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Lépine, Jean-Antoine

Jean-Antoine Lépine (1720-1814) (click to enlarge!)
Jean-Antoine Lépine (1720-1814)

Jean-Antoine Lépine was a French watchmaker active in the 18th century. His name is most associated today with Lépine movements, in which the small seconds subdial is on the same axis as the stem, even though this was not one of his innovations.

The French watchmaker Jean-Antoine Lépine was was born 1720 in Challex near Geneva on 18 November. He moved to Paris and married a daughter of André-Charles Caron, father of watchmaking polymath Beaumarchais. Lépine gained fame as a watchmaker and became an official supplier of Louis XV, also building watches for Louis XVI, Napoleon I, and George Washington. He was also a mentor to Abraham-Louis Breguet.

Through his major inventions he contributed significantly to the improvement of the pocket watch. His principal contribution was the development of the modern plate and bridges concept, with all components affixed to a main ebauche in one plane. He dispensed with the fusée and chain, replacing it with a modern toothed mainspring barrel. Such watches became known by his name in the 19th century, and all modern watches use this architecture.

Lépine was also influential in the development of complications, including one of the first perpetual calendar mechanisms and early work on dead beat seconds and keyless winding. He also invented repetition and moon phase mechanisms.

Around 1770, he opened a workshop in the watchmaker colony Ferney founded by Voltaire. He later also headed this “watch factory” (till 1783). Jean-Antoine Lépine died 1814 in Paris.

  • 1750, he developed the decimal inhibition.
  • 1770, he invented the Lépine calibre named after him. Until then, watch movements had been equipped with full plates, but Lépine revolutionized the pocket watch movement with a completely new design the bridge design. From this developed the open pocket watch with always visible dial; on the contrary, see Savonnette). Today the principle of the bridge concept is found throughout all mechanical watches.
  • He improved the structure of the barrel and replaced the old design with chain and screw, whereby watches could be built much flatter.
  • Approx. 1780 he invented a new repetition mechanism.
  • Around 1780 he invented a keyless winding.

See Also

lepine_jean-antoine.txt · Last modified: 03.07.2022 15:35 by

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