The new Louis Moinet ‘Moon Race’ Collection is one small step for (a) brand, one giant leap for horology
Editor’s note: Like you, we are also excited for the releases from the Watches & Wonders 2021. Before we get to dive deep into the releases and go hands-on with as many of these as the two of us here can, here’s our preview and the Gut Reaction Review (Grr…) of the new Louis Moinet ‘Moon Race’ Collection. For our other detailed hands-on reviews, please head to our dedicated reviews section here.
The first thought that crossed my mind was Tintin’s ‘Destination Moon’ and ‘Explorers on the Moon’ stories. As an avid reader of Hergé’s masterworks — yes, even though they are comics and not Literature I believe they educate a lot — I have always found a keen association between the moon and these comics stories. Even the enamelling, hand-engraving, artwork on the new watches reminded me of Tintin’s colourful imagery. So my first impression was of finding comfort in the images of the new watches, a comfort in knowing I am in for a wonderful (horological) ride. And I think for a lot of watch connoisseurs and enthusiasts, this is perhaps the most appealing part of the new Louis Moinet ‘Moon Race’ Collection from Watches & Wonders 2021: the ability to conjure up their own associations, and marvel at the imagery presented by Louis Moinet.
The next aspect I admired is that the collection in itself is like a jig-saw puzzle; each (time)piece needed to be fitted in a particular sequence to fully appreciate the big picture. This new collection tells a story, of man’s quest to conquer the moon. It’s not about nations or boundaries; it unites mankind as a whole and tells the story of man’s interstellar campaigns.
Revelling under the beauty of these timepieces, I couldn’t help but remember a famous quote. John F. Kennedy had famously quipped: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard”.
I look at the new Louis Moinet ‘Moon Race’ Collection and then look at a plethora of other timepieces from the recent past that include a billion dive watches, and realise that the world of watches can be so much more interesting if brands could leave their comfort zone, and like the above quote, not because it is easy to create watches like the ‘Moon Race’, but because it is hard. For this, I stand in awe of Louis Moinet.
While all four versions of this release are stunning, my favourite is the second stage or chapter version, the ‘Man on the Moon’ version. The reflection of the lunar module on the man’s visor is simply impressive attention to detail that really elevates this particular timepiece.
Another aspect about this release I am impressed by is the inclusion of “exclusive creations incorporating fragments from Moon Race spaceships”. That’s right! This is as authentic as it gets. Materials from actual spaceships such as braided fibres or polyimide films have incorporated in the designing of these watches, and the brand informs us that these are sourced “from an expert who has personally acquired them from astronauts themselves, their families or their entourage, as well as from reputable auctions – thereby ensuring the best possible guarantees of authenticity”.
I know Omega Speedmasters have the monopoly in this category — and justifiably so — but the intricate finishings of these dials and the inclusion of actual components really elevate this release, as if it’s from another planet (pun intended).
Watches & Wonders 2021 presents the four new Louis Moinet ‘Moon Race’ watches, all powered by the same movement, the calibre LM35.
The calibre LM35 is a mechanical manually-wound movement that comprises of 19-jewels, beats at a frequency of 3Hz, and provides an impressive 72-hour power reserve when fully wound. The movement is finished with circular Côtes de Genève and anglage. The movement is encased inside a 47mm diameter 18k gold case that is water-resistant to 30m (3 ATM). All watches come on an alligator leather strap with a folding clasp and 24mm interhorn lug spacing.
This high-precision tourbillon movement was awarded the First Prize in the International Chronometry Competition recently.
The brand has of course used this movement before, in watches such as ref. LM-35.50.55 Vertalor and Baselworld 2019’s Louis Moinet Mogador, among others.
This hand-wound movement shows the hours and minutes. It is regulated by a one-minute tourbillon. The balance wheel operates at 21,600 vibrations per hour and features regulating screws. The barrel can store up to 72 hours of power reserve. Worth noting is the cool “octopus” spring, which is actually three springs in one: pull-out piece spring, lever spring and click spring. The movement is finely finished with circular Geneva stripes, chamfering, brushing and snailing.
Chapter #1: First on the Moon | 1966
From the intricate hands engravings on the bezel that represent the Luna 9 — on January 31st 1966, the first successful lunar soft landing Soviet space probe was called Luna 9 — to the depiction of the lunar surface, the first timepiece in the series amazes. Hand engravings and miniature paintings rule the lunar canvass here:
- the spacecraft on the left of the dial includes an original piece of woven fibre from Luna 24 and is not only hand-engraved but also painted
- the moon is also hand-engraved and then blackened
- the appliqué Earth is depicted in a highly detailed artistic miniature three-dimensional painting
Finally shimmering in the background is the sky, made of black astralite or aventurine glass. The glimmering effect is stunning enough to turn anyone staring at the dial into a poet.
What I love the most: the attention to detail with the fiery-blue spacecraft ignition at the base
Chapter #2: Man on the Moon | 1969
This is my favourite of the lot, as I said earlier as well. There is something about this particular version that makes me feel a part of this journey; perhaps it’s the only one with a direct, visual human connection.
No point in repeating the story here; I reckon anyone reading this would be aware of America’s 1969 moon-landing. In their own twist, Louis Moinet somewhat dedicates this version as a representation of modern-day Christopher Columbus as Columbus is credited with discovering America. So essentially the man behind the visor is Neil Armstrong meets Columbus. Quirky and cool, I like it. We will call him Mr Cool.
Mr Cool’s spacesuit is hand-engraved and coloured using a miniature painting technique, and I am very impressed by the life-likeness of it with the ripples and curves. The yellowish visor is an authentic fragment of the polyimide film from Apollo 11 and again looks genuinely real. The visor of Mr Cool features a miniature painting with two depictions, carrying the reflection of the lunar module and the unfurling American flag. What’s extra impressive here is that “in order to achieve the finest details, the painter trims the hairs of their brush one by one, using only the last one to create the finest decorations”.
The awesomeness doesn’t end with Mr Cool’s depiction; behind him is the Moon that is represented by a real lunar meteorite, named Dar Al Gani 400.
The bezel is also decorated by hand here, featuring a representation of the Saturn V rocket, and engravings depicting Mr Cool’s first steps on the Moon and the footpads of the Apollo lunar module as it lands.
What I love: the burst of enthusiasm with the yellow on the visor and the hauntingly beautiful ‘floating’ curved earth crafted from black aventurine and lapis lazuli.
Chapter #3: Around the Moon | 1970
This story takes place just one year after the American moon-landing and talks about the Apollo 13 mission. Yes, this is the same mission that Omega has unofficial copyrights to, with the famous Omega Speedmaster proving to be a necessary and welcome device in the mission’s ‘successful-failure’.
This timepiece’s execution is similar to the Chapter #1’s, but the use of multiple ‘rare’ materials rule here:
- the spacecraft, this time on the right of the dial, is inverted compared to the first watch and can be seen heading towards Earth, having circled the Moon. It is hand-crafted and hand-engraved and then enhanced with a fragment of the polyimide film from Apollo 13
- the deep black coloured Onyx and a granite from the Bernese Oberland — Bernese Oberland is the higher part of the canton of Bern, Switzerland — found by Daniel Haas at an altitude of over 2,000 metres — makeup the moon
- the blue Pietersite from Namibia is chosen to evoke the beauty of the Earth
- just like Chapter #1, the glittering sky in made black astralite or aventurine glass
Again the hand-engravings on the bezel continue the story arc, this time depicting the Odyssey service and command module, view of the Moon with a distant Earth, and the command module that landed in the Pacific Ocean.
What I love: the arc that divides the dial into two decocting Earth is uber-cool thanks to the multicoloured fibre inclusions of blue Pietersite and its depiction reminds me of the logo of Universal Pictures.
Chapter #4: Last on the Moon | 1976
The final chapter in Louis Moinet’s moon saga takes place seven years after Mr Cool landed on the moon, this time telling the story of Luna 24, the last probe of the Luna programme to land on the Moon until India and China recently relaunched the moon race.
This time around, even more new materials adorn the timepiece, all symbolic of the Luna 24’s successful journey of finding proof of the existence of water on the Moon:
- between 11 and 12’o clock is the hand-engraved Luna 24, with a real piece of Luna 24 (resin-coated braided fibre) adorning its side
- between 7 and 10’o clock on the left of the dial is the moon, this time depicted entirely different with copper etching to highlight its craters compared to the previous Chapters
- at 1’o clock is the beautifully coloured Earth, shown there with a material called azurite-malachite
- next up at 3’o clock is the yellow Pietersite sun
- finally, we have the emptiness of the great beyond, again represented through black aventurine
- last but not least is the award-winning 60-second tourbillon, located at 6’o clock in all the Chapters and acting as the unifying focal point for this space discovery
What I love: I find the hand-engravings on the bezel of Chapter #4 to be particularly impressive. Featuring the representation of the Russian heavy launcher Proton rocket, lunar engravings, and the design of the Luna 24 space probe, these engravings take the space theme beyond the dial, completing the timepieces as a wholesome package of spatial and wrist discovery.
Since the brand’s revival by Jean-Marie Schaller in 1991, Louis Moinet much like modern-day Breguet and A. Lange & Sohne has been raising the stakes in the field of Haute Horlogerie. The award-winning tourbillon movement is a shining example of this, and the next step in the brand’s evolutionary journey are new timepieces.
In addition to the multiple awards won by the brand, there are two other important milestones, the two Guinness records.
Louis Moinet established his eponymous brand in 1806 but revolutionised watchmaking in 1816 by not only inventing the first chronograph — certified by Guinness World Records in 2016 — but also by developing a high-frequency movement. This was 30Hz and was recently duly recognised by a new Guinness World Record in 2020. Louis Moinet — the master horologer — was looking for a high-frequency pocket watch because, in addition to being a watchmaker, he was also an avid astronomer. Telescopes enabled him to follow the transit of observed stars, but he still needed to be able to measure sixtieths of a second.
The high-frequency movement is also related to space discovery, hence it makes even more sense talking about it here with the release of the new Louis Moinet ‘Moon Race’ Collection from Watches & Wonders 2021.
Talking about space and the modern age, on a slightly deviated off-track, I reckon these new watches seem right up Elon Musk’s alley.
When describing the collection the brand says:
“« Moon Race » is perhaps the most exciting epic of modern times. This space race is staged through four key episodes in the conquest of the Moon. It combines the finest craftsmanship with lunar meteorite and the most spectacular natural stones”.
MB&F and Urwerk regularly champion space-themed offerings, and while they are different in design and execution, they are still worthy of any watch and space enthusiast’s time. Creations like the MB&F Horological Machine N°9 ‘Sapphire Vision’, the MB&F and L’Epée 1839 Destination Moon or the Urwerk UR-100 GunMetal all flirt brilliantly with the concept of space and time.
In regards to watches with tourbillons and engravings, we have visited this competition idea in our review of the new Louis Moinet ‘8 Marvels of the World’ Collection, and that list includes timepieces such as Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon Grand Feu, F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain with Hand-Engraved Régence Dial, Breguet Classique Double Tourbillon 5345, MB&F × H. Moser Endeavour Cylindrical Tourbillon, Chopard Flying T Twin, and Richard Mille RM 71-02 Automatic Tourbillon Talisman among others.
In fact, come to think of it, Louis Moinet’s own watches like the ‘Only Mexico’ also compete with the new Louis Moinet ‘Moon Race’ Collection. The Graff GyroGraff Endangered Species Gorilla is another exceptional release that challenges the Louis Moinet offerings.
Jaquet Droz produces some amazing timepieces especially with their Atelier’s De Art series and watches like Grande Seconde Tourbillon Ivory Enamel deserve special mention. The red Grand Feu paillonné-enameled Grande Seconde Tourbillon Paillonné
But I guess the best way to approach a collection like this is to simply allow it to entice you in its charisma; sometimes certain watches are created that are best observed in isolation.
I realise these are all works of art, but 47mm diameter is still pretty large; I wonder how well these look on watches with diameters more suited towards a large variety of wrist sizes, say 44mm?
Also, like Baselworld 2019’s Louis Moinet Moon watches celebrating 150 years of Jules’ Verne Around the Moon that were released in both precious material and steel, I wish Louis Moinet also released a cheaper, more in production numbers, steel variant of this moon-race concept to reach a wider audience.
That’s All Folks!
Sit back and launch on this cosmic journey that the new Louis Moinet ‘Moon Race’ Collection takes you on. All four chapters are exquisite in their own right, and as a final touch of class, they will be presented inside a bespoke travel trunk made from natural elm burr wood with a black-lacquered Fleur de Lys pattern that will house these four one-of-a-kinds ‘Moon Race’ watches.
Neil Armstrong’s iconic words from the moon were: “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind”.
The new Louis Moinet ‘Moon Race’ Collection is the epitome of watchmaking excellence that’s one small step for this innovative brand, but one giant leap for horology.
These stellar timepieces represent mankind’s interstellar journeys. What would yours be?
To find out more about the new Louis Moinet ‘Moon Race’ Collection and other Louis Moinet watches, please head to their website here. All images unless otherwise specified are © 2021 LES ATELIERS LOUIS MOINET. Make sure to check out our reviews of other Watches & Wonders 2021 releases here.