You would have thought that by this point in the year, I would not really have anything left from BaselWorld to talk about. Surprisingly enough, I do. While I had not heard of Armand Nicolet prior to them reaching out in the run-up to the show. While the brand itself went under (in terms of watches carrying its name), more or less, in the quartz crisis, they still kept working, collaborating with other brands to produce their movements. Back in 2000, they started back up producing their own watches. That brings us to today, and our discussion of one of their latest watches, the Armand Nicolet L15.
While the Armand Nicolet L15 is a nice-looking three-hander with date, at first you might think that there is not much that sets the watch apart – so what made it interesting to me? By the very fact that it is part of their O.H.M. (Original Historical Movement) collection. What that acronym indicates is that they found a cache of old movements (in this case an AS 1883 which was made in 1967), which are then restored and re-assembled in the current workshop. This, along with some modifications they made in 2014, results in the movement carrying the designation AN703A. Whatever the nomenclature, I am just happy to see an old movement get new life breathed into it, rather than being disassembled and melted for scrap – much like we see with our friends over at Archer Watch.
This movement is then housed in a smaller (for the brand) case that measures in at 39mm, and comes either in stainless steel, steel and rose gold (on the bezel and crown), or full rose-gold. Depending on the case material, the dial has options between silver, grey, or black. For my money, given that the hands and indices are brightly polished, one of the darker dials would seem to be the way to go, just for ease of readability. Unfortunately here, the date wheel does not switch to a darker shade for the darker dials, which means it stands out a bit more than I would prefer to see. Then again, that is a particular pet peeve of mine with watches. The 10mm thick case is then topped with an AR-coated sapphire crystal, and paired to alligator strap.
Date windows aside, this is a tidy little three-hander, with the grey dial (in my opinion) giving you some great flexibility from black tie to daily wear. If you are on the hunt for one of these, you will be in rare company. Remember those afore-mentioned vintage movements? The supply of those limits how many watches can actually be built. In this case, there are 400 of the stainless and stainless plus rose gold models, and only 50 of the rose gold (for a grand total of 450 pieces being issued). This, along with the luxury air around the Swiss pedigree, means that the Armand Nicolet L15 starts at $5,300 and tops out at $14,400. Yes, that is some luxury territory – but it you shopping takes you into that segment, why not look for something that has classic looks, and brings a vintage movement back to life? armandnicolet.com
- Brand & Model: Armand Nicolete L15
- Price: $5,300 – $14,400
- Who we think it might be for: You want a clean three-hander that manages to be exclusive without trumpeting it’s exclusivity from the dial
- Would I buy one for myself based on what I’ve seen?: With this question, I have to include price in the consideration – and for my budget, that just sort of breaks the deal for me.
- If I could make one design suggestion, it would be: Get a color-matched date wheel in the mix, and/or blued hands on the silver dial
- What spoke to me the most about this watch: If it was not clear, it is the vintage movement ticking away inside the watch
Tech Specs from Armand Nicolet
- Diameter: 39 mm
- Thickness: 10 mm
- Movement: Mechanical, automatic
- Calibre: AN703A, obtained from AS 1883 produced in 1967 and modified in 2014.
- Dial: Black; Silvered; Grey
- Case: Stainless steel 316L; two-toned Stainless steel 316L with bezel and crown in 18 Kt rose gold 5N; 18 Kt rose gold 5N
- Glass: sapphire crystal with antiglare treatment
Movement Specs from Armand Nicolet
- Calibre: AN-703 A made up of 173 components
- Diameter: 26 mm
- Thickness: 4.50 mm
- Jewels number: 25
- Power reserve: 42h
- Functions: hours, minutes, central seconds
- Winding system: automatic
- Escapement: Swiss “ancre”
- Hair-Spring: flat hair-spring
- Balance: 10 mm diameter
- Vibrations: 21,600 vibrations per hour (3 Hz)
- Adjustment: regulated in 5 positions
- Finishing: Côtes de Genève, Perlage, Rhodium treated.
- Shock Absorber: Incabloc