Louis Moinet celebrates 200 years of the invention of the chronograph with a new single button chronograph. We examine and deconstruct this watch, and give you our hands-on analysis of the Louis Moinet Memoris 200th Anniversary Chronograph.
Inventing the chronograph
In Baselworld 2014, we attended a private showing where Louis Moinet made the shocking announcement that their namesake is the inventor of the chronograph in 1816. Well, they made the claim the year before, but in 2014, they brought the actual watch into the little booth to show. We looked at the watch, saw it working but did not get the opportunity to examine it. Understandably, this is a very old piece, and its historical importance demands respect.
The watch, and claim pre-dates Nicholas Riussec’s clock of 1821, and Joseph-Taddius Winnerl’s watch of 1831 by quite a comfortable margin. And they showed a pocket watch, with some quite amazing features. Called the “compteur de tierces” by Moinet, it bears hallmarks on the case which indicates that work began in 1815 and was completed in 1816 by Louis Moinet, a contemporary to A. L. Breguet.
The chronograph is quite amazing not only for claim to the dates, but also in the features. The dial shows a 60 minute counter on the top left, and a 60 seconds counter on the top right, and a 24 hour counter at 6 o’clock. A long sweep hand makes one revolution each second with marks to measure up to 1/60th of a second takes center stage. The watch has two buttons for start/stop (at 12 o’clock) and reset (at 11 o’clock). Start/stop/reset was a novel idea in 1816.
Reportedly the power reserve is approximately 30 hours and the watch is equipped with a power reserve indicator. The movement runs at a rather incredible 216,000 bph. (In comparison, the Zenith El Primero, which is considered a high beat movement today runs at 36,000 bph). The power reserve is not tested in order to avoid damaging the movement.
The Louis Moinet brand was created by Jean-Marie Schaller who is CEO and Creative Director. Schaller bought the original Moinet chronograph in an auction (Christies Sale 1388, Lot 236 May 14, 2012) , and decided to revive the brand. The brand now operates out of St. Blaise in Switzerland. They currently have their own design and engineering team, but work with partners for the manufacture of the watches.
This sets the stage for the 200th Anniversary piece. Although the modern Moinet watches have no relations to the original Moinet, the brand takes inspiration from Louis Moinet. To commemorate the bicentennial of the invention of the chronograph, the Memoirs 200th Anniversary Chronograph was announced in Baselworld 2016. It is based on the Memoris Chronograph which was revealed in the year before. The 2015 Memoris was as a limited edition of 60 pieces in rose gold and 60 pieces in white gold, and the 2016 Memoris 200th Anniversary is a limited edition of 20 pieces in rose gold and 20 pieces in white gold. The major differences in the two editions are the additional decorative finishing, and the price. The 2015 Memoris retails at S$ 89,800 in rose gold and S$ 99,800 in white gold, while the 200th Anniversary pieces are retailed at S$ 124,800.
The Louis Moinet Memoris 200th Anniversary Chronograph
The Memoris is without a doubt a chronograph, even at first glance. The layout of the dial tells this in no uncertain manner. The hour and minute dial is reduced to a sub-dial at 6 o’clock, and the main real estate on the dial is occupied by the centrally mounted chronograph hand and two chronograph counters, with the top half showing the chronograph works in full view. The column wheel takes center stage and is situated at 12 o’clock.
The case, dial and hands
We begin with the rather massive (46mm diameter) case. The design aesthetic is a rather interesting combination of an ornate, old world feel fused together with a modern eye.
The case is a rather traditional round case, but the detailing makes it a complex affair, but also gives it the interesting aesthetic. The case comprises of 52 pieces, and designed with a two part bezel with 6 screws assembled a 17° angle.
The lugs feature black zircons in chatons held by screws. The sapphire glass on both sides are concave. The bezel is a complicated design with screws and a sculptured look. Even the crown and the single button for the chronograph is lavished with detailing.
The Dial and hands
The dial is quite detailed as well. The Memoris 200th Anniversary differs from its 2015 edition in three key areas, viz a new hour dial, a new main plate, and a new translucent flange and counter bridge.
The small hour and minute dial is now made in a magnificent blue grand feu enamel. It is slightly domed, and the hands, which are another in-house design which Moinet calls “Gouttes de Rosée”. These look like dew-drops which are shortened and exaggerated for its shape. Quite charming. They are blue-tinted with a center which carries a SuperLuminova coating.
Though technically a part of the movement and not the dial, the back plate visible through the dial side is a brass plate coated in a translucent blue. Stars have been added to create an impression of the night sky. This is through a new fixed graver process. Devised in-house, this involves attaching a specially-made lathe to a traditional rose engine. A kind of combining the power of the rose engine with the precision of a handheld graver. The result is quite interesting. Material is removed in a tiny area with varying depths, instead of the traditional guilloché goal of ensuring that the engraving is as equal in depth as possible.
The result differs from that produced by milling or stamping. To our eyes, it looks like nothing we have ever seen. On closeup, the stars look like rivets arising out of an uneven blue background. But at normal distances when worn on the wrist, the stars do pop out and because of the irregular shapes and colours, it looks organic and realistic.
The open worked dial reveals the entire chronograph mechanism on the upper half. The components – the yokes, clutch, hammers, column wheel, springs and cogs can be seen in operation with each push of the monopusher. In order to allow an unimpeded view of the works, the counter bridges for the subsidiary counters are made with a special translucent material. The same material is used on the counter bridges, and in a translucent dark blue on the flange of the Memoris as well, to provide a sense of depth. Louis Moinet claims that the material looks as pure and translucent as crystal, but nowhere as fragile. The composition of which, we were told, is a secret.
The movement LM54
The movement is an automatic movement Caliber LM54, which though is communicated in the Press Release as Louis Moinet manufactured movement. The movement is manufactured in collaboration with Concepto in La Chaux du Fonds. We understand that Louis Moinet have been working with Concepto since the inception of the Memoris idea. Examining the other chronograph movements made by Concepto, the LM54 does bear some resemblance (the blackened balance wheel is one tell tale), but it is clear that this is a totally new development. The chronograph mechanism is on the dial side, and completely visible through the see-through dial. The position of the column wheel in line 12 o’clock is unusual and one which seemed to have been a design specification from Louis Moinet.
The movement features bi-directional automatic winding using a system which Louis Moinet calls “Energie Plus”. The winding mechanism uses a pawl system with a “crab claw” spring mechanism and wolf teeth gearing. And the operation of this Energie Plus system seem to follow the same principles as the Pellaton winding system used by IWC, although to verify, we will need to disassemble and compare both systems side by side. Needless to say, we have not done that.
The rotors sit on a bearing system comprising of 7 Myrox (ceramic) balls, and the rotor is decorated concentric “Clous de Paris” and “Fleur-de-lis” pattern.
The base movement is made of brass, and Louis Moinet makes a point to communicate that this is an indication to the historical chronograph which also had a brass movement.
Decoration is to a 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.
The competitive landscape
The Louis Moinet Memoris 200th Anniversary Chronograph is a unique beast in many ways. Each characteristic is not unique on its own, but taken together, makes a unique product. It is a monopusher. Not unusual, but combine this with a dial side chronograph the competition thins…add a chronograph mechanism whose entire works is visible dial side, perhaps the field narrows to 1. So for the purposes of our landscape comparison, we suggest other monopusher chronographs. Priced at S$ 124,800, roughly comparable in retail price to the Lange Datograph Ab/Auf (in a platinum case, but is neither a monopusher, dial side chronograph, nor have a see through dial) it is not by any means a bargain product.
Comparing to other monopushers, the following come to mind. Of course this list is not exhaustive, but mere suggestions as to what the competitive field looks like.
Vacheron Constantin C3300 Single Button Chronograph (S$ 105,6000 in rose gold). Vacheron’s first in-house chronograph movement makes its debut in this monopusher in the Harmony series. The aesthetics are much more sober than the rather in-your-face style chosen by Moinet. The Harmony collection, though a totally new case shape and design follows traditional and classical aesthetic and seem to blend into the historical and grande dame character of VC very well. The VC is hand wound in comparison to the Memoris’s automatic winding. Movement finishing is top drawer as is expected of a VC, and in our view edges out the finishing on the Moinet by a small margin.
IWC Portofino Hand Wound Monopusher Chronograph (S$38,900 in white gold and S$36,900 in red gold). This is also a magnificent effort by IWC on an in-house chronograph. The watch is also decidedly classical in its design language, though it is housed in a 45mm case, which is rather large, and very similar in diameter to the Memoris. The IWC has a 8 day power reserve, and is handwound. As we do not have the IWC and the Memoris side by side, we compared our own live photographs of both (sometimes photographic comparison is even better than live, as blown up, details are easily examined) we judge the finishing to be about the same level.
Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter (S$37,800 in steel, rose gold S$47,500). This is a collector darling of a watch when it was announced. Sold out in double quick time, it is popular not only because of the beauty of the movement, but also the very attractive pricing that Montblanc offers. Movement layout is outstanding and the finishing is very high. Montblanc’s Villeret division, who is responsible for the chronograph went to great lengths to incorporate the traditional virtuoso finishing details like very sharp inward and outward angles in the movement.
Perhaps it is its own best (or worse) competitor. The regular Louis Moinet Memoris Chronograph has the same movement, the same case, and yet retails for a great deal lower. (S$89,800 and S$99,800 in rose gold and white gold respectively). It even has the same peek-a-boo style to see the entire chronograph works. Only the decoration noted above as three points differentiate the 2015 Memoris from the 2-16 Memoris 200th Anniversary. And aesthetically, the 2015 dial design is more sober, and makes it more classical. But perhaps this is retrospect, as we were told that the 2015 series is sold out.
We find the Louis Moinet Memoris 200th Anniversary Chronograph to be a bit of a conundrum. It tries very hard, wears its heart on its sleeves (turning the chronograph dial side to expose its innermost secrets). And we respect that.
The case is magnificent. Detailing abound. The aesthetics are like an old school meets new world. Kind of like the science fiction movies’ view of the future. Perhaps Steampunk is not the right description, but it is certainly a word which has come to mind. The amazing detail of attaching the bands to the lugs via zircons held in chatons by screws is a case in point. The execution is flawless. But the detailing has little practical value, and other than the kind of aesthetic it aims to communicate.
The movement is nice. It certainly has some unique characteristics, like the centrally mounted column wheel. Which might not seem like a big deal, but considering that this requires a redesign and re-layout of the chronograph mechanism, IS a big deal. The finishing is fine, without going overboard.
And yet it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. It leaves us wondering…if this was indeed a tribute to invention of the chronograph, wouldn’t it be nice if the watch too sported a movement beating at 216,000 bph. If it had a fusée-and-chain transmission system like the original. If it used the design language that Louis Moinet himself chose for the invention’s dial. Perhaps we dream too much, or take too purist a stand.
And make no mistake. This is a beautiful timepiece. A magnificent effort by a small and very young company, the historical connection notwithstanding. And certainly, when viewed as a modern chronograph, we have little criticism, and can wholeheartedly recommend it to friends.
Louis Moinet Memoris 200th Anniversary Chronograph Technical data sheet
Features and functions
Monopusher chronograph with column wheel
Chronograph mechanism visible on dial
Hours and Minutes (at 6 o’clock)
Seconds (at 9 o’clock)
60-second chronograph (central hand)
30-minute chronograph counter (at 3 o’clock)
Dial and hands
Chronograph hand, “Monogram” design
Hour & Minute “Gouttes de Rosée”® dew-drop hands, blue-tinted with luminous coating
Rounded enamel dial, diamond cut bead
Hand-painted mainplate, engraved with fixed graver technique
Translucent flange and counter bridge
Movement and finish
Automatic click movement with chronograph function on dial; hours and minutes off-centre at 6 o’clock.
302-component LM54 caliber, designed and manufactured by Louis Moinet
Winding: Automatic, bi-directional
Oscillations: 28,800 vibrations per hour
Balance wheel: Glucydur, chronometer quality
5 position settings
Lines: 13 ¼
Power reserve: 48 hours
Diameter: 30.40 mm
Height: 8.90 mm
Decoration: Côtes de Genève, diamond-polished facets, diamond-cut chamfers and circular gears with 5N colour finish and straight-line steel.
“Energie Plus” system
Pawl winding mechanism
Pawl winding system: comprises a baseplate and two jewelled pawls
‘Crab claw’ spring mechanism
Gearing: automatic wolf-teeth gear
Ball bearing: 7 Myrox balls (ceramic), diameter: 0.397 mm
Oscillating weight: Dual material, with concentric “Clous de Paris” and “Fleur-de-lis” pattern
Case and strap
Case: Original Louis Moinet®, composed of 52 pieces, design with two-part bezel and 6 screws, assembled at a 17° angle
Monopusher: “Clous de Paris” pattern
Material: 18K gold
Diameter: 46 mm
Thickness: 15.75 mm
Water resistance: 50 meters
Case back: Fitted with 7 screws, engraved with individual number and Louis Moinet symbols
Lugs: Screwed settings (1 black zircon jewel and 3 screws per lug)
Crystals: Two convex sapphire crystals with non-reflective coating on both faces
Crown protection: Patent pending
Distance between lugs: 24 mm
Strap: Hand-sewn Louisiana alligator leather with alligator lining
Buckle: 18K gold folding clasp with “Fleur-de-lis” motif, two-strand, black DLC-treated steel
Louis Moinet book
20 watches 18K white gold, 20 watches in 18K rose gold