Here it is, the Aikon Master Grand Date by Swiss Maurice Lacroix. This is the largest and currently most expensive model in the brand’s very popular Aikon watch collection that aBlogtoWatch editors quite enjoy. This is a special niche mechanical timepiece that has an enormous amount of character and isn’t really paralleled by anything else on the market. It contains an in-house movement developed by Maurice Lacroix, which is combined with the easy-wearing experience of the Aikon case and bracelet system. Let’s take a closer look at this interesting timepiece and its details.

The Aikon Master Grand Date is a watch that you’ll like even though it isn’t perfect. There isn’t much to complain about, to be honest. I like to talk about these points right away so that we can move on to a discussion of all the things in the watch that I do like. Here are the two issues, as I see it. The first is less of an issue and that is the case size. This is a 45mm-wide watch in steel. That makes it both heavy and sizeable for a large percentage of wrists. The case size is directly related to the size of the movement, but I think it is important to point out that while some wrists are going to love the larger size, a lot of wrists are going to be left out of this wearing experience given simply matters of math and anatomy. The second issue is related to the deployant buckle system. It’s nice enough to look at, but it is sharp and not particularly comfortable as it jabs into your skin. This is actually a very common situation with watches on these types of enclosures, and I wrote about my disdain for these types of deployant clasps here.

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There are two simple solutions for this sharp buckle issue. One is to simply wear the Aikon Master Grand Date on the supplied steel bracelet. Maurice Lacroix generously includes both the strap and the bracelet with the kit, and the strap/bracelet ends have quick release systems (also a bit sharp) that allow you to swap between them easily. So, if you want to simply disregard the strap and enjoy this watch on the very attractive tapering steel metal bracelet, then you are set. Another option requires a small bit of work but could be worth it. That option is to remove the deployant claps and simply fit the strap with a traditional pin buckle. To do this, you first need to find a suitably sized pin buckle, and then you’d have to perform very minor surgery on the strap to cut a space in the middle for the pin to be secured (whereas right now, there is no cut-out for this). Given that the Aikon watch collection uses a proprietary strap connection system, you will need to work with the straps Maurice Lacroix makes available. It is entirely possible that Maurice Lacroix offers more traditional straps/buckles for this watch, but I’m just going off of what is included in the kit.

The next largest current version of the Aikon next to the Master Grande Date is the Maurice Lacroix Aikon Automatic Chronograph Titanium, which has a 44mm-wide case. That’s a neat watch at about half the price, but it doesn’t have the slick, interesting movement of the Aikon Master Grand Date. This watch is, as I said, above 45mm-wide in steel, and accordingly weighted. The case is about 14mm-thick and with a roughly 53mm-long lug-to-lug distance. The case is also water-resistant to 100 meters (with a screw-down crown), and over the dial is an AR-coated sapphire crystal. Just for comparison purposes, most of the Aikon watches produced by Maurice Lacroix are either 39mm- or 42mm-wide.

Most of the discussion around this watch will take place around the movement. For those who recall, most of the “Master” watches from Maurice Lacroix have their in-house movements. They don’t make too many, but the brand does have an interesting stable of unique in-house creations that really don’t look like anything else out on the market. In this Aikon Master Grand Date watch is the Maurice Lacroix caliber ML331 automatic. This movement isn’t new, but I don’t think it is represented in any other current Maurice Lacroix model. The movement was originally designed to be the brand’s own take on producing an asymmetrical dial layout, with interesting visible features that would inspire the imagination of the wearer.

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The result is a movement that feels like a combination of modern engineering with classic pocket watch style and dimensions. The dial layout includes an eccentric dial for the hour and minutes, a skeletonized subsidiary seconds dial, a big date indicator, and a large exposed, dial-side oriented traditional regulation system. The system uses a larger-sized balance wheel that is done in classic style with individual screw weights which can be adjusted by a watchmaker to reach peak rate performance. These types of balance wheels are rare today because they make a poor choice for a mass-produced product and, accordingly, most serial production balance wheels are smaller and don’t have weights. Rather, technicians especially pair them with balance springs in order to find a combination that works for most timing situations. Using a “classic-style” regulation system is visually appealing and very different in watches at this price level. I believe the regulation system operates at 2.5Hz (18,000 bph) and has a power reserve of about two days — oddly, Maurice Lacroix neglects to mention too many details about the caliber ML331 automatic movement.

Visually, the movement is very attractive. It goes for a more industrial design but is accented with traditional decoration such as anglage (polished angles on the bridges). Viewed from the rear, the bridges are frost-finished with dramatically polished edges giving what I believe is a good look. Through the rear sapphire crystal, you can appreciate just how wide the movement is and why such a large case is required to house it. The skeletonized automatic rotor allows for a relatively unobstructed view of the mechanism. Over on the front of the watch, various sections of the dial are skeletonized offering a view of the movement, including the full regulation system and the bridge over the balance wheel.

A inset pusher located on the side of the case is used to adjust the bid date mechanism. I typically prefer to adjust this via the crown, but it isn’t uncommon for calendar systems to require pushers to adjust the settings. Some angles through the movement reveal a view right through it, which makes looking at the mechanics fun, but thankfully, there isn’t so much of a view as to force you to stare at your arm hair while you wear the watch. It should be noted that the movement isn’t the loudest out there, but it does “tick tick tick” perceptively and is a feature very common with movement architectures of this style that have large-sized traditional regulation systems.

As a larger-sized, sporty lifestyle watch with a distinctive mechanical character, there are very few direct competitors to the Maurice Lacroix Aikon Master Grand Date on the market. There are more expensive watches without as much curb appeal, and then there are much more expensive watches that are in the same wheelhouse as the Aikon Master Grand Date but are going to be for different audiences given the price differences. Maurice Lacroix is very much going for a look that is meant to impress but also be original on the mechanical side. This is very much an exotic flavor from the brand, even though the Aikon product collection is their most popular timepiece family right now. This is very much like when Audemars Piguet puts a more funky movement inside of a Royal Oak, with the intention of it being recognizable but also more suited to niche audiences who like more distinctive products. While the Aikon Master Grand Date is not perfect, it has a lot of personality and has been really enjoyable to wear. If you fancy this watch, then ensure you have the wrist anatomy to accommodate it, and follow my recommendation to wear it on the excellent matching steel bracelet. Price for the Maurice Lacroix AIKON Master Grand Date reference AI6118-SS00E-430-C watch is $8,150 USD. Learn more at the Maurice Lacroix website here.

Necessary Information:
>Brand: Maurice Lacroix
>Model: AIKON Master Grand Date reference AI6118-SS00E-430-C
>Price: $8,150 USD
>Size: 45mm-wide, ~14mm-thick, ~53mm lug-to-lug distance
>When reviewer would personally wear it: A great talking piece for social occasions or to just enjoy the look of semi-open timekeeping mechanics on the wrist.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Lover of larger watches who also enjoys technically-interesting or uncommon movements and wants something less-than-typical.
>Best characteristic of watch: Impressive visual presentation and inspired movement design. Well-finished and designed case. Legible, handsome dial. Kit includes both strap and bracelet options.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Sharp deployant clasp prompts more comfortable wearing on the included bracelet. Not a silent-running movement (but some people actually like that). Size is too large for some wrists.

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