Some watches have what it takes to make one feel like, “Wow, if I had the spare [insert_preposterous_amount], I’d be all over this!” And, for me, the Louis Moinet Time To Race Chronograph proved to be that watch at first sight. Admittedly, this is something very personal in the sense that I love racing and I love race cars, so a watch with big and customizable racing numbers on it already has a head start (pardon the pun) in my book. More importantly, though, this unique-looking chronograph offers well more than two brash numbers on the front and the back.
Despite the “fast” color scheme, the aforementioned racing numbers, and having some 150 chronograph components boldly shown off on the dial side, it is the balanced proportions of the Time To Race watch that make this an immediately likeable timepiece in my eyes. A large or complicated-looking watch is rarely enough any more these days to raise the pulse of any seasoned watch lover — our brains have, after all, been fried by the excesses of the luxury watches of the 2000s and 2010s, and so it is a neat and balanced presentation that can enable a watch to sneak through our ever-more-resistant firewalls, raised to keep all the nonsense out.
Measuring a very sensible 40.7mm wide, the Louis Moinet Time To Race chronograph looks and feels like a watch that was designed to be worn in comfort, a stark contrast against some of the saucer-sized wrist-bling even Louis Moinet itself is known to have produced. Just look at the Memoris Chronograph for a sublime example. A stunning watch, sure, and it even rocks roughly the same movement, but the overall vibe is more “showing off at the Burj Khalifa” and a whole lot less “Sunday morning drive solitude.”
The real star, if you are a watch fan first and a race car fan second, is the movement, which has most all of its chronograph module on full display on the dial side. This is made possible by the clever use of a small, yet decently legible subdial that has freed up the required space. Better still, unlike on many similarly styled chronographs, you don’t even have the center-mounted hour and minute hands blocking the view, as those are, of course, relegated to the subdial. There is just an open-worked, narrow hand to time the chronograph seconds. The column wheel sits in the center, beautifully finished and surrounded by elaborately shaped and refined arms, screws, and wheels. One of the cooler details is the carbon fiber backdrop, something that will take a while for one to realize is there at all, with this mechanical bonanza going on.
The construction of the dial, or rather the “face” of the Louis Moinet Time To Race Chronograph watch is equally complex. The subdials for the running seconds and the 30-minute totalizer are semi-transparent discs secured with screws near the center, flanked by some beautifully arched springs that reach from roughly the 8 o’clock position towards the chronograph mechanism further up on the dial. The time display features faceted hands that revolve over a lacquered dial that boasts the individual racing number (or lucky number, if you like) of the owner. This subdial was developed with GVA Cadrans, and it has the white area hollowed out to accommodate the number or numbers that have been cast, kiln-fired, and polished, only to be then applied into their crevices.
The caseback reveals a huge self-winding rotor that replenishes the 48-hour power reserve of the LM96 caliber. Some tiny bits and pieces, small details such as screw locations and such within the base architecture of the movement remind me of the 7750, but the overall presentation, finishing, and of course the dial-side chronograph and subdial time display push the LM96 as far away from that revered base chronograph as it is possible. It is also a mono-pusher chronograph in this guise which is to say that the 2 o’clock pusher is to be used to cycle through the start, stop, reset sequence of the chronograph.
On the wrist, especially with this white, blue, orange color scheme, the Louis Moinet Time To Race chronograph is one heck of a joyful watch to wear — which is on-brand for Louis Moinet, really. As diverse and digressive its various watch creations have been, common denominators are being fun to see, operate, and wear. The hollowed-out lugs, the huge, boxed sapphire crystal front, the impossibly thin, complex bezel, and the massive fleur de lis folding clasp in true Louis Moinet style come together in a package that affirms that no small or large detail went unnoticed when designing this off-the-wall chronograph.
Whether you look up close, like the image above allows you, or from afar, this well and truly is among those rare few watches that make me want to throw caution — and savings — into the wind and just wear it constantly, feeling like it’s a Sunday and I’m heading to my local race track, when, in fact, it’s a gray Thursday afternoon. And the watch enthusiast in me wouldn’t feel short-changed, either. Too bad that such an experience costs so much: The Louis Moinet Time To Race Chronograph watch is priced at $36,000. You can learn more at the brand’s website.