The Leroy Marine Deck Chronometer: a legend is back
L.Leroy is not just a name appointed to one of the so many re-branding operations in today's watchmaking industry. This is a brand that needs no introduction to the general public, so long as you are aware of French haute horologerie. If you were by chance close to Besançon, please take a minute and step into the Musée du Temps inside the historical renowned Palais Granvelle from the Renaissance, there you will see the Leroy 01 on display, a watchmaking masterpiece, that has won the International Grand Prix back in 1900 and has held the award as the most complicated timepiece until 1989.
This is just the latest chapter of a story that began in 1785, in Paris, when Charles Leroy started to provide kings, politicians, intellectuals and artists all over France with his timepieces. It is the maison that is regarded as having supplied the French Marine for the longest period of time ever and may boast an outstanding 384 gold medals in international chronometer contests.
Precision is the pillar in L.Leroy's history and today's production. True to its longstanding tradition L.Leroy submits its entire exclusive production to the Besançon's Observatory, the only institute in France entitled to certify a timepiece as a chronometer. Where to find a L.Leroy? It's not that easy to be honest, even harder if you are in Italy, unless you get to Pisa Orologeria, a Mecca for watch enthusiasts between Via Verri and Montenapoleone. There in one day, on a velvet table, into a private room, were two Leroy Marine Deck Chronometer for a first quick hands on.
When you're looking around for a timepiece fit for the Navy, be it a civil or military one, both customers of L.Leroy across the centuries, two are the main features: readability and precision. The first one requires a neat dial, the latter an officially certified movement: the idea is about having, wrapped around one's wrist, something that might easily complement the on board equipment. The first Leroy Marine Deck Chronometer has a white dial and a rose gold case, while the second one sports an anthracite dial.
Their calibers are fully visible through the transparent case back and have high end finishes along with very original technical features: the bridges are "grainé-champlevé" decorated, hand-chamfered with raised mirror-polished markings. Anchor and escapement wheel, moreover, are made out of silicium and adopt the StruTech (Structure Technologie) architecture, developed by MHVJ, a Swiss high tech company part of the same group that owns L.Leroy too, which consists of making them while drawing inspiration from civilian bridge framework designs. The result is two components that are lighter than traditional parts while boasting the same rigidity, thus having less friction and greater efficiency for enhanced rating precision.
Every single Leroy Marine Deck Chronometer's caliber is sent to the Besançon's Observatory and only after having met all the criteria set by the Certificate of Chronometry, is stamped with the “Viper's Head”, L.Leroy's hallmark and brand logo. If the first part of this article tries to summarize this maison's history, the last eight lines describe what a Leroy Marine Deck Chronometer is.
Its style readily reminds me two brands, whose timepieces share with the Leroy Marine Deck Chronometer the same name: Breguet and Ulysse Nardin. They both have a Marine collection but if you were to place them side by side on a table you can easily get that, with the exception of the Roman numerals that makes you mix them up a bit for a while, the Leroy Marine is sportier than a Breguet but less than the Ulysse Nardin, standing just in between them. But it boasts something quite unique, it is the only one in the benchmark to merge traditional watchmaking craftsmanship with advanced technology such as the StruTech, the outcome being the Leroy Marine Deck Chronometer is the only one to be regarded as a classic high end tool-watch.
(Photo credit: courtesy of L.Leroy; Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Federico N. @Horbiter®