A pioneer in independent watchmaking, Franck Muller Introduces the Cintrée Curvex Master Banker was most famous for its graceful tonneau-shaped case but the brand was also particularly productive with complications in the 1990s and early 2000s. Amongst its most notable inventions were the double-face chronograph and whimsical Crazy Hours.
But the brand’s technical creativity was present at the other end of utility spectrum as well – something exemplified by the Master Banker, a wristwatch unveiled in 1993 that boasted three separate time zones, each with independent hours and minutes.
Now the watch has been given a new lease of life as the Cintrée Curvex Master Banker Asia Exclusive, that’s available in two case sizes, seven distinct colours, and various case materials, including steel, rose gold, and diamond-set rose gold.
Although powered by a humble ETA base movement, the Master Banker is a surprisingly accomplished complication, yet smartly constructed to be simple and robust.
The time zone complication is practical for tracking times in multiple countries, but it is rarely instantly legible, especially when multiple time zones are displayed. With two largish sub-dials – each with their own hour and minute hands – the Master Banker solves the problem instantly.
Not only is it legible, each of its sub-dials can be set to time zones with unconventional offsets – like 45 minutes for Kathmandu – allowing the watch to track any time zone in the world. The only downside of the display is a lack of day and night indicator for the time zones.
Utility aside, the watch is beautifully designed. The visual appeal of Franck Muller’s styling is often forgotten because its newer designs are over the top, but the brand’s older models are usually classical with flair. Here it’s a made a little more modern with the use of bright colours for the sub-dials, which have an appealing contrast against the black dial.
And something specific to these two watches – in the 8880 or 7880 sizes – is that the cases might be a little too large. They still wear well because of the shape, but lose some of the elegance of the smaller sizes.
Though it is a smart and appealing watch, the Franck Muller Introduces the Cintrée Curvex Master Banker is expensive. With the steel version priced at about about 24,000 Singapore dollars, or about US$17,000, it is too pricey for a relatively simple – albeit clever – complication on a economical base movement.
Now the iconic case of the brand, the Cintree Curvex case was actually a successful reinterpretation of 1930s tonneau-shaped watches – the Cartier tonneau in particular since Mr Muller restored early in his career. The case is curved on three axes, creating an inimitable shape that is both fluid and ergonomic – and yet to be duplicated successfully by rivals.
Within is the ETA-based movement – which relies on a notably simple yet clever construction – with the gears for second and third time zone meshed with the gear train for the local, or primary, time. As such, the crown adjusts all of the time zones simultaneously, or each sub-dial individually, without the need for buttons or pushpins.