Why The New Angelus Chronographe Médical × Massena LAB Is A Hot Candidate For Re-Edition Of The Year
…but it won’t be easy to beat the Angelus Chronographe Médical × Massena LAB. It’s an unexpected release, and thanks to the special movement inside, it’s quite different than most of the re-editions out there. So is its price tag.
In the last couple of years, a kind of race has taken hold of the watch industry — finding a “free” trademark of a vintage watch brand and looking at its past lineup to find a potential candidate for a relaunch. I have to admit that I feel bipolar when it comes to the topic. On one hand, it pleases me to see all the nostalgic designs from Aquastar, Airain, Nivada, and Vulcain coming back. On the other hand, I want to cry when I see a new Excelsior Park watch housing a Sellita movement. There is nothing wrong with it; it’s just a matter of getting used to it.
Angelus goes its own way
My colleague Balazs and I are big fans of vintage Angelus watches. Balazs wrote a long piece on the now-legendary Chronodato, the world’s first full-calendar chronograph. I then added my own story on a gold-plated model with a wildly aged dial. When Angelus was revived in 2015 by Swiss movement manufacturer La Joux-Perret, it became a showcase for the company’s best mechanical movements. The designs were a bit too much for me until last year when Angelus celebrated the Chronodato’s 80th anniversary with a completely new design. The new Chronodate is 120% a modern watch, but as an owner of an original piece, I can confirm that it still has the DNA of the original.
Massena meets Angelus
In the other corner of the world, we have William Massena and his multiple successful collaborations with Unimatic, Ming, and Habring². There are also Massena LAB’s polarizing vintage-inspired releases like the Geometer and the Uni-Racer. And it seems industry veteran Massena talked Angelus’s team into this unique project.
“I met with the Angelus team in 2018 at Baselworld, before Massena LAB existed. I pitched and maybe begged a little to look back at their very rich heritage and that I would love to help them if they wanted to start this project. Finally, I met with Bertrand Savary, the CEO of Angelus and Arnold & Son, at a Starbucks in New York City in the fall of 2021. We agreed on the collaboration, and things went very fast. We finalized the design by January 2022. As we had some challenges with the case and the production of the movement, it took another 15 months to be here,” Massena explains.
Here we are
A year ago, around the same time that the design of today’s release was completed, I published a #TBT story about “The Angelus Medical With A Magnificent Magnifier.” I had no idea that Angelus was working on the release of my Angelus grail watch. Bertrand Savary even dropped me a message calling dibs just in case I decided to sell my vintage Medical, so it could have occurred to me that he and his team were working on something.
And despite how surprised I was when the press release came, I should not have been at all. It’s so obvious why they remade this watch! As I wrote in my original watch review, the Angelus Medical stands way above all other medical watches, even ahead of the 1960s Longines Pulsometer, the Gallet Medigraph, or my favorite watch from Universal Genève, the Medico Compax. So how is the new Angelus Chronographe Médical × Massena LAB re-edition?
It’s impossible to tell from the pictures, but the size is different. The original Angelus Medical was 37mm in diameter, and the newly released model is 39mm. That’s an example of Massena’s supervision of the project. Angelus and La Joux-Perret took the lead in both the design and production, and Massena’s role was to advise and propose variations from the original watch. “William helped us with many small details,” says Bertrand Savary.
Where is the magnifier?
I couldn’t help but ask about the missing magnifier, which is an absolute rarity only found in the original Angelus Medical. “The dial is bigger, so it is much more legible. The second reason is that the huge loupe atop the glass needs a high, boxy glass which makes the watch thick, and we wanted something thin and slick. Last, a huge loupe that takes a quarter of a glass is not exactly pretty, and while I love practical watches, I also like them to be pretty, especially when there is not a need for that loupe,” says William.
I have to say that I missed the magnifier at first, but I see William’s point. I also have to admit that the original Plexi crystal is too high and, honestly, it looks pretty awkward. And as a true vintage nerd, I have to say I fully agree with William’s opinion that “it is nice that only the original gets the exclusivity of the loupe.”
Details to think about
Besides the magnifier and the slightly larger case, the re-edition is quite true to the original. Angelus’s team recreated the original font from scratch. They even kept both arrows, which are practical and amusing at the same time. From notable minor updates, I would mention the logo. Instead of the simple “floating” Angelus name, William suggested reverting to the original framed logo and including it on the dial. With Heuer in mind, I believe it’s a great detail to reuse.
Now comes the best part
The nicely engraved case back carries a limited edition number out of 99. Underneath the sapphire window, you can see the hand-wound mechanical Angelus A5000 movement. “The fact that the new Angelus Chronographe Médical has the cult THA chrono movement is the little extra that makes me really excited about this release,” starts William’s explanation of the caliber within. The movement is also a reason why the small seconds register is way closer to the center than it is in the original design.
“This movement was designed by François-Paul Journe when he was a partner in a company that was called THA Ébauche in the mid-’90s. He was working at THA with two other watchmakers named Denis Flageollet and Vianney Halter. They developed modules mostly for Cartier but also created a monopusher movement (with a pusher on the crown) for the Cartier CPCP Tortue Chronograph.”
Now owned by LJP, this movement is pretty exclusive. That also explains the US$19,990 price tag. The original THA movement was fitted in this watch after modifying the location of the monopusher from the crown to 2 o’clock. “This year, Angelus will produce about 350 watches; we can make as many as a hundred A5000 movements. It’s the maximum capacity for us,” says Angelus CEO Bertrand Savary.
The press release uncovers that the new Angelus Chronographe Médical × Massena LAB will be part of the new La Fabrique line. Will more vintage-inspired pieces be coming? “We are planning to produce a maximum of one or two models per year based on our historical pieces,” Savary reveals during our discussions. I have to say, I am really looking forward to seeing more of them. I am also very curious to see what these re-editions will do with the visibility and desirability of other modern Angelus watches.
For more information, visit the Angelus website.