Franck Muller’s creations tend to be forward-looking, zany, bringing a touch of wild energy to a space that sometimes can feel a little staid for all the time-weathered codes and traditions that are rightfully upkept with deep devotion. Franck Muller is simply what it is for its uncanny ability to surf the very edge of convention while upholding the authenticity of its watchmaking. Crazy Hours is complicated, and Aeternitas Mega is crazy. For their technical mastery, no one can seriously mistake flashiness for frivolity in Franck Muller’s creations.
Yet for all that forward-looking styling and watchmaking philosophy, Franck Muller found himself inspired by an old movie when he saw 1942’s Casablanca for the first time as a young man. The result was the Franck Muller Cintrée Curvex Casablanca, launched in 1998. What was he trying to achieve? Contemporary luxury is glitzy, glamorous, piling on the luxury tropes accumulated over the ages like a mound of bricks. Going back in time can sometimes bring more clarity into the proceedings, and Old Hollywood offers plenty to borrow from in this regard. Set in Morocco, Casablanca is a romance drama set against the backdrop of the Second World War — there’s murder, intrigue and a bunch of characters weathering the Nazi storm at a café, waiting for the right papers to escape to America. There’s no activewear or cotton rags as one sees in Starbucks, everyone dresses formally in the 1940s and wears a hat, suavely, at a tilt.
For this reason, 1998’s Cintrée Curvex Casablanca was imbued with classic elegance, yet somewhat exotic to fit the setting. The tonneau case exuded refinement, and the oversized hour numerals with Art Deco inspired typography added characteristic Franck Muller dash.
For 2022, the Cintrée Curvex Casablanca gets an update, a 21st-century revision in face and form. The new Vanguard Casablanca is available in four colorways inspired by the movie (released in black and white, Casablanca was colorized in 1988): black, brown and salmon, plus a special edition sporting a black dial with blue accents and contrast stitching on the hand sewn straps, available at Franck Muller boutiques across the region. The printed hour numerals are large and bold, stretched radially in Franck Muller fashion, and more geometrical this time round, racking up presence and charisma in tandem with skeletonized hands that appear more stout than the 1998 original. For all this visual flourish, the dial remains very readable, with the five-minute markers outlined clearly to lead the eye.
But the more dramatic transformation must come from the use of the Vanguard case. Curved, rounded with polished finish, the effect is nothing short of voluptuous; it is modern, almost organic, and visually muscular. With the Vanguard case, the revised Casablanca effectively forgoes the quiet elegance of the original for something much more charismatic and assertive. No longer an elegant indulgence; more a power accessory meant to project ambition.
Besides the time and date version, the Vanguard Casablanca is also available as a chronograph. Both versions come in either the V41 (41mm case width) variation or the V43 (42.5mm case width) variation, in stainless steel. Of particular note for those who are after the V43, these will be available exclusively in Southeast Asia.
Even if the corporate space now preaches sustainability, loving the earth, first names and dressing down (at least on Fridays), one thing that does not change is power as the currency of interpersonal exchange. There are watches that communicate one’s worldly sophistication, cultural refinement, or rugged spirit, but not many that hold that independent streak of a maverick while communicating power and ambition. The Franck Muller Vanguard Casablanca exudes all of these qualities.
Franck Muller Vanguard Casablanca Limited Edition
Refs: V 43 SC DT CASA (Southeast Asia Exclusive); V41 SC DT CASA
Movement: Self-winding caliber MVT FM 800-DT; 42-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds and date
Case: 42.5mm x 52.7mm x 12.6mm, or 41mm x 49.95mm x 12.2mm; stainless steel; water resistant to 30m
Dial: Black, brown or salmon; black with blue accents; luminescent Arabic numerals
Strap: Hand sewn alligator; hand polished stainless steel buckle
V41 Classic/Chronograph = CHF 7,600 or SGD 12,300 / CHF 13,260 or SGD 21,300
V43 Classic / Chronograph = CHF 7,700 or SGD 12,600 / CHF 13,390 or SGD 21,500
Learn more about the collection: casablanca.franckmuller-sea.com