Hands-On With The Lebois & Co Heritage Chronograph
We’ve covered the resurrection of Lebois & Co from the start here on Fratello. The Lebois & Co brand and Airain subbrand have been in the hands of the Van Wijlick family in The Netherlands since 2014, managing it very actively from the start. In previous articles, we have covered the process of developing watches, allowing the watch community to influence design decisions, etc. Now it’s time to review the result, or one of the results, as the Lebois & Co Heritage Chronograph has become available in four different versions.
Lebois & Co sent us the Heritage Chronograph ref 324.497, the variant with a cream dial and multicolored scales. All versions have the same retail price of €2,550. As said, I will not go into the entire development and design process (which you can read about on Lebois & Co’s somewhat chaotic website) but solely look at the watch itself. Because, in the end, that’s what it’s all about.
Lebois & Co Heritage Chronograph
We had the prototypes of these watches in our Fratello headquarters around the same time Tissot came with its Telemeter 1938 watch. It became painfully clear that Lebois & Co had been more on top of the watch community than Tissot. There’s no right or wrong here, and perhaps Tissot based its 42mm case on sales numbers, but for enthusiasts, I believe it was too big. Lebois & Co’s Heritage Chronograph wears nicer on my 18.5cm wrist with its 39mm case. The Heritage Chronograph hits the sweet spot, at least for me. The lug-to-lug is 47.35mm, comparable to the Speedmaster Calibre 321 (with a 39.6mm diameter).
It’s all in the details
It becomes evident at first glance that the folks at Lebois & Co took care of all that is important to watch collectors. The details that can be found on the dial of the Heritage Chronograph are impressive. Two sub-dials have this snail finishing, different colors (blue, red, and black) on the chronograph scales, and fat printing. The dial also has a bit of grain, giving it more depth. They also didn’t forget to think about the shape of the hands; it all fits together perfectly. This cream dial version of the Lebois & Co Heritage Chronograph is very readable, including the different scales (telemeter, tachymeter, and seconds). Although many chronographs looked similar in the 1940s, this one was inspired by existing Lebois & Co watches that the current owners got their hands on.
Vintage-looking dial in a modern case
Lebois & Co uses a 39mm diameter case with a very acceptable 13.9mm height. The steel case itself is 10.5mm in height, but the domed sapphire adds another 3.4mm on top. It has a brushed finish on the top and sides and a thick polished facet on the lugs. The two-step bezel received a polished finish as well. The watch has a screw-in see-through case back with a sapphire crystal. Here we find engravings regarding the reference number, brand name, and serial number.
The two rectangular pushers have a brushed finish and a polished bevel, while the crown is sandblasted and has an embossed Lebois & Co logo. The LC-430 hand-wound movement winds buttery smooth and is manufactured by La Joux-Perret. More about that later on. When operating the chronograph, I noticed that the start/stop pusher feels very soft, while the reset button requires some force. It’s not unusual, but the contrast between the start/stop and reset pusher is relatively high.
The Heritage Chronograph on the wrist
Lebois & Co’s watch is not only a joy to observe, but it’s also a straightforward watch to wear. It means that the size is spot on; it has a water resistance of 50 meters, a sapphire crystal, and a modern chronograph movement; there’s really nothing to worry about during normal wear. You get vintage looks in a worry-free package. Also, the case finishing is done properly and is not too shallow, as seen with many other watches around this price segment.
The only thing I am not a fan of is the strap. As you can see, the buckle is nicely designed and fits the watch’s style (pictured above with the hangtag still on it), but the strap itself is not to my liking. It’s a bit too thick. Specifically, near the case and lugs, it’s about 4mm thick, which is too much for a watch like this.
Especially if you want to wear the Lebois & Co Heritage Chronograph as a dressier watch, you can get away with a 2.5 to 3mm thick strap. It might feel like nitpicking here, but the strap would be the first thing to go if this were my watch. The quality of the strap is excellent, though, and I like the soft Nubuck top.
Caliber LC-430 column-wheel chronograph
I didn’t forget about the Lebois & Co Heritage Chronograph’s movement! As mentioned above, it’s manufactured by La Joux-Perret in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. It has a column-wheel mechanism, and as you can see, the column-wheel itself is blue, just like the screws used in this movement. For the rest, you’ll find Côte de Geneve decoration on the top plate and circular graining, or perlage, on the main plate. The engraved wording and Lebois & Co shield are gold-colored. The LC-430 ticks at 28,800 beats per hour and has a 60-hours power reserve. I’ve put it on our timing device, which showed an average deviation of +4 seconds with the dial-up and +5 seconds with the crown down. I just checked these two positions, so it’s not too scientific, but I could live with these results.
Some afterthoughts on the Heritage Chronograph
When Lebois & Co showed us all prototypes in the past, this specific version was my favorite. I also have to add that I was very enthusiastic about these watches from the moment I saw them. A few months have passed since, and when Lebois sent us this production model, I was a bit afraid my – then – enthusiasm was a bit affected by the bulky Tissot Telemeter 1938 that we had at the same time. But no, after unboxing this Heritage Chronograph ref. 324.497, it still has my vote and enthusiasm. It impresses me more than many of the other watches I see from (big) brands at similar price points, which tells me something about brands being unable to listen to what the consumer wants. On top, the finishing and build quality don’t feel less good than any of the bigger brand offerings in this price segment.
The only criticism I have is the thickness of the strap which somewhat annoyed me. But that’s straightforward thing to solve. I also realize that it might be a matter of personal preference. Others might prefer a thicker strap as it could be perceived as high(er) quality. Those involved in the design and decision-making process of this Lebois & Co can be very proud, as well as the buyers of the watch.
More information can be found on Lebois & Co online.