[BaselWorld] De Monaco: The Princely Surprise.

Recently, I spoke to Patrizia Ameli who works for Ateliers De Monaco and who made me come back to this watch brand, which I observed from the distance, dissuaded by a non-Swiss name, I frankly had not paid attention enough to it.

Having crossed Patrizia at BaselWorld made me visit the booth of De Monaco, with blow of “Mawashi-Geri”, 8 teeth spit; I had one of the biggest surprises of the entire exhibition.

In this kind of events, there are the big surprises, the blockbuster surprises like 5164 or 5208 Patek, surprises awaited i.e. Opus Eleven, the half surprises like Heritage Watch Manufactory (already presented at the GTE), and then surprises out of the blue like Ateliers De Monaco.

A surprise from all points of view: esthetics, technique and pricing.

In with my opinion, this splendid QP is brought to the fore of the collection; a very well thought timepiece corresponding perfectly to the last trend.
The actual positioning of the offer Ateliers De Monaco is declined around this essential complication but actually resulting from the contemporary strategy in the luxury watchmaking.

I was very impressed by this watch. The visible parts of the middle (ears, lugs, glasses) are made of gold or titanium according to the version and are put on a “frame” of round titanium case.

The dial commits a double achievement - two aesthetic codes considered to be relatively heavy, namely, the large Roman numerals à la Cartier as well as the traditional apertures of the QP. The combination of these 2 aesthetic codes gives an airy and ultra-readable overall treatment. All in all, what ensues from the QP De Monaco, like in mathematics, minus times minus equals plus.

One can see the clear success both in the balance of the dial, and in the Roman numerlas that elegantly embosom contours of the apertures.

Considering mechanical aspect, again an undoubtedly success, contrary to many QP, all the indications are accessible by a simple pulling of a crown. The crown makes it possible to select the regulating position on the mini-dial at 6 o’clock. A pressing of a pusher of the crown enables to modify the indications of various apertures without much difficulty. A full rotation of perpetual is enough to retrograde: it is the system of adjustment of the QP which is the most protected and simplest one that I could ever tested till now.

The last point, which did not offend in absolute, but which is not on the same level with the rest of the watch treatment sticks in the decoration of the movement - the set of themes on the flag of Monaco. Work on the oscillating mass is superb, well a little “too much”, but without real criticism to be raised. However, I have a little problem with very original decoration (too much?) of the plate, which takes again the theme of the diamond-shaped flag of the Principality: the result is a little rough of foundry and this motif suffers from not having a more traditional treatment (anglage, côte de Genève, perlage, sablage...).

Nowadays, all the transgressions of case and dial are allowed, but even in the case of the most extraterrestrial design, the treatments of movements remain ultra traditional. This shift between the neo-classicism of the case/dial is too important with esthetics of the movement. In fact, this shift is voluntary; it is parallel to paradoxes of the principality, which on the one hand invested massively in the environment, on the other hand holds a race of F1.

In the end, one has perhaps the most beautiful QP of the watch industry, technically the most advanced, and the least expensive in top-of-the-range of watch industry, it costs, indeed, in titanium version 26k€, in pink gold version 29k€ and 35k€ in white gold version, to be compared with other QP at Jeager, Master QP (35k€), Patek 5140 (60k€), Perpetual Lange (55k€). With only 88 pieces available, they are likely to leave very quickly the house.

On WatchO:

Before I approach “large troops”, formed by tourbillons, let us speak about the collection entry of De Monaco, incarnated by 3 hands’ watches with the impeccable finishing and size of 39mm. In fact the finishing is the same one on the whole collection having the same codes. The entry price around 15k€ allows to reach De Monaco, a little higher price in my opinion, since the usual price in the top-of-the-range oscillates around 12k€.

On Watchonista.com :

The all watches De Monaco measure 43-44mm which is more masculine and up-to-date size than the majority of the competitors’ watches in the same range of watch industry.

Lastly, the heart of the collection was created in a very coherent way for a brand with Monaco vocation, by tourbillons, almost a traditional invoice in the technical plan. The latter profit from the spiral/escapement out of silicon, like a patent for balancing of the cage, a counterweight placed opposed to the escapement to optimize the chronometry by avoiding any functional misbalances.

I impatiently wait to see this tourbillon which took part in contests of chronometry, in order to know if the system developed by Pim, the Master Watchmaker of De Monaco, is a beast worthy of racing at the Grand Prix Of Monaco.

Another notable point, the bridge of tourbillon is made of sapphire, so that during one carries the watch one has almost the feeling that the tourbilllon is levitating in the movement, so much this sapphire bridge makes itself forget.

My favorite version, Tourbillon XP-1 Round in pink gold, dial out of onyx, central black mother-of-pearl insert, and especially a choice of font of Arab numerals - very original, indeed. It’s harshly beautiful, and it constitutes a perfect compromise of tendency between modernity /classicism and sport/chic.

A perfect synthesis of the codes which has been functioning during 10 recent years, with a choice of dial/ font which gives a bit notion of 70' (I think more of the musical universe than of the watches) / to blast, it could as well remind certain traditional codes of the Far East, in short, only the efficacy in this case.

On Watchonista.com :

They are also found in the “traditional” version, with the large Roman numerals:

White Gold:

And in a version which loses the balance moved from round case to the square case:

On WatchO database:

The range of price spreads out from 88k€ to 105k€. It is a courageous price at the time of relative shrinking of the tourbillon watch market - market already saturated from others.

In spite of a flawless esthetics, competition is tough at this price level.

And certain tourbillons, without being also potentially equally precise, are more demonstrative…

De Monaco, it is a surprise in more respects, surprise of aesthetic as much as all the codes that worked the latter decade (Cartier Santos 100, Vacheron Quai de l’Ile, Patek Nautilus, Piaget QP, Greubel Forsey, Girard Perrigaux) were understood, remixed and integrated intelligently in cases combining modernity and luxury.

Surprised by the assembly, the finishing of the dials are terrific, the cases in kits enable to present variations of surfaces polished/brushed, completely new in terms of cases (and to which my photographs give a little shine), this kind of finishing are about to approach to some very beautiful bracelets in steel, type Royal Yak, Nautilus, Panerai new generations.

Surprised by the finishing of the movements, so much it breaks the traditional Helvetic codes. But also a surprise more global on the very top-of-the-range aspect of the project (story telling from Monaco, finishing of the dressing is about to make red certain great names), which takes its place as a missing link between the high-end watch industry and the independents.

One would think that because of the crisis this kind of adventures were finished; Ateliers De Monaco brings the proof that ain’t no bigger surprise!

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