For the latest Massena LAB limited edition, William Massena’s boutique brand specializing in tasteful remakes of classic pieces with real watch nerd pedigree is reaching back to the 1960s, and showcasing a different type of tool watch. The collaborator for this edition, Angelus, is a historic Swiss brand known largely for their excellent chronographs, and the limited edition seen here is based on a deep cut made specifically for physicians. The Chronographe Médical x Massena LAB is the first watch in Angelus’s new La Fabrique collection, which will specialize in recreating important Angelus watches in small batch limited editions.
The principle behind a “doctor’s watch” is fairly well known. These watches were typically chronographs that incorporate a pulsation scale at the perimeter of the dial or within a bezel, making it easy for a doctor to quickly calculate the heartrate of a patient. Their operation is simple: start the chronograph, count ten heartbeats (or the number the scale on your watch is calibrated for), and then stop the chronograph. The chronograph seconds hand will be pointing to the number of heart beats per minute. You can imagine that the practicality here for a doctor, particularly when watches like this were being made in the 1950s and 60s, was off the charts. Even for the average person, it could be argued that a pulsation scale would be more useful day to day than something like a tachymeter or a telemeter.
The Chronograph Médical limited edition stands apart from other doctor’s watches, however, with the inclusion of a second scale, the more rarely seen asthmometer. An asthmometer on a chronograph works in the same way as a pulsation scale, but instead of counting heartbeats, a physician will count the number of breaths, up to five. The reading provided at that point is the patient’s respiratory rate, seen on an inner scale that has been graduated from 40 to 10.
On many watches with this functionality, the medical scales take a backseat to regular time telling markers. That’s true for chronographs with more traditional tachymeter scales, as well. It’s still easier to read the time on a Speedmaster than reading off the tiny type on the tachymeter bezel, for example. But the Chronograph Médical is unique in the way it highlights and prioritizes these scales. The type is large in proportion to the Arabic numerals used for the hours, and we get clear indicators for where these scales are located, complete with helpful arrows pointing them out to alleviate any confusion. The pulsation scale is even color coded to help identify a heart rate that rises to a troubling level (although hopefully your doctor isn’t relying solely on their watch, but your own thorough medical history, to determine what constitutes an elevated heart rate).
Because this is an Angelus based on a vintage design, the complete package is quite elegant and appropriate for casual everyday wear. The movement is the hand wound monopusher caliber A5000, made by La Joux-Perret, which is just 4.2mm thick and allows for a slender case height of 9.22mm. The caliber is in fact the very same used in the legendary Cartier Tortue Monopoussoir Chronograph designed by F.P. Journe, Denis Flageollet, and Vianney Halter, but with the pusher moved to the 2:00 position.
You’ll notice there is no minute totalizer on the dial (that’s a running seconds indicator at 9:00) as a physician would only need to time seconds to make use of these scales. The caliber is visible through a sapphire caseback and features a circular grained palladium finish on the mainplate and chamfered and Geneva striped bridges. The case measures 39mm in diameter with a vintage appropriate box shaped sapphire crystal. The dial is subtly domed and has a silvered finish, with rhodium finished applied numerals.
As mentioned above, this is the first watch in a planned series of tributes to classic Angelus references under the new La Fabrique banner, and for this release Angelus is getting an assist from Massena LAB. William Massena consulted with Angelus on the design of this piece and the concept of the new collection, and MassenaLAB.com will sell a limited number of these watches through their own online storefront. Others in the limited batch of 99 pieces will be sold through Angelus retailers. The retail price is $19,900. Massena LAB