WristWatch Magazine - Page 54

LOUIS MOINET BY KEITH FLAMER Louis M Moinet’s i t’ss chronograp chronograph ph invention was man-made, made, but inspired by the heavens. G reat moments are frozen in time. Christopher Columbus, 1492. The Declaration of Independence, 1776. The initial Moon landing, 1969. But conspiracy theories aside, what if new evidence begs us to rewrite settled history? Time virtually stopped in 2013—as we pushed the reset button on the origins of the chronograph following the discovery of a long lost Louis Moinet chronograph pocket watch. This astronomicalinspired watch predated all known chronographs and posthumously crowned Louis Moinet as the instrument’s true inventor. Prior to 2013, history told us Nicolas Matthew Rieussec developed the first commercial “seconds chronograph” in 1821 (patented a year later) for King Louis XVIII, a thoroughbred aficionado who wished to time horse races. Adolphe Nicole seemingly updated the chronograph in 1844 to include a reset feature to record successive measurements. But the Louis Moinet chronograph discovery challenged the official record. This watch, which Moinet called “compteur de tierces” (a chronograph that measured 1/60th of a second—known in those days as a “third” or tierce in French), is now celebrated as the first chronograph ever—bearing dust-cover hallmarks from 1815 (although it was completed the following year). 52 WRISTWATCH | 2016 Moinet’s groundbreaking chronograph was indicated ated by a cenorded on tral hand where the elapsed seconds and minutes were recorded tart separate subdials; and the hours on a 24-hour dial. The stop, start and reset functions for the central hand were controlled by two buttons, which, according to the company, qualifies it as a chronograph (even though the term didn’t exist at the time). Moinet’s chronograph also boasted a revolutionary return-to-zero function that predates Adolphe Nicole’s 1862 patent). This seismic shift shift adds heavy weight to Moinet’s legend as an elite watchmaking innovator—on par with his friend AbrahamLouis Breguet. Moinet’s discovery is bewildering because we’re skeptical about rewriting history. Important dates and legends are inculcated deep into our subconscious. Did Christopher Columbus really discover America? Not really. Yet we still celebrate Columbus Day in honor of the famous explorer who was immortalized by writer Washington Irving’s poem. We must investigate before we believe and accept a new theory. After all, we’ve seen our share of hoaxes. But watch historians agree on the Moinet chronograph. As counter-intuitive as it feels, we must stare a false history in the face and correct the record. Louis Moinet’s motto was “The essential thing is never to depart