Lemania is probably the most illustrious of the brands that have now ceased to exist. Founded in 1883 by watch-maker Alfred Lugrin, Lemania is a company that has earned a place in the heart of many a vintage chronograph lover, if only for the fact that without it an iconic Omega model might never have existed. From the very beginning the self-taught Lugrin specialised in making high quality chronographs, repeaters and stopwatches.
Lemania is best remembered as a manufacturer and designer of movements. Even though there are quite a few Lemania-branded watches from the Fifties, the company’s focus was always designing top quality chronograph movements. In the Forties, Lemania produced military chronographs, particularly for the British forces. A good example of these military watches is the Lemania TG 195 from Sean Song Watches (www.ssongwatches.com). A Lemania chronograph from 1940 seen here sold for CHF 9,375 at a Christie’s Auction in 2014.
Companies like Omega and Patek Philippe have used variations of Lemania-based movements. The famous Patek caliber CH 27-70 used in various chronograph models was based on the Lemania 2310. Vacheron Constantin’s Caliber 1141 was based on the 2310 as well.
In 1932 Lemania was integrated into the SSIH group, and it became a supplier of chronographs to stable-mate Omega. In 1946 Lemania watch-maker Albert Piguet developed what was to become the Omega caliber 321, which powered the first Omega Speedmaster model in 1957. This movement was also based on the Lemania 2310. After the quartz crisis of the late 1970s SSIH and Lemania parted company and it was bought by a group of investors including Piaget in 1980 who changed its name to Nouvelle Lemania, or ‘New Lemania’.
The company originally went by the name Lugrin S.A. until the 1920s when a relative of Lugrin, Marius Meylan (his nephew or son-in-law, depending on which source you believe) started using the name Lemania, named after Lac Leman, which is what the French call Lake Geneva.
In the late Seventies, it developed the Caliber 5100, a low-cost automatic movement that was used by Heuer in some of its chronographs during the early Eighties. In 1992, it was brought under the auspices of Breguet (acquired by the Swatch Group in 1999) which essentially claimed Nouvelle Lemania’s fine movements for itself and invested heavily in the manufacture. Over the next decade, the Lemania name disappeared from the market completely.
Boasting a heritage with such strong links to the Omega Speedmaster and Breguet, no wonder Lemania watches are now hugely desirable, especially its excellent chronographs.