Friday, February 3, 2017

LORNET Watches: Genuinely ‘Made in France’

LORNET is a young, premium watch brand based in Besançon, the watchmaking capital of France. LORNET’s aim is to manufacture high quality, contemporary mechanical timepieces completely designed, built, and assembled in France. The very first creation from the brand, the LA-01, is available in a limited edition of just 100 pieces. The philosophy of the new brand combines passion with transparency, modernity, elegance, simplicity, and innovation. LORNET fully intends to restore the reputation of French watchmaking worldwide.

The founding members of the brand - Anthony Simao, Mikael Bourgeois, and Benoît Monnet – have worked for two years to develop a caliber that’s truly “Made in France”. This feat – producing the only caliber to be designed, manufactured, and assembled in France – has now been achieved. No caliber made in France has met these three fundamental criteria since September 12, 1977, when LIP went into liquidation. LORNET has therefore become the first brand in forty years to be able to lay claim to authentically French origins and traceability; as a result, it embodies the rebirth of French watchmaking. For other parts of the watch, the brand has partnered with reputed firms based in French watchmaking region.

On 03 November 2016, LORNET unveiled its first model: the LA-01- a contemporary mechanical wristwatch which is fully designed, manufactured, and assembled in France.
Beginnings
In 2014, watchmaker Anthony Simao set out on a quest for a truly French watch with a contemporary design that highlighted the mechanics and beauty of its movement. The quest proved fruitless for three reasons. Firstly, at that time, there was no modern watch that was genuinely Made in France, i.e. developed, manufactured, and assembled in France. Secondly, the vast majority of watches available in market use the same, generic, foreign-made movements. Lastly, the steadily rising prices of these pieces in recent years are not mirrored by any corresponding improvement in quality.

It did not take long for the idea of developing a genuinely 100% French watchmaking project to emerge. Keen to join forces with others who were experts in their field, Anthony Simao put together a network of partners, each of whom has contributed in their own way to the success of the company, which Simao christened LORNET – his mother’s maiden name. Simao, with his watchmaking expertise, was joined by Benoit Monnet for commercial strategy, marketing, and communication aspects, along with Mikael Bourgeois to look after design. Together, they set themselves the goal of creating a timepiece that addressed the three shortcomings Simao had observed: a watch designed, manufactured, and assembled in France, with its own movement, available at a fair price.

The LA-01’s caliber features innovative ‘multilevel’ architecture, drawing the observer’s gaze down through the different levels to the very heart of the movement. The layout is visible through two sapphire crystals that reveal the movement’s entire structure and sculpture, as well as showing off all of its high-quality finishes, not one of which escapes the eye.

On 03 Nov 2016, after two years of work, LORNET presented its first model: a high-quality watch in terms of both materials and finishes – fully designed, developed, and manufactured in France:
• An uncluttered, reserved, contemporary design
• A movement featuring a unique architecture, developed and manufactured in France
• A fair price, with an approach differing from existing brands’ practices and pricing factors

With its unique caliber – developed, manufactured, and assembled in France – the brand and its LA-01 model have created quite a stir in the watchmaking world. Thanks to its unique design, in-house movement, and fair price, together with a brand philosophy that focuses on transparency and the quest for perfection, LORNET has become the first French watchmaking brand to be able to lay claim to the Origine France Garantie label.


Making the First LORNET Watch
1. Design and Development: The original idea for the LA-01 came well before the first sketch drawings. The aim was to produce a fun, technical watch – and right from the outset, it was decided that it should have a visible balance wheel positioned at twelve o’clock. Not only that; since the vast majority of watches are round, Anthony Simao also decided from the start that this one should be different, with a more rectangular shape. Lastly, the timepiece should create an impression of depth, featuring striking architecture on multiple levels, offering a plunging view of the movement.

The stylistic approach to the watch involved portraying an overall sense of lightness. This led to the decision to have a movement made from aluminium. Not only is aluminium very lightweight, its chemical properties allow it to be tinted in a whole range of shades and benefit from a range of different finishes. All this makes it ideal for the Fine Watchmaking finishes that will be used for top-of-the-range LORNET models in the future.

2. Drawings and Prototyping: This part of the work, a critical stage prior to physical production of the timepiece, fell to Mikael Bourgeois. Bourgeois drew up the plans for the case and exterior features, carried out stylistic research, made the first 3D models, and supervised the transition to production drawings. He also worked on the sapphire crystals, seals, screws, and engravings, as well as countless other elements of the LORNET style.

3. Construction & Exterior Features: These stages were supervised by Anthony Simao and carried out in Morteau, located in the heart of the Besançon watchmaking region, by an independent Besançon-based craftsman, who did all of his watchmaking training in Morteau.

4. Decoration: Decoration of the LA-01, also overseen by Anthony Simao, is another key element of its identity. As the watch does not have a dial, each part is clearly visible, so particular care is taken with its finish, in keeping with the highest standards of traditional mechanical watchmaking. Decoration is one of LORNET’s priorities, and the LA-01 is designed to be able to accommodate a great many different finishing options in the future, up to and including set jewels, for future Fine Watch models. For now, the LA-01 is destined to be available in two versions, Classic and Sport.

5. Assembly: Right from the very first watch, assembly has been carried out in France in Besançon, right at the heart of the Franche-Comté watchmaking region. The 138 exclusive parts of the LA-01 are assembled entirely by hand.

6. Accessories:  The LA-01 strap is hand-made in a workshop located between Morteau and Besançon, by an independent leather craftsman. Both sides of the LA-01 strap are made from genuine alligator skin; the leather undergoes special treatment – and LORNET is the very first manufacturer to benefit from this process.

Besançon, City of Watchmaking
Like the rest of the Franche-Comté watchmaking region, Besançon’s watchmaking heritage dates back three centuries. In the late eighteenth century, craftsmen from neighbouring Switzerland moved to the city to set up their first workshops.

The Besançon craftsmen’s watchmaking art continued to progress; in 1860, the International Exhibition held in Besançon established the Franche-Comté town as the “Capital of French Watchmaking”, a title to which it can still lay claim today. By 1880, over 90% of all French watches were made in Besançon: over 500,000 timepieces were being produced each year, providing employment directly or indirectly for 15,000 people. Some of these craftsmen were graduates of Besançon’s first Watchmaking School, which opened in 1862. The city was home to France’s first watch factory, opened in 1874. It produced 395,000 watches that year, accounting for 12% of total output worldwide.

The Besançon Astronomical, Meteorological, and Chronometrical Observatory dated from the same period: it was inaugurated in 1884. It became the custodian of the Poinçon de la Vipère seal, a guarantee of watchmaking precision and excellence that is still used today to certify fine mechanical watches. This industrial boom continued unwaveringly through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

A large number of historic firms that are still active today began during this period. However, by 1930 the Great Depression had slowed down all economic activity across Europe – including watchmaking in Besançon, which had specialised in both the production of finished watches and subcontracting for neighbouring Switzerland. Nonetheless, watchmaking continued until the oil crisis of 1973 and the quartz crisis that followed soon thereafter. This ‘double whammy’ had a serious effect on the watchmaking industry in Besançon, virtually wiping out local watch production.

The city did however pursue the business of microtechnology, still the spearhead of its watchmaking activity today. It is also a European leader in precision mechanics and nanotechnologies, and a world leader in the specific field of time-frequency. One district of the city is home to most of these microtechnology activities: the Science and Microtechnology Business Park, commonly known as Témis. Construction of Témis began in the early 2000s, on 75 hectares of land; today it is home to 150 businesses employing over 1,000 people. One key feature is the Témis Innovation building, with 6,500 square metres of space devoted entirely to microtechnology; another is the National Engineering Institute in Mechanics and Microtechnologies, which trains some 900 students each year.

TEAM LORNET
Anthony Simao (Founding Watchmaker)
Anthony Simao is both a watchmaker and an entrepreneur. Born in Besançon in 1991, he became involved in the world of watchmaking from a very early age thanks to his uncle, Fernand Simao, an independent watchmaker who encouraged him in the direction of watchmaking studies. These very quickly became a passion for him. He trained on the job, and being exceptionally intelligent for his age, he was able to learn about every single stage involved in creating a watch.

He studied in Morteau at the renowned Edgar Faure School, followed by a 2-year apprenticeship in After Sales at Breitling, in Besançon. He then continued his training at the Renaud & Papi manufacture (Audemars Piguet) in Le Locle. All of this experience gave him the necessary skills in everything from complications to after sales. He was awarded one of the best grades ever at the Brevet des Métiers d’Art watchmaking exam.

After his studies, Anthony was hired by Chronode in Le Locle, where he contributed to the first HYT (the H1), as well as to the development of several tourbillons for the biggest names in watchmaking. In 2013, he set up his first company, ARTIME SA, subcontracting for leading watchmaking brands such as Richard Mille, Audemars Piguet, and HYT, to name but a few. The firm carries out production, assembly, after sales, and prototyping for all types of movements, as well as the decoration of parts of all kinds.

For the past two years, he has been working on creating his own brand with its own in-house movement, opening up a new chapter in watchmaking in France and in his home city of Besançon, the French watchmaking capital, with LORNET.

Benoît Monnet (Customer Relations & Marketing)
Benoit Monnet was born in Dijon, and completed the first part of his studies in his home city. He studied Mechanical Engineering and Production Automation, later followed by Business Studies.

In 2014, he decided to do a vocational bachelor’s degree. He did his work experience as a technical salesman with an aerospace subcontractor in Tours. Benoît finished his studies with brilliant results, thereby qualifying in both technical and sales specialisations. It was during this period that he discovered a passion for mechanics, taking an interest in microtechnology and watchmaking. Benoît first joined a company working in industrial fluids. Fascinated by technology, he put his skills and advice to good use serving industrial customers in Franche-Comté, whilst also working on his own time to help set up LORNET. In September 2016, when his skills became vital for the project to move forward, he decided to leave his day job and devote himself fully to LORNET. As the only member of the team without a background in watchmaking, he brings complementary technical and commercial skills to the business.

Mikael Bourgeois (Watch Designer)
Mikael Bourgeois was born in Besançon in 1977. He attended the Edgar Faure School in Morteau, where most Besançon-based watchmakers are trained, graduating with a BTS vocational qualification in microtechnology. In 1999, at the age of 22, he co-founded and co-managed the NovoDess consultancy, becoming managing director in 2005.

For nearly 20 years, Mikael Bourgeois has been a leading figure in watchmaking design, sought out by some of the biggest names on the international watchmaking scene: Zenith, Parmigiani Fleurier, Bell & Ross, Girard Perregaux, Renaud Papi, Chanel – Les Maitres du Temps, Pequignet, Romain Jérome, La montre Hermès, and many more undisclosed names. In total, Mikael Bourgeois has contributed to the creation of over 450 models.

Today, NovoDess’ skills focus on three areas of expertise:
• Design studies
• Technical studies for exterior features (case, strap, dial, hands, etc.):
- Full 3D design as per the style brief
- Detailed production drawings
- Overseeing small production runs
• Technical movement design:
- Construction consultancy
- Detailed production drawings

2009 saw the creation of the eponymous Mikael Bourgeois brand, also known as MB Watches, dedicated to the creation of bespoke timepieces, producing just two or three each year. MB Watches also produced eight Limited-Edition “Thunderbird” watches in 2011; these were so successful that a second edition comprising 50 more pieces was announced in 2016.

The First Lornet Model: The LA-01
The first step in the construction of the LA-01 was the caliber. This has a total of 158 parts, assembled using computer technology, corrected to within a micron, simulated by means of digital assembly, and then perfected. In the end, it took 18 months to produce this Hours-Minutes-Seconds automatic movement, unique and specific to the brand. In addition, the distinctive ‘multilevel’ architecture, featuring a raised balance wheel at twelve o’clock, adds a sense of depth to the LA-01.
After designing the movement using CAD, Mikael Bourgeois was able to express his talents as a stylist to the full, taking into account the key highlights of the design brief: modernity, sobriety, and uncluttered lines. Constantly striving for perfection, Mikael supplied the team with a host of diagrams, drawings and simulations. The elegant, bold design of the LA-01 sports a decidedly characteristic shape, featuring clean-cut edges and graceful proportions.

The team then set out to find top-level partners for the various stages involved in manufacturing the watch. In total, over 80% of the LA-01 is designed, manufactured, and assembled by independent firms and craftsmen based in Besançon and the surrounding area.

Components and Partner Companies
  • Case and movement: Most of the parts are made by CREATECH in Besançon, specialists in parts machining for mechanical watchmaking.
  • Strap: CREATION PERRIN, based in Orchamps -Vennes, has provided LORNET with an innovative, genuine alligator strap, featuring a matte black finish and hand stitching.
  • Crystal: VERLUX, a Morteau-based firm, supplies LORNET with scratchproof sapphire crystals. A second crystal placed beneath the watch will allow customers to view the mechanism from a variety of different angles, displaying the movement’s skeletonised characteristics.
  • Presentation Box: Mr JACQUEMIN, a craftsman based in Cramans on the Doubs-Jura border, designs the presentation box for each LORNET watch, and makes them by hand.
Technical details
Model: LORNET LA-01

Movement
MLA-01 movement developed by LORNET
Aluminium alloy movement, chosen for its lightweight properties and adaptability to multiple finishes
Tungsten weight delivers enhanced winding performance
Two-position winding stem
Power reserve: 48 hours
Frequency: 28,800 vibrations/hour
Offset small seconds display

Case
Brushed stainless steel case
Crowns from CHEVAL FRERES
Waterproof up to 50 metres
Sapphire caseback

Strap
Hand-made alligator strap

Contact details
LORNET
17F rue Alain Savary
25000 Besançon
France
www.lornet-watches.com

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