Tested: Maurice LaCroix Masterpiece Roue Carrée
written by A.Morgan - 13th Feb 2012
Straying away from the norm can often leave designers skirting dangerously close to the realm of unforgivable darkness and despair known as ‘the gimmick,’ treading the fine line that threads its way tightly between yawn-inducing and plain outrageous. With the lake of originality drying up with every fresh idea conceived, it can surely only be a matter of time before all we have left is tired, rehashed ideas that dwell on a better, more creative time in watch history.
For Maurice LaCroix, that day is still way beyond the horizon, because their Masterpiece range is a bubbling cauldron of inspiration and creativity. The in-house chronograph and retrograde watches are both built and finished to the highest standard, but they also challenge traditional design without just being different for the sake of being different. With a solid platform beneath their feet and their teeth cut on watches like ‘Le Chronograph,’ the way was paved for what was to come next – the ‘Roue Carrée.’
Literally translated as ‘Square Wheel,’ the Roue Carrée’s main feature is based on exactly that. The standard seconds hand has been ditched for a square gear that rotates at the bottom half of the dial, with a cut-out and painted marker that makes clever use of the square shape as a window to read the seconds through. Here’s the clever bit – the square gear is, being a gear, toothed, and those teeth mesh with another gear whose design must have been nothing short of a mathematical nightmare. What you’re left with is a mesmerising and somewhat bewildering display of complex mathematics and precision engineering within just two components.
There is little by way of a point to this feature, and for some it may stray across that gimmick line, but this is where we have to rein our thoughts back and see the bigger picture. Mechanical watches are a gimmick, full stop. We have no need for them. The technology has long since been surpassed, and they are hideously inaccurate and cumbersome by comparison. But yet we wear them, and we enjoy them, not least of all because of the fascinating mechanisms humming away inside.
That’s why the Roue Carrée is not a gimmick and is in fact a clever celebration of why we love mechanical watches in the first place, reminding us why we hang on to this outdated tech and why we can’t help but find it fascinating. Not wanting to do things by halves, Maurice LaCroix have also seen fit to produce the detailing on this watch to a very high standard too; the finish on the dial, for example, has a curved sunburst engraving that practically glows at certain angles, and the cut out markers add depth and clarity without adding clutter.
At £7,620, the Roue Carrée is something of a bargain. For some reason, Maurice LaCroix doesn’t have the same kudos as the likes of Jaeger-LeCoultre or IWC, but with watches like the Roue Carrée, these big-name brands should be starting to worry. Whilst they carry on bringing out re-edition after re-edition, Maurice LaCroix are doing something fresh and interesting, something that keeps the watch industry on its toes – and that’s no bad thing.