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S.7 Lip

For a long period of time Lip was the largest watch manufacterer in France. The Lip factory played an important role to the social and political history of France.

1807The inhabitants of Besanìon offer Napoleon the First a magnificent chronometer, created by Mr. Emmanuel Lipmann.
1867Emmanuel's grandson, Ernest Lipmann, starts an enterprise for watch making in Besanìon with 15 employees.
1900Lip becomes the brandname of the watches produced by Ernest Lipmann and his employees.
1939Lip manufactures grenade parts for France's national defence.
1945After the war, Fred Lip takes control of the company and rebuilds the destroyed factory. Lip starts research to develop an electric watch.
1950Lip watches start to become very successful. The first mechanical assembly line for movements is installed. Although they do not co-operate as far as production is concerned, an arrangement with Elgin is made to exchange technical information. For many years Lip imported the 'Elgiloy', Elgin's unbreakable spring.
1952On March 19th, Lip announces the forthcoming production of an electronic watch in Paris, whilst Elgin does the same in Chicago. The presence of a diode explains why it was called an electronic and not an electric watch.
1953Fred Lip is invited by the British Horological Institute to give a lecture about the electric watch by Lip at the Royal Society of Arts in London in June 1953. It is an enormous success.
1960A range of factories is established in la Palente, just outside Besanìon.
1961Lip establishes production facilities and an export centre in Geneva, Switzerland under the name 'Lip Genève', the first time a foreign firm is allowed to do so in Switzerland.
1966Lip markets the 'Nauti-Ski', a robust diving watch.
1967Financial troubles. Ebauches S.A., Switzerland, takes a major interest in Lip S.A.
1969In France, a complete restructuring of the entire French watch industries is begun, resulting in the foundation of the 'Société Dévelopment Horlogère' (SDH). Co-operation, research, marketing etc. are reviewed and put into a new perspective. In 1971 SDH participates in the foundation of La Société d'Etudes pour la Montre Electronic (Montrelec) to start the development of the first French quartz watch.
1970Lip S.A. has built up a large trade deficit. Ebauches S.A. decides to replace Fred Lip. In June, Jacques Saintesprit joins the board of directors in order to succeed Fred Lip.
1971On the 28th of February, Jacques Saintesprit succeeds Fred Lip.
19721971 and 1972 are marked by two days of strikes at the Lip Factories.
1973The first analogue quartz watches are manufactured and shown at the Basle Fair in April. On April 17th, the dismissal of the president director of Lip, Jaques Saintesprit, takes place. Saintesprit was unable to deal with the intransigent attitude of the members of the trade unions, La Confédération du Travail (C.G.T.) and La Confederation Franìaise Démocratique du Travail (C.F.D.T.). It signals the start of the most fascinating industrial crisis in postwar France. Two interim-managers are appointed at Lip S.A., Louis Dufay and Jacques Pesson, by the Tribunal de Commerce de Besanìon. On May 29th, a demonstration of Lip's employees takes place in Paris. In June, the Swiss trust ESA, Lip's main shareholder, decides to reduce the number of employees from 1,300 to 900. The militant trade-unions C.G.T. and C.F.D.T. are infuriated. They fear that the factory will be stripped by the Swiss trust Ebauches S.A. and that in the end only 500 persons would be employed to work for Ebauches S.A. During the same month, Lip labourers occupy the factories and take control of the entire stock of watches. Their leaders, Charles Piaget of the CFDT and Jean Raguenes, become the new idols of 'Nouvelle Gauche' (New Left). During this occupation, the two interim managers are held hostage and the police come to intervene. In the middle of the night Lip employees start hiding the complete stock of 65.000 watches, worth more than a billion old francs. Another large demonstration is held on June 15th by the Lip employees in Besanìon. On June 18th, the employees decide to take command over production and sales of the watches. On June 22nd, the two interim managers cannot find a proper solution for Lip's financial despair and file a petition for bankruptcy. The labourers decide to appoint seven committees to share their responsibility during the occupation. The committees were meant to look after the acquisition, production, management, sales, food supply for the workers, maintenance of machinery, public relations with the 'outside world' and the safeguarding of the premises.On July 13th, the judge of the Tribunal de Commerce decides to liquidate Lip S.A. On July 24th, Jean Charbonnel, Minister of Industrial and Scientific Development, announces a plan for saving Lip S.A. Lip was to be divided into three divisions: Watches, Weapons and Machinery. A social plan was made for the dismissed employees, while Ebauches S.A. became the only stockholder with 48% of the invested capital. Henry Giraud, a well-known French industrialist, took care of the watch devision and negotiated with the labourers, but did not succeed and soon left. On August 14th, Prime Minister Pierre Messmer instructs the police to raid the Lip factory in Palente, end the occupation and dislodge the workers who occupied it. The occupation ends after 57 days.
1974On January 2nd, C. Neuschwander launches a new plan to save Lip. A group of industrialists shows interest. On January 30th, an arrangement is made with the trade unions to restart production with 140 employees and to recover all the hidden watches. On March 11th, Lip starts production again under the direction of Mr. Claude Neuschwander, known for his participation in the 1968 May revolt in Paris and also known as a marketing specialist. This was made possible by establishing a new holding: the Compagnie Européenne d'Horlogerie. The participants' shares were allocated in the following order: banks 16%, industrialists 55% and ETA 39%. Neuschwander ordered Marie Loure Jousset to invite the following designers to create a completely new line of watches: Isabelle Hebey, Michel Boyer, Roger Tallon, Marc Held and Rudi Meyer.
1975Lip signs an agreement with 'Dugena Uhren' in Darmstadt, Germany. Dugena ordered 25,000 watches. Dugena was a purchase-organisation with approximately 2,000 sales agents in seven different countries. Because Lip sold only 400,000 watches in 1975 they incurred a tremendous deficit. 1976 Lip also sufferes great financial problems due to the situation in world economics. The French Government only wants to help on the condition that Claude Neuschwander resignes from Lip. On February 2nd, Claude Neuschwander announces his departure and M. Sargueil is installed as the new president. On April 5th, M. Sargueil announces to the employees that the stockholders withdraw their support from Lip and that financial problems make it impossible to make any further payments. The second occupation of the Lip factory is organised by the communist unions and known for its 'ventes sauvages', i.e. illegal sales of watches by the employees.
1977The employees set up a production co-operative. To earn money, they make a variety of things. They produce 'Chomageopoly' a game for the unemployed; they also start selling complete meals and second-hand clothes.
1980The last 170 Lip workers formed a labour co-operative called 'Les Industries de Palente'. Although the abbreviation for this co-operation also used the letters Lip, it was not at all connected with the organisation of Fred Lip. Due to lack of financial, organisational and technical power and knowledge, they fail to re-establish the brandname Lip. On April 5th, having found no solution to solve the crisis, the director of Lip, M. Sargueil halts the loss-making production.
1984On March 13th, La Société Mortuacienne d'Horlogerie of Morteau, France,known for the trademark Kiple, purchases the brandname Lip and the division Lip-Watches from Les Industries de Palente. President M. Jacques Bouhelier tries to resurrect Lip.
1986On April 30th, Les Industries de Palente, ceases work for Jacques Bouhelier and all activities in the old Lip factory in Palente are terminated. From May 1st, all Lip watches are assembled in the factory of the 'Société Mortuacienne d'Horlogerie' in Morteau, France.
1990In February, the 'Société Mortuacienne d'Horlogerie' is made bankrupt. In October, Jean Claude Sensemat of Fleurance, France, becomes the new owner of the brandname Lip and establishes 'Lip France'. The Sensemat Groupe adds Lip to a list of other brandnames: Cogex, Rhino, Pelletier and Turboffe.
1994To celebrate the 50th anniversery of D-Day, Lip launches the watch 'Général de Gaulle'. In 1959, during his visit to Paris, General D. Eisenhower received the same watch handed to him by General de Gaulle. The watch is part of a limited series of which a part is fitted with an original old electric movement, the R 148, the other are fitted with a quartz movement.

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