1957 – And Léon Mouttet created the Push-Pull

Push-Pull bluprint

Exactly 60 years ago, the founder of LEMO invented a revolutionary latching system for the connector world: the Push-Pull.

Let’s go back in time to remember the creation and its inventor, with someone who used to work with Léon Mouttet.

Aerospace, medical, nuclear, audio-video, telecom, military or automobile industry: Push-Pull connectors have been adopted by all hi-tech applications. The adventure started 60 years ago at LEMO, or more precisely, in the mind of its highly creative founder Léon Mouttet.

The idea of this new system seems to have come to him for a personal reason. An engineer and keen photographer, he used to love to take photos especially of wild animals. At that time, camera flashes were mechanically triggered and at night, animals would trip on the wires, unplugging his photo installations. Considering the limitations of screw or bayonet systems used at the time, Léon Mouttet decided to develop an innovative latch system that would protect from any accidental disconnection, providing unprecedented safety. First, he observed car cigarette lighter sockets, before developing the famous 3-latch system which made LEMO a leader in the connector industry: the Push-Pull.

The new system quickly enticed customers. First the Swiss Post, then CERN (European Centre for Nuclear Research), before spreading across most of the industrial fields. After inventing it, Léon Mouttet never stopped refining the Push-Pull concept to further improve its performance.

Mr Mouttet was a sort of a Gyro Gearloose engineering genius, who was at least 10 years ahead of his time”, remembers Gérald Schmidt, assembly technician for over 40 years at LEMO. “He also had the idea, before everybody else, of injection moulded insulators instead of machining Teflon, as we used to do, when I started working for the company in the early seventies.” One day, Léon Mouttet took Gérald Schmidt to the German part of Switzerland to show him the first injection machine. “It wasn’t bigger than a sewing machine and you had to be a sort of an alchemist to be able to mix all the different powders for using it! Later on, because of the Cold War, we also had to use radiationproof materials, as well as PEEK.

At the time, production staff did not get much of an insight into what was happening in the offices. However, they were at the forefront of Léon Mouttet’s new inventions. “He used to make drawings all the time to share his thousand and one ideas with us. For instance, for modifying medical instruments for one of his surgeon friends. Or a deburring device that he invented using an old record-player!

Many customers would also come directly to the workshops, defying the thundering noise that the huge cam machines used to make, to ask for special products. For example, research engineers from the CERN. “We designed the first watertight plugs and couplers for their bubble chamber and later contributed to the incredible adventure of the Large Hadron Collider, the largest particle accelerator in the world.

Gérald Schmidt has now retired. He has left the world of Push- Pull, but the story goes on, as creating new innovative products is still part of LEMO’s DNA. The company is now managed by the brilliant inventor’s grandson, Alexandre Pesci.