This is certainly not a watch I ever thought I’d have, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised by it. The reason being that in recent times Franck Muller watches have become a shell of what they used to be, with the eponymous founder losing control of his company, suffering the same fate as many other pioneering independent watchmakers of the 90’s era.
Founded in 1991 as the self-titled “Master of Complications” by the eponymous watchmaker and his friend, Franck Muller was the superstar of the watch world, who became known for his rather distinctive looking, and sometimes wacky designs. With iconic designs such as his exploding numerals and tonneau cases, he was immediately a celebrity favorite and despite the opinion of the brand today, he was vital in reinvigorating an aging and dying watch industry.
Putting his fame and fortune aside, Franck Muller was a hugely talented watchmaker which culminated with his role at Patek Philippe restoring historical pieces from the brand’s museum. The
While the brand’s crazy-looking pieces certainly seem to dominate the public perception of Franck Muller, they don’t paint the whole picture. What you see here today is one of the earliest Franck Muller models produced- the Sport Limited Edition.
This example features a much more classical 37mm round case design and was made in very low numbers. In photos, it might look like a standard chronograph, but I was hugely surprised when I handled this watch in person. It is very reminiscent of vintage chronographs from the ’40s and ’50s with its stainless steel stepped case and long lugs. The pump pushers and screw-down case back further emphasize this and I am quite sure that this watch was inspired by Franck’s time at Patek Philippe.
While it is not entirely known how many were made, with some estimations as low as 50-100 pieces in all of its variants, this particular example was made in a limited edition of 40 pieces, as denoted by the engraving on the case back. Interestingly, this watch comes with a Mercedes Benz engraving on the side of the case. What this piece was commissioned for remains a mystery, but it is for certain one of the rarest early Franck Muller pieces on the market.
With a beautiful opaline dial, blued steel hands, an applied Breguet ’12’ numeral, and further applied index dot markers throughout, it is as classic and vintage-inspired as you can get for a hand-wound chronograph. What I particularly love about this piece is how the index markers have aged and faded over time, displaying hues of purple and blue when light shines on the dial.
This watch is gorgeously understated, quite the contrast to what modern Franck Muller pieces are like, and sits amazingly well on the wrist. With such few pieces produced, they do not turn up very often and in line with the recent resurgence of high-quality watches from the ’90s, collectors are finally realizing this gem of a watch hidden in the portfolio of Franck Muller.