Early Franck Muller 3 of 50 Sport Limited Edition Chronograph
Franck Muller is often called the ‘master of complications’, but in truth there’s only one of his that I care about. It’s a simple chronograph, made before he discovered blow (after saying this for years I can now blame that framing on our friends at Amsterdam Vintage Watches), and it stands in stark contrast to the tonneau audacity which came later. It’s 37mm, and it’s quite a difficult thing to seek out—even for the most seasoned collectors. This ‘Sport Limited Chronograph’ was made in 50 examples. They don’t trade hands very often. You’ll find them in tri-subdial and this slightly rarer dual-subdial, black and white dials. Some display their individual number proudly on the dial, others on the caseback only. There’s a lot a variance and much to study, but they’re all beautiful, modernized echoes of Patek 130.
One of my favorite stories from Franck Muller’s early days is that after graduating top of his class in Geneva watchmaking school, he won a Rolex Datejust. He immediately modified it to be a perpetual calendar, something Rolex has never made. Rolex unsurprisingly wanted nothing to do with it. Jay-Z owns that watch today. He then went to work restoring watches for collector and auction houses, eventually working with Patek Philippe in maintenance and restoration of many of their most important historic watches. Of course he started out complicated and classic. This brief production from the very start is today widely considered some of his most attractive work ever. Even today, few have come back up for sale.
This design became known when A Collect Man got a penchant for them in the late 2010s, much like early Roger Dubuis, then exploded back on to the zeitgeist last year when Revolution worked with modern FM to effectively reissue this design. But nothing hits like the straight-from-the-source, undiluted 90s production: glossy black dial with silver print and Breguets (some also have applied numerals), feuille hands, stepped concave bezel, subtly finished COSC-cert Lemania 1874. Charming, I think is the word. Whatever you think of FM, and opinions are often enthusiastic, he was integral in making the world enjoy watches again through the 90s. It’s a bit like another 90s darling, Pokemon. Pikachu f*cked off for a good decade there, only loved by Super Smash Bros players. But then Pokemon Go game out, and sixteen year olds were wandering into mosques while staring at their phones in the hopes of catching a Magikarp. We’re in the Pokemon Go phase of neo-vintage, but is that such a bad thing? Not if it pulls things like this out of safes and to the market.
This example is great. The case is sharp, no serious bashes, and light surface wear commensurate with occasional wear. It comes with its presentation box running well. It comes from a well-regarded Malaysian retailer.