This week on “Vintage Eye,” we visit one of the most hotly debated vintage-inspired watches of the past few years, taking a deep dive into the Maurice Lacroix Aikon Automatic 42mm.
If you’re unfamiliar with the watch — but are familiar with a little model called the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak — then you can likely understand straight off the bat the cause for contention. Since the Aikon Automatic’s release (and even before its release, in the previous quartz iteration), it has been compared nonstop to the original Royal Oak, and for many commentators and collectors the watch represents a bargain-priced “homage” rather than a watch that stands on its own design grounds. Nonetheless, in large part due to its significantly more accessible price point in combination with the quality of its build, the watch has been able to strike a chord among fashion and trend-focused consumers, and makes Maurice Lacroix something of a player in the steel sports watch category.
The Aikon Automatic is available in four dial options (blue, silver, black, and grey) with the choice of either an integrated steel bracelet or a leather strap (which itself is available in a few different color and material options). Using a uniquely shaped 42-mm steel case (though the brand also offers a very similar 39-mm option), the watch features a combination of brushed and polished finishing on its many facets, with a faceted crown matching the style. The face of the watch is its central style component, with the familiar checkerboard “Clous de Paris” textured dial, a small date window at 3 o’clock, applied elongated hour markers with double markers at each quarter, and matching elongated hands to tell the time. Maurice Lacroix has made clear efforts to elevate the quality of the dial’s finishing, adding the additional sun-brushed component to the already complex “Clous de Paris” texture; in addition, the hands and hour markers are rhodium-plated, an uncommon feature at this price point and one that lifts these elements past a standard hand set.
Inside the Aikon Automatic is the ML115 automatic movement, which is a brand-signed Sellita SW200-1 caliber. The movement is capable of a 38-hour power reserve, and is visible through a sapphire caseback. In the experience of this writer, the movement is the least spectacular aspect of the watch, featuring only standard Sellita finishing in combination with Maurice Lacroix’s logo, rather than an elevated level of finishing clearly demonstrated by the Swiss manufacturer.
The steel bracelet options are priced just below 2k at $1,990, while the leather strap options are slightly cheaper at $1,890. All models are available at Maurice Lacroix retailers and boutiques worldwide, and also directly through the brand’s website, here.
As is apparent, the modern Aikon Automatic 42 takes many of its design inspirations from the Royal Oak. Sporting a blue “Clous de Paris” dial, an integrated bracelet, a distinctively styled bezel, thin baton hands and hour markers, the model’s DNA is evident.
As background, the original Audemars Piguet Royal Oak was the Ref. 5402, first developed at the start of the Quartz Crisis and released in 1972. From its initial release through the modern day, it has retained many of the vintage elements that have influenced not only this modern Maurice Lacroix but plenty of other contemporary watches. That the modern Royal Oak, the Ref. 15500, continues to feature most of its original character is itself a point of discussion on artistic stagnancy, but there’s no debating the model’s lasting impact on the world of luxury sports watches. We all know the leaders of that category, the Royal Oak from AP and the Nautilus from Patek Philippe, but there’s been a recent surge in new players, from models offered by Vacheron Constantin and Chopard, to even Bell & Ross and Bulgari; and it would be hard not to mention one of the latest and most discussed members of the category, the A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus.
I have observed above, and other writers have commented, on the somewhat lackluster quality of the finishing for the movement of the Aikon Automatic; that said, it’s still easy to extol the overall finishing of the watch itself, from case to dial to bracelet. This combination of an impressively finished exterior with a more basic interior speaks to the overall ethos of the watch; it’s an aesthetically derived model geared toward the more fashion-oriented and trend-focused watch buyer more so than the hardcore horophiles typically found on forums and in collectors’ circles. At just under $2,000 the piece represents something significantly more accessible for the larger market, and for those craving a Royal Oak style without the desire or budget to actually own one, the Maurice Lacroix model represents a significant value proposition.
For the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which we discuss the Mido Multifort Patrimony and the historical watch that inspired it, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first discovering horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.