Today we are taking a look at arguably the most iconic watch ever produced by the Lip brand, the Mach 2000 Dark Star. Eye-catching and iconic in equal measure, what it lacks in conventional design its makes up for in sheer cool quota! The Lip watch company has a long and distinguished history, dating back to the mid 1800s when Emmanuel Lipman founded Comptoir Lipmann. Comptoir Lipmann continued the local French tradition of clockmaking that dated back to the early 1800s, when members of the local community had produced a pocket watch for Napoleon. By the end of the 1800s Emmanuel’s sons took over the business and renamed it Lipmann Brothers Clock Factory. It was under the guise of the Lipmann Brothers that the Lip Stopwatch was produced in 1896 and from that point on the company took the name Lip as its brand name.
A Turbulent 100 Years
The following century witnessed the brand going through a number of turbulent eras with the Lip brand being liquidated three times! The early days of Lip were very successful; a key achievement being their development of the first electronic watch (not electric like Hamiliton but electronic due to the use of a diode in the movement) and having its watches worn by French and American Presidents and the UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the late 1940s and 50s. This was a cool achievement for Lip. The 1960s, however, was a time of financial problems and in 1967 a 33 percent share was taken by Ebauches, an early incarnation of the Swatch Group. However, industrial relations in the region during the 1960s and 70s plagued the whole of the company and following riots and an uprising of the workers it was forced to ultimately close down in 1977.
The Vintage Era
The modern watches are a long way removed from the original Lip watches of the mid 20th century. One watch that stands out as incredibly cool and funky is the Mach 2000. In 1973, at a critical point in the Quartz Crisis, Lipp brought in industrial designer Roger Tallon to breathe some much needed new life into the designs of their watches. In a similar way to that in which Hamilton teamed up with Richard Arbib in the late 1950s, Lipp saw Tallon as the perfect design partner. The fact that Lip were embroiled in such difficult employee relations coupled with the fact that it was a very proud-of-its-roots French company, Tallon was the perfect French Hero for Lip to partner with.
Tallon’s Train Talents
Roger Tallon’s background was as varied as it was fascinating having been an employee of Caterpillar France and Dupont. He and his team were responsible for a mind-boggling amount of designs across multiple sectors including industrial machining, home appliances, furniture, lighting, tableware…just about anything you could imagine. And he was good at it. One of the most enduring of his designs, however, was the TGV Bullet train for which he is arguably most well remembered. The Mach 2000 series of mechanical watches that included a ladies version, a time only watch and digital watches were another of his signature designs for which he is still lauded. These watches were unique designs made to very high standards with mechanical movements at a time when quartz was the king.
The Dark Master
The original Mach 2000 Dark Master was made from aluminium with a steel case back. The asymmetrical case featured three iconic spherical pushers that add a playful character to the watch. It is often said that the Dark Master resembles a child’s toy and it is this friction of childish element combined with the serious business of the mechanical Valjoux chronograph movement that makes this piece so appealing to us here at Bulang and Sons. This is a high quality watch and design piece that isn’t taking itself too seriously and that is what makes us tick!
The dial is actually quite sober, except for the flash of yellow on the centre stopwatch hand and the minute register on the right-hand side of the two-register dial. The date window at six o’clock balances the dial well and the tachymeter scale around the circumference of the black dial keeps the watch clean looking due to the lack of an outer bezel. But the pushers…they are awesome! Nestling away in deep scallops on the right side of the case, they look like operating knobs on a Tonka truck or traffic lights. And that’s a good thing!
We love this watch and there is no arguing with the fact that in so many ways it is timeless in a way that only truly unique and outré design can be. Further testament to this is the fact that the modern iteration of Lip actually produces a modern version of the watch that is almost indistinguishable from the original (although it is quartz-powered). And that sums up the greatness of watch collecting – there is always something new to discover and enjoy. And a watch doesn’t always have to look like a watch…it can also look like a piece of technical industrial equipment!