This isn’t a story about a brand new watch. It’s about a watch I purchased years ago that, each time I present it in public (for instance, during a Red Bar event) elicits a charged reaction.
About six years ago, the friend who introduced me to the Omega 1957 Speedmaster Trilogy in the metal also introduced me to a very simple watch with the name Lemania stamped right on the dial.
At first, I didn’t know what to make of it. It’s been a very long time since that name has been seen on a watch, so I was skeptical. But it was real, and it was available from my friends at Manfredi Jewels in Greenwich, Connecticut.
From the back room at Manfredi, store manager Rob brought out a long, military green box with a Lemania sticker on it. He told me that the Swatch Group was releasing this watch very quietly, only allowing them to be sold by a few dealers across the country.
Technically known as reference LEM-ST-1000, the watch is beautifully basic. It's clear that no attempt was being made in trying to make this watch highly presentable. Chances are it was built with components from other brands within the Swatch Group. The pushers and even the case seem to be direct from Tissot.
So why did I pay good money to buy it?
First, it's the story of Lemania itself. If you like the Patek Philippe ref. 5004 or the Vacheron Constantin Cornes de Vache, historic Sinn and Tutima chronographs, among many others, then you already appreciate Lemania, which made the movements that power those beauties (though modified they may be.) Lemania, if you aren’t aware, made its name producing some of the best movements the watch world has known, and in 1999 became a part of the Swatch Group under Breguet.
Traces & Trademarks
Although the name Lemania has ceased to exist on finished watches for a very long time, the movement maker’s traces still remain through other brands, including TAG Heuer and Omega with the Speedmaster. In my LEM-ST-1000 there are clear traces of that original Lemania DNA, and as you can see the unadorned rotor recalls a more classic Lemania 1350 or 5100. The movement itself is an ETA C01.211, an automatic chronograph movement that utilizes the Lemania 5100 as its base caliber.
I was also convinced to buy this watch because I was fascinated at its origin story – its reason to exist.
Unsurprisingly, the Swiss have their fair share of international business regulations, particularly regarding highly valued precious exports like watches. A part of the Swatch Group’s responsibility of owning Lemania is a requirement that the company produces a small number of watches with the Lemania name on them.
This is why I have my oddball Lemania watch today. You will likely never see a modern Lemania.
My understanding of the Lemania legacy, and having a watch that was made only for the sole purpose of fulfilling a legal obligation, makes my oddball Lemania a real winner in my collection.
Going forward, I plan to commit more wrist time to it. At the same time, I’ll continue to search for my next oddball watch.