Mostly known for their experiments with so-called “new old stock” versions of historic mechanisms, Armand Nicolet has recently presented a whole new collection of compact wristwatches designed for ladies. Called Collection LL9, the line is currently available in five variations featuring different combinations of materials, textures, and colors. Yet, it is the beautiful LL9 ref. 9653A-AN-P953BC8 that seems to feature the most balanced, aesthetically pleasing exterior.
The new Armand Nicolet LL9 9653A-AN-P953BC8 is not just beautiful. It is also naturally limited in its production being powered by a modified version of the historic (and extremely rare these days) Fontainemelon Calibre FHF 905 automatic movement. In its days, the mechanism was popular among makers of premium-priced timekeepers, but now the movement has been discontinued for many decades and, although there is still a healthy amount of boxed calibers available, they are in predictably high demand from independent watchmaking brands making the movements relatively expensive and not as easy to come by.
Apparently, Armand Nicolet -a brand that specializes in taking NOS calibers apart, refinishing them and, often, upgrading to higher specs- has a stock of their own and is willing to risk the mechanisms for this collection.
The Swiss watchmaker plans to limit the timekeeper’s production to only 500 pieces, which doesn’t make it super exclusive, but at least greatly diminishes chances of you (or your spouse) meeting another lady wearing the same timepiece.
It is not clear what kind of alterations the caliber was subjected to, but I may guess that the modification was limited to re-decorating the old engine and removing at least one of its functions: the simple calendar module. While the gadget’s functionality was diminished, this allowed the brand to implement a trendy “double open-heart” design with both the balance wheel and a small part of the going train being visible through a pair of circular cut-outs in the lower half of the dial at 4 and 7 o’clock.
As you can see in the photos, the dial is decorated with applied Arabic numerals and set with five more diamonds serving as hour markers and is further embellished with a nice guilloche pattern.
The movement is enclosed inside a mid-sized round case made of 316L stainless steel. Measuring just 34 millimeters in diameter (with a total length of 40 millimeters if you factor in the pair of short lugs,) the case is of just the right size for a modern woman. At 11 millimeters top to bottom, it is a bit too thick for my taste, but not to the degree of becoming inconvenient.
Although the choice of metal may look a bit too plebeian for some customers, the case is nicely sculpted, is finely polished and looks very dressy, especially when combined with 54 diamonds set on its round bezel.
A nice trinket, indeed.
Photos: Armand Nicolet
Armand Nicolet LL9 (ref. 9653A-AN-P953BC8) specification
Price: $5400 (retail)
Movement: Automatic, Caliber AN704, based on Fontainemelon Calibre FHF 905, 21,600 vph, 26.00 mm in diameter, 5.20 mm in height, Swiss Made
Movement decoration: Branded oscillating weight, circular-graining
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Power reserve: 42 hours
Case: Stainless steel
Size: 34.00 mm (40.00 mm including lugs)
Lug width: 18.00 mm
Case height: 11.00 mm
Dial: Mother of pearl
Water resistance: 50 meters
Strap: White alligator with stainless steel folding clasp
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective coating on both sides