Having seen the turbulent recent years of the watch industry, it sure takes some admirable self-confidence to start a watch brand from scratch. Arguably, one would need a solid starting idea, a unique selling point, coherent and powerful design DNA, a decent movement... all offered at a competitive price. In an effort to tick all of these boxes, the Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure marks the first collection of this new company that was established by two engineers, Eric Mauron and Christophe Musy. Let's see how this new piece of "Armor" fairs in battle.
The Beginnings – In A Nutshell
The two met in the late 1990s, when Eric was the managing director of Régis Mauron SA, a company that specialized in the machining of mechanical parts, and Christophe was serving an internship as a mechanic. It was more recently, in 2012, that they set out to create something new and that the Mauron Musy company in St. Aubin, Switzerland, was born. That "something new" was to be based on their extensive knowledge and experience in precision engineering – a prowess you can actually sense and feel when you pick the Armure up, but more on that a bit later.
"nO-Ring" Technology: A Gasket-Free Case Design
So, what is that solid starting idea that makes Mauron Musy's work unique? There are a handful of things to consider, but what stands out most is their "nO-Ring" case design, that allowed them to fully omit the use of rubber gaskets and seals. Traditionally, watch cases are composed of several separate components which are made waterproof by inserting synthetic rings (sometimes called "O-rings") between them. The key problem with these gaskets, the two say, is that they have a limited lifespan: over time, the synthetic material deteriorates, it hardens up and fails to maintain a perfect seal between the case's middle element and the bezel as well as the caseback, not to mention the frequently used crown.
To leave gaskets out of the equation altogether, first, the nO-Ring technology does away with clamping screws to avoid any risk of deforming the case components' flat surfaces. The glass and the back are clamped down by satellite springs placed around the entire perimeter, compressed and tensed by the closure of the case-band (the middle section) and the bezel. The parts are divided into several segments held together and secured by hinges during the assembly process, based on the same principle as clamp braces.
In essence, the technology is based on the components' surfaces being machined and fitting together with extremely high precision, held together by the controlled tension achieved by the springs and hinges.
The surfaces in contact with the various components are "hardened, lapped with a grinding tool and then reworked to ensure the required flatness and the appropriate roughness of the surface profile," the brand explains. So much goes for the case, but what's up with the crown? This makes us wonder why nobody else has tried it before: each crown shaft is fitted in its bearing, creating such a "nanometrically accurate fit" that there is no risk of infiltration, even when the crown is operated underwater.
All this engineering nerdfest allows the Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure to remain water-resistant to a depth rating of 100 meters, and the brand says that you can even fiddle with the crown under water and you need not fear water entering the case. My love for watches allowed me to try this very briefly – it was a cringe-worthy experience, and while the Armure showed no water or condensation inside the case after the test, I'd still advise that you don't try this at home and always make sure that the crown is pushed all the way in (it does not screw down) when you go swimming or scuba diving with your Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure. M'kay?
Fit & Finish
Many of us watch enthusiasts are hardcore nerds at heart, who are fascinated by how things are made and put together. We have always had – and over the years have heavily developed – our sense for quality of execution and, for that reason, we find well-made things to be especially satisfying to look at, wear, or simply admire. More satisfying, than, say, rocking the latest trend, or the "dopest" brand name-dropped in rap songs.
For that reason, a brand like Mauron Musy – established and run by two like-minded engineers who are utterly obsessed with high precision machining – we can still find to be hugely exciting. The Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure is cool and fascinating because these origins become immediately apparent once you have it in your hand, even if you have no idea where, how, or by whom it was made.
There is an unapologetic and almost complete lack of soul in the Armure – the only human element to it comes from how you can reflect on the painstaking work that must have gone into machining it with such unearthly precision. Some watches, like the ones made by Bexei or Voutilainen, have a tangible "handmade-ness" to them, comparable to what you can feel/touch/smell around vintage race cars or with handmade shoes.
The Armure is beautifully made and has several years of man-hours in fine tuning components and machining techniques – which is all human effort that went into its creation. With that said, the Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure still falls at the other end of the spectrum from those aforementioned independents (even if we disregard the price). With its intense-looking and -feeling design, where every layer, part, and cut-out feels functional first, and aesthetically pleasing second.
Having handled all kinds of high-end watches crafted from different types of steel, gold, as well as more modern materials including carbon and composites, I still have to say that the Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure, when held in hand and scrutinized up close, feels like very few of them. It is no news that today's manufacturing technologies are sublimely advanced, and you don't have to pay top dollar for a luxury watch to get a sense of that – it's there in nearly every premium electronic device, for instance.
Yet, the Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure feels and looks as though every single component has been machined and fitted just that tiny little bit more tightly, with tolerances so microscopic, that the high-tech machining know-how behind its manufacturing actually becomes tangible.
If your primary preference in luxury products is seeing the traits of hand-finishing and the "craftsman's touch" in the finer details, in the Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure you'll not find exactly what you are looking for. If you appreciate the fit and finish of extremely well-made, modern products, you are definitely in for a treat, though.
How can there still be a difference in fit and finish among high-end watches produced today? Nearly all luxury watches of our time are machined and put together with amazingly small tolerances, but there still seems to be a way for the human eye to perceive a difference achieved through imperceptible improvements – it just works that way.
When it comes to finishing, there is a very clever mix of brushed, satinated, and polished elements. Once looked at more closely, it becomes apparent how the different layers of the case have been separated from each other: brushed and satin finished segments follow each other all the way up to the only polished part of the Armure, which is the end of the bezel. Even this bit is intelligently placed, as it adds some extra flair and sense of refinement to the otherwise rather industrial looking package, and also frames the dial and its polished indices. The Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure could easily have turned into a "robot turd" (to quote the infamous John Biggs), but instead it looks every bit as high-end and refined as it has to.