For a while, Massena LAB, the design studio created by William Massena, watch collector and industry veteran, was mostly focused on collaborations with rather established independent watchmaking companies such as Habring², MB&F or Ming. There have been some self-designed watches too, with the Uni-Racer, but today’s project is fairly different in execution and intention – and since it looks at the history of watchmaking and at traditional techniques, it is something that we certainly had to explore more in detail. Based on the idea of the montre d’école (the school watch in English) and manufactured by renowned watchmaker Luca Soprana, here’s the new and fairly desirable Massena LAB Old School.
Behind this project are two men. First is William, the mastermind behind the Massena LAB studio, responsible for the intention and the design of this new watch. Second is Luca Soprana, a talented independent watchmaker that some of you might know due to his work on Jacob & Co. watches, mostly the impressively complex Astronomia concept. And in the same vein as the watch created together with Habring² and Josh Shapiro recently, Massena once again wants here to bring back traditional manufacturing and decoration techniques.
The whole idea behind the Old School watch was to experiment with the concept of the montre d’école. Also known as school watches, these timepieces were “designed and crafted by an apprentice watchmaker. The finished montre d’école is then evaluated to determine whether or not the apprentice may call themselves a true watchmaker. All watchmakers in Switzerland have created their own montre d’école.” Some of these school watches are so elaborate that it can take up to a full year of work to be completed and some students go as far as creating their own movements. And today, Massena LAB asked Luca Soprana to revisit the concept of the montre d’école… after 20 years of work as a master-watchmaker.
One of the important aspects of a school watch for a student is to be a canvas to demonstrate his skills and talents regarding traditional finishing and decoration techniques. And the Old School by Massena LAB x Luca Soprana is no different in this regard, paying tribute to haute horlogerie as done by the German school of watchmaking.
For once, we’ll start by looking at the movement. Dubbed Calibre LS-01, and based on ébauches from pocket watches, it shows a classic hand-wound architecture – certainly familiar for antique watch lovers, with a well-known arrangement of the elements. Bridges and plates are made from German silver (or Maillechort) with a typical three-quarter plate, finger bridges and balance cock. It features a blued steel balance spring, a swan-neck regulator with a micro-metrical screw, and a bi-metallic balance wheel running at a slow frequency. Power reserve is of about 40 hours when fully wound.
More than the specifications, it’s the finishing that impresses. Indeed, every part has been decorated by hand with traditional techniques, such as the finely brushed surface of the bridge (so-called traits-tirés) contrasting with the polished gold chatons and screws, the black mirror-finished escapement bridge, the hand-applied anglages on the edges of the bridges, even including sharp internal angles. Also, this movement features a blade spring for the barrel and all engravings are done by hand, adding a superb human touch to this highly desirable calibre. Note that the movement is certified chronometer by the Horological Society of New York.
Reducing the Old School watch by Massena LAB x Luca Soprana to its movement wouldn’t make justice to the habillage, which is far being second to none. Measuring 41.5mm with a thickness of 11mm, the brushed and polished steel case is voluntarily stripped down to keep the emphasize on the movement, and the dial. It is worn on a midnight blue alligator strap by Jean Rousseau Paris with a stainless steel tang buckle.
The dial is the other piece of this watch that deserves attention. In the same vein as the movement, it is entirely done by hand with traditional techniques and material. Designed by William, it is inspired by antique marine chronometers – with Berthoud in mind – and classic sector dials of vintage chronometer watches – a recurring theme for Massena, who’s been doing it already with multiple Habring2 collaborations.
The base of the dial is a hand-frosted German silver plate, which is then plated with 2N yellow gold. The periphery features stepped segments that are also done in Maillechort, but this time rhodium-plated. A sub-dial at 9 o’clock, for the seconds, is signed, in midnight blue, with both Massena & Co. and Vaumarcus, for the castle in Switzerland where Soprana operates his atelier and where the Massena LAB Old School is made. The hands, with again a traditional shape, are hand-filled blued steel. Even the crown is crafted by hand.
Availability & Price
The Old School by Massena LAB x Luca Soprana is available as of today as a limited edition of 11 pieces. It will be priced at USD 39,500 and available exclusively from massenalab.com.