Franck Muller was at a point in time an interesting brand to read about, for its innovative case shapes and unique complications; to name a few, the Crazy Hours, Secret Hours and the Giga tourbillon. While they are still popular in some markets today, most would say that the days of its fame are challenged by competition from brands like Richard Mille which have largely eroded its past stature.
In order to accelerate interest in their watches, Franck Muller has been putting more attention into building a more accessible range of watches. For instance, the Vanguard collection. Effective or not, you be the judge.
What we like about the watch
Our first impression when handling the watch was generally good. Due to its titanium case material, the watch is lightweight and comfortable on the wrist. We like the seamless lugs construction that keeps the strap integrated inside the case. The resulting effect is a visual extension of the curve which also adds to the good fit on the wrist. Designed as a sports watch, the case material and strap choices are ideal and attractive altogether.
The Franck Muller Vanguard Camouflage is available in green, grey, beige and blue; and is said to take inspiration from the surroundings of the desert, seabed and forestry. For those who have served in the military, we would say the colour schemes are more akin to the uniforms of the Airforce, Navy and Army. At this point, any learned individual should remember a similar design cue employed by our friends at Sinn, with the U1-D and the U1 camouflage. While we restrain ourselves from being explicit in our disdain of fashionable watches, we thought it good fun to add in a quote we found describing the new line as “add(s) impact and masculinity to its wearer’s styling”. Even while writing this, the allusion of camouflage prints to virility remains perplexing. Perhaps leopard prints to cougars would have been more instinctive. Alternatively, the case could have been more phallic than it is curvex.
The compass bezel
Military themed watches are quite a hit with men. Some of these watches have diver bezels while others have bezels with compass markings. The more widely known ones are the Seiko field watches, that have functional compass bezels which can be adjusted. Then there are those watches with compass bezels that are purely cosmetic. In the case of the Franck Muller Vanguard Camouflage, it is purely cosmetic.
The watch uses an automatic movement that has 21 jewels, 42 hours power reserve a date function and beats at 28,800 vph. The size of the movement is 25.6 mm X 3.60 mm. Considering the specifications provided, we can safely deduce that the movement otherwise known as the FM 0800 calibre, is likely an Eta-2892 movement or a modified calibre from the same lineage. At this price point, the choice of movement is a sensible one for the brand – the movement is hardy as it is affordable.
While we are not big fans of the watch, we must give credit where it is due. The movement and design concept may not be the best, but the dial work and case design are quite impressive. The layered dial with applique hour markers compliment the curved case with sandblasted finishing. That said, we find that the watch could have been more significant if it played up a more tool watch image, say with a functional inner bezel, perhaps even diving compatibility or the good ol’ anti-magnetism. Merely opting for a colourful dial and alluding to masculinity is a good attempt.
An alternative opinion by Gavin Foo
While I do agree with my colleague Chester that the Vanguard Camouflage’s cosmetics is rather trying, the Vanguard series across the board represents a whole new (and more accessible) entry point into the storied world of Franck Muller. The marque lines that defined and positioned Franck Muller where it is today – Crazy Hours, Giga etc – continue to popular, but not necessarily priced at a level that a whole new segment of collectors might find accessible. I still remember those times during my National Service free weekends, when on a date at Ngee Ann City, I would point out the Franck Muller ads and hoped that one day I could afford one.
The Vanguard, at least to me, shows incredible value in its precious metal and diamond-paved line-up. It brings together core Franck Muller DNA – the tonneau case; laser-set diamonds; and dial craziness – into a range that is refreshed for modernity and increased accessibility, without sacrificing the brand equity of its marque lineup, or the quality it is renowned for. Buying a Franck Muller has never been about buying into a horologically significant movement; I have many others that achieve that. Rather, it’s buying into a horological design icon that has inspired some of the most successful brands that came after it; and just because it looks cool.
So I’ve put my money where my mouth is three months back and yup, I’m still in love with my diamond FM.