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LIP: Affordable vintage pieces worth a gander

Anna Wu-Chauvineau
Le 7 March 2017
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Lip Nautic Ski 1967

Let’s begin with my favorite little piece, the Lip Nautic Ski. Launched in 1967 by Lip, this particular dive watch hasn’t lost a bit of its charm, and one can still find it at a reasonable price. Let’s take a closer look at this diver Made in France

Voilà a brushed case with undeniable strong character. Polished facets to give the steel and case a lovely degree of depth, and crowns located at 2 o’clock and 4 o’clock. Sounds like we’re off to a great start here doesn’t it? Baton hands in all simplicity and clarity, applied hour markers, an internal rotating bezel, a date window at 3 o’clock and just a hint of color giving the ensemble a 70’s aspect we love so much. We say yes, absolutely.

LIP Nautic Ski - Wrist

This is a rubber 22mm Tropic-type strap, hence not vintage unfortunately, but extremely soft and comfortable on the wrist. The bezel turns very easily and the secure screwed crowns ensure trust for this dive watch water-resistant up to 200m.

Ed. note: For vintage watches during this period, including dive watches, water-resistance is no longer guaranteed. One should refrain from putting it through the test. Admit that it would be a pity if any damage was done.

A domed plexiglass completes the picture. The absence of a bezel visually increases the perception of the dial’s size at 39mm. What we have is a good watch presence on the wrist.

LIP Nautic Ski - Focus Cadran

A bit of history now shall we? The “electronic” movement by Lip, released in a very confidential way in 1952, took the Swiss industry by surprise. Let’s just say they weren’t thrilled to be overtaken by the Frenchies. Lip made things worse and added a water-resistant case up to 200m, followed by a powerful communication campaign…

Publicité LIP Nautic Ski 1967

You’ll have to do some searching, but it will cost around 400€-500€ for a Nautic Ski in good condition. Clearly a reasonable price given its history and the pleasure you’ll take wearing it.

Lip Mach 2000 – Roger Tallon, 1974

Here we have a second Lip model worth looking at, and that belongs in a whole other category. The Mach 2000 with a surprising design, to say the least, very unique and now emblematic of Lip’s modern period.

LIP Mach 2000 - Focus

Let’s take a step back to understand where this UFO came from…

The French brand was known in the past not only as the distributor of Blancpain Fifty Fathoms in 1952, but also joint signer with Breitling for the Navitimer Cosmonaut. Then the Quartz crisis happened. This critical situation didn’t just jeopardize and eliminate a great number of Swiss brands, it also had a significant impact on French watchmaking. The Frenchies had to react, and it was urgent.

We are at the beginning of the 1970’s and Lip’s Director, Claude Neuchwander, previously at Publicis, reacted by calling upon a pure French designer team (the “design” at that time was still quite the abstract notion) to revitalize the Besançon brand against the crisis. One of the designers, Roger Tallon, from a French industrial design background was also responsible for the design of the TGV high-speed train. Roger Tallon collaborated with Lip on more than 24 models between 1974 and 1996. A real partnership.

What we saw here was the creation of the designer watches in hopes to save traditional watchmaking. A little “Thank you” wouldn’t be out of place.

Let’s go back to the Mach 2000 now with its display of an almost complete calendar. Hours, minutes, seconds are presented, but also days, date and moonphase can be seen on the dial. You can recognize this model at a flash with its three very distinct and very large crowns, each representing a primary color. It goes without saying that turning any of the crowns becomes child’s play.

LIP Mach 2000 - Focus

White Baton hands and hour markers on a black dial means extremely easy to read. It doesn’t get much clearer than this….  The domed plexiglass and no bezel agrees with us once again.

Ed. note: The asymmetrical aspect of the case, out of sync with the strap, is a bit awkward at first but only for short while. You quickly become used to it. This famous D-shape comes from ergonomic notions brought to the table by Tallon and the industrial sector. Essentially this setup allows free and easy wrist movement. Even if its physical aspect won’t please all tastes, the watch is extremely comfortable to wear.

Beating inside the body of these first designer watches from our beloved French brand was the Valjoux 7734 movement. Therefore, a successful revamping of a traditional soul in a unique and intriguing body. We’re very pleased.

A small bit of watchmaking history at your wrist for a relatively reasonable price at around 400€ – 500€ for a preserved model in good condition. This won’t endanger your next vacation to St. Barts.