The Eyes Have It: Testing the Maurice Lacroix Pontos S


The Maurice Lacroix Pontos S is a looker. Is the beauty more than skin deep? We find out in this in-depth watch test, with original photography by Robert Atkinson.

There’s an old saying in watch retailing that you only have to sell the dial. That may apply more often to novices than to readers of this publication, but at the end of the day, even experienced collectors can fall for a pretty face. If the retailers’ saying holds water, our test watch should be doing well, because in the crowded world of 7750-based chronographs, this one turns heads.

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Our test watch is the Maurice Lacroix Pontos S, and it offers two visual elements that distinguish it from similar chronographs: the colorful internal rotating elapsed-time bezel and the date display at 6 o’clock. The inner bezel is operated via the color-coded knurled ring that is co-axial with the chronograph pusher at 2 o’clock. To adjust the inner bezel, the ring must be depressed and turned at the same time, against some fairly stiff resistance. This helps protect against accidental adjustment. This system is the subject of both utility (unique mechanism) and design (appearance) patents. In use, the system has the solid feel of a well-made machine. Bezels of this type appear to be in vogue, which is not surprising given that they look great, and they help watch designers disguise small movements in large cases.

 The color-coordinated ring on the top pusher is used to operate the inner rotating bezel.
The color-coordinated ring on the top pusher is used to operate the inner rotating bezel.

The bezel sits above the dial, providing a 3-D quality. The minutes track appears on the bezel’s angled inner edge. Maurice Lacroix offers the bezel in silver, red, blue or orange, and the chosen color also appears on the NATO strap and on the ends of the minutes and chronograph seconds hands. The subdials include 30-minute and 12-hour counters, with continuous seconds at 9 o’clock. These dials may be small, but they catch the eye. The futuristic font for the numbers is very  appealing. The minutes and hour counters are snailed at the edges and smooth in the center, while the continuous seconds subdial has the opposite finishes. Broad, silver “bezels” surround each counter, setting them off nicely. Both the bezels and the applied hour markers reflect the light, adding some sparkle to the dial. The date display appears at the bottom of the sub- dial at 6 o’clock, and the date disk sits directly below the dial, not down in a hole where it’s harder to see.

When it comes to legibility, the results depend somewhat on your choice of color. The hands are good lengths, and the subdials are very easy to read. We had both orange and blue models, and on the blue version, we found that the color on the minutes and chronograph seconds hands reduced legibility somewhat compared with the orange. The chronograph seconds track shows only full seconds, so this is not the watch for you if you need to read fractions of seconds with absolute precision.

A date window sits at the bottom of the hour-counter subdial.
A date window sits at the bottom of the hour-counter subdial.

The hour and minutes hands, and those on the small registers, have luminous material, as do the hour markers and the small “pearl” on the inner bezel. The chronograph seconds hand does not. In our luminosity test, following a full charge, the displays were easy to read for about six hours. After that, you’ll have to let your eyes adjust to the dark for a minute to read the displays. If your eyes are fully adjusted to the dark, as they would be in the middle of the night, you can read the time for up to 20 hours.

We measured the case on our test watch at 44 mm in diameter and 16.3 mm thick. The case and bracelet are fashioned from 316L stainless steel. The watch is rated antimagnetic to 4,800 A/m. The crystal is domed sapphire with a nonreflective coating on both sides.

Maurice Lacroix has done a good job mixing polished and brushed finishes to create a high-quality look. The top and bottom edges of the thin bezel are polished, while the side of the bezel is brushed. The crown and pushers are brushed, with polished bevels near the ends. The case band has a fine brushed finish with a polished bevel along the top, outside edges of the lugs. The lugs have an interesting shape: they leave the case band at a 90-degree angle, then curve down sharply. The space between the lugs is well finished. The solid caseback bears the brand and model names and a round crosshatch pattern in the center. As proclaimed on the dial, the case offers 200-meter water resistance, and Maurice Lacroix tells us that the chronograph can be used to the full rated depth of the watch.

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Each Pontos S is delivered with both a NATO strap and a bracelet. Our test watches weighed in at 123 grams and 219 grams, respectively. The strap is robust and well made. The material was thick and a bit stiff out of the box, but it softened up with wear. The pin buckle is basic though good quality with milled components. Two stainless-steel keepers are stitched in place. On the whole, the strap is a rugged piece of kit. The only niggle is that the thick strap causes the watch to sit a bit high on the wrist.

Each Pontos S comes with a nylon NATO strap and a steel bracelet.
Each Pontos S comes with a nylon NATO strap and a steel bracelet.

 

The three-link bracelet attaches to the case with a traditional spring bar, and we much prefer the fit on the wrist with the bracelet. The bracelet includes 10 full links and two half links. I removed one full link to achieve a good fit on my 7 ¾-inch wrist.

Our experience with the bracelet revealed pluses and minuses. As with the rest of the watch, the aesthetics are very good. The bracelet has a fine, satin-brushed finish. The outer edges of the broad center links have polished bevels. Unfortunately, the beauty is only skin deep. The links are held together with friction pins, and the clasp uses a friction-fit folding lock, not push buttons. The folding lock on our test watch required significant force to open, which caused us to notice a metal edge that was a bit too sharp. When the clasp was closed, it made a hollow sound, like the closing door on an inexpensive car. The bracelet is nice-looking, but we expect a better build quality at this price.

The bracelet is good looking but not very well made.
The bracelet is good looking but not very well made.

Maurice Lacroix uses both the ETA 7750 in the “élaboré” grade and the Sellita SW500 in the “spécial” grade in the Pontos S. The SW500 is designed to be a drop-in replacement or “clone” of the 7750. For all practical purposes, the movements are identical, and Sellita has the experience to produce a reliable movement.

The Pontos S crown is easily grasped and the winding action is smooth. The quick-set date is efficient, advancing through the digits quickly. The movement is equipped with a stop-seconds feature. The pusher action is precise, with a nice click to confirm each action. More force is required to start the chronograph than to stop or reset it. The chronograph seconds hand started smoothly, with no jump, though once in motion, the hand did exhibit a small amount of stutter that is typical in 7750-based calibers. The minutes counter advances in the last few seconds of each elapsing minute. All chronograph displays reliably reset to zero.

In our timing test, the Pontos S ran -3 seconds per day on the wrist with the chronograph off. On the Witschi timing machine, our test watch ran consistently slow and exhibited some large positional variations in rate. With the chronograph off, the average rate was -7.3 seconds per day, and the greatest deviation in rate was 13.3 seconds (-2.8 crown left, -16.1 crown right). With the chronograph on, the average rate was -12.8 seconds per day, and the greatest deviation in rate was 12.4 seconds (-6.7 dial up, -19.1 seconds crown right). Complete timing results appear in the Specs below.

To our eyes, the Maurice Lacroix Pontos S is a looker. The matching bezel/NATO strap combinations, and the date at 6 o’clock, help distinguish it visually in the crowded 7750-chronograph market. The patented internal rotating bezel and the chronograph that can be used at 200 meters are real benefits. However, at $4,500, the competition is stiff. Chronographs from better-known brands come into play, and other Swiss-made, steel, 7750-based chronographs are available for less. For many enthusiasts, the motivation to purchase a watch is simple: look at your wrist and like what you see. If you share that view, try on a Pontos S and see if it calls to you.

SPECS:
Manufacturer: Maurice Lacroix SA, Rüschlistrasse 6, CH-2502 Bienne
Reference number: PT6008-SS02-332 Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds; chronograph with 30-minute and 12-hour counters, date
Movement: ETA 7750 “élaboré” or Sellita SW500 “spécial,” automatic winding, 28,800 vph, 25 jewels, stop seconds, quick date corrector, Incabloc shock protection, nickel gilt balance, Nivarox 2 balance spring, 46-hour power reserve, diameter = 30 mm, height = 7.9 mm
Case: Three-piece stainless steel, solid screw-in caseback, domed, nonreflective-coated sapphire crystal, water resistant to 200 m
Bracelet and clasp: Nylon NATO-style strap and stainless-steel bracelet with folding and locking clasp
Rate results: Deviations in seconds per 24 hours (With chronograph switched off/on) Dial up -3.8/-6.7 Dial down -3.8/-8.0 Crown up -13.4/-18.2 Crown down -3.8/-11.8 Crown left -2.8/-12.7 Crown right -16.1/-19.1 Greatest deviation of rate 13.3/12.4 Average deviation -7.3/-12.8
Average amplitude: Flat positions 307°/289° Hanging positions 287°/264°
Dimensions: Diameter = 44 mm, height = 16.3 mm, weight = 123 g on strap, 219 g on bracelet
Variations: With silver or red accents
Price: $4,500

Timing test performed by Wempe Jewelers, New York City

SCORES
Bracelet and clasp (max. 10 points): The strap is well made, but the bracelet quality should be better. 7
Operation (5): The crown, pushers and rotating bezel feel good in use. The pusher action is precise. The chronograph seconds hand exhibits the typical 7750 stutter. 4
Case (10): b The case is well made and the finishing details contribute to the overall good looks. The patented inner-rotating- bezel control system is a plus. 9
Design (15): To our eyes, this is a very good looking watch that stands out in a crowded field. 14
Legibility (5): The hands are the right lengths and the chronograph displays are easy to read. 4 Wearing comfort (10): The bracelet offers a comfortable fit while the thick NATO strap makes the watch ride a bit high on the wrist. 8
Movement (20): The ETA “elaboré” and Sellita “spécial” grades are entry- level and the movement is essentially unmodified. 12
Rate results (10): The performance on the wrist was not too bad, but the Witschi numbers revealed large deviations between positions. 6
Overall value (15): At $4,500, there are quite a few chronographs to choose from. This one offers great looks, a patented internal dive-bezel system, and a chronograph that can be used at 200 m. On the other hand, the movements are stock, entry-level models. 11
TOTAL: 75 POINTS

This article originally appeared in the September-October 2014 issue of WatchTime.

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