Friendship and Watches: Chick-Lip!, a 23-Piece Limited Edition of Customized Vintage LIP watches as a gift for Friends
French brand LIP has played, and still plays, an important role for the people and the watchmakers in Besançon, France. It was founded in 1893 as the Société Anonyme d’Horlogerie Lipmann Frères – Lipmann Brothers Clock Factory).
Anyone who spends time in this region of France, which isn’t far from the Swiss border, or visits watch fairs or a Bourse d’horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Morteau or Les Fins, is likely to come across LIP-watches.
The 23 LIP watches I am writing about here are not for sale: they were made for friends and are based on wristwatches from the late 40s and early 50s from the LIP brand.
The Chick-Lip! group of owners consists of 23 people spread all over the world.
The name Chick-Lip is derived from ‘Chicken’ (explanation below) and ‘LIP’ (the watch manufacture).
The driving force behind this special Chick-Lip! watch series is Benoit, aka @petitesecondes, a French watch enthusiast who lives near Besançon. When I asked Benoit about the initial idea for the project, he explained, “In 2016, when I started collecting vintages watches, this was probably the subconscious start of it, thinking about a series and the mad collection of vintage watches that end up as the Chick-Lip! collection. In 2020, I started accumulating and searching the watches. So, it has a sort of gliding start. But it was not born as a project making watches for my watch collecting friends. The first idea was to customize a watch, maybe it might be cool to change the seconds hand. And from this point it started to develop, and it started to cost more and more”.
The 23 watches for the Chick-Lip! series were all repaired, modified and serviced by Joshua from Lume Ville.
The core of the project is friendship
I first heard about the Chick-Lip! project during Geneva Watch Days 2023, when I met some members of the Fifth Wrist group. During my stay in Geneva, I was able to see some of these beautiful vintage watches. The best way to do justice to the character of this watch series is to see each individual watch as part of a global watch enthusiasts community network project.
The Chick-Lip! owners are united in a worldwide watchmaking network of wristwatch customization art. The watches were not sold, they were all are given as a gift. The series and the production of the watches closed early 2023.
Benoit explained, “It developed as a two-year project and quickly turned into a three-year project, but it is the best experience that I ever had in this hobby.”
Benoit, the creator and maker of the 23-piece Chick-Lip! series, started this journey many years ago. Back in 2016/2017 he began to collect manual wind vintage watches. Later he subjected some, one by one, to the special transformation into a Chick-Lip watch.
The watches have a diameter of 33 mm, an exchangeable second hand from secondeseconde, a handmade leather strap from Wrist Watch Me, a pouch from Zealande, and a hand-drawn illustration made by Benoit.
The illustrations reflect the individual personality of each recipient (or the owners’ hobby), and are all labeled, “This is a drawing of a chicken. It may be art.”
The Chick-Lip! watches are genuinely vintage with recognizable signs of wear, they are not authentic in all parts, they have been worked on over the years and parts perhaps replaced, they have no original box, and no papers.
Each watch is a gift from its creator to his friends, and they embody the individual souvenir of a community of collectors and friends. The watches have as many similarities as they have differences, like the color of the dials (black or white), the numerals, their design, the shape of the hands, and the Snow the chicken emblem that forms the second hand.
The fact that there are only 23 Chick-Lip! watches in total, and the fact that these 23 watches are spread all over the world, makes it difficult, if not impossible, to ever hold one of these watches in your hand let alone take photos. However, I was fortunate early 2024 to meet some of the owners.
I would have loved to see as many watches as possible together, or to see all the watches and their owners gathered in one place, but I don’t know if this will ever happen. If you want a complete overview of the 23 watches, see @petitesecondes. Unfortunately, the beautiful individual illustrations for each watch are private and not published.
Who is Benoit?
Benoit is the person behind the Chick-Lip! collection, and he runs the Instagram account @petitesecondes Readers might know him as the host of The Vintage Henhouse – a platform that discusses vintage watches with friends, collectors, and enthusiasts from all over the world. The mascot “Snow the chicken” and the related artwork around this hen are his idea. Snow the chicken was a pet hen that died in 2023.
I wanted to know more about the whole project, especially about any unforeseen obstacles. What went faster than expected, what went much slower? Benoit explained that “Nothing, nothing went fast in this project, but finding and servicing all the watches took a very long time. The most difficult part was making and waiting for the chicken hand. This took much longer than I thought. Getting the pouches made on the other hand was very fast.”
With a project like this, it is natural to come to a point where you might question the whole endeavor. I asked Benoit if there was ever a point in the project when he thought to give up. “Oh yes, yes, yes! When I learned the cost of the chicken hand, that was really a moment for giving up. And every time I faced new costs: for the straps, the pouches, etc, but stopping was never a real option.”
Where are the 23 watches?
All 23 Chick-Lip watches are with their owners all over the whole world. They span nine countries: Australia (7): Perth, Colac, Windsor, Ascot Vale, Princes Hill, Melbourne, Aspendale Gardens, Austria (1): Neudauberg, France (3): Ornans, Lavernay, Wasquehal, Germany (1): Frankfurt, Hungary (1): Budapest, Italy (1): Catania, Sweden (1): Gothenburg, UK (1): Wargrave, and USA (6): Houston, Leesburg, Brooklyn, Zionsville, Auburndale, Palm Beach, – plus France (1) that is Benoit’s watch.
Chick-LIP Watches: Specification Overview
All watches are watches from the late 40s or early 50s and made by the manufacturer LIP – a traditional French brand (*1867) from Besancon. They all bear the legendary manual winding caliber LIP R25 (made between 1948 and 1963) with 17 rubies, a power reserve of 38 hours and a movement diameter of 25,6 mm. Some of the watches even have the first version of that movement that has no Anti-shock.
Please note that the watches are period-style small diameter stainless steel mechanical watches on a leather strap. All Chick-Lips are time only watches indicating hours, minutes, and (small) seconds.
Every watch is a true vintage item, it is an authentic and used watch in the true sense of the word. This means that parts of the entire watch might have been changed or replaced throughout the history of every single watch of the 23 pieces.
All watches are small seen from today’s perspective. The case diameter is 33mm, which the watch community of today feels as miniature, a female, or a watch for kids. Back in the days, 33mm was a quite common case size. For many watches, the design and the proportions of a well-balanced watch were best considered in a small case diameter. And even today I personally like small case sizes and diameters up to 34 or 36 mm the most.
The dials and the second hands of the Chick-Lip watches are bespoke Every watch is accompanied by its original seconds hand that has been changed with the “new” Snow the hen seconds hand disc made by secondeseconde.
The Chick-Lip! watches come with a custom handmade leather strap from Wrist Watch Me. They are all stamped with the inscription “Real men wear 33 mm” and “Chick-Lip Benoit TVH”.
Unusually, there are no female owners’ of the Chick-Lip watches. I cannot understand this and I find it unforgivable, and I’ve told Benoit so.
Illustrations And Documents
Every watch comes with a hand-drawn individual illustration showing a characteristic aspect of its owner and an explanation of how each watch is made.
Every Chick-Lip! watch comes with a “Certificate of Nonauthenticity” signed by the character Snow the Hen, stamp-sealed by Benoit and signed by petitesecondes.
My moral of the story
The Chick-Lip! watch project caught my attention in a special way. As an enthusiast for watchmaking decades, I am very lucky to see the most amazing and beautiful watches and the most stunning and spectacular clocks. I have seen all-time classics, unique pieces, pieces of a lifetime, fancy creations, mass production watches, limited editions, one-trick ponies, and clocks or watches that reflect a very personal concern of one person, a special passion, or a form of obsession.
Usually, such pieces are incredibly expensive, rare, or are awarded by lotteries, or tight internet windows of opportunity, or they are given (more or less) always to the same group of people. As far as I see it, many limited, customized, handmade, or rare watches end up in the hands of the wrong person as you can see when they quickly end up on sales platforms for high(er) prices.
As far as I can judge, the Chick Lip! project and its 23 watches, it is best perceived as popular art, micromechanical art, and a combination of several artful processes and steps. What I like the most is that the Chick-Lip! watches are not offered at wild price.
To date, none of the watches have appeared on sales platforms, so they have been allocated to the right collectors rather than flippers and traders. The watches are in the hands of passionate collectors and friends who are connected to each other and are obviously the right owners of a watch from this limited and very special series.
I was wondering how much the watches cost, because in addition to the time involved, watches and parts had to be purchased. Benoit shared that, “In total, it was a high four-digit project … maybe a bit less than the cost of a Bulgari Octo Finissimo. But the money is much better invested in this than in any other watch I can think about for myself.”
It is always a great pleasure to see one of these rare watches on an owner’s wrist and to have a conversation with them about it. Some of the 23 owners occasionally show their individual watches on various social media platforms.
How nice it would be to bring all, all the watches and all the owners, together in a real-life meeting. I don’t know if, when, or where that might be. But I would not be surprised if such a meeting happens one day because it’s such an unusual project. And naturally, I would like to selflessly recommend myself for the guest list.
Asking Benoit about future plans or other vintage watch projects to come, his reply was fast, convincing and again with a big smile “Chick-Lip! is a one-off project and I will never do this again! Now I have done it, this is my “only watch”. But it was a huge satisfaction. It is such a joy to know how many friends are wearing this watch all over the world.”
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