Louis Moinet Ultravox
Contributing author Carl Eady reviews the Louis Moinet Ultravox, yet another triumph for one of independent watchmaking’s finest brands.
In the world of horology, a small group of elite luxury brands can trace their roots back more than a couple of centuries. Few though share the same historical importance as Swiss brand Louis Moinet. In 1816, Parisian born Moinet completed his “compteur de tierces”, unveiling to the world what we now know as the ‘chronograph’. A technical genius, far ahead of his time, Moinet created his instruments for the betterment of the world of science (most notably astronomy). So prestigious were his creations, he found favour with some of the most eminent and high-ranking noblemen of the period, fashioning beautiful timepieces for the likes of George IV, Napoleon, American presidents and numerous royal heads of state.
Les Ateliers Louis Moinet, based in Saint Blaise, Switzerland was founded in 2001 by Jean-Marie Schaller and today creates stunning high-end horological masterpieces, designed to promote the legacy of one of France’s most eminent master watchmakers. Back in his day, Moinet created exquisite timepieces which chimed for society’s leading figures. In 2018, the brand decided to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Moinet’s birth by introducing a new chiming timepiece by the name of ‘Ultravox’. The Louis Moinet Ultravox was created in collaboration with one of the worlds most accomplished, yet understated watchmakers, Gaia prize-winning, Eric Coudray. This model, limited to just 28 pieces, lays bare an ‘hour strike’ mechanism with skeletonised detail that looks every bit as good as it sounds.
The Louis Moinet Ultravox is housed in a substantial 46.5mm 18k rose gold case. Fashioned in the brands iconic ‘neo’ style, the case is comprised of some 65 parts and is superbly over-engineered. Built for a more substantial wrist, its proportions cut an imposing figure and encompass exceptional finishing. The highly polished lugs sit in contrast with the satin-brushed case band. On the reverse, the lugs are adorned with various hallmarks and the brand’s ‘Fleur de Lys’ logo. This logo is the emblem of the City of Bourges, where Moinet was born, and is now a symbol of uniqueness for Les Ateliers Louis Moinet. A screw-down exhibition case back provides a stunning view of the movement. The sapphire glass proudly carries the nomenclature, Eric Coudray & Co, together with the model’s name, while the engravings on the case convey the Limited-Edition number, an italicised Louis Moinet moniker and the ‘Swiss Made’ assurance.
Dial side, the six-screw bezel adds depth to the watch and perfectly frames Coudray’s mechanical masterpiece. Positioned at 8 o’clock, a ‘silencer’ pusher disables the ‘striking-hour‘ for those moments that demand silence. Conversely, the tones of the delightful gong may be shared at any time by actuating the 10 o’clock pusher.
At 3 o’clock, the fluted winding crown is once again adorned with a Fleur de Lys emblem and sits upon a golden screw-down base plate, a minor detail but one which adds to the model’s artistic air of luxury.
Dial and Movement
Ultravox, appropriately translates from Latin to mean ‘beyond voice’. Whilst the secondary function of the watch is to give the wearer a resounding hourly chime, Coudray’s interpretation of the complication goes beyond horology and enters the realm of mechanical artisanship.
The fine and intricate details of the skeletonised movement can be admired through the sapphire windows. The back of the movement sports three bridges, each decorated with hand-finished bevelling and radial Côtes de Genève striping. Between them are twin vertically aligned micro-rotors, finished in ‘Moinet blue’. One provides power for the hour and minute hands indication, whilst the other is dedicated to powering the chiming mechanism. A small window has also been included to give a wonderful view of the crown wheel – a small detail which provides much dramatic impact. Though the view of the Ultravox’s reverse is more than commendable, the watch front is simply breathtaking.
A large main plate, finished in ‘Moinet blue’, gives a rich depth to the watch and complements the rose gold case. It is adorned with over 50 jewels, required for the Ultravox’s operation. An hour strike is not a common complication, even in the creative circle of independent watchmaking. Therefore, each execution of this historic complication warrants celebration. The intricate components of the striking mechanism are on full display, with expert finishing throughout. From the perlage on the base plate, to the black polishing on the screws and striking hammer, right through to the expertly bevelled and brushed bridges, everything has been supremely engineered.
The familiar ‘Gouttes de Rosée’ (dew drop) hands are skeletonised, in keeping with the movement. As the hands make their journey around the dial towards each passing hour, the harmonious ensemble aligns itself in readiness to deliver the hour strike. At around 10 minutes to the hour, a hammer-shaped lever, known as the ‘flirt’ and adorned with the ‘Sonnerie au Passage’ insignia is primed ready to activate the chiming mechanism as the hour is reached.
On the hour, a rack spring (located at the 4 o’clock position) pushes a short finger-like ’beak’ that falls into place on a small stepped hour cam. This regulates the appropriate number of chimes to be delivered. The chiming ceremony is an hourly performance of dramatically moving parts. Most notable is perhaps the playful golden governing wheel which spins at a constant rapid speed. It is used to regulate the time between chimes, using just air resistance to deliver the appropriate pause. Owing to the nature of its task, the striking hammer has an industrial presence, as does the curved saw profile of the striking rack as it progresses through its count of the elapsed hour strikes. The resultant chime is anything but industrial, expressing a beautiful pitch and resonance to welcome each new hour.
In choosing the leather band for the Ultravox, the brand has opted for a deep blue Alligator strap, which perfectly complements the blued main plate and micro-rotors. Fastened by a gold folding clasp, owners will be confident their striking timepiece is securely affixed to their wrist.
It is fitting that Les Ateliers Louis Moinet chose to mark the 250th birthday of its esteemed forefather with a watch carrying such a historic complication. Indeed, the brand, with the help of one of the worlds most renowned watchmakers, has created a spectacular striking hour timepiece.
Whilst the legibility of some skeletonised dials may be compromised, in this case Louis Moinet’s decision is vindicated. The open-worked dial area wonderfully showcases Coudray’s horological skills. The contrast of the ‘Moinet blue’ main plate and the rose gold case gives the Louis Moinet Ultravox a regal appearance that is both beautiful and befitting of Coudray’s workmanship. The chimes produced by this complication may not have the complexity of a full minute repeater, however, its hourly reminders are delivered with acoustic purity and volume. Without doubt, based on the limited number of pieces available, the Louis Moinet Ultravox will only delight the ears and eyes of a very fortunate few.
- Model: Louis Moinet Ultravox
- Case: 18-carat rose gold; diameter 46.5mm; water resistance 5ATM (50 metres); sapphire crystal to front and back
- Functions: Hours; minutes; hour-strike
- Movement: Caliber LM56; automatic movement; frequency 21,600 vph (3Hz); 52 jewels; power reserve 38 hours.
- Strap: Hand-sewn Blue Louisiana alligator leather with alligator lining
- Price: CHF 150,000 (RRP as at 23.1.2020)
- Limited Edition: 28 pieces