Limited to 20 piecesMaurice Lacroix MÉMOIRE 1 – The Brilliance of Simplicity
Can a mechanism remember? From now on, the answer is “yes”! Maurice Lacroix developed the first memory function for a mechanical watch. This completely new Grande Complication, which will find its initial application in the exclusive Mémoire 1 chronograph, limited to 20 pieces, is a new milestone in the history of the art of Swiss watchmaking.
This watch has only two hands – one for the minutes and one for the seconds – along with a disc to indicate the hours. And yet, Maurice Lacroix is presenting at Baselworld 2008 with the Mémoire 1 one of the most complicated watches ever developed! The reason is that a revolutionary design sits inside this chronograph, limited to 20 pieces, – the first memory function for a mechanical timepiece. An indication at 3 o’clock reveals the secret: By pressing the button integrated into the crown, the mode changes from “Time” to “Chrono”. The hands and the hours disc immediately change their positions. If their previous function was telling the current time, they are now available for the precise measurement of time intervals. When the button is pressed once again, they all return to their positions for telling time. Even when the chronograph is running, it is still possible to shift back and forth between the two modes without losing the infor¬mation provided by one or the other function.
The memory function of the ML 128 manufacture movement, which makes possible this unique connection between the time and chronograph indications, is a major new Grande Complication that Maurice Lacroix developed to enrich the world of mechanical timekeeping. The mechanism and movement were completely designed and developed in the new “Atelier de Maurice Lacroix”. The result of this intensive process is a highly complex calibre made of 604 components for which Maurice Lacroix has already submitted two patent applications.
MAURICE LACROIX PRESENTS A NEW BASE MOVEMENT
The ML 128 calibre of Mémoire 1 is constructed using 604 components. Some of these form the base movement, because even the best and most sophisticated complications need to be “fed with energy”. This is why a completely new movement has been created, step by step.
Even though the technical features of this movement are imposing, the design and the transparency of it are not of less importance. Because it wasn’t simply a matter of creating a new mechanical memory complication, the wearer had to be able to admire the workings and its constituent elements. This is why all the components and their positions in the heart of the watch have been conceived in both logical and aesthetic terms.
Thus the automatic winding system consists of an exocentric oscillating assembly, which permits to show the regulatory system to advantage. Thanks to its small dimensions, the rotor does not cover the surface entirely and therefore offers a view into the workings of the Mémoire 1 from the underside of the watch. So that it can perform the necessary rapid and efficient winding of the barrel, the rotor has been constructed in tungsten, which is a heavy material. But with an asymmetrical design and an unconventional shape, this rotor has been developed with the aim of achieving good, aesthetic integration in the special turret shape of the bridges of this movement.
The pure decoration and the innovative PVD surface treatment in tantalum colour bring the image of Maurice Lacroix to the fore. The specialists have pushed harmony as far as it can go and even went so far as to construct the screws on the bridges in a shape resembling that of the turret, so that the overall view forms a harmonious whole.
The rotor pivots on a ball bearing developed specifically for the requirements of this new calibre and works directly in the reverse, via the expedient of a “magic pawl” which optimizes all the wrist movements of the wearer. A bi-directional winding has been retained in order to allow maximum winding litheness and also guarantee maximum torque.
Wheels that turn backwards
The power supplied by the automatic mechanism is transmitted to a barrel which has a strong energy density and this allows a power reserve of more than four days. From the barrel, the movement turns backwards. This allows a spring to be compressed on the barrel arbour, which is exactly the same as in a traditional movement. However, this spring compresses from right to left instead of from left to right. The result is logical: the wheels which transfer the motor power to the regulator turn backwards.
Technology and aesthetics in perfect harmony
These wheels are endowed with the most modern profiles, which allow optimum performance to be achieved. It is the equivalent of transmitting the energy emitted by the barrel under optimum conditions. Furthermore, the special shape of the wheel arms, as well as their colour, also give a strong visual identification to Mémoire 1. Thus one can sense the philosophy that dominates this exceptional piece: logic married to technology and aesthetics. Finally, and as always for technical and aesthetic reasons, the stones which decorate the movement are white and transparent. Of course this is all part of the aesthetic philosophy of Mémoire 1, but it also makes it possible to visualize and control the intermeshing between pinions and crown wheels. Moreover, the watchmaker can clearly see the drop of oil placed in the hollow section of the stone in which the pinion pivots.
After having transmitted through the wheels, the energy is passed on to the escapement. This has been developed especially for this new calibre carrying the signature of Maurice Lacroix because it has been totally adapted to the needs of its complication. The creators wanted to show it, to have it valued, as if to give all their importance to the heart of a watch that beats without a break and marks the passage of time.
As for the balance, this has been given a core of transparent sapphire and a felloe of gold, which underlines the depth of the movement, yet gives an airy impression to the whole regulation system. Finally, this mechanism is equipped with a new precision adjustment, different from the traditional swan’s neck design. This system, developed by Maurice Lacroix, will considerably simplify the work of the watchmaker when trying to obtain the best performance for the ML 128 calibre, which beats at 28,800 semi-oscillations per hour.
Furthermore, with an exceptional movement comes exceptional service. In order to be able to guarantee complete information for those wearing it, the movement of Mémoire 1 is supplied with a plate displaying service times, so the wearer can see when the next necessary service is due. Finally, this movement has an identity personalized by the name of the watchmaker responsible for assembling the elements of this Grande Complication, which bears the signature of Maurice Lacroix.
THE COMPLICATIONS OF THE MÉMOIRE 1 – THE SPIRIT OF THE WATCHMAKER’S INVENTIVE POWERS AT ITS HIGHEST LEVEL
The base movement of this chronograph is a sufficiently major feature alone; it has been perfected, however, through the watchmaking ingeniousness of its complications. Even if it does not seem so at first glance, the Mémoire 1 really is a chronograph. Using the button integrated directly into the crown, you can switch between time and chronograph mode. The indication of the selected mode is taken over by a small hand near 3 o’clock. This operation is made possible thanks to an ingenious mechanism, which the creators christened ‘va et vient’ (‘come and go’) and for which Maurice Lacroix has already filed a patent.
Starting, stopping, and resetting the chronograph function the same way on the Mémoire 1 as with the stopwatch functions on all other similar timepieces: Pressing a button near 2 o’clock starts and stops timekeeping; resetting the hands is done with the button at 4 o’clock. A heart-shaped metal component – one for each indication: hours, minutes and seconds – allows the chronograph hands to jump back to their initial positions at 12 o’clock. The Mémoire 1 is equipped not only with three but with more of these chronograph hearts.
All or nothing
The principle of ‘all or nothing’ permits the release of the detent arm on most watches with minute repetition when the appropriate rack has been fully pressed. If the wearer completely presses the corresponding button, the watch movement counts the full hours, quarter hours and minutes. However, if the button is not pressed to the bottom, the function does not start. The Mémoire 1 is equipped with a similar system, which guarantees the perfect functioning of the mode change. This system is not only very interesting from a technical point of view, it also makes it much easier to tell the time because it ensures the precision of the indications of hours, minutes and seconds.
As soon as the selection mode with its ‘va et vient’ mechanism is pressed, a connecting mechanism, which is based on the principle of ‘all or nothing’, sets the three systems of the memory function in motion. These Mémoire systems are ingenious watchmaking devices that correspond to the indications – hours, minutes and seconds.
Not least, the Mémoire 1 has a date indication based on a newly developed mechanism, which unifies technology, design and readability perfectly. Contrary to traditional large date indications, the date on the Mémoire 1 is very discrete in order not to spoil the harmony of the dial while not compromising any of its easy readability. The memory function of Mémoire 1 will certainly be recorded in annals for haute horlogerie as an incomparable Grande Complication.