Maurice Lacroix Aikon Master Grande Date: A Serious Player In The Steel Sports Watch Market (And, Yes, It Has A Blue Dial)
The most important thing to know about success is that whatever we, as outsiders, see when someone achieves it is only the tip of a very long spear. Success in any form usually requires an order of magnitude more work and sacrifice than many realize. This may be why people decide to give up before they finally reach their goals: we all have been subtly conditioned to think that success is an overnight thing.
Yet that is only what we see in the media. Just because it sneaks up on us when we become aware of something doesn’t mean the people behind that success haven’t been working hard for years to make it happen, often while being told that it probably won’t work. The most common thing heard when someone speaks up about a new idea is something along the lines of, “That sounds hard, what if you fail?” However, the opposite question is just as valid: “What if you succeed?”
The power of positive thinking cannot be underestimated as well as remembering that success isn’t going to be a short process, at least not for the big things. If everything was easy, it would have all been done already. Achieving something worthwhile can take months or sometimes years. During that time, most hard work will go unnoticed, unappreciated, and unrewarded until the day it is finally paid back in spades.
This can also be said about developing a new watch movement or an entirely new model: years of toil are behind a new release even if all we see is the end result. But the hot fudge sundae of success is built on huge scoops of hard work and dedication.
This applies to Maurice Lacroix, who recently released a new addition to the Aikon collection: the Master Grande Date boasts a newly developed in-house movement and took three years of effort to create a new flagship model.
Maurice Lacroix Aikon Master Grande Date
The Aikon (pronounced like “icon”) Master Grande Date is a spiritual follow-up to the Masterpiece Gravity as it was built from the ground up as a new manufacture movement, based loosely on Caliber ML230 found in the Gravity.
Both models feature an exposed balance, offset time display, subsidiary seconds, and exposed mechanics on the dial. But the construction is wholly different, and the result is a movement that is both thinner and has more features, including an even higher standard of finishing that brings the “Masterpiece” elements into the Aikon line.
The dial, as mentioned, features an offset time display for the hours and minutes balanced on the bottom by the subsidiary seconds dial, which also acts as a porthole into the movement. Asymmetrically balanced on its left is the exposed balance with curved balance bridge. The escapement is visible via a small cutout in the dial to the right side of the balance, providing a bit more movement detail. The dial is mostly recessed with brushed rims around all of the dials and openings, allowing the negative space to sport a deep blue with a matte texture, which brings the aesthetic an air of reserve.
The offset time dial is the same blue but adds texture with a tight square pattern akin to the tapisserie pattern found on Royal Oak dials, though distinctly different.
A big addition to the overall aesthetic and the mechanical development is, as the name implies, the addition of a grande date display in the upper left corner of the dial. The shape of the bezel around the date window mirrors the details on the case bezel for visual continuity and also hides the overlapping disks of the date display.
The large date is always a favorite of mine, and with the variety of details on the dial of the Aikon Master Grande Date it seems clear that the brand has taken inspiration from some of the best watches on the market and worked to make them their own.
The Aikon collection has always fought for market share in the world of steel sports watches, and it would appear that the Aikon Master Grande Date has come ready to do battle. The mechanics are a big factor (and most of what the three years of development necessitated) but the style and finishing are solid achievements adding a ton of value in this price bracket.
It’s what’s on the inside that counts
The Aikon Master Grande Date was in development for three years as Maurice Lacroix built the new ML331 caliber from the ground up, focusing on making a more featured version of Caliber ML230. The biggest step was redesigning it to fit into the thinner Aikon case (the Masterpiece Gravity is one millimeter thicker thanks to a large box sapphire crystal) and adding the large date mechanism.
The architecture of the movement in the Masterpiece Gravity had the time indication in the center and used a module to relocate the hours and minutes, adding a fair amount of thickness. Caliber ML331 in the Master Grande Date integrates the time display into the top plate, eliminating the need for a module. This reduced the caliber thickness by 0.65 mm and allowed for the addition of the date mechanics into the movement.
The watchmakers built off of the ML234 skeleton automatic, keeping the winding mechanism and the general gear train layout and creating the rest to fit the design brief.
The goal was to align the central axis for the hours and minutes with the subsidiary seconds vertically, the subsidiary seconds and the balance wheel axis horizontally, and the balance wheel axis and the center of the date display vertically. This helps to visually balance the dial and create motion, helping your eyes move around the indications comfortably.
Squeezing in the big date mechanism required the most creativity as it departed from the more common methods of construction. The star wheel that advances the date disks is toothed on both the inside and outside of its diameter. The quick correction mechanism engages on its exterior along with a small flexible finger attached to a gear train wheel that advances the star wheel. On the interior we find a second set of teeth that advance both the one- and ten-digit disks as a method of saving space and thickness.
This is thanks to the fact that the big date gear train actually sits within the star wheel’s diameter, allowing the disks and windows to be larger and the entire mechanism to be more self-contained as well as reducing the number of wheels necessary. Sadly this mechanism is hidden from view, but if you look to the rear of the watch this is made up for with the view of clean, modern, finely finished Caliber ML331.
Skeletonized and finished with a blasted surface combined with chamfered and polished edges makes the movement stand out upon inspection. Even the winding mechanism and rotor are skeletonized and feature blasted and straight-grained surfaces to fit the aesthetic of the movement.
It’s clear that Maurice Lacroix was intent on making a movement and timepiece presenting fantastic value for consumers who might want something a bit different than the big dogs on the block. The brand has the ability to be a bit more flexible with its offerings and still be competitive with its watchmaking.
Only Watch 2021
On the heels of the release of the Aikon Master Grande Date, Maurice Lacroix offers this model as the base for its submission to Only Watch 2021.
Only Watch is the biennial charity auction of one-off luxury timepieces for research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy thanks to donations from brands. Often, these brands create custom versions of a popular model, swapping in new materials and colors to make it unique for the auction.
The Aikon Master Grande Date Only Watch 2021 is just such a piece. It builds on the brand’s relationship with Mahindra Racing and the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.
The case is made of carbon fiber previously used in a Mahindra Racing car, and Caliber ML331 has been given a black DLC coating to match. The dial is now a bright orange (to match the Only Watch corporate color of 2021) and has black date disks and a black bezel with orange numbers to highlight the large date indication.
This is the first time Maurice Lacroix has made a version of the Aikon in carbon fiber, and it really takes the aesthetic in a vastly different direction compared to the more typical stainless steel sports watch.
This one-off watch comes with two textile straps, one in black and another in orange, and the winning bidder will be invited to a 2022 round of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championships, adding a second layer to the uniqueness of Maurice Lacroix’s Only Watch offering.
It would seem that the Aikon Master Grande Date is a turning point for the collection and could represent a second tier of complications for the Aikon line. It’s already featured a chronograph, so moving into astronomical complications or perhaps a full calendar would be a fantastic next step.
With the steel sports watch category full of competition, working hard to create expanded options at both ends of its range would work well in helping secure a spot for Maurice Lacroix. If the Aikon Master Grande Date is any indication, Maurice Lacroix might be thinking the same thing.
The future might be interesting for the Aikon Master Grande Date, but while we wait to see let’s break this down!
- Wowza Factor * 7.8 The Aikon flew under the radar for me for a while but no longer thanks to the Master Grande Date!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 78» 764.919m/s2 Solid entries into the sports watch game are always welcome, and ones that add features like the Master Grande Date can keep me lusting for hours!
- M.G.R. * 61.5 The high-quality finishing and exposed mechanics are already awesome, but the newly developed large date mechanism takes it a step further!
- Added-Functionitis * Mild The coolness of the date mechanism aside, the Master Grande Date only adds one feature so you will only need children’s strength the Gotta-HAVE-That cream for this piece!
- Ouch Outline * 7.5 Dozens and dozens of mosquito bites! Summertime in the wet areas of Florida can be very fun, but also very buggy. On a recent camping trip I learned this harsh truth and came home itching something fierce. Still, I would do it again if it meant getting this watch on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * Let’s see that date mechanism again! I liked the Master Grande Date when I first saw it, but after seeing the behind-the-scenes details of the date mechanism I knew I needed to start auditioning DJs for the reception!
- Awesome Total * 725 Start with the diameter of the case in millimeters (45) and multiply by the thickness of the case in millimeters (15), then add the power reserve in hours (50) to land on a rather awesome total!
For more information, please visit mauricelacroix.com/us_en/news/aikon-master-grand-date.
Quick Facts Maurice Lacroix Aikon Master Grande Date
Case: 45 x 15 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber ML331, 50-hour power reserve, 18,000 vph/2.5 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Price: CHF 8,900