Lonville and Aston Martin in a special event dedicated to the heritage and continuity of amazing craftsmanship
In the modern era, watches and cars have always stood together: starting from the automobiles’ panel ‘s instrumentation and ending with collection watches and collection cars.
I was invited by Lonville to a special event that took place at the historic home of Aston Martin – the Newport Pagnell Aston Martin Works. Since I’m some kind of obsessed with this particular car manufacturer and since I have already met Lonville at Baselworld and knew their quality level, refusing such an opportunity would have been madness.
My journey and my story started at midnight the day before the event itself. I had to drive 3 hours to the airport, fly, travel with the London Tube, take the train and after a 12-hour journey, I was finally there.
The official poster and invitation to the event
“Aston Martin Lagonda Limited is a British manufacturer of luxury sports cars and grand tourers. It was founded in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford. Steered from 1947 by David Brown it became associated with expensive grand touring cars in the 1950s and 1960s, and with the fictional character James Bond following his use of a DB5 model in the 1964 film Goldfinger. Their sports cars are regarded as a British cultural icon. Aston Martin has held a Royal Warrant as a purveyor of motorcars to HRH the Prince of Wales since 1982.” – Aston Martin Wikipedia
Aston Martin Works hosts a fabulous showroom with magnificent historic cars
For me, Aston Martin was the car of James Bond. Much later I found out about the brands’ history and struggles the company had over the years and how hard it is to maintain such a high level of craftsmanship, technology and pure beauty. These cars are the correspondent in the automobilists world of the timepieces created by Haute Horlogerie Independent brands. They are all small manufacturers where handwork is appreciated and lifted to the highest level possible.
Aston Martin DB4 – one of the 149 Series One cars built at Newport Pagnell
Lonville is one of those almost forgotten watch brands, that with the help of a few enthusiastic people was revived to its full glory. If this sounds like a big statement, just wait for the watches’ presentation. But for now back to the history: “It was Johann Kottman who in 1873 established an ebauche-watch movement company with some 80 workers in the village of Langendorf. Following a near-collapse in 1880 Johann Kottman recruited watch specialists from the western part of Switzerland and started a program to provide housing, schooling and other facilities for their workers and the town – the business flourished and the foundation for future growth was laid.” – Lonville Website
One of the rare beauties of Lonville: a white gold lady’s wristwatch decorated with diamonds
Lonville, part of the Langendorf Watch Company, was famous for its pocket watches with highly decorated cases and elaborated dials. The end of the XIXth century finds the Langendorf Watch Company as one of the largest factories in the world, reaching the point of in-house complete design and production.
Unfortunately, the Lonville name started to fade and the brand stopped making watches in the mid-’50s.
Lonville “Railway” pocket watch with nicely decorated case, enamel dial and blue steel hands
In 2008, Joost Vreeswijk and a group of watch enthusiasts re-born the Lonville Watch Company by starting with the design and development of the first watch in the company’s modern age.
The Virage project needed 7 years to achieve the final design, but the result was a true example of Haute Horlogerie, paying an homage to Lonville’s heritage.
The new and the old in Lonville
The organised event was special for both companies: Aston Martin presented the facilities where the continuation series of 25 Aston Martin DB4 will be built with the classic manufacturing process just like the original series, and Lonville presented their current collection with a strong connection to the world of classic cars.
I had the opportunity to go on a private tour of the Aston Martin Works workshops. This included an incredible live demonstration of true craftsmanship: from a straight piece of aluminium sheet, using hand work and special tools a body piece was born. Pictures from the factory tour can be seen at the end of the article.
The Lonville Virage watches presented together with an Aston Martin DB4 Superleggera
The Lonville watches are designed with complex construction and care for details. The connection of these watches with the auto world is not only by name: the Lonville G24 timepiece was manufactured in a 24 pieces limited series, every watch representing one of the 24 hours of the Le Mans race. More than that, the G24 watches were designed by the talented chief designer Matthew Humphries, who also designed the Morgan Aeromax for the Morgan Motor Company.
In 2011, Gabriele Gardel won the 24 hours Le Mans, in GTEAm class, wearing a Lonville G24 prototype – a test for man and machines – passed flawlessly.
The Lonville G24 Superleggera worn by Gabriele Gardel winnings the 24h of Le Mans
“…is the ultimate endurance test of man and machine. A magical place where some of the most illustrious drivers and marques have written their part of car racing history. In 2011 Gabriele Gardel was wearing a Lonville G24 prototype when he crossed the finish line with nearly 300km/h to win his class.” – Lonville G24 Website
Lonville has a complex multilayered dial construction under an apparent simple look. The first visible part is a vertical brushed piece mounted between 12 and 6 o’clock. The fullest depth of the dial has a circular guilloche finish. This dial contains, on the right side, the retrograde date and the power reserve indication. The next level has a bigger guilloche circular pattern and holds part of the 3-D applied hour indexes.
The 3-D hour indexes require special attention in the manufacturing and mounting process
These indexes are partly fixed on the inner bezel and partly over the guilloche pattern. This type of mounting requires very precise hands and microscopic tolerances. Moreover, the white printed numerals and markings increase the contrast between the constituent parts.
A nice touch is the Lonville Signature logo applied on the dial’s top. The entire dial is exceptionally executed.
“A unique multi-layer dial design with a black vertical ‘straight’ central bridge which is symbolic of the way Gabriele described the Le Mans dark night-time circuit.“ – Lonville G24 Website
The Lonville G24 Superleggera with skeletonized lugs
The G24 is manufactured in two 40mm case styles: Stradale – a “street-legal lightweight” and Superleggera – “lightweight drilled case sides and lugs”. Both versions have black PVD titanium case with multiple finishes: fine brushed body and lugs, polished rounded slim bezel and polished, screw-mounted case-back with see-through sapphire crystal. The Superleggera has skeletonized lugs and drilled case sides for a lighter, overall weight. The black PVD titanium crowns are specially designed for a better grip.
The Lonville G24 Superleggera’s case side with visible light weight drilling
On the back-side is proudly engraved “All Swiss”, the individual number as “No.xx/24” and, very important, the name or initials of the owner.
Under the sapphire crystal is visible the beautiful calibre LV2, designed and manufactured in Les Brenets, Switzerland.
The number 18 watch of Joost Vreeswijk with a fantastic view of the Caliber LV2
The most visible are the Côtes de Genève finishes of the bridges, Lonville´s signature blue engraving and the lovely executed main plate perlage. The fixation is done using thermally blued steel screws.
The beautiful circular brushed rotor weight was designed by Matthew Humphries, having as inspiration the Bugatti´s Tipo 35 wheels.
A light weight rotor weight with the Lonville signature – a true Superleggera component
The LV2 is COSC certified with the indication number engraved on the bridge. The movement uses 43 jewels, it has a beating heart of 4Hz, pushing an impressive 120 hours power reserve (indicated on the dial) from the available double barrel. The automatic wounding is done unidirectionally.
The G24 watches come with a leather strap with black PVD titanium pin buckle. The timepieces can be personalised: the colour of the second hand and strap stitching can be changed on both models; the name or initials of the owner are engraved under the crystal. The motorsport-inspired timepieces can be ordered for CHF 9.100 (excl. VAT) for the G24 Stradale and CHF 10.650 (excl. VAT) for the G24 Superleggera.
Personalised G24 Superleggera with bespoke colours
Another beautiful watch present at the event was the Lonville Virage ’59 Blue GMT – the latest watch from the Virage Collection. There are two aspects that make this timepiece so cool: the fantastic look and the marvellous movement.
The Lonville Virage ’59 Blue GMT is an eye catcher
The Virage ’59 Blue GMT has a special shine between the Lonville watches due to the blue dial. It comes with a 40mm Virage case in white gold. The case is elegant, featuring highly polished bezel and lugs. Its side has a horizontal brush which continues until the end of the lugs. In this way, the lugs’ integration in the case body is smooth and graceful.
The Lonville Virage ’59 Blue GMT case is splendidly manufactured
The white gold crown has a beautiful shape and a construction that permits an easy operation. The hand engraved Lonville logo on a polished background is a great element of taste.
The ’59 Blue GMT timepiece is covered on top and bottom with sapphire crystal.
The case side of the ’59 Blue GMT with brushed finish and the lovely crown
But the part that catches and fascinates the viewer’s eyes most is the deep blue Soleil dial. The sunburst finishes are completed with the Lonville’s logo shield applied at 12 o’clock under the printed name.
The small seconds’ subdial placed at 6 o’clock is positioned slightly at a lower depth. The Dauphine seconds’ hand and the white numerals and indexes printing help to create a more depth effect on the dial.
The Lonville Virage ’59 Blue GMT small seconds increase the appeal of the blue dial
The hours’ and minutes’ hand are also faceted Dauphine shaped. Long and elegant, the minutes’ hand reaches the minutes’ indication: on the dial’s exterior, there is a white circle with black printed indexes.
The minutes’ indication dial also serves as GMT indication
For the GMT indication, it is used a third red tipped central hand. As GMT / second-time-zone dial it is used the white minutes’ dial with Arabic numerals with even numbers. The 24 o’clock is red painted and it is placed on the highest point of the dial.
The red tipped GMT indication looks great on the blue dial
Another nice detail is represented by the applied hour 3-D indexes. These indexes with different length for 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock seem to bite from the dial.
The dial’s construction is exquisitely executed, it makes beautiful light games in the sun and it has an excellent readability.
The back view of the Virage Blue GMT
Powering the Blue GMT is the elegant calibre LV1 automatic. This fully decorated movement was developed over a period of 8 years, in La-Chaux-de-Fonds. The micro-rotor automatic movement is COSC certified and it has a beating heart of 3Hz or 21,600vph offering an impressive nearly 80 hours of power reserve.
The Lonville Calibre LV1
The LV1 movement has a frost finish main plate, enhancing the view of the balance and the micro-rotor. The bridges with Côtes de Genève finishes have bevelled and polished edges. The COSC certification number, the Lonville name and the logo are engraved. The engraving is blue coloured, increasing this way the contrast and visibility. A nice touch is the mirror polish of the sinks. Other eye pleasant elements are the thermally blued screws, the sunburst brushed winding wheel and the micro-rotor.
Lonville calibre LV1 micro-rotor is skillfully decorated
The Virage micro-rotor is one of the most beautiful rotors I’ve ever seen. Maybe I have a personal preference due to the blue coloured finish and the gold fixation system with steel bolts. Nevertheless, the view is fabulous.
The elaborated micro-rotor design and finishes
The case-back features an “ALL SWISS” engraving, together with the watch’s number and the name or the initials of the owner.
The Virage ’59 Blue GMT comes in an 18 pieces limited series in white gold, with a suede or alligator strap with white gold folding clasp and a price tag of CHF 20,300 (excl. VAT).
The white gold folding clasp features the Lonville signature engraved
The buckle of the folding clasp has brushed and polished surface and the Lonville logo engraved.
The Lonville Virage Collection features four different models: Kind of Blue with micro-rotor automatic and small seconds, Fuel Tank with small seconds, power reserve and double barrel manual movement, Gunmetal GMT with small seconds, power reserve, second time zone and double barrel manual movement and the ’59 Blue GMT with small seconds, second time zone and micro-rotor automatic movement.
All watches have the same attention to details and high-end finishes.
The double barrel LV1 and the dial of Blue GMT
Further, I will continue with images and some explanations from the Lonville-Aston Martin event on April, 29th 2017 at Newport Pagnell headquarters:
Aston Martin is happy to announce the intention of building 25 “continuation” DB4s in the manner it was done 60 years ago using the tools and the processes specific to those times.
Beautiful watches and rare cars under the same roof
Lonville Watches presented their watch collection and, of course, the link to the classic cars and the automobilist world.
The event was visited by watches enthusiasts and cars lovers
The highlight of the Aston Martin presentation was the factory and atelier’s tour, an occasion for us to see the birthplace of the most beautiful cars in the world. A surprise was organised by the Aston Martin Works officials: a live demonstration of the manufacturing process.
The amount of work necessary for every part is tremendous
From a straight piece of aluminium sheet to a usable body part
Different tools have different effects on the metal sheet
A demonstration of how the manufacturing process flows
The tools used in manual work are very important: for obtaining beautiful results, beautiful tools are used
The result of thousands of hours of manual work should look like this gorgeous Aston Martin DB4 Superleggera.
The front lines of this DB4 can be recognised in all DB cars, regardless of the model or the year
Iconic interior makes the driving more pleasant
Aston Martin DB4 Superleggera available at Aston Martin Works
The rest of the event was filled with discussions about watches and cars, cars and watches: finishes, materials and the beauty of the manual work.
The Blue GMT looks great on the wrist. More than that, it looks so natural with a vintage Aston Martin
A wrist test is always important. Just like a driving test before buying a car!
Lonville Virage Fuel Tank and ’59 Blue GMT
Lonville Blue GMT waiting for a new home
The Virage Gunmetal GMT with double barrel LV1 calibre and multilayered dial
The case and the crown have a balanced contrast
Brushed and polished finishes with perfect execution
The ’59 Blue GMT looks classic and elegant
A beautiful watch with a beautiful movement
Finishes are always a good conversation subject
Lonville Virage ’59 Blue GMT looks alone in a box. The best place for such a timepiece is on the wrist
A piece of Lonville’s history
Lonville old and new: a vintage Lonville watch box and the Virage Gunmetal GMT
The Lonville Virage Fuel Tank: the Virage collection shares the same design theme between timepieces Note: in this picture is a well-used prototype that has been worn for over 2 years
10 hours and 2000km at speeds up to 300km/h, cockpit temperatures reaching 50 degrees and hard, sports suspension: Le Mans race was no issue for a Lonville G24
Lonville old and new watches
The modern Lonville watches are worthy descendants of the historic Lonville timepieces. It is always a joy to see such a heritage and full of history brand brought back to life by watch enthusiasts. The “new” independent brand has all the chances to become a well-known manufacturer due to the gorgeous finishes and the marvellous technical solutions.
Lonville watches and Aston Martin cars go well together: a passion for finishes and manual work, a great heritage and a rough history.
I would like to thank Lonville for the invitation: special thanks to Joost Vreeswijk and Matt Faoro for their time, for showing me the timepieces and for a great time at the Lonville and Aston Martin event. Many thanks go to the Aston Martin team for the organisation. The tour was beyond great and the fun with the cars… indescribable.
For more information about the Lonville timepieces please visit the Lonville Watches Website.
For more information about Aston Martin and their cars please visit the Aston Martin Works Website.