Having seen the turbulent recent years of the watch industry, it sure takes some admirable self-confidence to start a watch brand from scratch. Arguably, one would need a solid starting idea, a unique selling point, coherent and powerful design DNA, a decent movement… all offered at a competitive price. In an effort to tick all of these boxes, the Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure marks the first collection of this new company that was established by two engineers, Eric Mauron and Christophe Musy. Let’s see how this new piece of “Armor” fairs in battle.
The Beginnings – In A Nutshell
The two met in the late 1990s, when Eric was the managing director of Régis Mauron SA, a company that specialized in the machining of mechanical parts, and Christophe was serving an internship as a mechanic. It was more recently, in 2012, that they set out to create something new and that the Mauron Musy company in St. Aubin, Switzerland, was born. That “something new” was to be based on their extensive knowledge and experience in precision engineering – a prowess you can actually sense and feel when you pick the Armure up, but more on that a bit later.
“nO-Ring” Technology: A Gasket-Free Case Design
So, what is that solid starting idea that makes Mauron Musy’s work unique? There are a handful of things to consider, but what stands out most is their “nO-Ring” case design, that allowed them to fully omit the use of rubber gaskets and seals. Traditionally, watch cases are composed of several separate components which are made waterproof by inserting synthetic rings (sometimes called “O-rings”) between them. The key problem with these gaskets, the two say, is that they have a limited lifespan: over time, the synthetic material deteriorates, it hardens up and fails to maintain a perfect seal between the case’s middle element and the bezel as well as the caseback, not to mention the frequently used crown.
To leave gaskets out of the equation altogether, first, the nO-Ring technology does away with clamping screws to avoid any risk of deforming the case components’ flat surfaces. The glass and the back are clamped down by satellite springs placed around the entire perimeter, compressed and tensed by the closure of the case-band (the middle section) and the bezel. The parts are divided into several segments held together and secured by hinges during the assembly process, based on the same principle as clamp braces.
In essence, the technology is based on the components’ surfaces being machined and fitting together with extremely high precision, held together by the controlled tension achieved by the springs and hinges.
The surfaces in contact with the various components are “hardened, lapped with a grinding tool and then reworked to ensure the required flatness and the appropriate roughness of the surface profile,” the brand explains. So much goes for the case, but what’s up with the crown? This makes us wonder why nobody else has tried it before: each crown shaft is fitted in its bearing, creating such a “nanometrically accurate fit” that there is no risk of infiltration, even when the crown is operated underwater.
All this engineering nerdfest allows the Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure to remain water-resistant to a depth rating of 100 meters, and the brand says that you can even fiddle with the crown under water and you need not fear water entering the case. My love for watches allowed me to try this very briefly – it was a cringe-worthy experience, and while the Armure showed no water or condensation inside the case after the test, I’d still advise that you don’t try this at home and always make sure that the crown is pushed all the way in (it does not screw down) when you go swimming or scuba diving with your Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure. M’kay?
Fit & Finish
Many of us watch enthusiasts are hardcore nerds at heart, who are fascinated by how things are made and put together. We have always had – and over the years have heavily developed – our sense for quality of execution and, for that reason, we find well-made things to be especially satisfying to look at, wear, or simply admire. More satisfying, than, say, rocking the latest trend, or the “dopest” brand name-dropped in rap songs.
For that reason, a brand like Mauron Musy – established and run by two like-minded engineers who are utterly obsessed with high precision machining – we can still find to be hugely exciting. The Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure is cool and fascinating because these origins become immediately apparent once you have it in your hand, even if you have no idea where, how, or by whom it was made.
There is an unapologetic and almost complete lack of soul in the Armure – the only human element to it comes from how you can reflect on the painstaking work that must have gone into machining it with such unearthly precision. Some watches, like the ones made by Bexei orVoutilainen, have a tangible “handmade-ness” to them, comparable to what you can feel/touch/smell around vintage race cars or with handmade shoes.
The Armure is beautifully made and has several years of man-hours in fine tuning components and machining techniques – which is all human effort that went into its creation. With that said, the Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure still falls at the other end of the spectrum from those aforementioned independents (even if we disregard the price). With its intense-looking and -feeling design, where every layer, part, and cut-out feels functional first, and aesthetically pleasing second.
Having handled all kinds of high-end watches crafted from different types of steel, gold, as well as more modern materials including carbon and composites, I still have to say that the Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure, when held in hand and scrutinized up close, feels like very few of them. It is no news that today’s manufacturing technologies are sublimely advanced, and you don’t have to pay top dollar for a luxury watch to get a sense of that – it’s there in nearly every premium electronic device, for instance.
Yet, the Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure feels and looks as though every single component has been machined and fitted just that tiny little bit more tightly, with tolerances so microscopic, that the high-tech machining know-how behind its manufacturing actually becomes tangible.
If your primary preference in luxury products is seeing the traits of hand-finishing and the “craftsman’s touch” in the finer details, in the Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure you’ll not find exactly what you are looking for. If you appreciate the fit and finish of extremely well-made, modern products, you are definitely in for a treat, though.
How can there still be a difference in fit and finish among high-end watches produced today? Nearly all luxury watches of our time are machined and put together with amazingly small tolerances, but there still seems to be a way for the human eye to perceive a difference achieved through imperceptible improvements – it just works that way.
When it comes to finishing, there is a very clever mix of brushed, satinated, and polished elements. Once looked at more closely, it becomes apparent how the different layers of the case have been separated from each other: brushed and satin finished segments follow each other all the way up to the only polished part of the Armure, which is the end of the bezel. Even this bit is intelligently placed, as it adds some extra flair and sense of refinement to the otherwise rather industrial looking package, and also frames the dial and its polished indices. The Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure could easily have turned into a “robot turd” (to quote the infamous John Biggs), but instead it looks every bit as high-end and refined as it has to.
With that noted, I still maintain that the Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure’s high-tech feel does in fact result in a lack of fun and soul – but that is not something that couldn’t be restored with a touch of creativity. I remember the struggle of picking which Armure to review: there are numerous different options, including dials satin-finished in grey or blue, as well as silver or black Geneva striped ones, along with 44-millimeter wide cases in 316L stainless steel or black-treated steel.
On a personal note, I’m utterly bored with black cases of any type as well as blue dials in general – two of the most over-done trends of the last 2-3 years, I think. Hence, I went for a regular steel case with a matching grey dial and a few splashes of red here and there.
While the amazing fit and finish give enough to be excited about – if you are the type who appreciates these kinds of things – the overall impression on the wrist, for me at least, remained very much “I could take it or leave it.” Taste is very personal, and some will definitely enjoy the under-the-radar look of this grey watch on a black rubber strap… But this combo, I will admit, left me feeling quite a bit upset.
I wanted to like the Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure more on the wrist, I wanted it to wear in tune with how fantastic it looked and felt when scrutinized up close – but, out of the box, it wasn’t happening. My frustration led me to try and find the culprit, and find it I did: it was the black rubber strap. It feels supple and flexible, so it is comfortable to wear; however, even from a few feet away (or when glancing down at it on the wrist) it looks 2-3 grades lower quality than it actually is. There is something about the slightly faded black and the three lengthwise grooves which make it appear to be from a much less refined watch – even if to the touch it unquestionably is a high quality strap.
So I removed it from the watch – and, for a glorious moment, I could at last feel the designs’ real potential surface. I took the simplest, most restrained brown leather strap that I had laying around, put it on the Armure, and the watch was immediately transformed. To my great relief, this simple strap change worked great with the smooth, angled surfaces of the case, it lightened up the grey tones visually, making it appear to be as high-quality as it actually is and – heavens forbid – luxurious. The Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure’s vibe turned into a great everyday wear from what looked like something you forgot to take off after your scuba dives while on your summer holiday.
I am not sure, but can imagine why the duo went for the black rubber strap, as it might have helped highlight the water resistant, go-anywhere nature of the watch. But the Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure has to also be equipped for everyday wear so that it works with all kinds of attire. For this reason, I feel the black rubber strap should have always been a secondary option that was supplied with the watch, while, out of the box, a higher-quality, but simple-looking brown or black strap would be a much better companion.
On a final note, the 44mm-wide and 14mm-thick case does have some sharp edges here and there, but absolutely none that would cause any harm while wearing the watch or using the crown – something that is not at all true for most other comparably angular case designs out there. With its flat case-back and short lugs, the Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure sits comfortably on the wrist, even if the steel case is not without the usual heft of this size. I am pretty sure that more material options will follow – and, for whatever reason, looking at this watch makes me want to see a version with a steel case and a yellow gold bezel.
We have already mentioned dial color options, but time now for a closer look. A total of 13 applied indices adorn the grey, satin-looking, subtly sunburst-finished dial. Enforcing the grey theme are the three hands, with the two larger (which objectively appear to have taken inspiration from those seen on the Royal Oak Offshore) having been perfectly legible to my eyes under all but the darkest of lighting conditions.
While the duo at Mauron Musy have seemingly done everything in their power to make the hands look very similar to each other, reading the time quickly has never been much of a struggle for me. Still, even if the hour and minute hands’ exact same shape were not an issue, the notches at their half point can at times can make them more difficult to tell apart than would be deemed ideal. The sweeping seconds hand tends to blend into the dial in any environment as dark or darker than a dimly lit room. Quality of the hands is fantastic with or without taking the price point into consideration: diamond polished and beautifully three-dimensional, they have plenty of volume and are properly sized.
The dial appears to be high-quality enough to nicely complement the case: both its color, sheen, and quality of execution make it a solid match to the somewhat unusual, more saturated silvery color of the case. I do wonder, though, what the indices and hands would look like with slightly wider strips of Super-Luminova: proportions are fine design-wise, but night-time legibility could be a lot better, for as bright as the lume might glow, there simply isn’t enough surface of it revealed for the eye to see with ease.
Lastly, the dial scores some extra points for the white-on-black date disc, the nicely balanced texts, and especially for the red on the 12 o’clock indices, the tip of the seconds hand, and on the fonts for the Swiss Made text at 6.
Inside the Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure is the proudly 100% Swiss Made Eterna Calibre 3909A. We have looked at the Eterna 39 in great detail in our Movement Hands-On series here, but in a nutshell what you need to know is that it is one of the most impressive series-produced new movements put into production since the quartz crisis. Despite its thin profile and 4-Hertz frequency, the Eterna 3909A provides 65 hours of power reserve, replenished with a genuinely unnoticeable automatic winding that works free of annoying vibrations or winding sounds.
Furthermore, the movement hacks and the crown operates smoothly, allowing for quick and accurate setting of the time – and remember, there is no screw-down crown to be fiddled with. I loved how the 39 ran so silently, allowing me to work with the watch put on the desk next to my laptop.
Revealed through an ever-so-slightly raised and in fact very discreetly labeled sapphire crystal case-back, the movement and its custom, skeletonized rotor appear to be remarkably flat – and yet, no loud ticking can be heard, even with the balance wheel falling so close to the crystal. A superb movement overall, and kudos to Mauron Musy for not renaming it to imply a fake proprietary movement – it further goes to testify to their intentions of getting a solid movement to power their watch, and that’s the end of it.
I have admittedly had my ups and downs with the Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure. The quality of execution of all the watch head’s components, and especially the machining of the case, is definitely among the very best in this segment. It is, however, light on fancy finishing and required a bit of work to get to its full potential. The black rubber strap, as comfortable as it may be, kills the watch’s vibe – put it on a simple brown leather strap and the watch transforms into one heck of a daily wearer. Mauron Musy is among the first to base a collection of watches on the Eterna Caliber 39, and their open-mindedness pays huge dividends: the Caliber 39 runs smoothly and silently, with no annoying vibrations and 50% more power reserve when compared to its ETA counterparts.
Priced at 5,500 CHF, the Mauron Musy Classic Steel Armure’s forte is in its proprietary case and nO-Ring design, as well as its fantastic overall quality of execution, allowing it to be a more unique and creative option for those looking for a daily wear watch that is everything but off-the-shelf.
>Brand: Mauron Musy
>Model: Classic Steel Armure Reference MU 01-202
>Price: 5,500 CHF
>Size: 44mm wide, 14mm thick
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone with an open mind for new brands and an appreciation of luxury items with an emphasis more on fit and finish than story or soul.
>Best characteristic of watch: Case design and machining; intelligently matched colors and finishing throughout; superb movement.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Shipped exclusively on a rubber strap which fails to complement the watch and bring it to its full potential – so much better on a leather strap