Behind a company, a brand, there are always men and women to write the story. Chevrolet’s is no exception to this rule, but at its genesis it was the dream of one man: Louis Chevrolet.
On Christmas Day 1878, Marie and Joseph (you can’t make this up) became the happy parents of a little boy they called : Louis. Born in Switzerland in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the capital of fine watchmaking, where his father worked as a watchmaker, the young Louis very quickly showed his taste for mechanics. He enjoyed helping his father in the meticulous and demanding work required for fine watchmaking. The Chevrolet family was originally from Bonfol in the canton of Jura, a few kilometres from the watch factory that today bears the name of this illustrious family. They lived there for many years before moving to France. And it was here, in Beaune, that the young Louis began his career as a mechanic. It’s not watches he’s repairing, but bikes. A good start for learning. It was also here that the first desires for adventure were born in Louis Chevrolet’s travelling mind. He dreams of America, but it is still too early.
We find him in Paris, at Darracq, a famous car manufacturer at the beginning of the 20th century and a preparer of racing cars. This was a great opportunity for the young man to learn the rigours of performance. At the age of 22, Louis Chevrolet arrived in the United States and was hired by De-Dion-Bouton in New York. It is 1900 and all dreams are possible here.
Louis Chevrolet’s name began to be known throughout the new continent.
Birth of a champion
It didn’t take long for Louis to show his talents. If mechanics is an art he masters, he is also an excellent pilot. He began his new career with Fiat and won his first race in 1906. In 1907, he broke the “Mile” record with a Darracq and in 1909 was ranked second best driver in the American championship. Louis Chevrolet’s name began to be known throughout the new continent. He took advantage of his fame to embark on an industrial adventure by creating in 1911, the “Chevrolet Motor Company of Michigan” whose motto was “Never give up”. The first Chevrolet to be produced was the Classic Six, a top-of-the-range sedan, meticulous in its details and particularly innovative for its time. If its line was in the standards of this beginning of the XXth century, it shone by many attentions facilitating the life of its five passengers. Its convertible system was naturally very popular with customers, allowing the car to be used all year round. It was equipped with a 4.9 litre 6-cylinder T-engine that could effortlessly reach 105 km/h and had a three-speed gearbox with a floor-mounted lever. The height of modernity and luxury, its tachometer was illuminated. This is how we measure the progress made in the automobile compared to our current cars. Still, in 1911, the Chevrolet Classic Six had a lot going for it. But for Louis Chevrolet a new page was to be written. Following numerous disagreements with his partner William Durant, he sold his shares and his name and built his own racing car. Powerful and light thanks to the judicious use of aluminium, it will establish Louis Chevrolet’s reputation. Unfortunately, his younger brother Gaston died at the wheel in 1920 during a race; he was only 28 years old. This tragedy affected the entire motor racing community and Gaston Chevrolet was posthumously crowned American Champion.
After Gaston’s death, Louis returned to his first love, mechanics. He then founded the Chevrolet Brothers Manufacturing Company with his brother Arthur. It develops and builds aircraft engines and, of course, car engines. Louis died on 6 June 1941 after a long illness and was buried in Indianapolis, aged 62. The Indianapolis Public Cemetery has set up a memorial to honour this exceptional man who wrote his name into American history.
Back to the roots
Back 62 years after the death of Louis Chevrolet, one man decided to buy the rights to the legendary name. Behind this new story: André Saunier. A passionate man and a waking dreamer, driven by his creativity and boldness. Three years passed and in 2006 the “Louis Chevrolet Swiss Watches Company” was born. If Louis could see this, he would certainly think that the circle is complete. The child of La Chaux-de-Fonds, the child of Bonfol returns to his homeland, with his nose in mechanics, but this time watchmaking. It all makes sense, cars and watchmaking have so much in common, so much to share… In 2016, the company accelerated the movement, revealing itself to be more “rebellious”, breaking the codes of traditional watchmaking for the greater pleasure of its customers in search of modernity. His way of marketing his products directly from his factory based in Porrentruy, in the Swiss Jura, so close to Louis’ childhood, or on the Internet, is already a sign of change, allowing him to reduce the selling price while offering quality watches, made in Switzerland, of course!