Maurice Lacroix' First Own Manufacture Movement is an Exclusive Chronograph
Maurice Lacroix presents its first own manufacture movement – the ML 106 calibre in the new Masterpiece Le Chronographe. This heralds the start of a new era for the Swiss brand. The chronograph movement is unique: Its majestic proportions and the technology behind it are captivating. This technology is a marriage between traditional elements, including a quality column-wheel, and an innovative, especially developed lever mechanism for stopping and zeroing, for which a patent is pending. The first edition of the Masterpiece Le Chronographe will be limited to 250 pieces in pink gold.
Good things take time, because time respects nothing created without it. That's why it took Maurice Lacroix three and a half years before publicly presenting its Masterpiece Le Chronographe with the ML 106 calibre – its first own manufacture movement. True to Maurice Lacroix form, this calibre is once again something very special. First of all: this chronograph movement is absolutely unique for wristwatches! This means its majestic proportions as well as interesting, innovative details in the technology behind it.
The principles of the traditional, mechanical chronograph have been known since at least 1862. But perfection in all technical things has never really been achieved. Improvements and contemporary modifications can be made at any time and indeed have been by Maurice Lacroix developers in the design of the new ML 106 calibre.
You will notice its remarkable dimensions immediately. Maurice Lacroix has deliberately gone for size for several reasons. First: “Big is beautiful.” With a diameter of 36.6 millimeters, the time-writing spectacle unfolds in all its glory behind the sapphire crystal caseback. The chronograph mechanism comes over with everything that's classic, laid out on a golden tray. This in turn is part of the established philosophy of the Masterpiece Collection. Second: For the Masterpiece Collection, the mass of case and movement must correspond at all costs. Third: The dimensional plus brings further benefits, including the use of larger components, which improves reliability and precision. The conclusion so far: The decision to create an opulent movement was taken with full conviction, because the benefits prevail in every respect.
The Finest Classic Mechanics
Mechanical watch movements need only two to three billionths of a PS to maintain the vibrations of their balance wheel. But nothing works without regular supplies of energy. In this sense, the new ML 106 calibre needs the manually mainspring winding each day. Featuring no automatic winder, the latest development from Maurice Lacroix is an exception from the norm in this regard too. Another deliberate move: Rotor and automatic mechanism would have further increased the movement's already robust overall height of 6.9 mm. The key consideration, however, was that the backwards-mounted assembly would have impaired the untarnished view of the chronographic interplay between wheels and levers. Whatever the position of the timepiece, the oscillating weight would have covered a major part of the quadrature. In this case, less is indeed more. All the more so because, due to its extreme litheness, winding this piece becomes a great pleasure. And should you ever forget to wind the smooth crown, the ML 106 calibre has sufficient power in reserve to keep going for more than one day at a time. The generously dimensioned barrel stores energy for up to 48 hours.
The jewel in the crown is the intelligent mechanism that stops and restarts valuable time – still only a make-believe commodity, despite all the virtuality. Some 150 years have brought about the most diverse chronographic designs. From the elaborate to the simple. Ultimately, they all fulfill their purpose. But only one can claim to be the true classic. This is the one that Maurice Lacroix uses in the ML 106 calibre, which reveals all and hides nothing.
This starts at the interface between movement and chronograph, which is also required for this integrated design. The helpful chronometry only springs into action when it is actually needed. The actuation of the start button then represents a connection between the perpetually ticking microcosm and its additional mechanism – “engine” and “gearbox” are connected. Just like a car, this connection gets a clutch. The horizontal clutch can be considered state-of-the-art. When the chronograph is started, a finely toothed wheel oscillates between movement and stopper. Dictated by the balance frequency of 2.5 hertz (18,000 a/h), the large second hand starts to move in fifth of a second increments, this is reflected in the 300 divisions on the dial. Likewise, the raising of this bridge causes the hand to stop instantaneously. The chronograph centre wheel and its teeth stops while the movement marches on.
The way Maurice Lacroix controls this and other functions on the ML 106 calibre – by control-wheel or column-wheel – is also exemplary. The three-dimensional component, which can only be produced by an expensive milling process, today carries a rather shadowy existence. Since the 1940's, it has had to give way to the generally cheaper gear shifting gate, which can be produced by an economic punching process. It goes without saying that such a cost-based solution did not come into question for a top quality movement like the ML 106 calibre. The values had to be purely traditional. And on chronographs, this unequivocally means the control-wheel or column-wheel. Maurice Lacroix is thus clearly following in the footsteps of watchmaking's long tradition.
Patent Pending for New Lever Mechanism
So far, the traditional side of the new star in the chronograph sky. The innovative side is no less exciting. Maurice Lacroix has developed a new kind of lever mechanism for the sensitive phase of the stop and zeroing procedure. It is anything but ordinary and a patent for it is already pending. After each stop, a blocking lever locks the chronograph centre wheel in its previous position for the read-off time. The chronograph hand must be back in its start position at 12 on the dial as soon as a new task is pending. Watchmaker Adolphe Nicole devised the so-called ‘zero position heart' in as far back as 1844. Working with an ideally shaped zero position lever, this mechanism enables the hand to spring from any arbitrary position back to a precisely defined one. With chronographs, the moment between when the blocking lever is raised and the zero position lever and zero position heart meet is critical. The new, very special Maurice Lacroix development limits this small, yet pivotal, play to a minimum. The chronograph hand thus remains, even on impact, in its previous position until the zeroing process actually takes place.
This mechanism is also the compulsory control for the chronograph functions. Unlike permanent zeroing, also known as “flyback”, the ML 106 calibre requires a stop at the start before zeroing can be carried out. There is not the remotest chance of maloperation or a measured time interval being lost.
Last but not least – the counter hand. The vast majority of all chronographs without hour counter manage with totalizers, which achieve 30 or a maximum of 45 minutes. For the Masterpiece Le Chronographe, Maurice Lacroix increases this time span to an exceptional 60 minutes. This rare 60-minute counter requires far more watchmaking skill.
The Workmanship Dimension
The ML 106 calibre is Maurice Lacroix' first own manufacture movement and thus heralds a new and important era for the Swiss brand. Of course, the quality of workmanship meets its exacting technical standard. Once the components are produced and then quality-checked using state-of-the-art precision machinery, pure craftsmanship is required. All components are finished and polished in Maurice Lacroix workshops. Precision is guaranteed by both the use of high-quality, perfectly matched components including Glucydur coiled balance wheel with Nivarox-1 balance spring, polished steel pallet and escapement wheel. Then there's the careful regulation, which occurs at five positions – first with fully tensioned main spring and again after 24 hours. However, the unhurried balance wheel frequency of 18,000 semi-oscillations per hour, which is scarcely used today, requires much more work and care. The key features of this movement include an elegant swan neck precision adjustment for the regulator hand and two real gold chatons in the v-shaped chronograph hook. Blued screws and hand-made decorations on plate, bridges and hooks are the norm on Maurice Lacroix Masterpieces.
More than the Sum of its Parts
Yet it's the entire Masterpiece Le Chronographe and not just the ML 106 calibre that's another genuine exclusive item. Its 3-part red gold case has a diameter of 45 millimeters. It has a new shape, where lunette and caseback do not face in as usual but remain wide open. The view of the dial and the movement thus remains unhindered. Nonetheless, it encompasses elements typical of the Masterpiece Collection such as the curved watchband joints. The solid silver dial has applied hour numerals and index marks, as well as a centre decorated with the rarely used “Rayon de la Gloire” guilloché. The shape and colour of the hands rotating in front are matched precisely to this exclusive wristwatch's look and functions. A watchband from high-quality, hand-sewn croco leather with a gold folding clasp makes sure the watch fits securely yet comfortable on the wrist. Not forgetting, the first edition of the Masterpiece Le Chronographe in pink gold is limited to 250 pieces. This places it perfectly among the ranks of exclusive Masterpiece rarities, which no collection should be without.
Movement: Maurice Lacroix manufacture movement, hand-decorated mechanical, hand-wound ML 106 movement, 20 jewels, blued steel screws, 2 gold 18K 750 chatons, column-wheel, swan neck precision adjustment, Kif shock protection, polished steel pallet and escapement wheel, Glucydur coiled balance wheel, Nivarox-1 balance spring, Nivaflex-1 main spring.
Functions: Chronograph with 60-minute counter, small seconds.
Case: Pink gold 18K 750; domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on inside, screwed caseback with sapphire crystal; water-resistant to 30 m, diameter 45 mm.
Dial: Solid silver 925; silver-coloured; applied Arabic numerals and index marks, centre decorated with Côtes de Genève “Rayon de la Gloire”; polished and blued steel hands, hours/minutes luminous.
Watchband: Genuine, hand-sewn croco leather with pink gold 18K 750 folding clasp.
Edition: Limited to 250 pieces, numbered, with certificate.