Before it introduced the Vanguard line, Franck Muller didn’t have a sports watch collection. The self-styled Master of Complications was then best known for producing hyper-complicated watches such as the Aeternitas, and for putting twists on existing ones like the Master Banker did with its triple time zone display. Franck Muller’s other claim to fame lay in the Cintrée Curvex case – in a market dominated by round watches, the tonneau-shaped Cintrée Curvex was the brand’s bread and butter. This didn’t just buck the trend, but also attested to the case’s unique appeal.
All The Curves
Like the Cintrée Curvex, the Vanguard has a tonneau (French for ‘barrel’) outline that mates flat upper and bottom edges with curved, bulging flanks. The similarities extend to their respective complexities in shape, as each has various curved surfaces that seamlessly meet at the edges to create an intricate, voluminous case. The finishing touches are the watch crystals, which are curved to complement the cases’ individual contours.
The Vanguard, however, differentiates itself with a bolder design that translates into a stronger presence on the wrist. This is the result of its tweaked proportions vis-à-vis the Cintrée Curvex, as well as its lack of lugs that consequently allows a larger watch to be worn. Clearly, the Vanguard was intended to be a confident, sporty watch – the younger, more audacious counterpart to its classically-styled sibling.
New Kid On The Block
The Vanguard’s release in 2014 would, on hindsight, turn out to be a watershed moment for the brand. The collection quickly became popular thanks in no small part to its design, which offered an alternative to the Cintrée Curvex – and round watches in general. Its relative accessibility was a draw as well; the Vanguard was a new gateway into the world of Franck Muller that the brand previously lacked.
With a new outlet to flex its creative and technical muscles, Franck Muller wasted no time in bolstering the fledgling line. New materials came to the fore. The Vanguard Carbon Krypton, for instance, debuted a new carbon composite that is laced with specks of Super-Luminova for a case that glows in the dark. Meanwhile, various sporting pursuits inspired sub-lines within the collection, like the golf-themed Vanguard Backswing and its integrated stroke counter, and the Vanguard Skafander dive watch, which has an inner rotating dive bezel that’s actuated via pushers.
Franck Muller’s extended its foray into nautical sports with the introduction of the Vanguard Yachting line in 2016. There’s a clear affinity between the two, steeped in both the sporting and luxury worlds. The Vanguard’s contours and volume evoke a sailboat’s hull too; all that was needed was to tweak the watch’s design minutiae.
Out To Sea
In typical Franck Muller style, the Vanguard Yachting comes in myriad colourways – because why not? They are, however, visually coherent as a sub-line due to their common design language. The usage of blue in each reference further reinforces the Yachting line’s identity, which the reference featured here ($32,180) demonstrates.
The most recognisable detail in the Vanguard Yachting watch is its compass rose, which sits at the centre of the dial. It’s raised and polished just like the timepiece’s appliqué Arabic numeral hour indices, a signature of the Vanguard collection. Together, the indices and compass rose help to reinforce the perception of depth on the dial by giving it a three-dimensional quality, while serving as a counterpoint to the case’s smooth, curved lines with their hard edges. Eagle-eyed observers will notice that the compass rose motif continues outwards with a printed extension of the central design lying under the indices, before ending on the flange with markings for the cardinal points.
The sleek crown guards that gently extend from the case middle are yet another subtle modification to the standard Vanguard case. Here, they allude to a yacht’s gunwale while also providing a touch of visual interest with their contrasting colour and surface finish.
Finally, Vanguard timepieces are fitted with either fabric-on-rubber or leather-on-rubber composite straps to offer the best of both worlds in terms of comfort and aesthetics.