Hello everyone, and welcome to another Singaporean article! On this shiok Saturday, I’ll be sharing my latest watch acquisition – the Franck Muller Casablanca 5850 Chronograph.
This is part of a new series whereby I share with readers my latest watch acquisitions, my reasons for the purchases, and illustrate my watch collecting philosophy in general. One of my favourite segments to read is the “Why I bought it” series from Quill and Pad, so this NWA (short for new watch acquisition) series will be my twist on that.
Franck Muller Casablanca 5850 Chronograph – Video
For those interested in seeing some hands-on footage of the watch, do check out my Youtube video below.
Why I bought it – Franck Muller Casablanca 5850 Chronograph
I’ve always wanted a Franck Muller, but have always put off owning one as the brand isn’t that high profile currently. Owning an FM has always been at the back of my head, but I could never justify going for an FM over say, a Reverso or a Speedmaster (my two most recent purchases) – the iconic statuses of other watches on my wishlist pushed owning a Franck Muller down my priority list. In fact, the next watch I was intending to purchase was a Monaco, though that now has to take a back seat due to a lack of funds.
That changed when I was doing some background research on the brand for an article I was writing on over on SJX. I learnt more about Franck Muller – the watchmaker, not the brand – and his creations, such as his first tourbillon watch in 1984 that had just “Franck” on the dial. The early Franck Muller watches of the last century were beautiful and innovative, such as the dual-faced timepiece pictured above. They possessed a certain je ne sais quoi that just exuded sophistication, a reminder of a time where well-dressed meant a sharp-looking suit, not an oversized Supreme T-shirt.
One of the early references that stood out to me was the Casablanca 5850 Chronograph, particularly in salmon. I mean, just look at it – it’s beautiful. To me, the Casablanca 5850 Chronograph represents the best of Franck Muller as a brand. It retains the refinement of early Franck Muller watches, but possesses the brand’s trademark exploding numerals and cintree curvex case that propelled it to prominence in the late 90s and early 00s. Not many enthusiasts give Franck Muller enough credit for the innovation that the cintree curvex was. Not only was it a gorgeous form case, but both the sapphire crystal and the dial has to be similarly curved too to fit the case. Because of the typography and the tonneau case, the 5850 chronograph is instantly recognizable as a Franck Muller, even after more than two decades.
So why did I opt for the black dial variant instead? Well, a couple of reasons. Firstly, I already have a few salmon dial watches, namely the Nomos Tangente “Red Dot” as well as the Longines Heritage 1945, both of which I showcased in 2021 watch collection article and Youtube video. It also comes in white, but I have two white rectangular/tonneau watches in my JLC Reverso and Tissot Porto Z. As such, I felt that the black dial version was the logical choice. What sealed the deal was the fact that – unlike the white and salmon dials – the black dial iteration is finished with guilloche. Guilloche is a traditional watchmaking decoration technique, and Mr Franck Muller was very much a watchmaker that specialised in fine Swiss timepieces. Thus, I felt that the guilloche pattern captures the spirit of the brand (or at least its roots) better. Lastly, the black dial also featured luminous numerals and hands, therefore further differentiating it from the other dial variants.
As a watch enthusiast, the movement of the watches I buy is important to me. There’s nothing wrong with a tried-and-tested ETA/Sellita movement, but it just isn’t that special. And while most modern Franck Muller watches use modified ETA movements, the Casablanca 5850 Chronograph is powered by the manual-winding FM cal. 1870, which is based upon the Lemania cal. 1872. For those unfamiliar, Lemania is a legendary movement specialist that was famed for their chronograph movements. In particular, the Lemania cal. 1872 can be found in older Omega Speedmasters, Girard Perregaux Richvilles, and Panerai watches as the OP XVI. It’s a great movement that feels good to operate. While I understand that modern ETA/Valjoux movements are perfectly capable and competent, it just feels a tad more satisfying from an enthusiast standpoint to know that it’s a Lemania movement (Lemania is now defunct, having been bought over by Breguet in 1992) that ticks inside.
I’ve read a lot of these “personal collecting” articles, and a point they tend to miss out on is the price. I’m a humble writer – I don’t have unlimited pockets, as some watch journalists might appear to have. A chief reason why I decided to pull the trigger on the Casablanca 5850 Chronograph was its affordable price tag. It’s no secret that Franck Muller watches depreciate like a rock on the secondary market – step out of a boutique, and the value of your Franck Muller drops by approximately half. That (for better or for worse) also applies to some of their older models, like the Casablanca 5850 Chronograph. While immensely popular 10-20 years ago, the brand has since faded from the limelight, and as such its watches are currently relatively undervalued. Right now, you can purchase a Casablanca 5850 Chronograph (with full box and papers) for around US$4000, or ~S$5500. Given that the MSRPs for modern Franck Muller Chronographs are S$20,000+, that’s absolutely great value given its iconic design and a historic movement. When I saw one available for sale, I picked it up without a second thought.
Revolution had this to say about the Casablanca: “Franck Muller has certainly had something of a renaissance with collectors in recent months, with the small-run early 90s steel chronographs by the master watchmaker having picked up significant traction thanks to their Borgel-esque aesthetic and tasti-tondi-styling.” Is it time for the Casablanca to make a welcome return to the spotlight?” After wearing the Casablanca 5850 Chronograph for a week, my answer is clear – a resounding yes.
Update: As much as I love this watch, I unfortunately have to let this go due to a lack of funds – I recently won an unexpected auction bid. If anyone is interested in owning this watch (it comes with full set of box and papers) do drop me an email over at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wah so Shiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!
P.S.S.S Shiok is a common word Singaporeans use to express admiration or approval. As of 2016, you can find the definition of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary.