The story behind these fun, bespoke chronographs packs a good chunk of history back in 1816 when horologist extraordinaire Louis Moinet created the world’s first chronograph. Called the ‘compture de tierces’, this pocket watch was designed to time the passing of the stars and could measure events to 1/60Th Complete with start, stop and reset functions beating at an impressive 216,000vph per second! With this early start in the race of measuring elapsed times in mind, Louis Moinet proposes the new Time to Race chronographs, which can be customized with a lucky number and a choice of three racing-themed colors. Taking the small case dimensions of the recent 40.7mm Mémoires Spirit, Time to Race’s chronograph complication is displayed on the dial with a clear, open view of the column wheel and levers.
Pimp my ride
Before looking at the chronograph, a few words are in order to explain the concept of this ‘one of a kind’ creation. Time to Race is not a limited series but is sold as a customisable, bespoke product. First, you can choose from a choice of three colors – Rosso Corsa, Racing Green and Blue de France – and then you can choose a number between 1 and 99. Let’s say I choose the color Rosso Corsa and the number 7. Louis Moinet confirms that it will only produce one special edition of the Rosso Corsa 7. If you want to look at it numerically, there are 297 options in total, and it’s unique no matter which model you buy. These colors were inspired by motor racing events until the late 1960s when the cars were marked with national colours: Italy red, England green and France blue. It is worth noting that the Racing Green model is a candidate in the Chronograph category of the upcoming GPHG Awards.
Tracking elapsed times
I have always enjoyed the passionate mechanical performance and creativity behind Louis Moinet watches, a wonderful universe where nothing seems impossible. Producing only one-of-a-kind or limited editions, the brand’s timepieces draw inspiration from the wildest source; Cosmos, Jules Verne, mythical creatures and prosaic derricks pumping oil (automata) and architectural landmarks such as the Taj Mahal span the world of Louis Moinet, a brand led by CEO Jean-Marie Schaller since 2004.
Among the many precision instruments he invented during his prolific career, French horologist Louis Moinet (1768-1853) is late credited as the inventor of the chronograph, a feat usually attributed to Nicolas Reussek with his 1/10.Th A second chronograph (1821) timed the horses racing on the Champ de Mars. History was rewritten in 2013 when ‘Compture de Tierces’ appeared at a Christie’s sale in Geneva. Not only was Louis Moinet’s stopwatch five years older than Rieux’s, it was designed for astronomers and could measure recorded time to 1/60th.Th 216,000vph (30Hz) second run at breakneck speed If you visit the brand’s website, you’ll see that Louis Moinet’s chronograph has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the “World’s First Chronograph”.
Louis Moinet has many chronographs in the Mémoires family, which appeared in 2016 to celebrate 200.Th Anniversary of Compture de Tierces. Family features include the location of the chronograph movement on the dial, the large 46mm precious metal or titanium case. For added visual impact, the hours and minutes are sent to a subsidiary dial. Then, earlier this year, Schaller decided to introduce a smaller, more compact 40.7mm version of the Memoris, renamed the Memoris Spirit. With a more streamlined case and less ornate style, the viewing pleasure is enhanced by the pronounced domed sapphire crystal. As you can see, the Time to Race models adopt the same habitat as the Memories Spirit, but are bolder, racier and more fun.
All three options feature a Grade 5 titanium case with satin-brushed and polished finishes, measuring 40.7mm in diameter and weighing just 18 grams. Although it’s a much less ornate case than those found on larger Memory models, it’s still impressive. A large folded crown with guards at 3 o’clock and a prominent single piston-style pusher at 2 o’clock – with a hobnail pattern for improved grip – command the right side of the case. Due to the limitations imposed by the more compact 40.7mm case size, Louis Moinet’s watchmakers created more vertical space by adding a high-domed sapphire crystal that rises up on the dial and extends to the edges, encircling the bezel. Sitting almost flush with the movement, the panoramic sapphire crystal maximizes viewing ability, allowing close-up views of the column-wheel movement from above and from the side.
Chronograph movement lovers will be treated to a view presented on the dial, tracing some of the 147 parts of the chronograph mechanism and the smooth choreography of the elements when the chronograph is activated. With one press of the pusher, the column wheel, levers, clutch, hammers, springs and wheels are set into motion. You can see the column wheel and side clutch at noon and the mainplate with its carbon fiber texture in the background. The ultra-complex mainplate is a work of nanotechnology with 49 precisely drilled holes and a thin layer of woven carbon fiber to give it a racetrack look.
The majestic curvature of the sapphire crystal adds to the viewing pleasure, but it also poses another challenge for the designers. Obviously, an external tachymeter bezel is out of the question, so how can you include a recognizable bezel around a stacked movement? Louis Moinet’s designers came up with an ingenious solution in the form of a triangular rim. We’ve all seen sloping edges, but this 3D edge rises like a small mountain peak, allowing information to be displayed on both sides of its surfaces. This dual bezel indicator shows the classic 60-second track on the outer slope of the bezel and the tachymeter scale on the inner slope. Depending on the color chosen, the first quarter of the tachymeter scale and the central chronograph seconds hand are selected in red for Corsa Rosso, yellow for Racing Green and blue for Bleu de France. The central chrono hand has a white tip that leads to the outer 60-second track and curves at the tip to follow the contours of the sapphire crystal housing.
But still there is a problem of clarity. Depending on the information competing for your attention on the dial, some elements have been treated with innovative luminescent technology. The two scales on the triangular bezel are selected with luminous transfer, as well as the elapsed time counters and chronograph hands at 9 and 3 o’clock. This innovative treatment applies colorful Super-LumiNova with pad printing. Unlike a typical screen-printed loom, pad printing ensures a matte, flat look that’s less than 1/10 the size of a loom.Th mm
The lucky number sits in the center of the glossy white hour and minutes sub-dial at 6 o’clock. Framed by a circular brushed ring that looks like the bores used in racing cars, the lucky number isn’t just painted on the dial. Using a proprietary alloy developed with partner GVA Cadrans, the white area of the dial is hollowed out, kiln fired and polished before the black numeral or numerals are applied, giving the small sub-dial its depth and luminosity.
Inside the Louis Moinet Time to Race is the automatic caliber LM96, a proprietary movement developed in collaboration with movement manufacturer Concepto. Its original dial-side display, with its column wheel and horizontal clutch, reveals some of the chronograph’s 147 parts, while the underside houses the 164 parts of the self-winding movement. While the chronograph steals the show, the other side of the movement is seen through the exhibition caseback with a guilloché Clouse de Paris (hobnail) rotor adorned with fleur de lys and other refined finishes including perlage, polished edges and diamond-polished sinks. Beating at 4Hz, the watch offers a reasonable 48-hour power reserve.
The openworked lugs have a satin-brushed camber and are tipped with four black zircons with chatons held by screws. The sharp profile of the lugs is echoed by vertical lines embossed into the rubber straps, seamlessly integrated into the case and fitted with a triple-folding clasp.
Availability & Price
In fact, Time to Race has four models (an additional fluorescent green model on the website) waiting to be customized. Although prices are not posted, the model on the GPHG page has a retail price CHF 30,500So expect something close.
For more information, please visit louismoinet.com.