If some of you might know this watch manufacture by now (thanks to a coverage here, at Monochrome), Ateliers deMonaco is clearly not the most famous of them all… Which, in all honesty, is rather a pity, as the brand has a lot to offer. Forget about the affiliation with the Frédérique Constant Group. Ateliers deMonaco plays in a different league (with a collection that comprises tourbillons, minute repeaters or Hallmark of Geneva watches…) and their latest creation has some appeal, both aesthetically and technically. Here is our review of the Ateliers deMonaco Admiral Chronograph Flyback Saphir.
About the Ateliers deMonaco brand
Ateliers deMonaco has been created in 2008, by Peter Stas and his head of watchmaking, Pim Koeslag (now CEO of the brand), as a sister company of Frédérique Constant. While the latter plays on the “accessible luxury” trend, by offering watches with nice technical content, in-house movements or even the cheapest perpetual calendar on the market, most of the watches are available in the 2K – 5K Euro price range. Don’t expect hand-finishing or high complexity in these… It is simply not the goal of the Frédérique Constant manufacture.
In fact, everything started with the dream of Pim Koeslag to develop a minute repeater – which has been done – but that posed an real issue. Indeed, such a complex and of course costly movement couldn’t just not fit with the segment of the market Frédérique Constant targets. While these two found the movement worthy of commercialization, they decided to create a new brand, Ateliers deMonaco. The production of this brand is focalized on complications (tourbillons, minute repeaters, perpetual calendar) or haute horlogerie (as all pieces are finished by hand, with nice decorations, some being even certified by the Hallmark of Geneva). More than that, the brand also serves as a laboratory for Frédérique Constant, as for instance their perpetual calendar has been developed on the roots of deMonaco’s QP and chronograph. Their latest model, the Ateliers deMonaco Admiral Chronograph Flyback Saphir, follows the same idea of complication, mechanics and high-end finishing.
The Ateliers deMonaco Admiral Chronograph Flyback Saphir has been introduced last year, as the transparent version of an existing watch in the catalogue. A chronograph with flyback function it is, still don’t expect any sporty feelings with this watch. We’re talking about a brand that looks at high-end and dressier designs, and so does this chronograph. As a proof, you simply have to look at the combination of round shapes, gold case, Roman numerals or overall finishing of the habillage to understand that it’s not going to be the watch you’ll use on weekends. Yet, why a chronograph should only be used this way. Even gentlemen can time events…
The main feature of this Ateliers deMonaco Admiral Chronograph Flyback Saphir is of course its transparent dial, through which all the intricacies of the movement are visible – and for once, we’re not going to complain about a modular chronograph architecture, as it allows a complete view on the movement through the dial. See, to each drawback a benefit. This sapphire crystal dial goes along with two interesting point: a nicely finishing movement, even dial side, and a complex dial, which has to be a real nightmare to create and assemble. This watch is full of details, and even if overall dressed, it has more to expose that what you can imagine.
Case of the Ateliers deMonaco Admiral Chronograph Flyback Saphir
This is clearly not where the Ateliers deMonaco Admiral Chronograph Flyback Saphir amazes. Not that the case is badly designed or poorly assembled or manufactured (far, far from that) but it remains classical in every possible way. Knowing all that happens on the dial side, it might even be a good point. The watch is built around a 42mm case, available in pink gold or white gold, playing mostly on concave shapes and curves. The proportions are rather large, with a wide bezel and no sharp edges, which overall remains pleasant and elegant once on the wrist.
As a wannabe dress watch, the Ateliers deMonaco Admiral Chronograph Flyback Saphir has an entirely polished finishing, done very neatly and with no flaws. The originality comes from the trapezoidal shape of the pushers, perfectly integrated to the case and giving this watch a certain uniqueness. An alligator strap completes the package, with a pin buckle in gold too. Overall, the pink gold version we reviewed is a rather “statement watch”, with many reflections and shine, while the color (as always with gold) makes is quite visible on the wrist. For sure, it is visually luxurious and will need to be assumed as such. For those who look for more discretion and a colder look, the white gold version will perfectly do the job.
Dial of Ateliers deMonaco Admiral Chronograph Flyback Saphir
This is where the Admiral Chronograph Flyback Saphir really stands apart. There’s a lot going on this dial, whether we talk design, finishing or assembly. If you love watches where you can spend hours looking at various details, you won’t be disappointed. Everything starts with a sapphire plate, which replaces the usual brass plate where indications are printed or applied. While the standard version shows traditional silver, blue or black dials, this Saphir version goes for a fully transparent crystal instead. After the minute track has been transferred on the dial (a railroad track on the periphery), over 50 holes have to be pierced into the surface to receive all the applied elements of the dial… and there are many of them.
On the dial of the Ateliers deMonaco Admiral Chronograph Flyback Saphir are applied: a nameplate at 12, 2 rings for the small second and the 30-minute counter, 12 diamond-shaped gold hour indexes and finally, black roman numerals. These numerals are composed on separated elements, polished and black-PVD coated, and all show a curved surface, bringing depth to the dial and playing with light reflections. Besides the fact that the dial seems busy at first, the hands are large enough and have a good contrast. Legibility is rather good for such an opened dial.
Below this crystal plate, the Ateliers deMonaco Admiral Chronograph Flyback Saphir exposes all the chronograph mechanism (which mean that when pressing the pushers, you’ll be able to see the gears and levers moving). Finishing is pretty pleasant, with snailed and beveled bridges, thermally blued screws, perlage on the main-plate and straight brushed levers and springs. Overall a busy and complex dial, which doesn’t lack some refinement.
Mouvement – Automatic Flyback Chronograph
Under the hood of the Admiral Chronograph Flyback Saphir is a movement with an equally interesting finishing. Yet, the base is known, as already seen in Frédérique Constant Manufacture watches. However, don’t expect the same decoration, as only the technical architecture will be shared. As said, this movement relies on a modular construction, something that we usually regret, but in the case of this watch, it brings an undeniable advantage: having the chronograph mechanism on the dial side… The base movement is modernly developed, with a 4Hz frequency, an automatic winding and 38h power reserve (a bit short to be honest). On top is a chronograph module with patented “Direct return to Zero” mechanism, meaning the brand’s version of the flyback.
About the Flyback Chronograph
The flyback feature dates back 1936 (invented by Longines and first seen on the 13ZN Calibre). While most chronographs require usually the following sequence – stop – reset – start – to begin a new timing session, a flyback allows the merge this sequence in one single action. When the pusher at 4 is pressed, the timing stops. Once the pusher released, the chronograph automatically reset to zero and starts a new timing session. This mechanism allows to make several calculation in a row, with no loss of time. Especially practical for pilots, this mechanism has been widely used in military chronographs.
The back of the movement of Ateliers deMonaco Admiral Chronograph Flyback Saphir is equally well finishined, with a bridge adorned with circular graining, beveled and polished edges, perlage on the main-plate and blued screws. The main attraction is the hand engraved and highly decorated rotor (which, even is perfectly executed, might be a bit overdone…)
Altogether, besides the need to get to experience the watch, this review was also the occasion for us to become more familiar with the high-end brand of the Frédérique Constant Group. What has to be said first is, even if some components are shared within the group, Ateliers deMonaco is in a completely different league, compared to FC or Alpina. Finishing, assembly, precision of the execution, overall elegance or decoration are to much higher standards, so no worries for collectors to have. Confusion between the brands is simply not possible.
Then, if the copy proposed by this Admiral Chronograph Flyback Saphir isn’t perfect (the decoration – rotor especially – could be a bit understated, the power reserve is slightly too short, the case could be smaller), it is a watch that has some interest and that could be considered when you come to a dressy, luxurious chronograph in gold. The addition of the sapphire dial is a great feature for mechanics’ lovers, and in such price range, they are many. It is available for Euro 26,900 in pink gold and Euro 28,000 in white gold, and is a limited edition of 88 pieces. More details and retailers on ateliers-demonaco.com.
Specifications of the Ateliers deMonaco Admiral Chronograph Flyback Saphir
- Case: 42mm diamater x 13.3mm height – white gold or pink gold, fully polished – sapphire crystal on both faces – 30m water resistant
- Movement: dMc 760 Calibre, in-house – automatic – 4Hz frequency – 32 jewels – 38h power reserve – hours, minutes, small second, flyback chronograph
- Strap: hand-stitched alligator leather with gold pin buckle