Founded in 2018 by William Massena – long-time managing director of pioneering internet watch forum TimeZone and former CEO of specialist watch auctioneer Antiquorum – Massena LAB sees itself as a hothouse of horological innovation, writing watchmaking culture for the collecting community with the heart and head of an enthusiast. It does this by collaborating with renowned master watchmakers, through innovation and craft, urging evolution while borrowing defining accents from the past.
Its latest is a collaboration with Luca Soprana, charmingly named Old School for its study of the montre d’école or “school watch” – the timepiece that every watchmaking apprentice must create as a graduation project, to be assessed whether he or she has the competence to earn the qualification of full-fledged watchmaker.
In this vein, Old School is quite a departure from Soprana’s other more elaborate creations, such as the Astronomia Tourbillon which Ateliers7h38 – a complications specialist co-founded by Soprana – created for Jacob & Co. Devoid of excess, Old School is solid, sober and austere, a simple time-only watch that brims with precision in reading and hand-crafted detail. The sector dial and pointed sword-blade hands of blued steel allow for very precise reading of the time not unlike the experience of using a vernier calliper. True to its tool watch looks, the Old School is a chronometer, with a certificate from the Horological Society of New York.
The dial is entirely made by hand, of rhodium-plated German silver; the hands and crown are filed and crafted by hand while the warm centre that draws everything together is hand-frosted then plated with gold.
Turn the watch over and the movement is replete with classic features and finish that evoke craft and taste at an elegantly restrained canter: three-quarter plate features traits-tirés or straight-grain finish, punctuated by gold chatons to set the rubies. The bi-metallic balance wheel is driven by a blued steel balance spring, with screw adjustment and swan-neck regulator. The movement is signed “Massena & L. Soprana”, and engraved with its limited edition number.
Old School is available in a limited edition of 11 pieces from massenalab.com.
There are all genres of watches for all manner of applications but surely, the school watch must hold a very special place in every watchmaker’s heart, as precious as memories of first love. If the broad universe of watchmaking culture had a mother lode of bittersweet emotion, the montre d’école could arguably be it. And to the collaboration’s credit, Old School’s translation of the montre d’école is suitably subdued, all the better to showcase a watchmaker’s skill and philosophy in sharp relief, as the darkened countryside is better placed to reveal the stars in the night sky.
Movement: LS-01 manual wind, chronometer, 40 hours power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds
Case: Steel, 41.5mm by 11mm, exhibition back, water resistant to 3 ATM
Strap: Alligator strap by Jean Rousseau Paris
Price: USD 39,500 (limited edition of 11 examples)