Massena Lab is a design studio that got its start collaborating with independent watchmakers on limited edition timepieces. But the firm more recently unveiled watches under its own label, starting with last year’s Uni-Racer, a chronograph modelled on the mid-20th century Universal Genève “Big Eye” chronograph.
Founded by William Rohr, best known for being the former manager of the Timezone.com watch forum, Massena Lab follows up with the Uni-Racer Holiday Collection, a trio of chronographs time clad in funky colours with a retro bent that bring to mind watches of the 1970s.
Vintage remakes have been trendy for several years now, and the sheer number of them mean they are often hit-or-miss. It’s rare for a remake to get the details right – especially since the case and movement are modern – something that takes a keen eye to decide what to copy and what to tweak.
Mr Rohr’s creations often get the details right – the two-tone sector dial jumping seconds and gilt dial chronograph are cases in point – reflecting his decades of watch collecting. And importantly they are fairly priced.
But the Uni-Racer Chronograph stands out from Massena Lab’s portfolio to date. Not only was it the first watch to bear the Massena Lab brand, but it was a near-exact copy of the vintage original – which split opinions and elicited lots of vocal critiques on social media.
Still, for anyone who appreciates old-school design, but with a colourful twist, the new trio in “Holiday” colours are good options. Crucially, the price of the new trio remains identical to the first-generation Uni-Racer. That makes the new “Holiday” versions an attractive value proposition at US$3,495.
The “Holiday” dials are thoughtfully designed, with subtle details and contrasting colours that work well together. For example, sky-blue and red might sound incongruous on paper, but they make a good pair on “Cruise”, which is predominantly blue but with red crosshairs on the sub-dials.
In fact, a red crosshair is the unifying element across the three – all of the dials feature crosshairs on the dial as well as registers.
Among the three colourways, “Rally” is no doubt the most vintage-y, having a white dial with bright orange and blue accents, bringing to mind auto-racing chronographs from the 1970s such as the Tudor “Monte Carlo”.
The most unusual is the “Safari”, thanks to its green fumé dial that’s rarely found on modern chronograph. In fact, the “Safari” also stands out for its excellent pairing of colours – the centre of the fumé dial is yellowish green, echoing the gold counters.
Save for the new colours, the latest Uni-Racer is identical to its predecessor, which means the watch is a largish, modern size but retains several vintage-inspired details.
The case, for instance, has facetted surfaces and alternating brushed and polished finishes, just like the original Universal Genève “Big Eye”.
And the movement is as old school as it gets for an affordable, modern-day watch, being a hand-wind version of the Sellita SW500, which is a clone of the ETA 7750.
Key facts and price
Massena Lab Uni-Racer Chronograph
Ref. UR-001-CRU (blue)
Ref. UR-001-SAF (green)
Ref. UR-001-RAL (white)
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: Initial run of 35 pieces in each colour
Availability: Now, direct from Massena Lab
For more, visit Massenalab.com.
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