Having gotten its start by collaborating with independent watchmakers like Habring2, Massena Lab has just unveiled the first watch of its own brand, the Uni-Racer. A vintage-style wristwatch modelled on the Universal Genève Uni-Compax “Big Eye” chronograph of the 1960s, the Uni-Racer features several details that will appeal to enthusiasts, while having an affordable price tag of just under US$3,500.
Like all other remakes of vintage watches, the Uni-Racer reproduces the look of its vintage inspiration, while enlarging everything – the case is 39 mm compared to 37 mm for the original – to suit modern tastes. But unlike most other remakes, the Uni-Racer attends to the details that only a keen-eyed collector would appreciate, which is hardly a surprise since Massena Lab founder William Rohr is a longtime watch collector himself (and probably best known as the former general manager of watch forum Timezone.com).
Features like the hand-wind movement and vintage-style buckle indicate the attention to detail in its conception. But there are also the less obvious elements, like the tiny, engraved logo on the crystal and the Massena Lab emblem that resembles an inverted Universal Genève logo.
In fact, Massena Lab says it “interviewed former Universal Genève employees and suppliers to confirm original details and aesthetics”. The achievement of the Uni-Racer is not a novel design, but the careful curation of details that give the watch an authentic spirit while preserving an accessible price.
“Big Eye”, tiny details
The Universal Genève Uni-Compax “Big Eye” gets its name from the oversized minute register at three o’clock, a fairly common stylistic accent in chronographs of the 1960s and 1970s (Longines remade its own “Big Eye” chronograph two years ago). Produced from 1963 to 1965, the Universal “Big Eye” is rare enough today that it typically sells for US$20,00-30,000.
The original was produced with either a black dial as the ref. 884100/01, or a white dial with striking blue hands as the ref. 884100/02, and now both versions have been recreated by Massena Lab.
Both versions of the Uni-Racer share the case 39 mm case that’s 13 mm high, compact by modern standards and small enough it preserves the vintage feel. The linear brushed finish of the lugs is exactly as it was on the vintage original according to Massena Lab.
And the domed crystal is PlexiGlas, again like the original. But more notably, the crystal has a tiny Massena Lab “M” logo engraved at its centre, another knowing nod to vintage watches.
Inside is a manual-wind Sellita SW510 M, a clone of the Valjoux 7760, which is in turn a 7750 without the automatic winding mechanism.
Key facts and price
Massena Lab Uni-Racer Chronograph
Ref. UR-001 (white)
Ref. UR-002 (black)
Diameter: 39 mm
Height: 13 mm
Water resistance: 50 m
Movement: Sellita SW510 M
Features: Hours, minutes, seconds, and chronograph
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 58 hours
Strap: Leather with pin buckle
Limited edition: 200 pieces in each colour
Availability: Now, direct from Massena Lab
For more, visit Massenalab.com.
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