In 2011, a small company was founded in the French Alps. That company was Prato Automobiles, and its goal was simple: create a French hypercar. On June 14, 2017, after several years of R&D, testing and countless hours on the track, Prato achieved that goal, unveiling its first model, Orage. To mark this significant milestone, Prato partnered with Ateliers deMonaco to create the Tourbillon Oculus 1297 Orage watch (based on this model). The watch included a microchip inside its strap allowing the wearer to open and start the engine of the car. The only catch was you had to own an Orage to get one. Fortunately for those of us who can’t afford a hypercar, Ateliers deMonaco has now introduced the Admiral Chronograph Flyback Prato collection, sans the microchip and available for public consumption.
Regular MONOCHROME readers will already be somewhat familiar with the Ateliers deMonaco name, although it is by no means a mainstream brand. Part of the Frederique Constant Group (which is ultimately owned by Citizen), Ateliers deMonaco specialises in low-volume, high-quality timepieces. The focus is on traditional complications (tourbillons, minute repeaters, perpetual calendars, chronographs) presented using Haute Horlogerie techniques. All pieces are finished by hand and boast striking decorations, with some movements even adorned with the Hallmark of Geneva. For more information on the brand, check out this video we made a couple of years ago.
The latest release from the brand comes in the form of the Admiral Chronograph Flyback Prato collection. Sharing the same foundation as the Admiral Chronograph Flyback Saphir we reviewed here, these new models feature some notable changes. Not least of them is the 42mm steel case, which has been treated with a process called Armure. This chemical process involves the diffusion of carbon at a low temperature to harden the surface of the steel, taking it from 220 Vickers to 1,200 Vickers. Two versions are available: one in polished stainless steel, the other in stainless steel with additional black DLC treatment (pictured here).
Measuring 13.3mm high, the 3-part cases feature micro-shot blasting finishes and are assembled by hand. These models are definitely sportier in appearance than the Admiral Chronograph Flyback Saphir, inspired by the head-turning aesthetics of the Orage hypercar. That being said, they are still definitely elegant enough to wear for more formal occasions, or even to the office, if you really want to make an impression. Although less apparent on the black DLC version, the case is slightly concave, with the wider bezel angling down smoothly into the middle case section. It wears very comfortably on the wrist with curved lugs ensuring a snug fit against the skin.
The star of the show, however, has to be the dial. Inspired by the forged carbon technique popular in the automotive industry, Ateliers deMonaco developed a new method that incorporates 18k gold into the process. Carbon fibre, gold and resin are mixed and placed in a mould. The mixture is then heated and pressed to fix everything and form a block, before being expertly refined to create the truly stunning dial you see here. No two dials are exactly the same and each one changes individually depending on how the light hits it. I haven’t seen anything like this before and I have to say the overall effect is really quite striking.
The more classic, polished steel case features a black carbon dial mixed with 18k white gold, dauphine hands and two silver-coloured counters at 3 and 9 o’clock (thirty-minute counter and running seconds respectively). The dial of the sportier black DLC steel model, which we had in for review, features black carbon mixed with 18k rose gold, paired with dauphine hands and counters in matching rose gold colour. Both versions have polished, curved, applied Roman numerals for the hour markers, which have been treated with black PVD. Above each is a diamond-shaped marker. The subtle(ish) “Prato” logo above six o’clock is the only reference on the dial to the collaboration with the hypercar maker.
Turning the watch over, a sapphire caseback reveals the beautifully decorated dMc 760 Calibre. Its base is a Frederique Constant Manufacture movement with a flyback chronograph module on top comprised of 96 components. Although nothing to write home about, the movement is a solid performer, operating at 28,800vph and offering the Group’s patented “direct return to zero” chronograph system. This effectively means the chronograph can be restarted instantaneously without first needing to be stopped and reset. Regrettably, the power reserve is only 38 hours, which is a bit on the low side if we’re being honest.
As we’ve come to expect from Ateliers deMonaco, the movement itself is beautifully finished. All bridges are hand-decorated, with circular satin-finishing, circular graining, bevelled and polished edges, perlage on the main plate and blued screws. The main attraction is the hand-engraved and highly decorated 22K gold rotor, which has a real ‘Monaco’ feel about it.
Presented on a hand-stitched, black alligator leather strap with a stainless steel folding buckle, each version of the Admiral Chronograph Flyback Prato collection is a limited edition of 88 pieces. Pricing is set at CHF 15,200 for both versions of the watch. More details on ateliers-demonaco.com.