From the secret lab of William Massena we have come to expect the unexpected. The LAB has a short but exciting history of sharp collaborations with a disruptive edge, exhibiting a wide scope of taste and style. This exciting new model is a case in point, with the last public project being a brilliant vintage bronze version of the T-Rex by MB&F, which was as much art as a static timepiece. This time, Massena has gone into the rich archives of sports chronographs for inspiration to give us the fresh, yet familiar, Massena LAB Uni-Racer.
The inspirational basket of vintage chronographs is a large one, and William Massena and his LAB cohorts have spent three years with a focus on Universal, rather than pulling out random elements. This is the elusive Uni-Compax “Big Eye” redefined through a sharp lens, hitting several metaphorical nails on the head in the process.
Within a Goldilocks 39mm case sits the lesser-seen vintage perfectionist manual-wind Sellita SW510 M, a no-date caliber with a solid 58 hours of power reserve. With its 50m water resistance, this is no diver; the new Uni-Racer is all about motor racing and urban style with an oh-so perfect vintage air.
In either a crisp white or a monochrome black reverse panda, the strong Universal inspiration is clear, and that’s all good. I count myself as a huge fan of vintage chronographs, but with the frailty of the movements in everyday use, this is the answer, and with a fraction of the cost of USD $30,000+ for the inspiration. The tough, blunt hour and minute hands match the two dials in colour, and all the right ’60s details are here, through deep research into the Universal archives, including interviews with former employees, over a three-year period. Slightly larger by a few important millimetres – it’s an elegant case with razor-sharp angled lugs and a slim inset bezel, but it’s all about the dial.
A red crosshair ties the classic design together with a welcome touch of colour, and delicate snailing on the silver chronograph registers, crisply recessed into the dial. I know that in 2020, few of us fully understand the use of a tachymeter scale, so that’s for a deeper article. But the outer tachy scale, with its silver background and brilliant print detail, is a perfectionist detail that beautifully frames the dial. The blunt blued baton hands on the registers are well proportioned like their inspiration, and the blue, heat-treated hands fascinatingly change colour in the light.
There’s a clear feeling that Massena LAB has fully engaged their horological scientists into the research of the watch — even the greenish tint of the small portions of Super-LumiNova is particular to these two models, discreet and period-perfect at the base of the hour markers.
Functionality in the chronograph function will no doubt be good, with a large, wide crown and pump pushers ready for action, great legibility in the two registers, and particular visual enjoyment coming from the Big Eye 30-minute register at 9. The final piece in the puzzle? Sourcing acrylic crystals and having them fitted to ensure a 50m depth rating, with the pièce de résistance being the M of Massena LAB being engraved into the crystal as a fitting salute to the strong Universal influence. Seldom have we seen inspiration taken to this point of perfection, and I can imagine a rather short time in stock for the 200 models in each colour being produced.
Massena LAB Uni-Racer price and availability:
The Massena LAB Uni-Racer is USD $3495, and is available from Massena LAB.