Last year, Philippe Merk, CEO of Maurice Lacroix, proudly revealed the brand’s first ‘manufacture’ movement, the ML 106 chronograph conceived and developed in its workshops in Saignelégier.
There was an immediate buzz of excitement since the finished timepiece had a unique ‘look’ and sported some particularly interesting technical features. Let’s take a few minutes to remind ourselves …
Masterpiece Le Chronographe
The Maurice Lacroix manufacture ML 106 chronograph movement has unique proportions for a wristwatch chronograph – 36.6 millimetres in diameter. In this manufacture movement, a traditional column-wheel controls the chronograph functions. The chronograph’s chain, however, has been completely reinterpreted. The most significant innovation is the use of a release lever, which guarantees optimum functioning of the chronograph wheel. On tradit-ional chronographs, the ‘start’ and ‘zeroing’ sequences are critical, because the blocker, which stabilizes and holds the wheels in posit-ion, switches back. This in turn allows the chronograph centre wheel to run free for fractions of a second, until the zeroing lever hits the switching heart of the chronograph. It is this loss of control that can result in incorrect time or date indications if the watch meets with an impact. This new design has minimized this risk – it guarantees the correct positioning of the individual chronograph components, and hence the accuracy of the information displayed, by pressing the blocker against the wheels for longer than was previously possible. Maurice Lacroix has already registered a patent for this reinterpretation of the chronograph sequence.
The ML 106 calibre also features a stop second – when the crown is pulled out, the balance halts and the seconds hand stops and a counter hand with a time span of 60 minutes which demands a significantly higher level of watchmaking complexity than the more frequently used 30- or 45-minute counters. The ML 106 calibre also features top-quality components, like an elegant swan neck precision adjustment and two genuine gold chatons in the chronograph bridge.
Movement: Maurice Lacroix manufacture movement, hand-decorated mechanical, hand-wound ML 106-2 calibre, bridges and screws with PVD surface refinement in tantalum colour or black, two gold 18K 750 chatons, gold-plated wheels, 20 jewels, column-wheel, swan neck precision adjustment, KIF shock protection, polished steel pallet and escapement wheel, Glucydur coiled balance wheel, 18,000 a/h.
Functions: Indication of hours and minutes with central hands, small seconds at 9 o’clock, central chronograph hand, chronograph with 60-minute counter at 3 o’clock, tachymeter scale.
Case: Stainless steel; domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on inside, screwed caseback with sapphire crystal; water-resistant to 100 metres, diameter 45 mm.
Dial: Solid silver 925; anthracite/black; applied Arabic numerals; luminous hour and minutes hands.
Strap: Genuine, hand-sewn crocodile leather with folding clasp.
Movement: Hand-decorated mechanical automatic movement ML 121, 30 jewels.
Functions: Off-centre indication of hours, minutes, seconds, off-centre day and night indication for second time zone, date indication (patent pending).
Case: Stainless steel 43mm; protected crown; domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflecting coating on inside, sapphire crystal partially unpolished over GMT indication, screwed caseback with sapphire crystal; water-resistant to 50 metres.
Dial: Black; luminous hands (hours/minutes/2nd time zone) and moon symbol.
Strap: Crocodile leather with folding clasp.
Le Chronographe in steel
The manufacture movement for the stainless steel version of the Masterpiece Le Chrono-graphe has bridges with a PVD surface finish in tantalum silver-grey, with screws coated in black PVD. The manufacture-made contemporary stainless steel case has alternating satin and polished surfaces and offers an unhindered view of the architectonic dial. The pure and classical screw-lock crown, which can be engaged with just a quarter-rotation to make the case water-resistant to 100 metres, is another innovation.
Harmonizing perfectly with the case is the watch face, designed to create a three-dimensional effect from the light playing on the contrasts of its refined surfaces. An applied, silver-hued ring, used for the tachymeter scale, has a round-satin finish, whilst the anthracite-coloured solid silver base has a vertical-satin finish. The polished, hand-applied Arabic numerals, 60-minute counter and small seconds hand – in black and accented with a spiral motif – give the dial a uniquely modern look.
The Pontos Décentrique GMT
Outstanding creative design is behind the Pontos Décentrique GMT. Like the Masterpiece Le Chronographe, it was launched as a Limited Edition last year in titanium. This year it is offered as a stainless steel version of the eye-catching off-centre watch. The hours, minutes and seconds are indicated in a discreetly designed circle segment moved slightly towards 10 o’clock. Similarly, the round day and night indication and second time zone is surprisingly eased over towards 3 to 5 o’clock. So that it is always clear whether day or night hours are indicated, the sun and the luminous moon turn around on the same disk. The polished and unpolished parts of the sapphire crystal over the indication give the watch a unique ‘look’.
The date indication is also highly innovative by bringing the date indication up as high as possible on a level with the dial (a patent is pending for the system). This mechanism enables a large disk, which features the date numerals, to turn directly under the dial for the hours and minutes.
The Pontos Décentrique GMT crown is protected by two lugs, the upper of which serves simultaneously as a button for setting the second time zone. The hands for both time zones and the moon symbol are coated with Superluminova so that they are easily legible at night. The ML 121 calibre is hand-decorated and its innovative mechanisms were entirely developed at the Maurice Lacroix workshops.
The new campaign
During the last few years, Maurice Lacroix has developed its reputation as the manufacturer of innovative complications – with a specialization in retrograde displays, chronographs and moon phase indications. With the introduction of its first manufacture movement the ML 106 chronograph calibre, the brand has been elevated into the upper echelon of Swiss watch manufacturers.
“The direction we’re taking now was indicative of what was already on the horizon a year ago,” Philippe Merk explains. “Higher value, higher technical features and complications and becoming a manufacture. All that means making major investments.
“Consistent with this development is our fresh marketing approach: a new advertising campaign and the very elegant and luxurious marketing of our watches. The visuals and point-of-sales materials are like pieces of art, making our presence in stores much stronger,” Merk concludes.
The new positioning called for a new brand identity and in addition to establishing a new logo and adding ‘Manufacture Horlogère Suisse’, there is a new product-oriented advertising campaign that introduces background elements from the complex inner workings of the watch’s movement.
Under the headline ‘More than meets the eye’, the well-designed advertisements give the impression of viewing pure watchmaking luxury combined with the privileged insider’s view of the inner workings of what makes a Maurice Lacroix watch so innovative.
Source: Europa Star April-May 2007 Magazine Issue