History of Lemania
The Lemania name derives from lake Geneva, known by the French speakers of Switzerland as Lac Leman.
On the back of some of their watches, on their crest and in adverts, Lemania themselves claimed a history dating from 1884, but no watch was produced under that name until at least 40 years after this date.
Alfed Lugrin founded the company that became Lemania in 1884, specifically as a movement maker and provider of complications for simpler pocket watches. Chronographs, repeaters and so forth. Their movements were signed with a maltese cross with "A Lugrin" written inside. It stayed as such until 1928, when the name was changed to Lemania Lugrin SA under the management of Marius Meylan, who was Alfred Lugrin’s son-in-law.
The company started producing watches under its own name. The same Maltese cross remained on the movement, with the script inside changed to Lemania and later LWO.
A significant development happened in 1932 when Lemania joined SSIH (Societé Suisse pour L’Industrie Horologère), an agglomeration of Omega and Tissot which had been founded 2 years earlier. SSIH was a rationalisation undertaken in order to combine the forces of these manufacturers in the face of the great depression, which was threatening the industry as a whole, and smaller companies in particular. The other large group formed in Switzerland at the same time was AUSAG.
The co-operative inside SSIH led to Lemania’s most fruitful alliance, the provision of movements to Omega, most notably for their mechanical chronographs. Lemania provided every single Omega chronograph movement for the next 40 years, and Lemania designs are still sold in new watches today.
Lemania also flourished in its own right, and designed and produced some notable movements and watches in this alliance, notably chronographs for British and Commonwealth armed forces. It certianly represents the majority of its history, lasting until the '80s.
Lemania became Nouvelle Lemania when it demerged from the ailing SSIH (which had become SMH when SSIH joined forces with AUSAG) in 1981. It was a management buyout from the group with the funds provided intended to prop up SMH, which had been ravaged over the course of the 70s by economic conditions, high costs, uneconomic technical innovation and severe competition from Japan.
At this stage Lemania was still producing movements for Omega, the 1873 for instance (called the 861 by Omega), the simpler 2-register 1872 and the 5100 (Omega's 1045) in particular.
The buyout was part-funded by Piaget, who then went on to buy Heuer in 1982. Here started Lemania’s second major alliance with a large manufacturer, which only lasted until a short while after Heuer was sold to the TAG group in 1985.
Lemania carried on, but the industry was not what it once was, and it was bought out by new investors in 1991. These new owners (Bahrain Investcorp) already owned Breguet, and Lemania’s last alliance with a large retail brand was effectively cemented.
Lemania still flourished and produced new movements for others, as well as an increasing amount for Breguet, who had previously not really used Lemania movements.
The death knell for Lemania was the Investcorp sale to the Swatch Group in 1999. The management decreed that one of Lemania's more successful products, the 5100 movement, was not to be sold outside the Swatch Group. This killed the movement, since no manufacturer inside the group was using it. Indpendents who were buying it, such as Sinn and Tutima, were given the opportunity to stock up before production ceased.
Swatch also had plans for Breguet, whom they wanted to return to the status of manufacture. The Lemania premises were handed to Breguet, to become their in-house movement manufacturer. Breguet remains on the site to this day,
Notable Lemania watches
- Dirty Dozen Lemania
- Lemania HS9 chronograph (and later iterations)
- Swedish Lemania TG9 "Chronostop" chronograph
- Swedish Airforce Lemania "Viggen"
- South African Airforce Lemania 1872
- South African Airforce Lemania 5012
- Italian Lemania AMI chronograph
(List incomplete, being worked on)
Notable Lemania movements
- Lemania CH27/12 (which is the origin of Omega 321)
- Lemania 1873 (which is the Omega Cal 861 movement)
- Lemania 1340 series (which is the Omega Cal 1040 and Omega Cal 1041 movement)
- Lemania 5100 (which is the Omega 1045) also found in Bund chronographs by Porsche Design, Arctos, Tengler and Tutima.