As a child, when presented with an interesting object, it was usually accompanied with one of two mantras, “look, but don’t touch” or “look with your eyes and not your hands, it is very expensive”. This immediately muted my enjoyment, inhibiting an inquisitive nature and denying my fingers the joy of tactile exploration.
The problem with writing about watches is that often I am presented with an amazing timepiece, only to feel that I dare not touch it, owing its high asking price, a legacy of learned behaviour from my childhood. Moreover, there is also a sense, on my part, that merely touching a timepiece can lead to a seductive route that causes me to part with funds I can ill afford to spend.
Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece has provided an interesting means of acquiring complications at prices that are relatively accessible. Retrograde hands, revolving square wheels, five-handed watches and the seemingly levitating hand on the Masterpiece Seconde Mysterieuse, have all represented thought provoking characteristics.
A particular speciality and area of competence practised by Maurice Lacroix is skeletonised or open-worked watches, normally the preserve of the most prestigious masons, with the inevitable high prices to match. However, Maurice Lacroix re-writes this notion with its open-worked models, delivered at an affordable asking price.
Recently, I had the good fortune to get “hands-on” with the Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Squelette and found the experience most agreeable.
Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Squelette – Price, value for money
The Masterpiece Squelette contains a hand-wound skeletonised manufacture movement, the ML134, with a retail price of CHF 6,400 (approximately US $7134). Ponder this aspect for a moment, skeletonised and manufacture movement, two elements which by default attract a price premium. In my opinion, this immediately validates my assertion of value for money.
Open-working, a mechanical spectacle
Returning to childhood experiences, I am sure many readers will share my recollection of dismantling objects in a bid to ascertain how they work. I squirm at the thought of numerous chewed screw heads resulting from my clumsy use of an oversized screwdriver. I still smile at the thought of having a surplus of parts left over after reassembly.
Part of my attraction to watch collecting is the sight of minuscule parts, beautifully polished, busily communicating and, in so doing, delivering time. Timepieces with exhibition casebacks often indulge this horological voyeurism, revealing some of their charming motion and matchless finishing.
The Masterpiece Squelette takes the idea of revealing the inner workings of a watch to another level. Seeing the going train, levers and jewels readily disclosed is a tantalising prospect which immediately warms the heart.
In order to produce a skeletonised watch, excess material has to be removed and this requires much skill. The mainplate needs to remain stable and strong otherwise the integrity of the watch is lost. It is similar to a builder placing a doorway in the middle of a retaining wall. Resultant forces have to be calculated as failing to allow for the removal of material could result in catastrophe. Needless to say, similar to only engaging a competent builder for this task, only a watchmaker with the appropriate know-how and skill, should embark on creating this genre of watch. Maurice Lacroix has repeatedly shown it is very capable when it comes to delivering skeletonised timepieces.
Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Squelette – The Dial
The Masterpiece Squelette is available in two variants with a choice of a black gold disc or pink gold disc. I tried on the latter version and can report it delivers a charming warmth.
The hours and minute hands are lined with luminescent material, delivering a blue hue in restricted light. A small seconds display is located adjacent 9 o’clock. This completes the inventory of functions and the absence of complications prevents the wearer being overwhelmed. Indeed, the appeal of this model is the sight of the oscillating balance and the mainspring sans barrel cover, openly revealing its state of wind.
Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Squelette – The Case
The 43 mm case appears to be the optimum size for displaying the inner workings of this timepiece. Moreover, the stainless steel case, blending satin and polished surfaces, beautifully contrasts with the aforementioned pink gold disc.
Viewing the Masterpiece Squelette from the rear of the case reveals an exhibition case back, allowing the wearer to see straight through both sides of the watch. On one hand, this can be wonderful but, conversely, it can also reveal a trait I don’t like. On some skeletonised watches, I have found the sight of my compressed arm hair magnified through the sapphire crystal quite off-putting. Thankfully, this potential disadvantage did not rear its head in this instance, with my hirsute wrist not being obvious.
Another small, but pleasing, detail is the arcing pattern, depicted on the crown. I accept it is small but, not only does it provide good functional grip, it also delivers a lovely aesthetic appearance. Moreover, this attention to detail shows that the design team at Maurice Lacroix has invested much effort in delivering a handsome proposition with each element carefully considered.
Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Squelette – The movement
The ML134 is a handsome movement and is one of 12 in-house calibres created by Maurice Lacroix to date.
In this instance, the movement is inextricably linked to the display. The resultant appearance is interesting as the case and classical brown calfskin strap have a traditional feel, but conversely, there is an air of sporty modernism. Indeed, the dial reminds me of a modern-day high performance supercar where the engine is revealed beneath a transparent engine-bay cover.
Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Squelette – Conclusion
This is a magnificent watch, delivering handsome lines and providing an interesting glimpse into the workings of a horological mind.
Maurice Lacroix has, once again, produced an interesting and thought-provoking package with the Masterpiece Squelette, that remains perfectly suited to daily wear. It delivers much merit for the relatively modest asking price. Indeed, I find myself disregarding my parents words, for here is a watch you can not only look at, but also touch and enjoy.
Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Squelette – Technical Specification
Case: Stainless steel; diameter 43.00 mm; water resistant to 5 bar (50 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds.
Movement: Caliber ML134, hand-wound movement; frequency 18,000 vph (2.5 Hz); 17 jewels; power reserve 45 hours.
Strap: Brown calfskin leather presented on a steel folding clasp with push buttons