Angus Davies reviews the Louis Moinet Nelson Piquet Chronograph, a watch incorporating a plethora of interesting elements and delivering sublime eye-appeal, in this article from his online magazine, Escapement.
A few weeks ago, I visited Les Ateliers Louis Moinet in Saint-Blaise, Switzerland. Whilst touring the premises of this small Swiss watch company, I noted pictures on the wall of Brazilian motorsport legend Nelson Piquet and learned that the CEO of the company, Jean-Marie Schaller, has a profound love of motorsport. Having gotten to know Piquet personally, Schaller has produced a watch in recognition of the driver’s achievements. I must admit, it is some time since I have heard the name Nelson Piquet and when I learned of this timepiece, made in his honor, it made me feel a tad nostalgic.
I remember watching coverage of Formula One on BBC2 on Sunday evening back in the 1980s. At the time, the Brazilian drove a white Brabham sporting adverts for Parmalat, a large Italian dairy company. Racing seemed more exciting back then, with greater unpredictability and seemingly more wheel-to-wheel action. While Piquet would drive for various other teams in his career, it is the image of him at the wheel of a Brabham which I vividly recall. The Louis Moinet Nelson Piquet timepiece is a chronograph, which seems a logical complication to feature on a watch of this nature. Firstly, watchmaker Louis Moinet, the modern company’s namesake, invented the chronograph in 1816. Secondly, Piquet spent most of his working life striving to improve lap times, often competing against a stopwatch as well as fellow drivers.
Unusually, the dial appears to be split in two halves, with two subdials virtually spanning the central section of the watch face and providing demarcation between the upper and lower dial areas. At 3 o’clock, a large 30-minute chronograph register resides, framed with a silver-colored border. Positioned at 9 o’clock is a small seconds display, sharing the same scale and design as its neighbor, save for the hand, which is entirely blue. Both subdials remind me of instruments typically found on a car dashboard.
The upper portion of the dial is presented in a blue shade, free of any pattern, whereas the lower aspect features a côtes de Genève motif, infused with the same blue hue. The lower portion of the dial features Nelson Piquet’s signature at 5 o’clock and a 12-hour chronograph register above 6 o’clock. This latter register seems a little small, but — charmingly — reminds me of a pressure gauge, augmenting the eye-appeal of the dial.
The hour and minute hands are bold and luminescent, proving easy to read. The central chronograph hand is predominantly blue with a silver-colored counterweight. Each hour is indicated with bright, silver-colored Arabic numerals which evince a neoteric character. Framing the central dial area is a chapter ring with corresponding Arabic numerals marked on the inner flange. The dial design is clean, eye-catching and very attractive. Indeed, I am not alone in this opinion, as the watch received a Red Dot Design award in 2013, reaffirming this watch company’s prowess at conceiving aesthetically alluring models.
The case is constructed of 316L stainless steel, pairing polished and matte surfaces. While the watch has a case diameter of 45.6 mm and height of 17.1 mm, it felt smaller when placed upon the arm and did not feel cumbersome or impinge on free movement of the wrist.
Louis Moinet has expended much energy into carefully honing various details of this watch to magnificent effect. The bezel is a perfect illustration of this. It consists of two key elements, an upper and a lower section. The upper section of the bezel is stainless steel and marked with a tachymeter scale and is affixed to the lower bezel with six screws. The lower bezel is constructed of carbon fiber, a material prevalent in motorsport.
On the vertical face of each push-piece is a motif resembling a checkered flag, stylishly depicted in stainless steel. However, admiring the watch from the front reveals sections of carbon fiber gracing the sides of each push-piece, effectively sandwiched between stainless steel elements. The references to motorsport are omnipresent and judiciously employed.
The caseback is retained with seven screws and features a tinted sapphire crystal. It is engraved with the name of Nelson Piquet, together with the years he secured his three world championships and an engraved garland pattern, reinforcing the motorsport symbolism.
The watch is fitted with a blue rubber strap and is paired with a stainless steel deployant clasp.
The LM33 movement in the Louis Moinet Nelson Piquet Chronograph is self-winding with a frequency of 28,800 vph (4 Hz), contains 25 jewels and has a power reserve of 44 hours.
The oscillating mass is openworked, revealing many of the movement components beneath. Unlike many modern watches, the number and size of the bridges is minimal, allowing the wearer to see the balance, gear train and crown wheel. I applaud this approach, as it grants greater interaction between the owner of the watch and the mechanical maneuvers of the movement. Despite this being a modern timepiece, there remain several examples of traditional finishing synonymous with Swiss watchmaking. Indeed, blued screws, perlage and côtes de Genève all feature on the LM33 movement.
I have a long-held fascination with motorsport and confess that on hearing the name Nelson Piquet, my interest was piqued, leading me to direct my attention to this watch. However, my affection and respect for the Brazilian driver would not be sufficient reason alone to persuade me to like a watch that bore his name. The Louis Moinet Nelson Piquet Chronograph is a very handsome timepiece. The design expertly steers a wise course, avoiding excessive motorsport clichés whilst clearly taking inspiration from Nelson’s world. It is the masterful incorporation of various details which makes this a wonderfully attractive watch with a unique character.
- Model: Louis Moinet Nelson Piquet Chronograph
- Reference: LM-33-10.20
- Case: Stainless steel 316L; diameter 45.6 mm; height 17.1 mm; water-resistant to 50 meters; sapphire crystal front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; chronograph
- Movement: Caliber LM33; self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 25 jewels; power reserve of 44 hours
- Strap: Blue rubber strap presented on a stainless steel deployant clasp
- Limited Edition: 365 pieces
- Price: CHF 9,900( RRP as at 2-12-2014)