Review: hands-on with the new Louis Moinet Time to Race

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Louis Moinet is a brand deeply associated with the chronograph, the namesake having invented the complication way back in 1816. This latest edition of the Memoris chronograph is the interesting take on racing, and aptly named: Time to Race.

Review: hands-on with the new Louis Moinet Time to Race

Time to Race by Louis Moinet retails for SGD 49,610 inclusive of GST, and available at the Sincere Haute Horlogerie boutique in Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. Limited to 99 pieces in each colour. Buyers are able to choose the colour, and then the number they wish from the combination in which is remaining during point of sale.

Historical roots

Louis Moinet created his Compteur de Tierces in 1816, and was a complication way ahead of its time. Imagine a watch of that vintage to feature not only the world’s first chronograph, but one running at a fascinating 215,000 bph!

Louis_Moinet_Compteur de Tierces, photographed recently.

And in 2015, the idea is recreated, no not with the 215,000 bph escapement for even in the 21st century this was a mean feat, but in the very beautiful Memoris which we reviewed in detail here. Read also the introduction in that review for the story of the invention of the chronograph, and how Jean-Marie Schaller, current CEO, Creative Director and owner of Louis Moinet came into the picture. Fascinating story.

The case, dial and ahds

The base watch is the Memoris, which first appeared in 2016, and which we reviewed in 2016. See the review for detailed discussion of the technical features as well as decorations for the whole story. This novelty, the Time to Race is a re-interpretation of the original. Presented in a grade 5 titanium case of a similar shape and design, it is a smaller diameter, and thus requires a rework of the movement. The inspiration is taken from motorsport racing, and the colours chosen are the original colours of the teams competing in races like Le Mans 24 Hours. The colours are British Racing Green, French Blue and Italian Red.

The case remains the same beautiful case as in the Memoris, but with one important change. As mentioned, the size is revised from the rather large 46mm of the original Memoris to a svelte and very wearable size of only 40.7mm. Executed in titanium in stead on steel, it features the same design of an almost negligible bezel, with the crystal in a curved sapphire dome like structure covering the entire dial side.

Running one’s finger across the surface, one finds a smooth, near seamless transition from crystal to case. And as it is domed up, allows the chronograph mechanism to be raised close to the sapphire, allowing a pretty good view of the movement. The curved seconds hand is very long and reaches from the center pivot to almost the very edge of the dial.

The rehaut is a triangular flange, and serves as a dual indicator showing both the 60s chronograph track, as well as a tachymeter scale on the inside. This rehaut is made from neoralithe, and is a very small ring around the periphery of the dial. It is colour coded for the first quarter in the bright neoralithe segment in colours of the edition – in red for the red, yellow for contrast with the green, and blue with the blue.

Neoralithe is a manmade resin is resistant to UV and thermal or physical shocks. The material is sourced from GVA Cadrans. The production of the dial is particularly complex, and requires multiple manual operations, such as the application of anti-UV hardener, shape cut-outs, casting of material, and firing in an oven at more than 80 degrees, as well as final polishing.

To ensure the watch is as thin as possible, the main plate is made of a thin layer of braided carbon fibre. The final result is rather breath taking.

The entire movement is laid out bare for all to admire. And as mentioned in our original examination of the Memoris, this is a spectacular movement. The column wheel and its lateral clutch mechanism takes center stage at the 12 o’clock position, as the chronograph is the star. The hour and minutes are held in a sub-dial at 6 o’clock, and the bi-compax design allows two sub-dials to be shown flanking at 9 and 3 o’clock. And the central, prime focus of the long hand of the chronograph seconds leading the view.

Even the lume on the Time to Race uses a special technology. Developed by Monyco, the lume is a blend of colour mixing and SuperLumiNova, and applied by pad printing rather than the more traditional lume application by screen printing. This enables a matte and flat appearance, with the lume at only 0.1mm thick, compared to 0.2mm achieved by screen printing, though many SuperLumiNova lumes take advantage of this thick paint to emphasize the 3 dimensionality of the lume. In our view both can work – either an ultra thin lume for a flat appearance like on the Time to Move, or a thick slab of lume on others.

The HM sub-dial itself is interestingly made. It is created with neoralthe, as a simpler, painted dial would not achieve the brilliant white that Jean-Marie desires. The entire disc is made with neoralthe, first the white part is made, and then hollowed out before casting the black number. The result is a dial with an outstanding depth and brilliance.

Just like the numbers which adorn the race cars of the day, as seen in this Chenard Et Walcker which won the first Le Mans in 1922. French racing blue.

The movement Cal. LM96 – visible from front and back

The LM96 used in the Time to Race is a rework of the original LM56 used in the Memoris. Louis Moinet does not state if the movement is still made to its exclusive and specific requirements by Concepto, but it seems to us to be the case. The new movement is smaller, thinner and with the aforementioned carbon fibre main plate.

Decoration is to a very high level which is in line with the haute horlogerie aspirations of the brand. The movement features Côtes de Genève, diamond-polished facets, diamond-cut chamfers and circular gears with 5N colour finish and straight graining for the steel chronograph works. Execution is good, though not exceptional, and the movement avoids the virtuoso features like sharp inward and outward angles. Actually, on second consideration, we judge finishing to be excellent, if not at the very top top levels of the haute horlogerie executions by the likes of A. Lange & Söhne, Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. But the Time to Race is not pitched at the very high pricing that those other marques command. And we think the Louis Moinet is already way above par for chronographs at this price point.

The chronograph works beautifully, with a gentle bur firm (good positive feedback) touch for each start, stop and go on the monopusher which is placed at the handy 2 o’clock position.

Closing thoughts

The watch measures a fine 40mm in diameter and with the long curved lugs is very comfortable when strapped on a wrist. The titanium case makes the watch feel feather light, and enhances the racing pedigree.

In conclusion, this is a magnificent watch. Sporty with a mechanical geek vibe. The technical aspects are beyond criticism, the finishing excellent beyond its asking price. And the concept is very well thought through, with selection of interesting and high tech materials make the Time to Race a compelling watch. Especially at the sub SGD 50k price point. Plus, as Jean-Marie reminds us, each piece is unique in its combination of the colour and the number.

We mentioned to Jean-Marie that a missing colour is the German Silver. His eyes lit up, and hints that indeed, silver may possibly be a new model. He also quickly retorted that the original 3 racing countries are already represented – the red of Italy, the green of Britain and the blue of France. The Germans won the first Le Mans in 1952 with Mercedes bearing the silver arrow colours, after a streak of only French, British and Italian wins. And Americans (with black as the racing colours of the Ford GT 40 II in 1966) came even later. See this article for more information on the fascinating history of cars which won the Le Mans. Post note: Jean-Marie later confirmed the existence of a fourth colour – also green for Great Britain, but this time in a lime green as shown below, and a further 99 pieces. He also revealed that there will be one or two more colours which will be introduced in 2023, and thereafter, the Time to Race model will be retired, possibly after a run of 6 colours in total. He did not say what the additional colours will be.

In Lime Green, this is an additional 99 pieces added to teh original 3 models.

The Louis Moinet Time to Race is a candidate for the 2022 GPHP under the Chronographs category, and in our view is a very strong candidate to win this prize. It gets our vote anyway. If it wins, it will be a first for Louis Moinet, even though their watches have been nominated for eleven years.

Photo Notes

Images marked with the Deployant logo are photographed in the Sincere Haute Horlogerie Boutique in Marina Bay Sands. Fujifilm GFX 50S II with Hasselblad HC 4/120 Macro and HC 2.8/80 with H26 Extension Tube via H Adapter G. Profoto strobes provide the lighting. Unmarked photographs are courtesy of Louis Moinet.

Louis Moinet Time to Race Specifications

Exclusively single-piece editionsEach single-piece edition associates a particular number with one of the three colours offered: Rosso Corsa Racing Green Bleu de France
MaterialGrade 5 titanium | Polished and satin-brushed
Glasses Box-type sapphire crystal | Glareproofed on both sides
Single pusher“Clous de Paris” hobnail pattern
Diameter 40.7 mm
Hours/minutesColour: white background and black shiny-polished numeralsOuter ring: rhodium-plated, circular satin-finishedHands: rhodium-plated & faceted
CountersTranslucent material with white luminescent transfer
HandsSatin black PVD | Coloured Super-LumiNovaTM 
Inner bezel ring Dual display: tachymeter scale and 60 seconds | White luminescent transfer | Bi-material with a circular satin finish
ManufactureLouis Moinet
FunctionsHours | Minutes | Seconds | 60-second & 30-minute chronograph counters
ComplicationSingle-pusher column-wheel chronograph
TypeSelf-winding mechanism | balance with screws
Oscillating weightBi-material | 6 ball bearings | Adorned with concentric “Clous de Paris” hobnail pattern, “Fleur de Lys”
Finishes on the upper sideMainplate: carbon fibre Steel parts: straight-grained and chamfered Gear trains: circular satin-finished 
Finishes on the underside“Côtes de Genève” hobnail pattern, polished edgesDiamond-polished sinks
Oscillations 28,800 vibrations per hour
Frequency 4 Hz
Power reserve48 hours
Water resistance 50 metres
Material Preformed rubber
Clasp Triple-blade folding clasp | Steel with black PVD finish | Fine adjustment |Curved “Fleur de Lys” 

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