Why I Bought It: Louis Erard X Alain Silberstein Chrono Monopoussoir
“True happiness is making a profession of your passion!” So reads the motto of watch designer and architect Alain Silberstein, who burst onto the watch scene in 1990 with his distinctive Bauhaus-themed timepieces.
I remember well seeing some of those watches when I was living in Chicago in the early 1990s – and I assume that I was not alone in finding them engaging but too quirky for my tastes. By today’s standards, the Silberstein designs are fairly mainstream; sadly, Silberstein was truly ahead of his time and his brand eventually failed.
Fast forward 15 years or so, when my wife and I happened across some of Silberstein’s watches and she fell in love with them, ultimately leading to the purchase of three of his pieces – most recently a very crisp home time watch on a gleaming steel bracelet.
That, however, still left my wrist lacking as I had missed out on Silberstein’s collaborations with Max Büsser and MB&F; and more recently, I waited just a bit too long to pounce on the first Erard-Silberstein joint effort, the first-generation Le Régulateur in a black PVD steel case and those were quickly gone as well.
When the current set of Louis Erard X Silberstein watches came out, I wasn’t entirely certain they were for me: the simple round case had been replaced with a more complex construction that framed the case with a brancard cage, and I feared that they might seem a bit overwhelming on the wrist. Happily, I had the opportunity to see the Monopoussoir at my favorite local dealer, and within minutes had decided to take it home.
How it fits
Within the “Terry taxonomy” that classes watches as foundational, patronage, or fun pieces, the Monopoussoir is, for me, very much in the “fun” category as it’s a watch that brings a smile when worn, is unconventional in styling, doesn’t qualify as “foundational” on the basis of its movement architecture, finishing, or horological importance, and is affordable enough that I don’t lose sleep worrying about whether its value will go up or down over time.
It’s tempting to characterize the Monopoussoir as a “patronage” piece as well, but in the final analysis I see Louis Erard more as a small manufacture than a low-volume independent atelier. That’s not to say that they and Mr. Silberstein don’t deserve our financial support and enthusiastic praise; but given the number of cosmetic variants of the base Erard watches, including collaborations with Vianney Halter and Massena Lab, I find it difficult to put them in the same category as, for instance, Halter himself working within his eponymous brand to express his unique artistic vision.
Why I love it
As you might expect, the top reason is Silberstein! His visual style is instantly recognizable and it’s great to have a piece with his styling to call my own. And while in some quarters he is reputed to be a bit prickly to deal with, I’ve met him a couple of times and he was nothing but charming to me.
I’m sure you’ve already noticed the bright red crown button that operates the monopusher chronograph; and on the dial itself, the hallmark Silberstein red, yellow, and blue hands and markers really jump against the frosted black and silver backgrounds.
One added touch for this watch is the introduction of a new hour hand shape, a circle with an incorporated triangle. None of the markers or hands are covered with lume, but if you’re like me you’re not often squinting at the dim light from luminous hands to see the time at night, anyway.
There’s enough going on with the dial side that it took me a while to notice that Silberstein’s signature logo (as seen on my wife’s watch) doesn’t appear – that’s a bit of a downer, but then again, we don’t really need to see his name to know that this is his work.
From an aesthetic perspective I’ve also grown quite fond of the brancards framing the round case: they are an additional distinctive touch and provide the needed background to focus attention even more on the colors and shapes of the dial and hands.
The brancards also help to divert attention from the fact that this is a quite thick watch. As seen in the photo below, the frame sits about halfway up the side of the caseband, blocking the view of the bottom half of the slab-sided case.
Finally, the brancard frame provides the structure at top and bottom for the pivoting titanium attachments for the ribbed nylon strap. The pivots allow the strap to fall almost vertically down, both reducing the apparent visual size of the watch and easing its fit on smaller wrists. Interestingly, the pivoting attachment bars have quick-release buttons, which means they could be removed and the whole assembly replaced with a conventional strap. I haven’t tried that yet, but should I desire a change of pace it’s a nice option to have.
I’m also pleased that I selected the Monopoussoir from among the set of collaborations. One reason that I missed out on the first generation Erard-Silberstein reference is that I’m not really a big fan of the effort required to read the time on regulator-dialed watches. The Semaine layout with the “smiley face” display of days of the week is a Silberstein classic, but my wife already has one of those.
Without really trying I seem to have built a collection that features a substantial number of chronographs, but since I sold my Ulysse Nardin monopusher a while ago I haven’t had a single-button chrono. It’s good to add one back into the mix, and that big red button serves as a constant invitation to time whatever happens to be going on at a given moment.
What about the back?
Front: check. Sides: check. All good so far – my only wish is that this watch came equipped with a creatively engraved solid back rather than the display back that it features.
The Sellita SW500 movement is attractive enough in a workmanlike way and the custom LE rotor is a plus, but I have to say that I’m not going to be flipping this watch over very often to contemplate the movement.
That wide rear bezel hides a portion of the 30mm diameter of the movement; happily, that movement size is big enough that on the front side of the watch, the chronograph minutes subdial isn’t crunched toward the center of the dial.
Winding and pusher feel are pretty much as you would expect from a 7750 clone: a slightly grainy whirr as you turn the crown a few times to kickstart the balance; and a manly effort required to start the chronograph, with a slightly more satisfying pair of snaps to stop the chrono and return it to zero.
On the wrist
All of that said, this is a watch that is made to be worn and enjoyed visually, and it does not disappoint on that front.
It’s a treat to see this watch poking out from under your sleeve, or, given its thickness sitting entirely below the cuff of a sweater; as mentioned earlier, the good news is that the elevated brancard frame significantly reduces the apparent depth of the watch as seen from above so unless you make a habit of staring up your wrist at the profile of your watch you should be just fine.
I haven’t mentioned or shown the clasp before this point, because there isn’t that much to show! The ribbed nylon strap is affixed with hook-and-loop strips and capped with a thin micro-blasted titanium bar. While pulling the hooked strips through the pivoting lugs to open the strap enough to get it onto your wrist can be a bit fussy, it comes much more easily with a bit of practice, and I love both the look and infinite adjustability of the nylon strap – so much that I might not ever get around to that experiment with substituting a conventional strap.
The case and brancards are made of micro-blasted and polished titanium respectively; while I suspected that might make the watch feel a bit insubstantial, there’s enough metal that in Three Bears style, this piece is neither too light nor too heavy for my tastes.
Is it right for you?
I’ve obviously made my choice, but is this watch worth your serious consideration? You might want to think about it if:
- The Silberstein design cues have always intrigued you
- You are looking for a watch that is striking in appearance but at the same time coherent rather than jarring
- You’ve let your collection become a bit too serious lately and need a dose of fun in your horological life
On the other hand, this might not be the one for you if:
- Your tastes run to the strictly conventional
- Despite the pivoting lugs and soft strap, this piece is just too big for your wrist
- You are looking for a buttery-smooth, well-finished chronograph movement
I’ve been wearing this watch quite a bit, and smiling each time I catch a glimpse of it. I’ll welcome your thoughts on it, and on the wave of recent Silberstein collaborations from a variety of brands, in the comments section. In the meantime, happy wearing!
For more information, please visit www.louiserard.com/creations/excellence-prelaunch/le-chrono-monopoussoir-louis-erard-x-alain-silberstein/?v=baa904278574
Quick Facts: Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein Chrono Monopoussoir
Case: 40mm x 13.9mm titanium case with polished and micro-blasted elements and conical crown with red ABS chronograph pusher; polished titanium brancard structure framing the case; front and rear sapphire crystals
Dial: Black frosted dial with silver chronograph minutes subdial; printed logo, and raised yellow and red hour indices
Movement: Automatic winding Sellita SW500 MPCa; 48-hour power reserve; 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
Functions: Hours, minutes, 30-minute monopusher chronograph
Limitation: 178 examples
Retail price: CHF 4500
Production Years: 2021-2022
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