For Trilobe, efficient timekeeping has always been of secondary consideration to design. An extra few moments spent looking at a well-conceived dial is a small price to pay for horological ingenuity. In fact, Trilobe would argue it’s less a price than an investment. Armed with this philosophy (some might say “excuse”) Trilobe takes permission to design watches that are both inventive and decorative. Despite their visual complexity, Trilobe watches are simple three-handers – albeit, without any hands. Using a system of rotating discs to indicate the hours, minutes, and seconds, they have been (until now) fairly uncomplicated. For 2024, the brand adds its first complication to the catalog, the L’Heure Exquise. Part of the Les Matinaux collection, these new moonphases incorporate elements familiar to Trilobe while losing some important aspects. Launched in three dial styles, two sizes, and either titanium or rose gold, there is a fitting variety involved yet this is not a watch designed for a wide audience.

Like other pieces in the Les Matinaux collection (that’s “mornings” to us English speakers), the new L’Heure Exquise watches utilize three rotating discs to display the time. The outermost ring is marked with 12 easy-to-read numerals indicating the hours while the smaller, intermediary disc serves the same function for minutes. It’s a bit more difficult to tell the exact time compared to most watches that utilize conventional hands but if you ask Trilobe, that’s sort of the point. For the brand, “time is a luxury”. While as watch-obsessed Poindexters, we’re inclined to agree that gazing at watches does have inherent value, it’s still somewhat unusual to stare for more than a second to deduce what a watch is signaling. Nonetheless, Les Matinaux watches solve this problem with a clever implementation of Trilobe’s three-pointed logo. Placed around the dial in three places, each logo corresponds to one of the discs: hours, minutes, and seconds. Except on the L’Heure Exquise. The new watch has only one remaining logo paired to the hour disc, meaning it’s anyone’s guess if it’s 9:48, 9:52, or 9:56. Once again, the brand’s intentionally ponderous philosophy comes into play. Does it really matter if it’s 9:52 or 9:56? Were this a German brand, the watchmakers would be promptly defenestrated for even asking such a question. But since Trilobe is headquartered in Paris, these trivial distinctions are perfectly acceptable.

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With an understanding of how the Les Matinaux works, it’s time to explore the main conceit of the new L’Heure Exquise. Adding a moonphase – the most unhurried of complications – seems a natural fit given the design choices explained above. Replacing the seconds disc, a double-moonphase indication presents in impressive detail. While the grey moons appear small and are recessed behind the aperture disc, they are rendered in stunning textured detail. Adding to the experience, the moonphase is linked to the movement’s seconds gears. This means the moons rotate around a central axis while still providing an accurate display of its intended purpose: the phase of the moon on its 29.5-day schedule. Additionally, but of no less importance, is the real-time feedback provided by a seconds display. Knowing your watch is actually running is an issue many collectors realize only when they encounter a watch with no seconds hand at all so the inclusion here is appreciated.

Powering all this wizardry is Trilobe’s X-Centric caliber micro-rotor. It’s a clean look via the sapphire caseback and offers 48 hours of power reserve. It’s housed in a case of either titanium or 18kt rose gold and measures just 9.2mm thick – an aspect made possible by replacing stacked hands with monoplanar discs. Intriguingly and despite the limited nature of the L’Heure Exquise, the watch is available in either 38.5mm or 40.5mm diameters. For the latter, lug length stretches to 48mm but the curved geometry seems to help avoid any major fitment issues. The leather straps (20mm) close with a simple pin-buckle and are color-matched to the dial.

Speaking of dials, Trilobe has elected to offer the L’Heure Exquise in its unique “Secret” configuration. Here, buyers can choose a specific place, date, and time, and then communicate that to Trilobe. The brand will craft your watch with a special dial depicting the precise position of the constellations at that exact place and time. Want to commemorate your wedding? Your child’s birth? The return of the McRib? Trilobe will make a dial to mark the occasion. Understandably, such bespoke craftsmanship takes time and buyers can expect an 8-month wait for their Secret L’Heure Exquise.

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For a brand that’s had one pony in its stable, the introduction of the L’Heure Exquise is exciting. The handless concept on which Trilobe relies is a blank canvas for innovation and so it’s compelling to see what other complications can be incorporated. Here, the analogy of Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo comes to mind. What began as the world’s thinnest watch has evolved to being the thinnest fill-in-the-blank watch. Collecting titles for thinnest automatic, thinnest GMT, thinnest chronograph, etc, the Octo Finissimo platform has proven a launchpad from which Trilobe might draw inspiration. With the new Les Matinaux L’Heure Exquise, things are off to a strong start.

The Trilobe Les Matinaux L’Heure Exquise watches are priced at $14,400 USD for the blue or dune titanium versions. The same options in rose gold are $26,200 USD. The Secret version is $18,000 USD in steel and $28,800 USD in rose gold. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.

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