Someday I'd like to hear the real story of Franck Muller's history as a watch brand. As a timepiece maker it is a fascinating company that has done a lot and gained a laudable amount of popularity for a high-end exclusive watch maker. Having said that, the Franck Muller group has certainly had its series of ups and downs from severe economic woes to quasi-scandals. The brand has been admired as helping to bring the luxury watch into new areas of culture with innovative marketing and some very unique watches (such as the Crazy Hour), but at the same time have a bit of a struggle in certain sectors where they are overcoming a reputation for quality issues. Oh, to be in the high-end watch business!
The Franck Muller of today is more restrained and simple that its former self. While the air of avant garde still remains, as a brand they have consolidated and are trying to focus on what really works for them. A few months ago the rumor of a new entry-level in-house movement hinted at the upcoming release of these Vintage Curvex 7-Days Power Reserve models. And here they are. Fresh from Geneva with that iconic Curvex (which most people call tonneau) shaped case and a new long-power reserve movement.
The models seen are just the gold versions, they will be offered in steel as well. The press release from Franck Muller focused almost entirely on the movement and not the watches themselves. I truly hate when that happens, as it makes it most difficult to tell people exactly what they will be able to buy. What's with the cloak and dagger approach Franck Muller? Having said that I am pretty sure that the watches will be in the 35.90mm wide x 50.30mm tall versions of the Curvex case... or something very close. I have to say that Franck Muller (for me) is the brand that made tonneau-shaped cases seem wearable. Before Franck Muller, I felt this style of case only looked good on the wrists of men with extremely plump fingers who regularly smoke cigars.
Why Franck Muller decided to place their new in-house made FM 1700 caliber movement in a Vintage styled watch isn't clear to me. The new Vintage Curvex watch isn't much different than most other models, save for some dial details. One version has a railroad track style minute marker ring, while other versions have more clean dials with just the hour markers and that iconic Franck Muller font. Light and dark dial options with gold trim make for an attractive appearance.
As I have mentioned, the movement is the new Franck Muller in-house made FM 1700. It is a manually wound movement with a full week of power reserve. Going in line with the "Vintage" part of the name, the movement has a slower operating speed of 18,000 bph which no doubt helps it keep such a long power reserve.
Over on the dial you can appreciate the movement's complications. The subsidiary seconds dial is slightly recessed within a nice looking gold ring, and the power reserve indicator is one of the piece's most distinctive elements. In the past I've seen several Franck Muller watches with highly diminutive power reserve indicators. On the one hand I love this. The indicator is small and out of the way, but there when you need it. I've said many times that I simply don't like wearing the majority of manually wound movement based watches if they don't have a power reserve indicator. It feels like I am driving a car without a fuel gauge.
The power reserve indicator is small enough to not disrupt the dial in any significant way, which is great. So the only bad news is that some people need it to be larger. Either they have trouble reading the tiny numbers on the disc in the dial, or they keep their watches off their wrist and like to see from afar whether the watch needs winding or not. So while the out-of-the-way nature of the power reserve indicator is a blessing, it is also a curse for some people as it will be too small to use.
The design of the FM 1700 is pleasant but not overly distinctive. It does the job though and is viewable through a sapphire caseaback window. I look forward to seeing the new Franck Muller Vintage Curvex 7-Days Power Reserve watches hands-on soon. Price is about $22,500 in 18k rose gold and about $11,000 in steel.
Tech Specs from Franck Muller:
VINTAGE (CURVEX) 7-DAYS POWER RESERVE
Caliber: FM 1700
Movement: Mechanical with manual-winding, Two barrels, in-house
manufactured Breguet hairspring, high performance FM
escapement and balance screw
Dimensions of Movement: Ø 31.00 mm and height: 5.00 mm
Power Reserve: 7 days
Frequency: 18’000 vibrations / hour
Number of Components: 213
Number of Jewels: 27
Movement decoration: Côtes de Genève, circular graining, hand bevelling
Display: Hours and minutes, Seconds at 6 hours, Power reserve