Something contemporary on the blog for a change, a Lip Galaxie.
(Click pictures to enlarge)
Ok, maybe not – although this watch has something of a modern ‘Swatch’ look about it, it was actually made in 1975. I’ve written about quite a few whacky designs from the 1970’s, some of which wouldn’t grace many wrists these days, but the Lip Galaxie certainly isn’t one of them and is an excellent example of how some designs age better than others.
Lip have an interesting history dating back to 1867. Their horological achievements include working with Pierre and Marie Curie to develop the first phosphorescent dials in 1904 (the birth of lume!) and developing the first electronic wristwatch movement, the cal. R27 in 1958.
Like many others, Lip suffered during the quartz revolution and things came to a head in April 1973. On discovering the management’s plans to restructure the business and make a third of the workforce redundant, the workers took matters into their own hands, taking three hostages and barricading themselves inside the factory.
Riot police stormed the building on the very first night, freeing the hostages, but the workers didn’t stop there as they seized 65,000 watches along with the manufacturing plans and started day and night occupation of the factory.
The whole incident was reported in the national press which lead to public outrage at the treatment of the workers, followed by a 12,000 strong demonstration in the town of Besançon. Buoyed by the popular support, the workers decided to move the business forward under worker control, resuming production and selling the seized 65,000 watches at cost price to raise capital.
The government attempted to calm the situation and restore order, but the workers refused to cooperate. Consequently, the workers were forcefully expelled from the factory by the Mobile Gendarmerie (military unit) in September 1973, and despite a second protest – this time numbering 100,000 – the Mobile Gendarmerie remained in the building until February 1974.
After much political wrangling behind the scenes, a buyer was finally found for the company, the European Clockwork Company, who agreed to hire 850 of the former employees in March 1974 and the remainder of the workforce in December, finally laying the whole incident to rest. However, after all the trouble the company was still crippled by previous debts and survived for just three more years, closing it’s doors in Besançon for the last time in 1977.
Ok, after that historical detour, let’s get back to the watches… 😉
In early 1970’s Lip commissioned a number respected designers to develop a series of avant garde wristwatches, a couple of which I’ve written about before on the blog. The De Baschmakoff which started the ball rolling in 1971, and arguably the most collectible model, the Mach 2000 developed by Roger Tallon.
The Galaxie was developed by the Swiss designer Rudolph (Rudi) Meyer, known for his work on commercial posters, trademarks and company logos.
Meyer designed the Galaxie in 1974 and the watch was made in four base versions (and variations thereof); the one in this post, a model with spherical hour markers, one with recessed chrome discs and a model with arabic numerals and a plastic coated case.
Inside the watch is a Durowé cal. 7525/2, a 25 jewel, automatic calibre with beat rate of 21,600 bph which needed no more than a regular service this time. The crystal was also cracked and needed to be replaced, but with no major hurdles, the watch was soon back in service.
The watch also needed a new strap which was more difficult to find than I imagined due to shape of the case. Genuine Lip straps are long discontinued and all the curved straps that I could find were shaped to fit between extended lugs, so were quickly ruled out. Several regular straps that I tried were too thick to be bent around the case without buckling, but I eventually found a thin leather strap with a contrasting stitch which worked well and proved to be a good match for the watch. All in all, not a bad result.
** Many thanks to Justin Swale for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **