Introducing The Massena LAB Uni-Racer
The Massena LAB site has, in the course of recent days, featured a teaser as a graphic that was quite unmistakable to anyone who may have visited a cinema from generally the center ’60s to the early 1990s. On the off chance that you’ve been to the Massena LAB site and are of a certain age, at that point I’m willing to wager that you had a fair for what may be coming today.
A graphic from the Massena LAB site that calls to mind an outdated adaptation of the Universal Pictures logo.
Today, we’re seeing what has to be one of my favorite new watches of 2020. It’s been in progress for pretty much three years, having sprung from the psyche of one of the watch-gathering scene’s most unmistakable personalities, William Massena, an early and active voice on the Timezone watch discussion and the site’s previous managing chief. All the more as of late, the inveterate authority and industry master has been centered around creating the sorts of watches that he, when all is said and done, wants to claim through his company, Massena LAB.
What we have here is the first exclusively Massena LAB-branded watch. In the past, Massena has worked with established marques like Habring² and Unimatic (on the watch side) as well as MB&F & L’Epee on a clock to create its restricted horological items. Yet, for this go around, the brand of record is Massena LAB itself.
The new Massena LAB Uni-Racer with black dial.
To the semi-trained eye, the watch you see above is clearly a lively chronograph of mid-1960s inspiration, yet to those knowledgeable in watches from the time, it’s clearly been motivated by one of the great collectible watches of the ’60s, the Universal Genève Uni-Compax “Huge Eye,” an example of which can be seen below.
An example of the Universal Genève Uni-Compax “Enormous Eye.” (Image kindness Christie’s)
The story of Universal Genève is itself, obviously, legendary. One of the great marques at any point to hail from Switzerland, Universal is famous for various things, including energetic chronographs, calendar watches, microtor developments, and the Gérald Genta-planned Polerouter. For a touch of setting, such was Univeral’s place among watch brands that as a matter of fact New York’s Henri Stern Watch Agency, the American arm of Patek Philippe, was once also its stateside distributor.
Over a two-year time span from 1963 to 1965, Universal made a fairly small (36.5mm), and yet profoundly unmistakable looking, chronograph in two variations – one with a black dial and the other with a white dial. Each had an oversized, contrasting minutes counter that hit an idiosyncratic contrast with the smaller running seconds, earning these watches the nickname “Large Eye.” While today, the Universal Uni-Compax “Huge Eye” regularly commands costs north of $30,000, Massena recollects when it traded for multiple times less.
While there were undeniably attractive components of the Big Eye configuration, it’s a watch that Massena never got for his own assortment. “I always thought it was somewhat small. It was made uniquely a few years and in small quantities, making it a costly vintage watch.” With the Uni-Racer, Massena has rethought the classic plan and transformed it into a very balanced and wearable 39mm x 13mm watch that is, similar to all of the Massena LAB watches up until now, the sort of watch that he, when all is said and done, wants to possess. Over the span of making the Uni-Racer, Massena even talked with previous Universal Genève employees.
The Massena LAB Uni-Racer utilizes another case plan that Massena had made and tried out as a wearable 3-D print. “I put it on and wore it for some time to test the size, the balance, and the extents of the watch,” he advised me. “At the point when I ventured out from home wearing it, I furtively trusted that I wouldn’t run into anyone who may ask me what I had on my wrist.” Each caseback has a number on it, a serial that is interesting to the case. It is anything but a restricted version number as such. Massena didn’t want a watch that said “1 of 200” or something similar. With an end goal to make the Uni-Racer as a watch would have been made during the ’60s, within caseback, he placed basically the Massena LAB logo. Making the watch ideal required searching out the correct providers and assembling the undertaking, a troublesome feat without a doubt, however one that was aided by Massena’s contacts in the business and the fact that he has been traveling to Switzerland for so many years.
“The Uni-Racer is made the way they made watches in Switzerland in the days of yore,” Massena advised me. “The providers are left and right,” he says, alluding to the venerable Swiss tradition of établissage.
While the ’60s original has one of the major chronograph developments of the day inside it – the manually twisted Valjoux 23 – Massena’s new task draws on the Sellita SW 510 M. This manually wound caliber guarantees that the Uni-Racer is twisted by hand, obviously, much the same as the Universal that roused it, while allowing for a marginally slimmer profile than would be conceivable with an advanced full-rotor automatic chronograph. “I wanted a decent, present day, reliable development for this watch,” Massena says.
One detail that the casual eye may miss comes as the domed, scratch-resistant acrylic crystal. Massena felt that to do the Uni-Racer accurately, it had to have an acrylic crystal appropriate for the time frame that enlivened it. It’s been treated to oppose scratches more than standard acrylic. On the off chance that you take a gander at the focal point of the crystal, you’ll notice an Easter egg as a little Massena “M,” directly on the actual crystal. This “M” can be found all through the watch, from the crown to the custom clasp to, obviously, the applied logo at 12 o’clock.
The particular dials further feature a base-1000 tachymeter on the edge and a red crosshair that proceeds from the central axis to separate the running seconds sub-dial. Massena disclosed to me that the red crosshair on the main dial is actually an inconspicuously unexpected tone in comparison to the red lines of the running seconds. “On the off chance that we went with the same shading all the way across, it wouldn’t appear to be identical – your eyes play a stunt on you – so we had to change one to guarantee a smooth transition.”
The hour, moment, and chronograph seconds hands are large and particular in the two renditions, instantly drawing comparisons to the hands on the classic Universal. Massena is particularly glad for the blued hands on the white-dial variation (blued hands can also be found on the sub-dials of the black-dial variation). Getting the shading perfectly was no easy task. “At the point when we were making them, they were either excessively blue or excessively black until we eventually got it right.”
The case has an awesome wrist-embracing balance, with conspicuous downward inclining drags whose upper surfaces have a pleasant brushed completion. As befits a watch that breezes simply by hand, the Uni-Racer’s crown is large and easy to grip.
Thoughtful cardboard packaging accompanies the Massena LAB Uni-Racer. It’s basic, yet it instantly transports you to the brilliant age of watches that went before the Quartz Crisis. The red operating directions and international warranty record underneath calls to mind something that may have come from this time.
While Universal’s Uni-Compax “Huge Eye” was the directing light for Massena’s task, it’s a watch that Universal hasn’t made for quite a while, obviously, and that today is far off for many gatherers. The Uni-Racer is a larger, present day re-interpretation that has been intended for balance and comfort while conveying the charm of a ’60s classic.
The Massena LAB Uni-Racer “Panda” and “Opposite Panda,” UR-001 & UR-002. Stainless steel case measuring 39mm x 13mm (counting 4mm domed sapphire crystal with 20mm carry width). Water resistant to 50 meters. Acrylic crystal with scratch-resistant coating. Black or white dial with contrasting subdials and Super-LumiNova. Manually twisted Sellita SW 510M chronograph development vibrating at 28,800 vph and running in 23 gems. Straps: UR-001 (Panda), “Bleu de France” saffiano strap; UR-002 (Reverse Panda), concrete gray finished leather strap. Cost: $3,495. Available solely from Massena LAB and the HODINKEE Shop.
Editor’s note: Watch companies now and then announce new items to the HODINKEE editorial team and the HODINKEE Shop at the same time. Please note that the editorial team and the Shop team produce their content autonomously of each other.