After getting my first luxury watch in late 2013, it took me over two years to save up enough to finally get my second watch, the Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Cinq Aiguilles. Since my Tag Heuer was more of a casual watch that could take a beating, I wanted my second timepiece to have a little more refinement so I could wear it to dress up rather than dress down. At the time in July 2016, I bought it from Jomashop, probably the largest online grey market watch dealer, during a July 4th “sale” (although some watches were always “on sale” so it wasn’t really a lower price than usual). After a coupon, my final price was $1,199, which I think is an incredibly good deal for a watch of this caliber.
As I mentioned, I wanted a watch to balance out my Tag Heuer Aquaracer, and so I took a completely different route in selecting the Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Cinq Aiguilles. First, Maurice Lacroix is a lesser-known brand compared to a giant like Tag Heuer; that way, I knew I would be paying more for quality rather than for a brand name. Second, I had heard some news that Maurice Lacroix (the company) was being put up for sale. This could mean that their watches would become rare and increase in value, or that the watches would be a risky investment without authorized dealers/service and decrease in value. Again, since Maurice Lacroix wasn’t some historically significant watch brand, it was the latter, so I took the risk and bought one for 74% off during their fire sale. Lastly, I picked this particular watch out of Maurice Lacroix’s selection because the simple but unique 5-hand (“Cinq Aiguilles”) dial was exactly what I was looking for in a dress watch, especially for the price.
Appearance and Function
The single word I would use to describe the ML Cinq Aiguilles’ watch face is “sharp.” There is no texture on the face, and the white background of this particular model has a clear but harmonious contrast with both the blue and silver hands. From the outside in, the eponymous five hands alternate in color, with silver seconds, blue day-of-week, silver minutes, blue date, and silver hours. Rather than moving slowly, the two “extra” blue hands jump on each day at midnight, which makes them easy to read in the middle of the day. I also encountered no issues keeping the sapphire crystal clean, so it’s been easy to keep the Cinq Aiguilles looking brand new.
The back of the watch is a perfect juxtaposition with the sharp no-nonsense face, since it allows you to peer into the beautifully complex ML 159 movement (see below). It’s held together by five screws and the top of the back casing dons the Masterpiece name that represents its inclusion in Maurice Lacroix’s most prestigious collection. The crown that adjusts this movement is a pull/push crown that is embellished with the Maurice Lacroix logo. The neutral position, as with most automatics, allows manual winding of the movement, while the 1st position controls both the date and day hands. Winding it clockwise moves the date forward while winding it counterclockwise moves the day forward. Finally, the 2nd position stops the watch, which allows for precise time setting.
Mechanically, the ML 159 movement is most likely a modified ETA 2836-2. I say “most likely” because I am unable to find any confirmed information on the ML 159, and am basing it on the fact that an older version of a Maurice Lacroix Cinq Aiguilles is based on this ETA movement. Also, I’m fairly certain that this is not one of Maurice Lacroix’s in-house movements, and the logical ETA movement to use for a watch that has day and date functionality is the ETA 2836-2. That said, Maurice Lacroix has taken the liberty to add an additional jewel (for a total of 26), which should theoretically reduce some of the friction inside the movement to improve its longevity. The ML 159 moves at a standard 28,800 vibrations per hour with a 38 hour power reserve. I’ve confirmed this power reserve, although most of the time I have it on my watch winder, where it’s optimally set at 650 turns per day in either or both CW/CCW.
The ML 159 is a beautifully decorated movement, as you can see above. Compared to the ETA 2836-2 it is derived from, the half circle rotor is gold-plated and etched with Côtes de Genève in the center. Several of the gears are also gold-plated and most of the surface is decorated with stunning perlage. When the watch is running, the balance swings back and forth clearly on the top half of this mechanical marvel.
The Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Cinq Aiguilles is a fairly unique watch because of the five hands on its dial. However, there do exist other dress watches with similar movements as well as day and date functionality. At a lower price point, there is the Tissot Automatic III, which costs around $300. Tissot is often said to be the most entry-level Swiss luxury watch brand, and this semi-formal watch also comes with the ETA 2836-2, although it’s plainly decorated and most likely a lower grade. For a watch in the same class as the Cinq Aiguilles, one can get the Longines Master Collection Silver Dial for $1,500, which holds the L636 movement, a decorated high caliber ETA 2836-2 that shows the day and date. Lastly, at a bank-breaking $6,000, there’s the Chronoswiss Sirius Manufacture Automatic Men’s 18K Rose Gold. This beautiful timepiece not only features a rose gold case, but it also uses the Chronoswiss Calibre C. 128 movement (that shows day and date), which is based on a movement made by Enicar, a historically significant watch caliber company. With the company only producing about 7,000 watches per year, you’d be entering exclusive company with this Chronoswiss.
Unlike with my previous watch, I did not have any buyer’s remorse when it came to the Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Cinq Aiguilles at the price point of $1,199. Even though the brand was not a typical “luxury watch brand,” I knew that I was getting a lot of value in terms of quality. In the last 1.5 years of owning this watch, I’ve been extremely impressed by its accuracy, and the unique simplistic beauty of the watch still wins me over every time I look at it.
It seems like no matter what I do with the Cinq Aiguilles, it has an error of about +1 second/day. That’s incredible! It’s obviously good enough to be within the COSC standards of Chronometer certification, but what’s really impressive to me is how precise this timing is regardless of whether it’s sitting on my desk, in my watch winder, or on my wrist. This seems consistent with an unconfirmed report that I read that the Cinq Aiguilles is adjusted to 5 positions (they sure like 5’s), meaning that its error rates are minimized in 5 of the 6 possible watch positions: dial up, dial down, crown up, crown down, and crown left. The acceptable range of adjustments for automatic watches is 2-6, so this is definitely on the high end. Hopefully this accuracy continues, especially if Maurice Lacroix goes out of business and I have to service it elsewhere.
I’ve also really been impressed with how the watch looks with its two additional hands for day and date. Due to their different colors with the main time-keeping hands, the watch is not too difficult to read (although it does take a bit to get used to). However, their presence makes for a truly unique experience when looking at the Cinq Aiguilles: nearly every day looks different. In fact, there are 217 different configurations of the two blue hands (31 dates times 7 days). In the photo above, at 7:07 on Tuesday the 28th, you can see how the watch looks. But 24 hours from that photo, at 7:07 on Wednesday the 29th, the two blue hands will have have widened 63 degrees, making the face look completely different. Long story short: the Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Cinq Aiguilles will likely look different every day for a period of many months before a single repeat.
- Great price for the value
- High grade, precise, and beautifully decorated ETA movement
- Unique look with its “Cinq Aiguilles”
- Maurice Lacroix brand’s future is unclear
Manufacturer: Maurice Lacroix
Functions: Date, day, hour, minute, second
Movement: Maurice Lacroix Calibre ML 159, automatic, 28,800 vph, 26 jewels, 38 hour power reserve
Case: Stainless steel case with transparent case back, sapphire crystal, water resistant to 50 meters
Band: Black leather strap, width = 20 mm, deployment with push button release
Dial: Silver-tone minute/hour/second hands, blue hands mark date around inner ring and day around the outer rim, pull/push crown
Dimensions: Diameter = 40 mm
Variations: Black dial w/silver hands, silver dial w/gold hands, silver dial w/blue hands, rose gold case, bracelet
Price: $1,199 (purchased), $1,554 (current Jomashop grey market), $2,800 (Retail)