Lonville has been on our radar for quite a while now, time to finally pick up the phone and organize a meeting with the man behind this brand. Lonville is the brainchild of a man with a dream, an idea and above all: a passion. The brand is ‘All Swiss’, but the man behind it is a real Dutchman. So you see why we had to contact him for a conversation and the ‘why’. I met up with Mr. Vreeswijk in a restaurant in Amsterdam and it became a wonderful night full of watch talk and a close encounter with some of the Lonville beauties.
Good taste starts early
Mr. Vreeswijk strikes me as a very spontaneous man with a vision matching that of the perfect gentleman. We sat down and talked about what drove him to start a watch brand – or officially reintroduce one – and what is his vision. He tells me he likes to brighten up things, creating an environment that suits a ‘Lonville World’. Lonville stands for enjoying exclusive products, beautiful design and besides that; understand how to enjoy life to the fullest, Mr Vreeswijk calls these ‘Lonville Moments’.
Since he was young, there are two very important interests in the life of this gentleman: classic cars and watches. Two values that should be of great importance in each man’s life if you ask us. Classic cars and watches have one very important thing in common – marvellous technique that’s complimented by great design. Now, believe me as I say that those two things meet in perfect harmony in a Lonville timepiece. I’ve seen it with my own eyes… marvellous indeed. Anyhow, he told me that his love for watches quickly turned into a collecting lifestyle – focussing on watches from the fifties and in special – Jaeger LeCoultre.
Before moving on about the ‘why’ – as in why did Mr. Vreeswijk and friends reintroduce this brand and ended 50 years of silence – I should tell you a little more about the history of this brand. Let’s go back to the 19th century and enjoy the story.
Were it all started
It was during the mid-1800s that the Kottman family living in Solothurn – nearby the Swiss village Langendorf – established a various amount of industrial activities. The family existed out of doctors, academics and entrepreneurs; bringing a lot of activity to the Solothurn and Langendorf area. Then, in 1873, Johann Kottman established an ebauche-watch movement company with around 80 workers in the village of Langendorf.
For those who are a bit into French the name ‘Lonville’ will probably be crystal clear; for those who aren’t.. it is the French translation of Langendorf. Giving the name a bit more class, the company decided to use the French version as their official name. Besides that and maybe much more important – the majority of the watch industry was already situated in the French part of Switzerland. At the end of the 1800s, the Langedorf Watch Company became one of the biggest factories in the world with around 800 to 1000 workers.
During the 1950-60s the Langendorf Watch Company started to focus most of its attention on its other brands, most notably Lanco. During the early 1950s the Lonville brand was sadly abandoned and was never used again. The Lanco brand was continued into the seventies and was ultimately Langendorf’s greatest success. The post-war Swiss watch industry decline, the 1960/70s introduction of quarts movements and fierce overseas competition saw the Langendorf Watch company shrink, being sold and subsequently being closed for good in the early 1970s.
As to why Mr. Vreeswijk chose to reintroduce this brand, I get an answer that defines passion and vision in the most pure form possible. He says: ‘I bought a Lonville pocket watch back in the days; the elegance, beauty and quality intrigued me. I had to find out more about that particular brand, so I started doing research.’ As he was doing research, Mr. Vreeswijk discovered that his passion for 50s and 60s watches would not be fulfilled by this brand, as they stopped production in the early 50s.. Concequently, this Dutchman himself decided to pick up the storyline where it once ended.
The identity of the 50s and 60s being one of the essential design aspects for the current Lonville watches, makes that the timepieces embody the aspirations of Mr. Vreeswijk himself. The concave dials and slightly bend minute hands are very characteristic for that period of time. Aspects that can also be found in the Virage. (link to review Virage Fuel Tank)
A very nice aspect is the fact that Mr. Vreeswijk created a new kind of quality standard for watches. As he told me, he thinks that the ‘Swiss Made’ stamp on watches is often not much more than a marketing technique where only part of the watch is actually created in Switzerland. While this may suit some brands, he decided his watches should carry a new kind of standard. The result: A stamp on each dial that says ‘All Swiss’ referring to the fact that each and every element is fully produced, assembled and (cosc) tested within the borders of Switzerland. A detail that makes me smile. People who think outside the box are people with passion. I like those kind of people.
At the moment, Lonville exists out of 4 Virage watches – limited to 18 pieces each – and one 24hours of Le Mans special in a series of 24 pieces. A collection that stands for quality and exclusivity. A brand that definitely deserves attention and one that you should follow. I will share my review later this week, and tell you guys about the privilege to wear the Lonville Virage Fuel Tank. What a watch. Make sure you don’t miss it!