As of now, the names Massena and Massena LAB should be familiar to you. William Massena is a watch collector and industry veteran who recently created Massena LAB, a horological creative studio that designs and develops watches. Until now, these timepieces were the results of collaborations with established brands, such as Habring2, Unimatic or MB&F. For his fourth project, William goes his own way and presents Massena LAB’s first stand-alone timepiece. A tribute to the collectable Universal Genève Uni-Compax “Big Eye”, here is the cool motor racing-inspired Massena LAB Uni-Racer.
Having spent more than a few years acting as a watch auctioneer, it is safe to say that William knows a thing or two about coveted vintage chronographs. Among countless possible watches, William has a special feeling about a watch launched in 1963 and discontinued in 1965, the Universal Genève Uni-Compax. An original watch that stood out from the crowd, it was referred to as “The Big Eye” because of its oversized 30-minute sub-counter and its smaller seconds sub-dial. Typical of the sports chronograph of the 1960s, which were instrumental watches purpose-built for a mission, this watch has been the main source of inspiration for the new Massena LAB Uni-Racer.
This new watch is a modern interpretation of the cult classic, re-edited with a contemporary sensibility and updated design codes. Seeing the new version next to the old UG watch leaves no doubts as to its forebear. However, some things have evolved to make the Uni-Racer a watch of the 2020s.
The case of the Uni-Racer now measures 39mm in diameter and 13mm in height. Certainly compact proportions in the current market, yet a slight increase over the original model and its 36mm case. The shape of the watch has, however, been respected, with its pointy, angular lugs, its straight casebands and its flat, polished bezel. The case combines brushed surfaces with polished accents. As an ode to vintage watches, the watch is fitted with a 4mm thick domed plexiglass crystal and engraved with Massena LAB logo in the middle. Pushers and crown are classic and in line with the vintage, instrumental look of the watch.
Regarding the dial, the Massena LAB Uni-Racer is again greatly inspired by the UG Big Eye. The watch is available in two versions. First is the UR-001 with a white panda dial and blue hands. Second is the UR-002 with a black dial, silver contrasting sub-counter and hands. Most details of the UG have been faithfully reproduced, including the red crosshair, the baton markers with luminescence, the peripheral tachymetre scale or the snailed small running seconds, again with a red crosshair. Of course, the 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock retains its oversized proportions with a coloured section for the first 5 minutes and red markings every 10 minutes.
One of the most striking elements of vintage Universal Genève watches was often their bold, unusual hands, and the Uni-Compax was no exception to the rule. Modern dauphine hands were used for the hours and minutes, while straight luminous batons equipped the sub-counters, creating a unique personality. Those hands had to be part of the new Massena LAB Uni-Racer and have been reproduced in a nice way. In particular, the dark blue hands that equip the sub-counters of the black model, as well as being used for hours and minutes of the Panda watch. The right colour, changing from almost black to vivid blue, has been achieved by a combination of heating, oxidation and other metal treatments.
Powering the Uni-Racer UR-001 and UR-002 is a well-known, reliable and easily serviceable movement, the Sellita SW-510. This hand-wound version of the Valjoux base offers a comfortable 58h power reserve and runs at a 4Hz frequency. The movement is hidden under a solid steel caseback.
The final touch for these watches are nice leather straps, closed by steel pin buckles – a dark “Bleu de France” Saffiano strap for the Panda model and a cement grey textured leather strap for the black version.
Availability & price
The Massena LAB Uni-Racer UR-001 and UR-002 will each be limited to 200 pieces and can now be ordered from www.massenalab.com. It will be priced at USD 3,495.