Hands-On With The Charlie Paris Alliance Moon Phase — Complicated French Chic In Blue
French small brands are slightly different, with sartorial nous and that certain “je ne sais quoi.” That almost-cliché term meaning “I don’t know what,” or indefinability, is something I appreciate even more in our world of sameness. Sure, Charlie Paris does have some retro but modern Explorer-esque watches, like the knockout value-for-money 38mm Concordia. But the new Alliance is different and plays its sporty but dressy hand like a pro. Going hands-on with the Charlie Paris Alliance Moon Phase unexpectedly made me change my mind about moonphase complications.
I’ve known Charlie Paris’s founder Adrien Sangle-Ferre for a few years, and the brand itself is now almost 10 years old. This shows on its professional homepage, featuring four men’s ranges and a respectable move that inspires a “bravo!” There are three ranges aimed at the female audience too, though we’re in an age where the smaller, dressier Charlie Paris watches will fit a male wrist just as well. With a brick-and-mortar presence in central Paris, Charlie Paris is now moving into the big league of French small brands like Baltic, and this time with a well-sized, complication-filled offering in the €1K–2K range.
The Charlie Paris Alliance is a Franco-Swiss gem
All small brands and startup microbrands know that the mid-century colorful vibe of the skin diver spells success. Sangle-Ferre’s Charlie Paris plays on a different aesthetic, especially with this new line of mechanical watches. Think elegant everyday watches in the vein of a vintage Seamaster in Mad Men, and you’ll get the picture. They’re not overly sporty but have refined and solid case language and studied details. At first, the case itself has a similar vibe to the Code 11:59 from AP, literally, its good sides. You’ll notice the recessed sides and the execution with sharp beveling that makes for a formal look that still has a certain toughness. Imagine Grand Seiko but in French, with a style of its own and an unusual take on the traditional moonphase complication.
Both watches in the Alliance range have a 39.5mm diameter with a short 46.5mm lug-to-lug. The white- or blue-dialed La Joux-Perret-powered Alliance 68H is a great three-hander boasting an unashamedly big 6 o’clock date window. But I’ve had the complex Alliance Moon Phase as a house guest, and I was charmed. Generally, I’m not a fan of the moonphase complication, but Adrien’s asymmetrical Alliance changed my perceptions with its off-center look. The case is noticeably different than most offerings with its multi-tiered design, slightly broader case back, and wide bezel. For a small brand, the finishing is accomplished, and I like the bold striations of the vertically brushed sides. This extends to the lugs, which have the slightly twisted sweep of a bevel following their stubby shape. The bezel itself has three discernible surfaces, with vertically brushed sides meeting their juxtaposed match in a broad, polished bevel and radially brushed top. Well played, Adrien.
A dial design to remember, with a killer date window
The accomplished case has its work cut out for it to grab attention from what resides under the double-domed sapphire crystal. Through its bulbous curvature, it emphasizes the deep blue dial with refractions of light while making it challenging to shoot. But it’s worth it. The bold case surfacing has its match in stretched-out brushed indices with a chisel end, visually drawing the eye towards the center. These are also cheekily cut into the rehaut à la the Longines Spirit. The pièce de résistance, however, is the grained blue dial surface with its asymmetric and vibrant face.
Instead of the traditional 6 o’clock placement, the moonphase indicator gets pride of place at 9 o’clock in a big display framed by a satin blue chapter ring. There’s the evocative Charlie crane logo at 12 and a big crosshair seconds register at 6. The 33-jewel automatic Soprod C105 caliber is unusual. It is a welcome respite from ETA/Sellita ubiquity, and it also allows for this charmingly offbeat design. I also found the daily accuracy spec of -0/+14 seconds to be pessimistic as mine ran close to COSC accuracy. The dial also has a superb date window at 3 o’clock, dished and deep as if peering through a scope. The radiant satin rings around the dial complications make for great reflections in the light, while the dark blue changes with the light through the day.
Unnecessary but still tempting
I’m talking about that beguiling moonphase window. It might seem an odd conclusion, but for me, it’s a big deal considering my conflicted relationship with the complication. To be honest, I still haven’t got a particular use for it, nor will I adapt my lifestyle or week to the Moon (no werewolf blood in my family). But Adrien Sangle-Ferre has made it both a focal point and, at least for me, given it a deeper meaning. I found myself glancing at the lume-infused moons and stars in the deep blue dial at night in a contemplative mood, to my astronomy-obsessed wife’s delight. As an elegant evening watch, it is a superb choice, and I do find it worth its €1,895 pre-order price.
The dial pops in the daytime with a surface that might seem a bit too shiny for its texture. But the discreet contrasts make for a great view. And when the light gets low, it takes on a dark navy tone that makes the nearly €2K price well founded. Combined with great size and soft ostrich leather, the everyday watch becomes rather formal, and I’m all for it. It even made me step up my style game when wearing it. For a watch these days, inspiration is just as important as its time-telling capabilities, don’t you agree?
The Charlie Paris Alliance Moon Phase is available from the Charlie Paris website at the pre-order price of €1,895. It will also be available in the Charlie Paris boutique.
So what do you reckon, Fratelli? Do you feel drawn to the power of the Moon? Or does your watch need to make you feel more grounded? Me, I enjoy installing deeper meaning in my wrist-worn objects, and its French charm definitely worked on me. Let me know what you think in the comments, my friends.
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