I can't remember the exact quote, but it went something like this -

To the Berards, Lip is much more than a watch brand. It has so much importance to Besançon, to the region, and to France. It is a huge responsibility that they took on when they acquired it, and one that they have decided to honor.

So if you're like me, and interested in getting one of these very cool time machines, here are the pertinents -

The asking price is €165.52

Watch reference

steel 316 L polished, diameter 38 mm, steel back case

sunrayed silver plated, date at 6 o'clock, silver hands and hour markers, inscription "It's possible: we manufacture, we sell, we pay" in red and "Lip" in black

domed sapphire

light brown smooth cowhide leather 20 mm

polished steel barb

analog quartz RONDA 715

type 371

50 meters

Warranty 2 years

Made in France - Besançon

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