Lonville might be a brand you never heard of before. Although it has some history (from 1873 till the early 1950’s) I won’t bother you with it. The Lonville today has little to do with the watches the company made back then. Initiated in 2009 by Joost Vreeswijk, a Dutch entrepreneur, Lonville is a small high-end watchmaking brand that only served one purpose: create watches for enthusiasts. Only produced in very small numbers and all Swiss (I will get back to this). Let’s have a look at the Lonville Virage Fuel Tank watch in white gold.
Lonville Virage Fuel Tank
Not too long ago, I finally met Joost Vreeswijk when he was visiting Amsterdam (he is normally located in Switzerland). Besides having a great chat about watches and the watch industry landscape, he showed me – with great pride – some Lonville watches. It is great to talk to like-minded people and share ideas about watchmaking and watch journalism. At the end of the evening, he asked me which watch I would love to bring home for a review. From the first moment on, I had set my eyes on the white gold Lonville Virage Fuel Tank. A beautiful gold dress watch that ticks a lot of my boxes when it concerns a watch with a more classic style. For me, finding a nice dress watch is quite a task. Although I certainly appreciate the craftsmanship from brands like Patek Philippe with their Calatrava or Breguet’s classic timepieces, they are simply too classic for me. I feel I am too young for them, but I have the same with red pants and round horn-rimmed glasses. I am not there yet.
That said, I also feel that a watch collection shouldn’t exist out of sports watches only. Especially when you reach an age where you some times need to dress up for certain occasions or events. Besides that, I wear dress watches with my polo shirts, chinos and loafers or sneakers as well.
Back to the Lonville Virage Fuel Tank. The 40mm white gold case and two tone dial makes it a great looking watch for those who have the same concerns that I have when it comes to dress watches.
Lonville has a very small production. There are just 18 watches produced of each Virage model for example. A small production is one of the key points of Lonville. Besides the low production numbers, they also only work with Swiss suppliers and manufacturers. “Swiss Made” is not good enough, that’s why the dial indicates “All Swiss” instead. The case, dial and even hands are all produced in Switzerland. Even the tools and parts necessary for the case manufacturing are Lonville propriatary.
The manual-wound movement in this watch, is caliber LV1. A movement that has two barrels, with a power reserve of 80 hours. A beautiful designed movement that has been designed and constructed in La Chaux-de-Fonds for Lonville. It has hand chamfered edges on all six bridges, Côte de Genève finishing, blued screws, blue engraving. In total, the LV1 movement consists of 235 parts and has been chronometer certified by COSC. The Lonville Caliber LV1 ticks at 21,600vph and has 38 jewels. Besides hour, minutes and small seconds, the caliber LV1 movement also has a power reserve indicator.
On the movement, you will find “Swiss Made” instead of “All Swiss”. This has no other meaning than “All Swiss”, but by using “Swiss Made” on the movement Lonville wants to give comfort to less experienced buyers that it really is made in Switzerland. However, I have to say that I rather would have seen everything to be consistent as only now you have to explain whether there’s a difference between the two definitions.
Anyway, let’s not get distracted to much from the beautiful designed movements with its large six bridges and blued screws. On the small ‘bezel’ of the case back you read ‘Breaking Fifty Years of Silence’ which refers to the gap in Lonville’s history between the 1950’s and the re-launch in 2009 by Joost Vreeswijk and his team.
Dial and Hands
The dial of the Lonville Virage Fuel Tank is something special. The bronze color in combination with the 18 carat white gold case is what immediately grabbed me. Joost told me that the bronze color was actually a bit of an experiment during the design phase of the dial. But it turned out to be awesome and decided to keep it in production. The dial is being manufactured by a special company that solely produces dials, nothing else. The sun burst finish on the dial is clearly visible from almost any angle and has this dome effect near the outer edge / minutes chapter ring.
The dial has a lot of details on there, which – when written as specifications – may sound a bit cluttered, but in the flesh the dial is actually very clean and readable. You’ll find hand applied hour markers and Lonville logo on the dial as well as a beautiful black minute ring with ’60’ indicated in red. The use of different colors and the snailed small seconds register makes the dial quite playful.
Four dauphine hands indicate the hours, minutes and seconds as well as the remaining power reserve in a separate ‘Fuel Tank’ indicator between 8 and 10 o’clock on the dial. The “Full” and “Empty” 80-hours scale is, like the small seconds register, cut-out from the dial which gives the entire dial a lot of depth. Also here you’ll find a small red accent indicating the “Empty” status of the power reserve.
Some Thoughts On The Lonville Virage Fuel Tank
Some times you can get really excited about a watch and then when you get to wear it for a while, you see some of its flaws (or ‘disconnects’ with your initial thoughts about the watch) and then you are happy to send it back to the manufacture. Some watches just don’t grow on me or simply don’t fit me. Not with this Lonville Virage Fuel Tank. It is a very nice dress watch, something that is not directly comparable to a Calatrava, Master Ultra-Thin or LUC for example but also not to smaller independent brands like Moser & Cie or even Grönefeld. Lonville clearly has chosen its own style with their Virage. Lonville put a lot of time and effort into the design of the watch and all components have been matched very carefully, there is little to criticize. I almost make it sound like a boring watch, but it isn’t. The dial is playful for a dress watch and I noticed I kept looking at it from different angles.
If I have to make one small point of criticism towards the design, it is that the lugs and bezel are so sleek that the case lacks a bit of identity or uniqueness. If you look at the watch directly from the front, there is a lot of dial and a beautiful shaped crown, but the case design – although beautifully done and finished – doesn’t get the attention deserved.
The dial makes up for this though and so does the beautifully finished and designed LV1 movement. The movement is definitely part of the reason why I like this watch so much. The six bridges look awesome and I love the contrast with the blued screws.
Watches with this level of finish and craftsmanship do not come cheap, as you know. This Lonville Virage Fuel Tank has a price tag of 18.500,- Swiss Francs excluding sales tax. That is still (a lot) cheaper than some of the brands and models mentioned in this review, and you will get a lot of bang for the buck. If flipping watches is your game, you might need to consider the fact that this watch will have your name engraved on the back side. This watch is not for people who stare themselves blind on brand names anyway, it is a watch for enthusiasts that found their (near) perfect watch in the Virage. You can try the watches on during a dinner with the owner of Lonville, make him known with your horological wishes and select the one your like best. If still available, you can also pick a number (from 18). Manufacturing the watch will definitely take some time, but you will be involved in the process along the way. It is a real journey, as Joost Vreeswijk ensured me.
Want to know more, visit Lonville on-line.