While Angelus is part of the well-respected independent watchmakers around, and a brand with a very rich history, it took a modern and bold direction when it was revived a few years ago next to sister-company Arnold & Son. It’s a deliberate choice, but some fans of the name Angelus and of its superb vintage chronographs were slightly puzzled. Well, things are changing, with the return of classic chronographs and traditional hand-wound movements. And to inaugurate this new collection named La Fabrique, the brand has teamed up with design studio Massena LAB, who has created a re-edition of a stunning vintage doctor’s watch, which is now powered by an internally-produced movement (and what a movement indeed…) Let’s have a closer look at the new Angelus x Massena LAB Chronographe Médical.
If you look at the current collection of Angelus, it surely doesn’t reflect what the brand has done in the past. There was a choice not to create vintage re-editions, but instead to imagine what Angelus would have become if it had remained in existence. No debate regarding the watchmaking skills or the complexity of the watches, however. We’re talking about contemporary, bold high-end watchmaking. But Angelus is about to bring something more to its portfolio, something that pays tribute to the immensely rich past of the brand – and something that, I’m sure, many watch enthusiasts will be happy to see. This new collection, which comes next to the modern creations, is named La Fabrique and is a separate category created specifically for tribute watches (and now, I’m looking forward to a classic Chronodato…) And William Massena, with his design studio Massena LAB, inaugurates this new range with something very, very appealing.
The watch that is about to be released by Angelus and Massena LAB is modelled after a 1960s doctor’s watch, with a rather surprising display. Original, and designed with one mission in mind, this watch was a hand-wound chronograph with a unique dial. Made for one specific audience, it featured a dual scale for reading the vital signs of the patient during an examination; a pulsometer to measure the pulse and an asthmometer to measure the respiratory rate. The result is a watch with an atypical layout, a rather odd magnifier on the crystal to emphasize the pulsometer scale and a one-minute measurement only for the chrono (no more was needed anyway). This watch, made for professional requirements, has been brought up to date by Angelus and Massena LAB. And in a tasteful way.
The grand opening of a capsule collection, the Angelus x Massena LAB Chronographe Médical stays true to the original look of the 1960s tool chronograph. Surely, it’s a bit of an oddity, and a watch that is far more original than most of the classic bi- or tri-compax watches we see on the vintage-inspired market. But this is also what gives this watch so much charm. Yes, we know that William has an eye for that.
It all starts with a relatively compact case of 39mm in diameter, with a traditional design. Round, with a slim bezel, polished on the top surfaces, brushed on the sides, with a compact crown and a box-shaped sapphire crystal, it is undeniably retro and quite a departure from anything Angelus has done in the last decade. The case is slim too, at only 9.22mm in height… You don’t find that anymore with modern automatic chronographs. Worn on a supple leather strap for a warm touch, the watch is a joy on the wrist. Basically, a chronograph housed in a case that feels more like a dress watch.
The dial is, by far, the most striking and differentiating element of the Angelus Chronographe Médical. And, if some small adjustments have been made to meet the larger diameter of the watch and the different movement that beats inside, the look and display feel identical. Slightly domed and silvered opaline with a warm off-white feel, the dial features the same dual-scale layout as the original model, with a pulsometer scale on the periphery, and covering the first quarter of the dial, as well as an asthmometer scale that is located inside the seconds scale, with a 5-breath base. The pulsometer even has a specific colour code – green, black, or red – corresponding to the severity of the reading obtained during the examination. By contrast, the respiratory scale is red-coloured. And both use a particularly large font that makes the vocation of the watch unmistakable. Slightly weird, very different, but quite lovely.
The rest of the dial is slightly more traditional, with applied and rhodium-plated indexes and Arabic numerals, luminous dauphine hands and small luminous dots next to the hour markers. The only grief would be the position of the unique sub-counter of this dial, the running seconds, which is very close to the axis of the hands. But with its crisp black printings and unobtrusive hardware, this dial is really giving the Angelus x Massena LAB Chronographe Médical a toolish, purpose-built style.
We need to talk about mechanics now. Because inside this watch isn’t your classic, off-the-shelves Sellita or Valjoux calibre. While old-school movements such as Lemania ébauches aren’t available anymore, Angelus has recreated something that pairs perfectly with the overall style of the watch, a hand-wound monopusher chronograph with traditional column wheel and horizontal clutch architecture. And looking through the exhibition back, the design of the movement should feel familiar to some… Indeed, the Angelus Calibre A5000, made in-house within the facilities of La Joux-Perret (sister company of Angelus), is the modern evolution of a movement once done by THA and Journe, housed for instance in the case of the brilliant Cartier CPCP Tortue Monopoussoir (Jaquet SA, which later became Manufacture La Joux-Perret, bought the right to FPJ for this movement some years ago).
What’s important to know is that the movement has been drastically reworked and upgraded, and is now fully manufactured internally. The most notable modification concern the position of the pusher, now at 2 o’clock. The movement has a superb traditional architecture, with all the springs, levers and wheels visible (the joy of the horizontal clutch layout) and a column wheel in full display. Beating at 3Hz, it stores a reasonable 42h power reserve, but mostly, it’s the look and the high-end finishing that matter here. Polished bevels, stripes and perlage, polished screws and sinks… It’s all there.
The Angelus x Massena LAB Chronographe Médical is worn on a full-grain calfskin Novonappa strap in a warm golden brown colour that develops a patina over time. It is closed by a classic steel pin buckle, signed with Angelus’ logo.
Availability & price
The Angelus Chronographe Médical x Massena LAB will be a limited edition of 99 pieces, available via massenalab.com. It is priced at CHF 19,900 (incl. taxes) or USD 19,900 (excl. taxes). And clearly, it makes us curious to see what comes next in the La Fabrique collection by Angelus… More details at angelus-watches.com.