Yesterday on “Watch A Day” I presented my first mechanical watch. Today I’m presenting my first Swiss mechanical. This Maurice Lacroix Grand Guichet GMT has an excellent Swiss movement, a useful complication, and Swiss build quality. But it’s not a GMT and the big date isn’t very big at all.
The Maurice Lacroix brand dates back to the 1970s, when Swiss watch assembler Desco von Schulthess AG launched the brand in Austria. The company grew quietly, selling Swiss watches throughout Europe, before becoming a separate company in 2001. The company competes in the entry-level luxury market with the likes of Frederique Constant (now part of Citizen), Tissot, and Longines. Most Maurice Lacroix watches are powered by mainstream movements from ETA and others, though the company has carved out a niche with “Les Mécaniques” and “Masterpiece” models powered by manufacture and classic movements.
This particular watch was my first Swiss timepiece, acquired new from leftover stock at a steep discount. It represents a solid value at around US$1,000, but perhaps not at the original list price well over twice that. It is part of the Maurice Lacroix “Les Classiques” collection, emphasizing “timeless design”, but has a modern look that sets it apart from most inexpensive, traditional Swiss watches.
Let’s start with the case. It’s architectural and modern in design, with steep curved lugs and bowl-shaped body making up for a tall profile. The sides of the case are brushed, while all other surfaces are polished, strangely including the sides between the lugs. The case is widest at the bezel, which gives it a clean, round look from the top. The signed crown is rather large and sharply knurled for easy operation.
The dial is a simple matte black affair with a subtle stepped design. The applied markers and tapered hands are austere but shine brightly in contrast to the dial. A tiny bit of lume is present on the hands, but not enough to function in the dark. The printing on the minute track and second timezone subdial is sharp white. The overall impression is modern and not at all “classique”!
As the name implies, the Grand Guichet GMT features two complications:
- “Big date” at 12:00
- “GMT” subdial at 6:00
The only problem is that neither of these really lives up to its billing.
“Big date” usually refers to a complex two-disc date mechanism, and Maurice Lacroix meets this requirement. But the result is not overwhelmingly large. In fact, the date display isn’t any bigger than that on my “little date” watches! It’s nice to have the date pulled in toward the middle at 12:00 rather than stuck in a corner out among the hour markers, and it’s perfectly legible, but it’s not really “grand”.
Then there’s the GMT function. I’m a stickler about such things: A true GMT watch must show time on a 24 hour scale or feature a day/night indicator, and the Maurice Lacroix does not. It does feature a minute hand in the subdial, which is somewhat unusual, but the hour hand is on a 12-hour scale. I’m happy to call it a second time display, but not a GMT.
That subdial is “home” time, with the bigger central hour hand showing “away” time and set by turning the crown backwards. This isn’t my favorite setting mechanism, either. Those on my Reverso, Nomos, and Rieussec are much more friendly and quick to set.
Both of these complications are made possible by a module on top of ETA’s marvelous 2892A2 movement. Crack open the water-resistant case and you’ll see the tiny 2892 nestled inside. Surprisingly, it appears to be “top” finished despite the solid case back. It’s too bad the wearer can’t enjoy the mass-produced but decent-looking movement.
This is a thin movement, measuring just 3.6 mm thick, and quite narrow at 25.6 mm diameter. So it’s a surprise that this watch is so large. Just look at all that extra steel in the photo above!
Another disappointing element of this watch is the thick clasp used on the excellent thick leather strap. It’s a “stacked” single deployant, with the tongue tucked under and a solid clasp. The arms and end are well-made and deploy smoothly with pushbuttons. But the whole thing piles up thick under the wrist, getting in the way while typing. It’s really not a great execution.
Overall, I enjoy the Grand Guichet GMT despite its shortcomings. It’s well-made and modern, and neither calls out nor shrinks out of site. This particular watch was retired years ago, but the quality and reliability bodes well for the brand.