When the quartz crisis hit many a watchmaker shut up shop permanently. In fact, a huge swathe of the horological world simply ceased to exist outside of auctions and private collections. It was a tragedy, one that the Lebois & Co also fell victim to.
For 42 years the brand’s watches could only be found in the occasional auction where, incidentally, they commanded pretty impressive prices. In fact, it was that auction presence that led them directly to the man that would be their saviour: Tom Van Wijlick. After seeing a Lebois & Co timepiece at Christie’s he was so enamoured that he put a picture of it on his fridge. Well, it beats a novelty magnet.
That very same year, Lebois & Co was resurrected and immediately launched a series of Kickstarter campaigns to make sure it stayed that way, starting with the Avantgarde Date Watch. The fact that we’re discussing them now illustrates that they were successful. 2019 however is the biggest year for Lebois & Co in its second life.
Last year Lebois & Co launched the Venturist, a flawlessly-built tool watch. At 41mm the stainless steel case is in that sweet spot between chunky and clunky – a distinct difference – and sits at a svelte 10.5mm high, slipping under most shirtsleeves. Yes it’s a tool watch, but it’s one that you can wear outside of Scuba gear or jumping out of a plane.
The applied indexes are more ornate than most tool watches would dare use, but they stand out nicely against the circular engraving. Thanks to the metal edging, they also have the added effect of being incredibly bright. All that aside however, there’s one thing the Venturist has in its favour above everything else: accuracy.
Earlier this year, Lebois & Co put the Venturist under the scrutiny of TIMELAB’s new Observatoire Chronométrique certification. It’s essentially COSC on steroids, a more demanding and wide-ranging test of a watch’s accuracy over time. It tests it in more positions, under greater stresses and with less room for error. It’s also tested for anti-magnetism, water resistance and power reserve. If you want a tool watch, a timepiece designed for reliability above all else, you want it to have this certification. It’s incredibly impressive for a Sellita-based movement.
At £2,260, it’s also nicely accessible. Sure it’s competing with plenty of larger watchmakers with some lovely tool watches themselves, but I’m pretty sure Oris doesn’t offer shares in the company when you buy one of its watches. This Venturist price on the other hand includes 25 share certificates in Lebois & Co, meaning you can own not only a great watch, but part of the company that made it. More details at leboisandco.com.