Big Léon’s Got Connections

Chances are good that you’ve never heard of Léon Mouttet, nor his company LEMO. But chances are equally good that you’ve experienced some of his and his company’s products in action. If you’ve been to the hospital recently, or listened to music through any sort of high-end system, or been through the security checkpoint at an airport, you’ve been within spitting distance of LEMO connectors.

The short version is: LEMO makes what are widely considered to be the highest-performing connectors for electronics and fiber optic stuff, and have done so for decades.

The Long Version Is…

Léon “Big Léon” Mouttet was a Swiss electrical engineer and inventor, raised on the finest chocolates and perforated cheeses the world has to offer. Mouttet originally started his company (LEon MOuttet—clever, no?) in 1946 in Morges, Switzerland, to manufacture electrical contacts from rare metals, noble metals, and rare noble metals.

Train station in Morges, Switzerland in 2011.

Train station in Morges, Switzerland in 2011.

By 1954, Mouttet had changed his company’s focus to manufacturing electronic cable connectors, including several models based on his own patented designs. In 1957, Big Léon invented the push-pull self-latching system that was to be LEMO’s first big breakthrough. LEMO’s biggest innovation, however, was the modular connectivity that soon became a standard across every product the company made. The modular design made it possible to create a huge number of configurations of LEMO’s products, a then-unique feature that made the company a worldwide name.

In 1957, LEMO connectors were introduced to the American market. In 1972, they became available in the UK; the Japanese market followed a year later. From there, LEMO took off into the stratosphere. The stratosphere, I tell ya! Since 1987, the company has built or expanded new manufacturing plants, or acquired other companies, in Ecublens and Delemont, Switzerland, Rohnert Park, California, Munich, Germany, and Osceola, Wisconsin.

Photo credit: ktulinho via / CC BY