Monochrome Watches
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The New 1952 Observatory Dial Limited Edition for Phillips by Massena LAB and Raúl Pagès

It is a beautiful homage to the important Patek reference, with a proprietary movement.

| By Denis Peshkov | 4 min read |

Not only are the watches crafted in collaboration with William Massena and his Massena LAB well executed and exciting, but they also serve as invaluable educational tools. They ignite a curiosity to delve deeper into horological history, exploring the lives of notable figures, the evolution of brands, distinctive styles, and the captivating mechanics behind them. Among the latest releases stands the 1952 Observatory Dial Limited Edition by Massena LAB, a testament to this ethos. Presented in partnership with auction house Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo, it is all about craftsmanship and historical reverence.

True to expectations, the case of the new watch draws inspiration from vintage designs, citing “highly collectable watches from the 1940s and 50s” as its muse. Crafted from 316L stainless steel, it has a modest diameter of 38.5mm and a height of 10mm. It embodies a refined retro aesthetic with its distinctive stepped bezel and a harmonious blend of brushed and polished surfaces. Note the mirror-polished top of the fluted crown, which is a beautiful touch. Sapphire crystals frame the case, and the one protecting the dial features an anti-reflective coating on both sides, ensuring optimal clarity. The construction offers a water resistance of 50m, adding practicality to elegance.

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The dial pays homage to the Observatory-grade Patek Philippe Ref. 2458, a rare platinum wristwatch commissioned by the ardent Patek (and Vacheron) collector, criminal lawyer Joe Ben “J.B.” Champion Jr., in 1952. Despite Champion’s tumultuous end of legal career and eventual conviction for fraud before his passing, he remains etched in history as one of Patek’s most esteemed clients of that era. Notably, he was bestowed with the very first self-winding Patek Philippe wristwatch, Ref. 2526, in 1953, a testament to their unique relationship.

The unique, platinum Observatory Patek Philippe 2458 made for American collector and lawyer J.B. Champion – Image by Christie’s

Following Ref. 2458’s historic sale for CHF 3,779,000 at the Christie’s auction in Geneva in 2012 (Lot 88), then setting a record as the most valuable time-only wristwatch ever sold at auction, our colleagues at Hodinkee penned a piece delving into J.B. Champion and his collection. I recommend seeking it out – it’s a compelling read that sheds light on a chapter in not just a horological history.

The 1952 Observatory Dial Limited Edition pays homage to the revered Ref. 2458 while infusing a distinctly modern flair. Its two-tone grey dial features contrasting brushing, with applied baton indices and standout Arabic numerals at 12 and 6 in vibrant yellow gold, complemented by a minute track with delicate gold-coloured dots. Positioned at 9 o’clock is a subdial for small seconds, with a ring opposite at 3 o’clock, proudly mentioning the collaborators’ names of Massena, Phillips, and Bacs & Russo. This arrangement subtly echoes the inspiration’s Geneva Observatory Bulletin № 861121 mentioned at the 3 o’clock position pf JB’s watch.

Although there is ample space to acknowledge Raúl Pagès, the mastermind behind the manually-wound calibre M690 that powers this new watch, along with whom Massena LAB collaborated on the Magraph Limited Edition in 2022, his name is notably absent. However, there’s a thoughtful explanation behind it.

The calibre M690 marks the next phase of Massena LAB’s proprietary movement, first introduced with the Magraph and now with a small seconds display at 9 o’clock, specially tailored for this edition. The refined decoration, visible through the exhibition caseback, sets it apart. Think Côtes de Genève finishing, hand-chamfered plates and bridges, perlage and meticulous bevelling, all executed by skilled Swiss craftsmen under Pagès’ careful supervision. Yet while Pagès conceptualized and designed the movement’s architecture, it’s worth noting that he didn’t personally produce or decorate this calibre as he would with his timepieces. His expertise ensures that every intricate detail is flawlessly executed, maintaining the calibre’s exceptional standard, and his involvement is rightfully appreciated and revealed, yet not by the mention on the dial. The M690 movement operates at 28,800 vibrations/hour and has a 60-hour power reserve.

The new 1952 Observatory Dial Limited Edition for Phillips, Bacs & Russo, created in partnership with Massena LAB and Raúl Pagès, is offered on a Saffiano leather strap and has a 2-year guarantee. Only 99 will be produced, and the price is CHF 8,800.

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6 responses

  1. Have a look at how extensively hand-finished the movement is with internally bevelled sharp interior angles that neither Patek, Vacheron or Audemars offer.

  2. absolute nonsense! if you think that finishing is worth the price…

  3. The vertical versus circular contrast on the dial gives a great tutone effect, the movement is fun and whimsical. I love the anglage!

  4. I truly don’t understand brands associating themselves with Massena…

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