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Watching the Watchmen: Geeky French '70s Timepieces Make a Comeback

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Old 11-19-2008
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Watching the Watchmen: Geeky French '70s Timepieces Make a Comeback
: Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired.comUnless you're a deeply geeky watch aficionado, a frequent patron of Barney's or a protesting student during the French labor strikes of the mid-1970s, then you've probably never heard of Lip. Time to get educated. Thirty-five years ago the European watch manufacturer pioneered some of the geekiest tech and most innovative design ever found in a timepiece. But all was not to be well for Lip. A volatile political and labor climate in France shattered the 141-year-old company and led to it being closed for nearly 15 years.
After numerous false starts, Lip was jump-started back to existence in the 1990s. Since then the watchmaker has enjoyed a quiet resurgence by returning to its nerdy roots and hiring back many of the original designers of these timepieces. These reissued watches are both technically and physically identical to their DeGaul administration-era counterparts. Here are a few of our favorites.
Left: Originally conceived in 1973 by Roger Tallon, designer of the TGV high-speed train, the Lip 200 "Dark Master" set the design standard that all Lip watches would follow for the next 30 years.
: Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired.comAnother watch invented by Roger Tallon in 1975, the Lip Diode featured one of the first digital displays ever found on a timepiece.
: Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired.comA fairly radical departure from conventional design, the Baschmakoff Jump Hour was the 1972 brainchild of Prince Francois Baschmakoff, an illustrator and package designer hired by Lip. The jump hour displays concentric discs, and thin oblong cases have trickled into the design departments of many other watchmakers including Nixon, Diesel and Fossil.
: Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired.comSure looks like it came straight outta the '70s, doesn't it? Wrong! The Lip Mythic is a new timepiece released in 2008. Don't worry though — it was inspired partially from another watch Tallon designed in 1972.
: Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired.comAlso dreamt up by Tallon, the Fridge watch is designed to echo appliances (specifically refrigerators and iceboxes) that he grew up with in the 1930s.
: Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired.comDespite an ominous moniker, the Lip Mach 2000 "Mafia" was designed in 1973 as a more svelte counterpart to the Dark Master.


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