Maurice Lacroix AIKON Skeleton – WATCH REVIEW BY ESCAPEMENT

Maurice Lacroix AIKON Skeleton

The Maurice Lacroix AIKON Skeleton 39mm is a recent addition to the brand’s AIKON collection. While it’s not the Swiss firm’s first skeleton watch (the brand has produced several over the years), it is much smaller than its forebears. The Maison has worked closely with movement specialist, Sellita and created a reliable, openworked calibre. Once again, the Swiss marque has produced a model that democratises a historically expensive genre of watch.

Maurice Lacroix is located in the Swiss Jura, a region synonymous with watchmaking. For more than 40 years, the Maison has repeatedly demonstrated its horological expertise, conceiving some very ingenious mechanisms such as the patented Square Wheel. Moreover, the company is also known for producing skeleton models delivered in an array of case sizes, including 43mm, 44mm and 45mm options. 

Recently, the Swiss marque unveiled the Maurice Lacroix AIKON Skeleton 39mm, a watch that upholds the brand’s reputation for crafting openworked movements. This represents a shrewd move on the part of the luxury brand as an increasing number of watch collectors are now favouring sub-40mm dimensions.

The traditional skeleton or openworked watch

André Charles Caron (1697-1775) was a French watchmaker widely attributed with making the first skeleton watch. A skeleton, or openworked, watch eschews a conventional dial thereby revealing numerous components usually hidden from view. For many years, this type of watch was created by taking an existing movement and removing surplus material using a series of handsaws and files. The artisan performing this task needed to be very careful not to touch areas near the jewel beds, screws and gear train as this would potentially compromise the reliability of the timepiece. The finest examples of these traditional skeleton watches also incorporated expert finishing to accentuate the beauty of the movement.

Maurice Lacroix AIKON Skeleton

While the notion of a lone watchmaker/artisan working at a bench with a handsaw may sound delightful, it comes with several potential risks. As previously stated, material must never be removed from certain areas of the movement as this can impair the motion of components and/or affect the reliability of the watch. Care must also be taken not to compromise the torsional rigidity of the movement as any ‘flex’ could also impair the smooth operation of the calibre, detrimentally affecting its performance. 

Another notable disadvantage of making a skeleton movement by hand is that it is very labour intensive, heightening production costs and, by default, making the completed watch expensive. In fact, traditionally openworked watches were invariably the preserve of Haute Horlogerie. 

Maurice Lacroix – an ingenious approach

The Maurice Lacroix AIKON Skeleton 39mm has been made in collaboration with Swiss movement specialist, Sellita. The ML115 (base SW200) is a self-winding movement that embraces skeleton design while employing cutting-edge technology. 

Maurice Lacroix AIKON Skeleton

The movement is designed on a modern CAD system with the loads acting on each part carefully calculated to avoid any unwanted flex. The mainplate is milled using a state-of-the-art CNC machine to tolerances measured in microns, surpassing those possible using traditional methods. Indeed, by sidestepping human hands, handsaws and files, the integrity of the movement is assured. 

By adopting this approach, Maurice Lacroix and Sellita are able to produce movements of consistent quality that possess sufficient torsional rigidity. Moreover, with a history of delivering incredible value for money, this modern approach to skeletonisation is consistent with Maurice Lacroix’s reputation for delivering ‘high perceived value’.

The dial

The dial is executed in sapphire, allowing the movement to take centre stage. It is encircled by a minute track, presented on a grey flange. A lithe silver-toned central sweep seconds hand kisses the aforementioned minute track, aiding read off. A number of baton-style indexes are partially affixed to the edge of the flange. These batons feature Super-LumiNova and project over the exposed movement. Each hour is marked with one baton, except at the cardinal points where double batons feature. The hour and minute hands are faceted, rhodium-plated and again, treated with Super-LumiNova. The whole of the dial proves eminently legible, an attribute sadly lacking with some skeleton watches where the hands can seemingly merge into the background.

Maurice Lacroix AIKON Skeleton

Without question, the exposed movement is the star of the show. There is no surplus metal. Indeed, much effort has been employed in order to reveal the movement’s thought processes while ensuring the structural integrity remains intact. Personally, I love the openworked barrel and enjoy seeing the mainspring in various states of tension. Does this make me a horological voyeur? Probably.

Another benefit of the labyrinth-style architecture is that the balance wheel can be observed, oscillating to and fro, pulsing with life.

Surprisingly, despite its modest pricing, the movement within the Maurice Lacroix AIKON Skeleton 39mm is attractively appointed. To the front of the watch, circular graining and colimaçon are much in evidence. Moreover, turning the watch over, allows you to see the openworked oscillating weight adorned with sandblasted and sunbrushed decoration. 

The case

The Maurice Lacroix AIKON Skeleton 39mm is housed in a stainless case which, as its name implies, measures 39mm in diameter. The case is 11mm in height, hence it does not overburden the wrist with undue bulkiness. 

Since the inaugural AIKON of 2016, the model has become known for its incredible wearer comfort. The model’s impressive ergonomics can partly be attributed to the integrated bracelet. The absence of lugs allows the bracelet to hug the wrist more snugly. Moreover, the bracelet is not too thick and readily flexes.

Maurice Lacroix AIKON Skeleton

A feature found on several AIKON models is the brand’s Easy Strap Exchange system. Squeeze four discreet catches to the rear of the watch, two at a time, and the bracelet will detach from the watch head. This allows the wearer to swap the 5-rows stainless steel bracelet for one of the brand’s leather or rubber strap options. The system is quick and simple to use and does not necessitate the use of tools.

Eight arms straddle the bezel, an aesthetic element first seen on the Calypso, a former model that inspired by the AIKON, albeit it has been refined for a modern-day audience. The gleaming arms provide a tasteful note of brilliance and reinforce the sense of luxury. Furthermore, they beautifully contrast with the nearby satin-brushed surfaces. 

One of the attributes of the Maurice Lacroix AIKON Skeleton 39mm and, indeed most AIKON models, is the repeated interplay of satin-brushed and highly polished surfaces. For example, the bevelled edge between the top of the case and the sides is highly polished. Likewise, another bevelled edge to the rear of the case, located between the case band and the case back, once again, evinces a brilliant gleam. To achieve this contrast is no small feat, requiring skill and time. Each bevelled edge must be of consistent width and mustn’t encroach into neighbouring satin-brushed sections. However, appraise the sumptuous appearance of the watch and suddenly the brand’s efforts seem justified.

The movement – additional comments

Consistent with the transparency theme front of house, the exhibition caseback indulges the wearer with a verso view of the Automatic ML115 movement.

The balance has a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz) and the movement contains 26 jewels. Assuming the mainspring is fully tensioned, the Maurice Lacroix AIKON Skeleton 39mm will run autonomously for 38 hours.

Closing remarks

While I adore beautiful expressions of Haute Horlogerie and, in particular, hand craftsmanship and artisanal skills, there is always the matter of price. Most individuals can only dream of entering this esoteric world of luxury, hence the joint efforts of Maurice Lacroix and Sellita make much sense.

There are additional considerations which support the approach taken by Maurice Lacroix and Sellita. The idea of customising a movement with a series of handsaws and files may sound wonderful, but there is an inherent risk that material is removed from the wrong place or alternatively too much material is stripped away. 

Today, CAD and CNC machines mean that material can be removed from optimal areas without the risk of flex that may lead to potential unreliability. The Maurice Lacroix AIKON Skeleton 39mm delivers a meaningful dose of transparency while operating in just the same way as a non-skeleton AIKON.

Appraise the case and note the discrete sections of polished and satin-brushed surfaces. The delineation between both finishes is exemplary and reinforces the overall sense of quality. Likewise, look at the numerous forms of decoration on the Automatic ML115 movement, again, it shows the brand has expended much thought on enriching the appearance of each element of this horological composition. 

This is a quality watch, perfectly suited to individuals seeking a sub-40mm timepiece and yet, unlike traditional skeleton watches of yesteryear, it proves highly affordable. Quite simply, Maurice Lacroix has democratised this genre of watch and brought it within reach of a far larger audience, perpetuating the brand’s desire to deliver ‘high perceived value’ to its ever-growing band of followers.

Further reading

https://www.mauricelacroix.com/

Technical specifications

  • Model: Maurice Lacroix AIKON Skeleton
  • Reference: AI6007-SS002-030-1
  • Case: stainless steel; diameter 39mm; height 11mm; water resistance 20ATM (200m); sapphire crystal to the front and exhibition case back.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; central seconds
  • Movement: Automatic skeleton ML115self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 26 jewels; power reserve 38 hours.
  • Strap/bracelet: Steel 5-rows bracelet with Easy strap Exchange system
  • Price: £2750 (RRP as of 30.5.2021)

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