If you’re a student of the vintage game, then you’ve likely heard of LIP watches. The French brand was founded in 1867 and created some rather innovative pieces before going through some difficult times in the mid 1970’s and 1980’s. If you’re an electronic watch fun, LIP deserves credit by introducing the world’s 2nd electronic watch (ok, electromechanical) in 1952 and the first with a date. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, LIP also distributed other brands as well such as Breitling. LIP even had some of their own designs built by Breitling in Breitling cases. But coming back to 1967, the brand created a famous Super Compressor-cased diver with an electronic movement: the LIP Nautic-Ski. Fast forward to today – or a month ago – when Blaise and I were wandering around the halls of Baselworld 2017 and we stumbled upon the LIP booth. It was big, and mostly filled with inexpensive, but fun, quartz watches, but we did run across a cool piece: the LIP Nautic-Ski Automatic.
Blaise and I are fans of Super Compressor style dive watches. He’s reviewed the Alpina Seastrong and I’ve covered an actual vintage Super Compressor in the Hamilton 600. So, when we saw the very vintage looking LIP Nautic-Ski Automatic, we had to enquire. A day later, with an appointment in the books, we sat down for a brief meeting with Pierre-Alain Berard, who apparently has a stake in the Besancon-based company, to take a look at the diver.
Stepping back into 1967, the original LIP Nautic-Ski was really something. A read on LIP’s website tells the watch made its true public introduction at the Grenoble Winter Olympics and there’s no doubt that this electronic diver was a true source of French pride. Equipped with an R184 electromechanical movement, these watches are popular today and they’re still affordable at somewhere around 600-800 Euros. From what I’ve read, they’re relatively reliable compared to other pre-quartz battery equipped watches and they can be repaired. Go have a look at one online and then compare it to today’s feature, the LIP Nautic-Ski Automatic.
Back to modern times… Apparently, the LIP Nautic-Ski Automatic “reissue” was introduced in 2014, but it seems there are some changes for this year. The coiled motif to signify electronics on the dial, as seen on the 60’s original, is gone as this watch is purely mechanical. Plus, through an admittedly very French-accented meeting, we came to believe that some of the dial colors are new.
The LIP Nautic-Ski Automatic is a 38mm stainless dive watch with 18mm lugs and a domed mineral glass crystal. The case size represents a growth of 2mm versus the original model, which is fair and keeps the watch relevant in today’s world. The narrow lug width, on the other hand, helps to sustain the vintage look in a major way. Water resistance is a more than reasonable 200 meters.
Inside the LIP Nautic-Ski Automatic is a Miyota 821A automatic. It’s a durable runner with a quickset date feature. The case backs are glass and this makes for a relatively chunky 14.25mm overall case thickness. It’s also important to note that operating the movement and the internal dive bezel is a vintage experience. Both crowns are screw-down and retain the crosshatch motif made famous by EPSA.
Color-wise, the LIP Nautic-Ski Automatic comes in four flavors. Three of them – a gorgeous dark blue, grey, and matte black – are adorned with some very vintage applied indices. These indices are filled with vintage lume that truly looks the part. The fourth piece is matte black with white printed Arabic numerals. Hands are absolutely true to the original model with an arrow-tipped minutes hand and a lollipop swepe seconds hand. All watches come with a leather strap (brown for the grey model) and a faithful Tropic-style rubber strap.
So, what did we think of the LIP Nautic-Ski Automatic? Honestly, this was one cool surprise that we bumped into at Baselworld. Both Blaise and I came away really impressed with these sweet reissues. Size-wise, they look perfect and stay away from the bloat that often sinks heritage pieces. Plus, despite the use of something like mineral glass, I found the look appropriate and warm – and the dials look spot on. On the wrist, the thickness wasn’t an issue. The case size was perfect for both of us and we both liked seeing a real true reissue of an “SC” with the fat and flat steel bezel that surrounds the crystal.
Price-wise, and here’s what your waiting for, you might think that something like this would attempt to cash in on the retro craze with a silly price. Well, you’d be wrong! At 499 Euros, the LIP Nautic-Ski Automatic may only beat its vintage Electronic ancestor in price by a 200 or so Euros, but the watch boasts a warranty and can actually go into the water. Plus, with 2 straps as standard, I think it offers good value.
Finding the LIP Nautic-Ski Automatic can be a bit tricky, though, depending where you live. Thankfully, the LIP website is in English and you can order watches directly from them or check out their “point of sale” part of the page to see if an authorized dealer is in your country. Interestingly, the Nautic-Ski does seem to sell as the watch was sold out and refilled on the site over the last month. So, yes, the site is up to date aside from the grey piece not appearing as of yet.
Michael was born in South Florida in the USA. As a full-time role, he works in the Automotive Industry. He's lived and worked in many locations and when he's not cruising at 30,000 feet, he calls Germany home. Michael became... read more