There are many ways to glimpse originality in the small world of watchmaking. We can discover a watch with a surprising design. Or with a delirious atmosphere. Or with an unexpected inspiration. The LCF888 chronograph from WH&T is original because of its creative process. WH&T is not a brand but a banner behind which companies and skills come together to develop, produce and distribute a very special school-watch. Indeed, the chronograph LCF888 is the first industrialized school-watch. It is a great opportunity for students of the Watch Business Lab (a study program proposed by Le Carrousel Formation) to gain experience by taking all the steps necessary to market a watch which will be produced in a significant number of pieces.
I find this idea excellent because it allows students to discover in detail all the components of a project. The technical and aesthetical skills are not enough. We must first define what we want to do, know how to find the right partners, express our needs, write a business plan, follow it, define a budget, respect it ... and think of many details that may seem anecdotal when we are a pure watchmaker but which make the difference when properly implemented. I am obviously thinking about the marketing and communication dimension. The type of message, the ideas and emotions that we want to convey to potential customers, the way to deliver them are essential ingredients for commercial success. The best watch in the world will not reach high sales figures if no one knows it. Giving students the opportunity to experience such an adventure through a life-size test is a great educational method and I'm sure many of them will remember during their careers success factors and problems encountered during the LCF888 chronograph project.
It is in this context that I wanted to support this approach. In extremely changing watchmaking world, which is experiencing a revolution in the means of communication, a disruption of distribution, a clientele more and more demanding and versatile, the control of all the links of the chain is essential. But we must not forget a fundamental point that has always existed and which will always exist: yes marketing is important but what is most important is the product. And fortunately, on this specific topic, the LCF888 chronograph fully meets my expectations.
In fact, I was not surprised by the feeling of quality that I felt when I discovered the LCF888 chronograph for the first time. Because behind WH&T there is Concepto Watch Factory, which has not only developed and manufactured the movement but also assembles and controls the quality of the watches. The result is very appealing. The watch exudes seriousness.
Of course, at first, my reflex was to think: well, this watch is strongly inspired by Audemars Piguet, and more exactly by a Royal Oak Concept. It has a very "Octavio Garcia" style in a way. In fact, I thought that the LCF888 chronograph was a kind of AP Concept on which was added an Aquanaut ceramic bezel with a more angular style. It is certainly difficult to deny this similarity, but the LCF888 chronograph has its own personality. This is simply explained by the care given to the details, surprising for a watch of this price and the aesthetics of the dial. Over time, it's more the contemporary dimension of the design that emerges rather than a feeling of being in front of a clone. And then, in the context of a school-watch, I forgive this inspiration much more than with an established brand.
The cornerstone of the watch is obviously its movement because its role goes well beyond the simple motorization. It also contributes to the aesthetics of the dial. The movement that powers the LCF888 chronograph is the Concepto Watch Factory automatic caliber C3057, which is in fact an interpretation of the Valjoux 7750 caliber. Concepto brings its touch to several levels. Firstly by semi-opening the upper bridges, applying an anthracite grained finish and skeletonizing the peripheral date disc. This precise work brings the touch of refinement and modernity to the watch. It is not a simple open-dial piece. Counters and bridges let the light go into and beautiful depth effects are created. A technical atmosphere is staged, reinforcing the consistency of the LCF888 chronograph. But that's not all since Concepto also worked on the organization of the dial by intervening on the architecture of the movement. The minute counter is moved from 12 o'clock to 3 o'clock in order to balance the dial, the date being displayed at 4:30 in a discrete manner. I must admit that this point is fundamental in the aesthetic success of the watch. The whole appears harmonious and elegant.
Given this known origin, the performances of the caliber C3057 are unsurprising with a power reserve of 48 hours for a frequency of 4hz. The choice of such a movement is easily explained: WH&T is not destined to become a brand with multiple references. The movement must therefore, beyond the two years of international warranty, be easily repairable and have a lot of available spare parts. The good news is that the parts of the Valjoux 7750 remain compatible with those of the C3057 so it is a real guarantee of durability.
The presentation of the movement at the back of the watch is homogeneous with what we see on the front. The winding mass is beautifully openworked and I find the same color codes. Without being an unforgettable beauty, the movement is very pleasant to observe and fits well in the approach of WH&T. It is even one of the assets. Note that the crown is not screwed which allows to wind the movement manually without effort. The pushers are firm (obviously, it is not a Datograph) but I found that their shapes were very ergonomic.
The transition is all found to talk about the case. It is what mainly defines the character of the LCF888 chronograph. It features a diameter of 41.7mm but we need be clear: the perceived size is much higher. It is due to the imposing shapes between the bezel and the rubber strap (the distance lengthwise between the lugs is 53mm). But I like them a lot. They bring this powerful and angular style and are in harmony with the side crown guard and pushers. The thickness is not negligible either. We really feel that the case height is over 15mm. However, the lines remain surprisingly fluid thanks precisely to the angular shapes that plunge towards the strap. In any case, I found that the LCF888 chronograph was well positioned on the wrist thanks to the flexibility and shape of the rubber strap. Undoubtedly, WH&T has worked on ergonomics and it can be felt. It is also important that the watch is firmly maintained because it is heavy and the comfort would not have been the same if it was wriggling at the slightest movement. The strap is equipped with a pin buckle and if we regret the lack of a folding clasp in this sporty and muscular context, this buckle works fine.
Despite this powerful style, the LCF888 chronograph has many details that bring subtlety. The ceramic bezel (used in 5 of the 6 available versions) sets a nice contrast with the case and the crown and pushers undergo a black PVD treatment to become more visually perceivable. The pictured version is the LCF888/02 with a lower black anodized aluminum bezel that blends into the upper bezel. Some versions have a red lower bezel to give a little touch of energy but I think I prefer the watch this way. The quality of execution of the case is consistent with the overall image of the watch: flawless.
It is time to come back to the dial. Its construction favors the effects of depth and takes advantage of the overall thickness. The WH&T logo appears in the foreground under the glass. Then the indexes and the counters. Finally, the movement is revealed behind the counters. I really like the integration of the date disk which also participates in this technical and contemporary atmosphere. The hands give the singularity and I appreciate the shape of the chronograph second hand with its little touch of red. I found that this dial captured the light particularly well thanks to the sapphire crystal treated with an anti-glare on both sides. Simple and balanced, contemporary and refined, the dial of the LCF888 chronograph is successful. The only downside that I want to express is related to the minutes counter whose graduation was for me a bit confusing and I initially struggled to distinguish the timed minute. Finally, the readability of the time is quite correct thanks to the presence of luminescent material that fills the hands ... and it is therefore very useful even in daylight!
So I experienced a lot of pleasure by discovering the LCF888 chronograph. It's bulky, muscular but it doesn't lack details that make it more docile and elegant than it seems at first glance. But above all, it is particularly well done. I was really amazed by the quality of the workmanship and the care given to the details. I obviously felt the support of a big structure like Concepto but we must take a hat-trick to the students of the Watch Business Lab: they worked very well, the watch is a very beautiful outcome of their project. In any case, considering the level of requirement mobilized for its creation and its production, its selling price via the Kickstarter campaign appears to me as extremely competitive with a range between 1.399 CHF and 1.999 CHF or 50% of the future seeling prices. Let's be clear: it seems difficult that the campaign becomes successful because it reaches only 47% of the objective (very ambitious it is true) while there are only 2 days left. But I remain confident about the next steps. First of all, the watch i had on the wrist brings the proof that production and assembly capabilities are real. Then the watches could be acquired directly from WH&T. Finally, I have the feeling that if the campaign was unsuccessful, WH & T would implement a plan B. I almost want to say that it is also part of student learning. The product is qualitative, the result is convincing but perhaps it lacked visibility and buzz to attract more backers. In any case, I have confidence in WH&T so that watches become available to the greatest number. They deserve it!
+ the top quality of execution
+ an extremely competitive Kickstarter price considering the quality of the product
+ a reliable and sustainable movement
+ the weight of the watch (I like heavy watches!)
- the thickness can be surprising
- the readability of the minute counter