Limited to 500 pieces, this reference AI6038-SS001-133-1 is one of the new 2019 models in the rather hot Maurice Lacroix Aikon Automatic Chronograph 44mm watch family (originally reviewed on aBlogtoWatch here). Priced at around $3,000 USD, this is more or less at the top of the standard collection of Aikon models until you get into exotic watches such as the Maurice Lacroix Aikon Manufacture Skeleton of the even more exotic Aikon Mercury. With red, white (whitish), and blue colors to distinguish it, this limited-edition Aikon (pronounced “icon”) Automatic Chronograph 44mm comes on a perforated leather strap with a steel deployant clasp. I did, however, decide to also wear it on the comfortable steel bracelet, which is available on other versions of the Aikon Automatic Chronograph and easy to swap on the case.
The reason the strap and bracelet are easy to swap is that, like many modern watches now, the Aikon case is designed with proprietary quick-release bars (just make sure you have some fingernails). Even though you will need to get additional straps and bracelets directly from Maurice Lacroix, for those who want to enjoy this wearing experience in the more attractive (in my opinion) metal bracelet, as well as the better-for-sports strap, the quick-release system frees you from a delicate and consuming strap-changing project with tools.
At 44mm-wide the Aikon Automatic Chronograph (there is a quartz chronograph version, as well) is about 14mm-thick and has a 50mm lug-to-lug length. The case has a flat AR-coated sapphire crystal and is water resistant to 200 meters. The crown and chronograph pushers screw down. The case is heavy but comfortable and really wearable. I’d say that for a watch this size it has above-average comfort and all-day wearing appeal. Part of that is probably thanks to the highly tapered bracelet that isn’t just about looks but is also something which tends to make watches more comfortable to wear.
The 800-pound gorilla in the room anytime you talk about a Maurice Lacroix Aikon is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Yes, there are tons of other watches out there inspired by the Royal Oak (which originally came out in 1972). Even Royal Oak designer Gerald Genta went ahead and copied himself a few times with similar designs for other brands. Is the Aikon inspired by the Royal Oak? Sure. Is it an exact copy? No. Is it a direct replacement for a Royal Oak? No. Does it feel like a much better value and force you to ask why Audemars Piguet has to charge so much? Yes.
The least “Royal Oak-esque” part of the Aikon is the bezel, which has a lot more in common with the now rather obscure (but still made, apparently) Concord Saratoga. Unlike the octagonal Royal Oak case, the Aikon is round by the side profile and lugs are very reminiscent of Royal Oak — though it was Hublot who got the most grief for this when that design element showed up in the Big Bang (which otherwise never looked like a Royal Oak to me). In any event, there is a universe out there of Royal Oak-style watches, and Maurice Lacroix doesn’t need to justify itself for a watch of this handsome appeal at this price level.
The chronograph-style dial on this USA limited-edition Aikon Automatic Chronograph 44m is a sort of pale champagne color with blue subdials and subdial and chronograph hands. It is a handsome look and offers a nice bit of color to the otherwise more monochromatic current Aikon Automatic Chronograph 44mm range. Legibility is high, and the raised hour markers with matching hands are classically masculine and easy to spot — though I will say that, even though there is luminant applied to the hour markers and hands, the space allocated for it allows for a rather anemic amount of luminous paint. Raised squares on the dial once again shout to the Royal Oak with a “Mega Tapisserie-style” design that, while not original in style, are nevertheless nice to look at making for a crisply cut dial that offers too much texture to ever be boring, yet also too much conservatism to ever look out of place.
Inside the watch and visible through the sapphire crystal exhibition caseback is a decorated Swiss ETA Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph movement. The caseback of the Aikon Automatic Chronograph 44mm is done well and adds to the high-end feel of the product. The case overall has some polished beveled edges and pretty decent surface finishing. For the money (as is typical with the brand), you get a lot of attention to detail and processes applied to the parts in Maurice Lacroix products.
Where could Maurice Lacroix have improved the Aikon Automatic Chronograph? The case is certainly on the thick side, and it will never look at slim as a Royal Oak Chronograph does. Maurice Lacroix might be able to shave a millimeter or two off the case but, in reality, the 7750 is simply a chunky movement. Those looking for an ultra-slim steel dress watch on a bracelet will still have to spend a lot more money. The Aikon bezel design has a welcome signature look to is so when you see it, you think “Maurice Lacroix.” It isn’t, however, as iconic in my opinion as the Royal Oak’s, but for most consumers, I think the look is handsome and combines a modern feel with traditional mechanical watch sensibilities.
It is a shame that Maurice Lacroix doesn’t officially offer this USA limited-edition model on the matching steel bracelet. More so, as a limited edition (on a strap), it costs 100 Swiss Francs more than a non-limited edition (on a bracelet). Yes, it is a more limited production model, but without more explanation, I don’t see how this is automatically a more valuable product when all it has are some color differences. At least give me some story about how the hands are red because some famous horological artisan painted them with her favorite nail polish color.
As long as Rolex continues to use screw-down pushers for the Daytona, these ancient water protection mechanisms are here to stay. I have to admit that I like screwing and unscrewing them as a makeshift fidgeting device, but I find it really annoying to unscrew them each time I want to actually use the chronograph. It takes a solid 5-10 seconds of unscrewing both pushers in order to use the chronograph. I find that sort of teaches me to stop using the chronograph because I’m worried about dust or water entering the case. I really wish that watch manufacturers would offer more detailed information about water resistance when it comes to watches. Can you use chronographs underwater? How deep can you go with something unscrewed? I think it would be useful to communicate this information and might make me feel better about having the pushers unscrewed on something like the Aikon Automatic Chronograph watch.
What I most admire about the Maurice Lacroix Aikon Automatic Chronograph is the price point to value and style ratio. When I first started getting into watches, this $3,000 and under price point was exactly where my aspirational level was situated (that I could afford once in a while). For an almost decade-long period, brands really didn’t offer much good at the $3,000 price point and forced you to double or triple (or quadruple) your budget for a really cool chronograph that you can wear on a daily basis and that looks attractive to more than just watch collectors. Maurice Lacroix isn’t making a watch collector’s product, but it is rather making an everyday semi-formal men’s sport watch that watch-lovers can agree is a good product. Maurice Lacroix knows who they need to satisfy in order to convince the bulk of their customers that they are getting a good watch.
Starting price for the Maurice Lacroix Aikon Automatic Chronograph 44mm is 2,690 Swiss Francs on the strap. On the bracelet, it costs 2,850 Swiss Francs. As a limited edition of 500 pieces, this Maurice Lacroix Aikon Automatic Chronograph 44mm reference AI6038-SS001-133-1 has a retail price of 2,950 Swiss Francs. Learn more at the Maurice Lacroix website here.