April 8, 2019
by Rob Nudds
Franck Muller watches rarely go unnoticed. The eye-catching, curvaceous tonneau case shape for which the brand is well known demands attention, regardless of your feelings toward it. I’ve always seen Franck Muller as a brand that fills a particular niche. It is, in my mind at least, the glossier, more classically influenced precious-metal counterpart to the high-tech futurism of Richard Mille. These are watches for those who want to talk about their timepieces. And if you want to make sure you get the conversation started, what better way to do that than to color your watch in either bright green or bright yellow. That’s exactly the tactic explored by the Franck Muller Vanguard Racing V 45 SC DT watches that we’re taking a hands-on look at in this article.
It’s been a long time since we reviewed a time/date-only Vanguard, with the last such model (the Frank Muller Vanguard Glacier watch) appearing on aBlogtoWatch in 2016. So what’s changed with the collection since then? Well, the Glacier, despite looking very similar to these new models, is not actually part of the Racing Collection. What defines the Racing Collection as distinct from previous Vanguard iterations may not be immediately clear, given that the eye is unavoidably drawn to the dial before the case. It is, however, in the latter’s silhouette that the difference can be found. The colored and flared flanks not only give this case a far more aggressive edge than the normal Vanguard, but they also tie the whole colorway together. Additionally, these colored flashes continue the vibrant sportiness of the interior on the outside of the case.
The addition of a brightly colored crown guard is, in my opinion, an excellent step. I have always found the standard Franck Muller silhouette (that evolved from the Cintree Curvex models for which the brand may be best known) to be bit too feminine for my tastes, even given the rather enormous sizes stretched to by some of the more recent models. The new, updated jaggedness of the Vanguard Racing Collection’s exterior is a huge improvement, in my book.
The case is available in two materials: the stainless steel cases pictured in this article or an 18k rose gold housing, which also comes with two dial variations. The dimensions of both are the same. The case width is a chunky 44 mm, its lug-to-lug length is 53.7 mm, and it stands 12.7mm off the wrist. Not surprisingly for a watch of this unusual shape and profile, the water resistance is just 30 meters. As predictable as it may have been, and as unlikely as it is anyone will actually wear a Vanguard racing watch during intense physical activity, it always upsets me a little bit when sports watches offer such meager moisture protection.
For such a contemporary design, the DNA of the Vanguard is decidedly Art Deco. I would say that the classic Franck Muller look that sets the brand apart from its peers is to Art Deco design what Steampunk is to the Wild West. It seems to have frozen aesthetic taste in time, while material science and technology have accelerated apace around it.
The bold, form-fitting Arabic numerals are applied to the dial to add depth. Beautifully machined, with sharp, clean edges to die for, these numerals are a massive part of this design. In truth, the numbering on the Vanguard watches has always been my favorite thing about the family, and one of the only things I liked, unequivocally. As stated, the case never sat well with me until this release, but now I feel that Franck Muller has really found the formula for an excellent sports range that ticks all the boxes of legibility, implied dynamism, and identifiability. I’m also a sucker for yellow — and green, for that matter. It must be the Norwich City fan in me finally fighting his way to the surface.
The Franck Muller Vanguard Racing collection is powered by caliber FM 2800-DT. It is a self-winding mechanical movement with a diameter of 25.60 mm, and a thickness of 3.6 mm. Every model in the series has a power reserve of 42 hours and an operating speed of 28,800vph, which is the bare minimum one would expect for a watch so clearly defined by its sporting character. Caliber FM 2800-DT is comprised of 158 components — 21 of which are jewels — and has a 24k-gold finish on all bridge engravings. In addition to that fine flourish, the movement boasts several different styles of finishing, including Geneva waves, circular graining, diamond polishing, sunray brushing, and 45-degree polishing, as well as heat-blued polished screws.
It’s taken me a while, and many opportunities to try on Franck Muller watches in person, but I finally think I get their appeal. These two models, ref. V 45 SC DT RACING (VE) (green) and ref. V 45 SC DT RACING (JA) (yellow), are the most exciting in a range of the four pieces that recently debuted. The other two references — V 45 SC DT RACING (ER) (black dial with red accents) and V 45 SC DT RACING (NR) (white dial with black accents) — both come in the rose gold case.
While the white-dial version with black accents is a very handsome watch, neither of the precious metal variants feel quite as comfortable in their skin as the two steel models. This is, I believe, due to steel’s suitability for sports watches and the stylistic incongruity created by pairing a luxurious metal like 18k rose gold with such a vibrant, edgy design.
Prices are yet to be confirmed, but I assume they will come in somewhere between the $10,000 of the regular Vanguard Collection and the chronograph version of the Vanguard, which is priced around $16,000. For fans of the brand the Franck Muller Vanguard Racing Collection provides a pleasing development to an already compelling range, and for those who have been on the fence, perhaps a reason to buy into the brand at last. Learn more at franckmuller.com.