Maurice Lacroix is a brand not mentioned very often, perhaps because it isn’t an established old name but also because it has never really had a “hook”, like IWC with its masculine image or Jaeger-LeCoultre with its stellar movements. Back in the 1990s, Maurice Lacroix produced a special edition timepiece for one of its ambassadors, a little-known tennis player from Bern named Roger Federer. Since those days (and since Roger hit the big time and bolted for Rolex), they’ve turned out a series of nice — but fairly anonymous — watches that never merited more than a glance from watch aficionados. Oh, and they’ve managed to produce no less than 12 in-house movements, including a bewitching, lovely skeletonized chronograph calibre.
Despite these understated accomplishments (and a rather aristocratic-sounding name), Maurice Lacroix still managed to largely escape notice. Then last year’s BaselWorld came around, and the introduction of the diver’s chronograph Pontos S ($4,440) made dive watch fans and industry observers sit up and pay attention.
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The diver’s chronograph is one of those oddities, like a Porsche SUV or barefoot running shoes, that don’t make sense on paper but suddenly seem natural in reality. Putting more holes in a dive watch case never seems like a good idea; the notion of timing things underwater using tiny subdials seems counterintuitive at best and dangerous at worst. But then you see a dive chronograph and suddenly those good looks have made you forget your misgivings. That chunky case and beefy bezel combined with the instrument-like aesthetic of subdials and pushers conspire to be the epitome of a sporty, masculine timepiece. Looks aside, you not only get a bezel to ratchet around but also a chronograph to play with. Call us smitten.
It’s hard to imagine an ugly dive chronograph, but it’s also hard to imagine one we’d call elegant. Yet the Pontos S balances sport and elegance about as well as that former ML ambassador Monsieur Federer does. Its case, at 43 millimeters, is nearly the perfect dimension for a sports watch, and through the use of an internal timing ring exudes an expansive appearance without appearing too large on the wrist. The lugs are stubbier and more downward sloping than one might expect and don’t hang awkwardly off the wrist like other big chronographs do, making the Pontos S wearable on a variety of arms.
Calibre: ML112 (based on Valjoux 7750)
Frequency: 28,800vph (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 46 hours
Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph (seconds, minutes, hours)
Elapsed dive time with internal rotating ring
Material: Stainless steel
Case Back: Steel screw-in
Water Resistance: 20 ATM (200 meters)
Black metallic with polished subdial surrounds
Lumed hands and hour markers
Steel 3-link bracelet with foldover deployant
Black nylon sports strap
When worn on the classic three-link bracelet, the Pontos S dresses up as well as any sports watch and certainly doesn’t scream “dive watch”, especially in the silver and black livery of our test piece (the watch also comes in a version that has orange accents and one with blue). A mix of brushed and polished steel, expertly finished bevels on the lugs and bezel, finely cut hands, and the polished surrounds on the chronograph subdials all catch light with exquisite formality.
But the Pontos S is a dive watch: look closely and you’ll see the distinctive 60-minute timing ring under the sapphire glass. An innovative combined upper chronograph push piece starts and stops the chrono and pulls double duty as a crown. Turning it does nothing — it must be pushed in and turned at the same time to adjust the timing ring. Let go and the crown pops out and the bezel is locked in place. This system eliminates the risk of a knocked crown inadvertently adjusting the bezel; it also eliminates the need for the bezel to have a one-way ratchet, as it’s infinitely adjustable to correspond to wherever the minute hand is.
Maurice Lacroix has its own manufacture chronograph movement (and a fine one at that), but it chose to fit the Pontos S with the tried-and-true Valjoux 7750 calibre. Predictable in its reliability (40 years and counting) and its shortcomings (thick case, noisy rotor), the 7750 is a fitting movement for a timepiece that is first and foremost a sports watch, and an affordable one to boot. There’s not much to say about the 7750 that hasn’t been said before. The chronograph starts and stops somewhat stiffly, but ML has managed to smooth out the more typical sweep hand stutter. If there’s any movement decoration, we didn’t see it, since the Pontos S has a solid screw-in caseback.
While the steel bracelet looks fine Monday through Friday, the supplied black nylon strap really loosens the tie and lets the sportier side of the watch emerge. The strap is a thicker, stiffer nylon than the typical $12 NATO strap we’re used to, and rather than the extra strip of nylon running under the case like a true NATO, this is just one continuous strip of nylon. The combination of thickness, construction and surprisingly short length makes the watch wear a little awkwardly on a bigger wrist. Still, we appreciated the squared-off and logo-ed brushed steel buckle and double keepers, which lend a more quality feel to the package.
The Pontos S is considered a diver’s chronograph and rated to 200 meters of water resistance, but we doubt it will see much bottom time. The more recently released Pontos Diver is better suited for that task. Still, it would make a fine all-around watch that transition from the office to the gym to the beach, timing meetings and laps equally well as time spent in the depths. It is an eminently versatile timepiece, well priced, rugged and elegant, and is quickly becoming a long overdue and fitting calling card for Maurice Lacroix.