February 9, 2019
by Ariel Adams
One of Maurice Lacroix‘s new watches for 2019 has a special trick which can be very easily missed if you are just looking at pictures of the Maurice Lacroix Aikon Mercury. The otherwise attractive version of the Aikon with skeletonized dial also has an in-house movement module which allows the hands to perform a sort of trick. The hour and minute hands are attached to a cam system that allows them to float freely and then fall back into place indicating the current time. It is something whose value needs to be experienced in order to be appreciated.
Watches with “parlor trick” style dials have been around for centuries. Consider singing bird or other animated mechanisms existing in clocks and other horological creations since the the 17th century that really blossomed in the 18th century. As timepieces got more practical and democratic, such playful complications became less common. In recent years brands like Franck Muller and Hermes have been among the biggest brands to produce whimsical complications less about utility and performance and more about making the wearer (and their audiences) smile.
More so than ever, a timepiece today is a conversation piece – and anything distinctive about a product can help earn it more frequent conversations. This is probably the best way of thinking about the Aikon Mercury – or rather as yet another mechanical fidget spinner which exists simply because it is cathartic to play with. Having said that, at Maurice Lacroix, real time and effort went into making this toy.
The base watch itself comes from the popular Aikon collection available on either an alligator leather strap or matching steel metal bracelet. The 100 meter water resistant steel case is 44mm wide and 14mm thick (its a larger watch) but wears comfortable. The dial has a new handset (that remind me of scissors) despite being skeletonized has a sapphire crystal dial with hour markers applied to it. The dial also features a subsidiary seconds dial which helps add class. I’d say that given the “view” of the dial, the legibility is quite good.
That alone would make for a nice watch – but things get interesting once you wear the Aikon Mercury and start to move it around. You’ll notice that the hour and minute hands appear to float around on their own – apparently decoupled from the movement pins. Move the watch in a vertical position and the hand fall back into place, indicating the correct time as though nothing amiss just happened. The parlor trick here might be that it appears as though the watch is broken – and then suddenly working again.
According to Maurice Lacroix the “Free Hand” system took their Swiss team three years to develop at the brand’s manufacture location in Saignelegier, Switzerland. The Aikon “Mercury” name comes from the fact that the hands “mercurially” fall back into place thanks to the forces of gravity. This was probably because there is an existing Maurice Lacroix watch known as the “Gravity” (which really has nothing special to do with gravity). All in all the Aikon Mercury may have benefited from a better name (though such a state is entirely too common in naming practices amongst Swiss brands). With that said, Maurice Lacroix certainly put in effort to making sure this product both looks and operates nicely. I do have to say that the Free Hand system is fun to play with – even though I can’t quite see myself wearing it on a daily basis. As a true sports watch it might prove frustrating. As an around-the-town or social watch the Aikon Mercury seems ideal. Not only because of its Free Hand mechanism, but also because of its masculine, contemporary look and appeal.
The movement inside the watch is known as the caliber ML225 automatic – and it is has an in-house Maurice Lacroix module on top of a base Swiss automatic movement. The movement operates at 4Hz with 38 hours of power reserve. I actually like that despite the skeletonization on the dial, one cannot immediately understand the Free Hand system by looking at the components – making it mysterious by design.
Also note that because the Aikon Mercury is built on the newer Aikon watch platform, the case has a quick-release system for the strap which makes it easy to remove and replace without any tools. These are truly inspired timepieces that feel both novel and fun – something the watch industry needs more of at non-haute horology prices. Not a limited edition, the Maurice Lacroix Aikon Mercury reference AI6088-SS002-030-1 comes with both the matching metal bracelet and the leather strap and has a retail price of $7,690 USD. mauricelacroix.com