These pieces offer fresh interpretations of watchmaking, from the simple display of time to entirely new complications
One reason why mechanical watchmaking continues to excite and inspire today — long after timekeeping has been relegated to smartphones — is because creativity still drives the development of new timepieces. To take a reductionist approach to things, watchmaking is simply the study of how a system of gears and levers can measure and display the time. There is no limit to how this can be done, and the following watches prove just how the right ideas — when combined with expertise in engineering and micromechanics — can still create magic.
The number of flowers that have blossomed on the dial correspond to the current hour. It is now seven o’clock, with the exact minutes to be read on the case flank.
Poetry and timekeeping often go hand-in-hand at Van Cleef & Arpels; the maison’s creations frequently present the time in atypical ways to either tell a story or present a scene. The Lady Arpels Heures Florales depicts a garden on its dial, where flowers blossom and close every 60 minutes to indicate the hours, with the number of open flowers corresponding to the current hour. What’s perhaps even more astounding is how the movement’s module has three separate sequences for each hour. The set of flowers that bloom at two o’clock, for instance, will cycle through three different combinations sequentially, thus ensuring that the eye is always entertained by new surprises. The minutes, on the other hand, are read via the aperture on the left flank of the case.
First introduced in 2017, Hublot’s Big Bang Unico Golf was developed with golfing in mind. The watch tracks three vital pieces of information: the hole its wearer is on, their stroke count for the current hole, and their cumulative score for the current round. Three separate apertures display these details on the dial, and keeping score is simply a matter of using the pushers located at two, four, and eight o’clock. The latest version of this timepiece, the Big Bang Unico Golf Orange Carbon, has been rendered in orange carbon fibre, which promises striking contrast when its wearer is out on the greens.
THE WATCH TRACKS THREE PIECES OF INFORMATION IN A GOLF GAME: THE HOLE ITS WEARER IS ON, THEIR STROKE COUNT FOR THE CURRENT HOLE, AND THEIR CUMULATIVE SCORE FOR THE CURRENT ROUND.
Franck Muller’s signature Crazy Hours complication marked its 30th anniversary recently with a line of commemorative models, including this Cintrée Curvex Crazy Hours 30th Anniversary watch. The complication itself isn’t difficult to accomplish, but it puts a spin on the display of time — and challenges the watch’s relationship with its wearer. Here, the minute hand makes a complete revolution around the dial once every hour as per normal. The hour hand, however, jumps about the dial at the start of every hour, and one must spend an extra few seconds to read it mindfully, since its position isn’t where it’s supposed to be. The mishmash of hour markers around the dial certainly doesn’t help with legibility, but that’s hardly the point. Rather, the scattered indices further enhance the timepiece’s psychedelic vibes.
The simplicity of Chanel’s timepieces belies the brand’s expertise in watchmaking, specifically movement design and construction. This is perhaps best seen in the Monsieur de Chanel watch. Despite being a “simple” time-only watch, the Monsieur is anything but. Note the outsized jumping hour at six o’clock, which has been paired with a retrograde minute display at 12 o’clock — neither is difficult to create, but both are especially challenging to execute well, given the issues associated with backlash and robustness. What’s more, the movement (visible through the case back) has been beautifully designed and assembled, with the same eye for harmony that the dial displays. As part of the permanent collection, the model has been offered since its introduction in 2016. New variants are periodically introduced, such as this Monsieur de Chanel Superleggera Edition.
NEITHER THE JUMPING HOUR NOR RETROGRADE MINUTE DISPLAY IS DIFFICULT TO CREATE, BUT BOTH ARE ESPECIALLY CHALLENGING TO EXECUTE WELL, GIVEN ISSUES WITH BACKLASH AND ROBUSTNESS.
Hermès has put many a playful twist on familiar watchmaking complications. The Arceau Le Temps Voyageur takes the same approach by presenting a starkly different vision of the familiar worldtimer complication. Here, the various cities around the world are printed on the flange. A single “satellite” sub-dial orbits the middle portion of the dial, with the time being displayed corresponding to the city its red arrow is pointed at. By actuating the pusher at nine o’clock, the satellite jumps to the next city, and the time display changes accordingly. Home Time, meanwhile, remains a glance away via the indicator at 12 o’clock. This is wanderlust embodied, indeed.
Zenith’s focus on its chronographs in recent years has resulted in many exciting products and, notably, made high-frequency chronographs a mainstay in the brand’s line-up. In the typical chronograph with a movement beating at 4Hz, the smallest resolution that can be measured is usually a quarter of a second — both because of the balance’s frequency, as well as constraints in how elapsed time is displayed. The Defy Extreme E “Energy X Prix” here, however, is capable of measuring and displaying elapsed time down to 1/100ths of a second, which is no mean feat for a mechanical watch. Zenith made this possible by using an independent balance that oscillates at 50Hz for the chronograph. Doing so also maintains the accuracy of regular timekeeping, since the chronograph draws its energy from a separate mainspring as well.