Mr André Léchot has spent the last 40 years restoring, in his spare time antique and vintage watchmaking tools that may otherwise have been neglected or destroyed. His goal was and remains the preservation of this part of horological history. Examples of this labour of love can be found here.
1. Please describe your childhood briefly.
I always lived in our beautiful village of Orvin where I had a happy childhood. I did not like school, which meant that I would run to my uncle’s farm from the moment when I was let out of the class. I was happy there. At the age of 8-10 I started my first activity as an entrepreneur. I had received 5 francs for Christmas and I was able to buy myself a female pregnant rabbit. I built myself some rabbit cages, with wooden boxes which my mum received for her store, one of the grocery shops of the village. I end up with about thirty rabbits that I sold. When I did not have enough rabbits, I went to the farms at Prés-d'Orvin to buy them, and sold them the same day, mainly to Evilard where I had a loyal clientele. I earned 50 cents per rabbit.
2. As a child did you have any ambition?
I wanted to become independent as soon as possible.
3. What is your first significant memory as a child?
Solidarity and community spirit that existed between the villagers. An example: my grandpa bought a car, it was one of the first in the village. From time to time, he went to Bienne with my sister to buy products for her shop in Orvin. Before leaving, she phoned "Little Marie" who was a competitor in the village, and she asked if she needed any products to sell in her grocery store.
4. Have you ever had another profession?
I did an apprenticeship as a mechanic stamp maker. Six months after the end of my apprenticeship I decided to become an entrepreneur. I filed my first patent and I made a refueler for the machines. This product has earned me a significant success but also a lot of difficulties with a large manufacturer of turning machines that saw me as a competitor come to take a large market share from him. And it was the case: my small company became LNS which is now established worldwide. Then I turned to medical field, mainly in the field of the orthopaedics. This new company developed very quickly thank God who gave me of new ideas to invent products which were subsequently protected by approximately 50 patents. I had a small workshop at home to build the prototypes of these new inventions. Today I use this workshop to renovate and update old machines used in the watchmaking to build mechanical watches.
5. What made you decide to go in the direction you are currently in?
I saw my mother happy in her grocery shop. We found everything in this store, which was a big asset to the village. My dad had a small workshop for turning: he was a "happy artist" in his workshop, that he did not want to expand (he would have been able to do it, because he also had of very good ideas). To see my parents working independently and happy lead me to become an entrepreneur as well.
6. What is the worst job you had to do?
Go to school.
7. What was the most difficult moment in your career?
It was the law suit that a big manufacturer of bolt-making machines started against me with the only goal to close me down and get rid of the competition. It lasted 4 years. The company was forced to acknowledge that my patent was valid at the Commercial court in Bern. It was a very difficult a period. I take advantage of this space to thank my family which always supported and encouraged me.
8. Who has had the most influence on you? What are your best inspirations?
My family, and Christian friends, specially a descendant of the dynasty of Léopold Robert - the painter Paul-André Robert, the religious naturalist - Which welcomed every Sunday evening around thirty children of the village. We walked to Jorat, and there was a cult, sometimes in the outside. Paul-André Robert liked to speak about the nature and the Bible.
9. What are you most proud of?
Of this wonderful gift I have received from God that allowed me to develop innovative products. It gave me the possibility to offer work to many people, in my village of Orvin, then in Switzerland and abroad.
10. What advice would you give to a 20 something thinking about taking a path similar to yours?
To begin as quickly as possible to do what he likes doing, with the objective to become an entrepreneur.
11. Name three things on your bucket list.
Help my family, spread my Christian faith and distribute my small brochures in which I present my life experience based in prayer, God and the Bible.
12. Where do you think the industry will be in 10 years?
I have never worked as a watchmaker, but I think that a beautiful mechanical, personalized watch of certain value, will still be regarded as jewellery in ten years. The connected watches will be undoubtedly more and more important in the future.
To learn more about André Léchot www.petites-machines.ch