Louis Erard Excellence Chrono Monopoussoir
The Louis Erard Excellence Chrono Monopoussoir perpetuates the Swiss brand’s reputation for sublime design, quality construction and keen pricing. Angus Davies spent a couple of weeks ‘hands-on’ with the monopusher-chronograph and relays his findings herein.
As Friday approaches, our thoughts invariably turn to the weekend and the idea of dining in a fine restaurant readily comes to mind. A shared meal with a loved one, two juicy fillet steaks and a bottle of Bordeaux, sounds a tantalising prospect.
Sadly, a moment of realisation ruins the aforementioned plans; payday is over a week away and the bank balance is embarrassingly low. Suddenly a sirloin steak and a carafe of ‘house red’ seems a more viable option.
Throughout life, we grow accustomed to compromise, often driven by financial constraints. However, imagine tasting the delectable delights of fillet steak for sirloin steak prices. Well, this scenario seems, on the face of it, to be the essence of Louis Erard’s marketing strategy. Over the last few years, I have worn several of the Maison’s watches for extended periods and have always marvelled at the impressive quality-price ratio.
In September 2020, the Swiss brand released three models, referred to as the ‘Excellence Triptych’ collection. A ‘triptych’ is defined as ‘a set of three associated artistic, literary, or musical works intended to be appreciated together.’ As if to reinforce the associations with art, the designs of all three models encompass tasteful references to Art Sapin, a variation of Art Nouveau specific to the Swiss Jura.
To date, I have already reviewed the Excellence Régulateur and the Excellence Petite Seconde. Recently, I had the opportunity to wear the third and final member of this horological triumvirate, the Louis Erard Excellence Chrono Monopoussoir. My simulated ownership experience lasted a couple of weeks and I recount my observations herein.
The central area of the dial is presented in matte silver which in turn is framed with an hour track enriched with circular brush. The hours are denoted with gleaming Arabic numerals presented in a modern font. The numerals are employed to denote the even-numbered hours with slender batons residing in between. The blue hour, minute and central chronograph seconds hands incorporate coniferous-themed styling and seemingly step forward from the dial epidermis, imparting information in a highly legible form.
A 30-minute chronograph register sits below noon, partially overlapping the hour track. Interestingly, the counter is positioned on a slightly lower plane than the main dial and is framed with a shiny circlet. Louis Erard has enriched the counter with snailed decoration, while the register’s loan hand is, once again, presented in blue.
Positioned adjacent to the internal wall of the case is an attractive but unobtrusive minute track.
I have to say that overall, the readability of the dial is excellent. Moreover, the dial exhibits a high-quotient of style and incorporates tasteful details, rich with textures and depths.
The Louis Erard Excellence Chrono Monopoussoir is housed in a 43mm stainless steel case. This is a smidgen larger than its two other sapin-themed siblings which are both 42mm in diameter. The 3-part case is highly polished throughout. Normally, I prefer the addition of some satin-brushed surfaces as it tends to have a tempering effect, making things seem more understated. However, in this instance, the Louis Erard’s case looks fabulous, skilfully sidestepping excess.
The case is suffused with a myriad of curving lines, each enjoying a delightful reciprocity with light. The bezel smoothly arcs, sitting flush with the caseband, while the lugs gently taper inwards as they approach the strap. Everything feels babysoft smooth, devoid of any sharpness. Indeed, the case is a tactile delight. The caseback again employs curving lines, causing the watch head to gently hug the wrist. An exhibition caseback affords views of the self-winding movement within. The strap is made of chocolate calf nubuck leather with tone-on-tone stitching and is paired with a polished stainless steel pin buckle.
However, the pièce de résistance is undoubtedly the monopusher-crown. Most chronographs are usually equipped with two pushpieces. A pushpiece at 2 o’clock typically starts/stops the stopwatch function while a second pushpiece at 4 o’clock normally resets the various registers.
The monopusher is a one-stop-shop for all of your chronograph needs. The lone pushpiece, positioned at the centre of the crown, starts/stops and resets. Firstly, this approach bestows a cleaner appearance to the case, obviating the need for any unwanted protrusions. Secondly, by controlling all the chronograph functions with one digit, everything feels more intuitive.
Normally, a monopusher attracts a price premium, however, with an asking price of CHF 3,500, nobody seems to have told Louis Erard. The pusher sits within a crown which features a fir-tree pattern grip while the brand’s logo adorns the crown’s vertical flank.
Some time ago I chatted to Manuel Emch, ‘Strategic Advisor’ to the brand. He talked about ‘suppliers’, but he also referred to ‘partners’, ie those companies that Louis Erard chooses to work closely with. One of the brand’s partners cited by Mr Emch is Sellita, the Swiss movement specialist. Sellita makes off-the-peg movements as well as customised calibres, sating the needs of its clients. Louis Erard has utilised the talents of Sellita on several occasions and I suspect it will continue to do so for years to come.
The Louis Erard Excellence Chrono Monopoussoir is fitted with the Sellita SW500MPCa calibre. This cam operated movement has a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz) and contains 25 jewels. Assuming the movement is fully wound, the watch will run autonomously for approximately 48 hours. It is attractively appointed and includes a special openworked oscillating weight incorporating Louis Erard’s logo.
As intimated earlier, it is surprising to find a monopusher at this price point, given its added complexity when contrasted with a conventional chronograph. Many purists yearn for a column wheel and vertical coupling arrangement, however, this specification normally attracts a higher price tag. But, whilst wearing the Louis Erard, with its cam-actuated movement, I found the pushpiece feel to be smooth and beyond reproach. Moreover, I wasn’t able to discern any noticeable wobble when engaging the chronograph, a criticism often made of cam-actuated movements.
The Louis Erard Excellence Chrono Monopoussoir is exceptionally handsome, clearly the work of an accomplished designer. Furthermore, close inspection reveals a myriad of sweet-tasting details. The dial blends a matte silver centre section, a circular brushed hour track, a sunken and snailed chronograph register and gleaming indexes. The coniferous-themed blue hands confer an abundance of style, but remain eminently legible. Indeed, there is nothing perfunctory about this dial design.
As for the case, an inquisitive finger can readily discern its notable smoothness. Personally, I adored the numerous contours of the case and the charming way light suffuses some surfaces with pockets of brilliance while others remain in shade. The case feels beautifully executed and ‘a cut above’ many watches in this price segment.
The Sellita SW500MPCa calibre is multi-talented, however, its party piece is the monopusher. One lone pusher orchestrates the cam-actuated movement’s performance. It bestows a cleaner appearance than a regular 2-pusher design and proves ergonomically superior. The fact that it joins various other impressive features, further reinforces the overall perception of value.
Which brings me back to the issue of price and value. They are connected, but they are certainly not the same. For many individuals CHF 3,500 is a significant sum of money, however, when considering the features and qualities of this watch it represents incredible value.
Again returning to an earlier conversation with Mr Emch, I recall asking how Louis Erard was able to deliver such an impressive quality-price ratio. Firstly, the firm is very open about accepting smaller margins than most of its competitors. Secondly, it often makes limited-edition models that sell out quickly, avoiding huge stocks and the costs that this incurs. Lastly, it places much emphasis on working closely with its suppliers, especially those it prefers to call ‘partners’. The quality of the watches produced by the Swiss firm is outstanding and based on its strategy, the future for this brand looks very bright.
- Model: Louis Erard Excellence Chrono Monopoussoir
- Reference: 74239AA01
- Case: Polished stainless steel; diameter 43 mm; height 15.70 mm; water resistance 5 ATM (50 metres); sapphire crystal to front and exhibition caseback
- Functions: Hours; minutes; chronograph
- Movement: Sellita SW500MPCa calibre; automatic movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 25 jewels; power reserve 48 hours
- Strap: Chocolate calf nubuck leather with tone-on-tone stitching, polished stainless steel pin buckle
- Price: CHF 3,500 (RRP as at 17.2.2021)